Digital voice recorders are essential tools in dictation for writing a book.
They can help increase your writing productivity.
At the very least, they can help you outline and record your ideas.
With the right features, recorders allow you to speed up the dictation, transcription, and editing stages, without sacrificing quality.
Finally, if you can balance those features with a fair budget, then you’re all set.
Essential Features to Consider
We all want clear recordings as much as possible. While it doesn’t need to be podcast quality, it has to be free of excessive background noise, rumbles, and echoes usually present in poor quality recordings. This factor affects the ease of transcription. It also determines the amount of data or size of the file recorded. A recorder with a high bitrate usually means better quality recording, but this requires more data.
Memory storage available determines how much data you can record at a time, and therefore the frequency of deleting or transferring files. Typical internal capacities would be 2GB to 4GB, which translates to 40 hours or more of recording time. And this is influenced by the type of file (DSS, WMA or mp3), and quality of the recording as well. An expandable memory would be a plus.
Operation and Controls
The recorder has to be easy to use. The controls should be highly visible and easy to access. The file system should be easy to navigate. The screen should be large, uncluttered, and back-lit, to be easily read in any light condition.
Recorders are usually connected to computers via USB port and micro SD slot, allowing smooth transfer of recorded files. Some devices have transcription systems that automatically transpose recordings into word documents. And most of them are compatible with Windows and Apple software.
Power limitation is also important to consider as it can influence how long a dictation/recording can last. You don’t want to get interrupted in mid-sentence or lose a train of thought just because the battery died. Most of the recorders would have a display showing battery level, but a long battery operating time is very assuring.
This aspect could serve as deal-breakers in choosing a digital voice recorder. Some brands include accessories like external microphones, earphones, USB cables, extra micro SD cards, batteries, chargers, case or covers, among others.
Top Recorders for 2020
Let’s look at some of the various models available in the market. For this guide, I am listing seven recorders from the most basic to the advanced. I hope they are good representations of features and price mix.
1. Sony ICD-PX240 Digital Voice Recorder
This Sony unit is a wonderful audio recorder now priced at less than $40. It’s a no-frills, basic unit that records in mono, but has surprisingly good sound quality. Moreover, it boasts of a 4GB internal memory giving you 43 hours of continuous recording at 192kpbs in mp3 format. It runs on 2 AAA Alkaline or NH rechargeable batteries, though you cannot use the recorder to recharge the batteries. You can transfer files to a computer through the provided USB connector.
A pleasantly surprising feature of this little wonder is the Overwrite and Add function. These functions allow the user to edit the dictation, to either record over, or to add a portion of the recording, as necessary.
With a low price and not-so mediocre features, the ICD-PX240 is certainly a nice way to start off the list.
2. Olympus WS-852 Digital Voice Recorder
Inexpensive at below $50, it still gives an excellent performance. It has 4GB memory storage, but since it records in mp3 format, it can store up to 1000 hours or 41 days of audio recordings! It also has a microSD port that allows memory expansion up to 32GB. Two AAA alkaline batteries provide 41 hours of recording at 128 kbps in mp3 format.
The WS-852 comes with two display modes: a simple version which only shows the most important information for beginners; and a normal version for the more experienced users, who want to have more features like making adjustments on their recordings.
One example of this is the Intelligent Audio Mode, which automatically adjusts the microphone sensitivity. It senses and compares the volume of the speaker against that of the ambient noise and adjusts accordingly.
The WS-852 comes with a direct USB port that allows you to plug the unit directly into your computer, thus eliminating the need for a USB cable.
3. Sony ICD-UX560BLK Digital Voice Recorder
This model comes in just below $100 and sports a slim half-inch design. It has a built-in stereo microphone with a voice-operated recording. It can record in three modes: stereo, focus, and normal. The recording quality of this recorder is among the best in its price range.
