voice recorders 2020

Best Voice Recorders for Writing a Book

Digital voice recorders are essential tools in dictation for writing a book.

They can help increase your writing output by a whole lot.

By being able to dictate wherever and whenever the inspiration hits you, you’ll be able to write a novel quickly.

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.

In fact, with the help of my Olympus recorder, I’m able to write 20,000 words or more per day. No joke.

I have listed out the key steps anyone can follow to dictate as much as 50,000 words in a single day. If I can do it, anyone can.

With enough practice and the right gear, dictaphone writing can take your writing productivity and quality to a whole other level.

Check out the selection guide below so you can pick out the best digital voice recorder for writers.

Essential Features to Consider

Recording Quality

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.

Storage Capacity

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.

Connectivity

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.

Battery Life

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.

Accessories Included

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 Book Writing Recorders for 2021

Let’s look at some of the various models available in the market. For this guide, I am listing seven recorders writers looking to produce books through dictation should seriously consider.

Zoom H8 12-Track Portable Recorder

The Zoom H8 is just what high-output writers like myself need – record multiple tracks clearly and efficiently at a time. The app-driven options, namely: Podcast, Music, and Field, cater to specific recording requirements. I accessed the Field app in particular from the touchscreen display. Great tool for unloading brain dumps because I can review every detail with clarity and precision.

Again, this recorder can handle multiple tracks – up to 12 as a matter of fact. This wouldn’t really matter to the basic user.

But for sound engineers and audio professionals, it could be a desirable feature. While it compliments multitasking, it can take only one effect setting per track though.

Can be a bummer but I think it’s one of those things you’ll just need to work around, so it suits your requirements.

I connected the XYH-6 XY stereo microphone using an expansion port and stumbled upon a cover conveniently located on the Zoom H8 base.

A nice touch indeed. But more importantly, the clear quality with no discernible noise of the mic capsules, which are interchangeable by the way, is what makes it worth your purchase I think.

There are the padded switch controls for the 4 mic inputs, and 2 XLR/TRS connectors.

While you can enjoy a longer battery lifespan of up to 20 hours, the AA batteries themselves can be exhausted fairly quickly.

Adding a type C USB connection as well as PC and Android apps should be considered in the future. Overall, the Zoom H8 is a quality recording kit that’s priced just right.

Strong points of the Zoom H8 12-Track Portable Recorder

  • compact and sturdy design
  • professional audio quality
  • superior pair of unidirectional microphones
  • multi-track hardware recorder
  • allows control of input gain through mechanical knobs
  • easy device connection
  • longer battery lifespan using four alkaline batteries

Areas for improvement

  • cannot use more than one effect per track
  • no USB type C connection
  • no app for PC and Android devices

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

Sony ICD-UX533BLK Digital Voice Recorder

The sound of this Sony recorder is superb, great not only for transcription, but also when you want to listen to key points of your novel or article again. I recorded different voices and sounds from objects like a bouncing ball. Even with some background noise, this device picks up the sounds very distinctly and with crystal clarity given its dual stereo microphone system. I also used it without a microphone yet the sound remained audible.

This device allows you to adjust the sensitivity settings. Since I was just rambling off personal notes with a mic on, I used the low sensitivity.

Although you can always use the micro SD slot to accommodate more dictation files, using this setting helps consume less space and battery. Maybe you can save the high setting for the crucial recordings.

As far as sharing your recordings, they can be played on any PC, unlike other devices that require you to have the corresponding proprietary software during playback.

However, you have to skip Mac computers and direct play on any OS. You can split tracks in case you only need certain parts of your actual recording.

Did I mention that this digital recorder weighs practically nothing? It’s only 58 grams, so it’s not distracting to put in your pocket.

The shell is made of plastic, but not really bothered by it. Even the most advanced recorders are made with plastic covering hence, not a deal breaker by any means.

It still is a good buy for many users.

