The Best Voice Recorder

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asked Aug 14 by sonn2019 (8,540 points)

After doing 52 hours of research and testing 12 voice recorders over the past two years (adding four recent models for this update) in real-world settings—a college classroom, a noisy coffee shop, and a quiet office—we’ve determined that the best audio recorder for most people interested in capturing meetings, lectures, dictation, and in-person interviews is the Sony UX560. It recorded the most intelligible audio of all the recorders we tested and offers the most useful collection of features: It’s rechargeable via USB; it has a legible, backlit screen; and its menu system is the easiest to telephone call recorder
The UX560 is similar to our previous, now-discontinued pick, also from Sony. In a new round of testing in mid-2017, the UX560 received the highest overall ratings from our panel of test listeners. It produces clear, understandable audio in classroom, quiet office, and noisy coffee shop settings. It also offers a better collection of features than the other models we tested, with an easy-to-navigate menu system, a bright backlit screen, 39 hours of recording time (in MP3 format), 27-hour battery life, voice-activated recording to pause and restart after silences, and a pop-out USB 3.0 connector that lets you recharge the recorder and transfer files to a computer easily. Like many of the other recorders we looked at, it comes with an adequate amount of onboard storage (4 GB) but accepts microSD cards, so you can record and store hundreds of hours of recorded audio should you need it. The UX560 is also the slimmest recorder we tested—at 0.43 inch thick it can easily fit in a shirt or pants pocket.

The Olympus WS-853 is the recorder we’d get if our main pick is unavailable. We found its menu system harder to navigate, and its recordings didn’t fare as well in our listening tests compared with the Sony UX560’s. But with 8 GB of internal storage, 130 hours of recording time, and a battery the company claims lasts 110 hours when recording in MP3 format, the WS-853 has the best storage and battery life of the recorders we tested. Like our pick, it’s slim enough to fit in a pants pocket, although it’s nearly twice as thick (0.71 inch) as the UX560. The WS-853 also has voice-activated recording to stop and restart recordings after silences, and a pop-out USB 3.0 connector for easy recharging and file transfer.

If you’re on a budget, we recommend Sony’s ICD-PX470. The PX470’s buttons and navigation system are very similar to that of the UX560, but our listening panel didn’t rate the PX470’s audio quality as highly. Recordings were understandable enough, however, and if you don’t need the absolute best audio quality, the PX470 will save you some money. It also has longer battery life than the UX560 at 55 hours, but it isn’t rechargeable—you have to remember to keep AAA batteries on hand. It’s also physically larger, measuring twice as thick as the UX560.


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