It produces clear, understandable audio in classroom-, quiet office-, and noisy coffee shop settings. It has a “noise cut” feature that filters out the high- and low frequencies. The recorder comes with a 4GB internal memory also has a micro SD slot for memory expansion to 32GB.
The LCD screen is backlit, the controls are highly visible and quite easy to operate, and has a recording level indicator. The menu is very easy to navigate. Buttons are clearly labeled.
The ICD-UX560BLK operates on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which takes about 3 minutes to charge for a typical 1-hour recording. The battery has a 27-hour life and provides 39 hours of recording audio on mp3 format.
It is recharged by a slide-out USB 3.0 connector that allows easy connection to the computer for the transfer of files. And it also has a headphone jack and microphone inputs.
4. Olympus VN-8100PC Digital Voice Recorder
A unit costing below $200, This Olympus recorder comes with 2GB memory capacity. This size means it can record audio up to 843 hours or 35 days. It records both in mp3 and WMA formats.
The device has a large screen that allows you to adjust the font size for viewing preference.
It can be connected to the computer by USB enabling the user to directly access the file for email, editing, and archive. It provides 51 hours of recording powered by two AAA batteries.
As an added feature, it has 5 folders that can hold 200 files each.
5. Zoom H2n Handy Digital Recorders
The Zoom H2n doesn’t look like your average digital recorder. Rather stylish and compact, there are almost no buttons, so it can be a bit complicated to use. It comes with a 2GB micro SD upgradable to 32GB. The audio recording is superb because it has five microphones and can record up to 20 hours on two standard AA batteries.
The H2n records in either WAV or mp3 format at their corresponding bitrates that directly affects recording time. Finally, it has a lot of other features like Variable-speed playback, Auto Record, Auto Gain, Tuner, A-B Repeat, and Surround Mixer. Now with a price of $170, it certainly puts the competition in check.
6. Philips DPM6000 Digital Pocket Memo Voice Recorder
The DPM6000 is different from the previous examples as its screen is designed specifically to display only relevant information, thus uncluttering the screen. It comes with an aesthetically pleasing slim design and durable stainless steel. It also features a convenient push-button for professional recording control.
The DPM6000 offers an advanced unique feature – the ability to record in DSS (Digital Speech Standard) format developed by Phillips (together with Olympus and Grundig Business Systems). DSS is specially designed for dictation software and provides more recording accuracy.
As such, the model comes with Speech Exec workflow software for efficient data management. The unit also records in mp3 format as an option. The recorder has two built-in microphones for high-quality stereo recording.
The DPM6000 comes with a 4GB micro SD expandable memory (up to 32GB).
It operates on a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that provides 30 hours of recording audio and has a standby time of 200 days. Finally, with a price of about $250, this recorder is undoubtedly an all-around favorite.
7. Olympus DS-3500 Professional Dictation Digital Recorder
The DS-3500 is considered one of the top-line models in the market and is explicitly designed to function with professional dictating software.
It records in the proprietary DSS format, and is voice-activated! It allows you to insert, overwrite, append, and partially erase pre-recorded files by just speaking to the unit microphone!
It automatically corrects typographical errors and grammar mistakes, and allows you to do so without typing!
On top of all that, the DS-3500 offers password protection and file encryption.
All your work will be kept safe and secured, so privacy is assured.
Features a dual 2GB SD/micro SD removable memory expandable to 32GB, 2-inch color LCD screen, 26-hour recording time on a rechargeable Li-ion battery, five folders capable of holding 200 files each
The DS-3500 comes with the price of a little under $500. But considering all its features, it’s certainly an investment worth making.
The Final Word on Digital Recorders for Writing Books
There are still a lot of digital recorders that we did not cover in this guide, but we hope that the essential factors in choosing one that suits your particular needs.
At the very least, these devices will help you take advantage of the many benefits dictating your book brings.
You can use any model on my list to help you write your book.
Whatever model you choose, we are sure you will find them satisfactory, as these units are well designed and manufactured to quality standards.
Thank you for stopping by, and good luck with your book project!