Strong points of the Sony ICD-UX533BLK Digital Voice Recorder

  • clear audio
  • user friendly interface
  • integrated micro SD slot and 4GB flash memory
  • high quality recording and playback capabilities
  • supports multiple file formats
  • voice activation feature
  • single-handed operation
  • file organization

Areas for improvement

  • lacks auto settings
  • incompatible with any Mac program

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

OM Digital Solutions DS-2600 Digital Voice Recorder

I have to say that this unit is perfect for the non-technical user. Very simple and straightforward operation. Using the intuitive slide switch, I was able to record and edit without difficulty. It can process multiple formats such as mp3, PCM, and DSS so the playback function won’t require an additional program.

This recorder even has a motion sensor with which it automatically records as soon as you pick it up.

I found the file transfer process to be a quick one with the help of a micro USB cable.

Would have been great if it had wifi connectivity, often complemented with a 256-bit data encryption feature, which is available in other Olympus digital models.

The triple layer filter ensures your recordings are free of noise distractions. It tackles different environments based on your chosen settings.

Dictation was quite flawless using the DSS software – an easy install. This model works seamlessly with PC and Mac systems.

Any pause I made while recording can be tracked with the VCVA technology, which gave me more space for other sessions.

This being portable, it is also lightweight at about 3 ounces, with a modest-sized display, a standard headphone jack, and 2 mics for directional stereo recording.

Although it could be better if it came with a docking station, you can charge the lithium ion battery-powered device straight to the electrical outlet using a third party plug adapter instead. Still worth considering, especially if you’re looking to buy your very first recorder.

Strong points of the OM Digital Solutions DS-2600 Digital Voice Recorder

  • equipped with a motion sensor
  • automatic pause tracking using proprietary Olympus technology
  • precise optical slide switch
  • SD card storage
  • editable recordings
  • two directional mic technology
  • rechargeable lithium ion battery

Areas for improvement

  • no wifi capability
  • lacks a file encryption system
  • no charging cradle

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

Zoom H6 (2020 Model)

I would expect several things in a digital recorder such as having a respectable quality, legible display screen, recording ability in different formats, and ease of file transfer to a PC or Mac, among other things. This is heightened further if I am looking at a unit from a specialized brand. In the case of the Zoom H6, I expected nothing less.

I thought the six-channel feature plus up to four XLR inputs are great attractions.

As such, I didn’t have to resort to using a cable and an adapter while at it. So ideal for podcasting and conducting interviews where participants can get to have their own dynamic microphone. The memory is more than sufficient – I got 15 hours with a 16GB card, which are reduced if multiple channels are operated simultaneously.

Writers like me will get a lot of use from this intuitive device and so are those involved in the music field, I imagine.

I produced excellent sound recordings in no time. It’s so clear you’ll most likely hear even a pin drop. I have mounted it on my tripod for convenience, although I should stress that the ergonomics are right on. It can be laid flat on a surface and still work flawlessly.

The Zoom H6 is powered by 4 alkaline batteries which it comes with, but just like with other recorders, I tend to use the USB cable more as an electrical source instead. The phantom power with 4 tracks in operation will drain batteries quickly. Other than that, it’s a solid piece that proves to be worth its weight in gold for its targeted market.

Strong points of the Zoom H6

  • premium build and sound quality
  • advanced preamps
  • provides audio interface for laptops and computer tablets
  • four phantom-powered mic inputs
  • allows up to six tracks
  • angled LCD screen
  • longer battery usage with rechargeable option
  • direct recording to expanded 128GB memory via SD card

Areas for improvement

  • does not support mp3 and wav formats

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

Zoom H5 Handy Recorder

Whether you plan to upgrade from the older Zoom H4n or a first-time buyer of a recording device, you have good reason to grab this unit.

At a glance, this Zoom recorder is a little on the bulky side, but the modular and rugged build is rather appealing, especially for a device you intend to use on the go.

Goes without saying that we should always take care of our gadgets, but the way I look at it, it seems that this device can take a moderate beating.

This model looks nice and rugged on the outside.

The default microphone capsule is above average, which can provide you with a clean sound so you won’t even need to change it unless you demand a far more superior audio. Besides, there is an option to record in stereo mode, thus giving flexibility post-recording while preserving the clear sound quality.

Unlike other dictaphones, the Zoom H5 captures your live sessions and transfers them directly to your recipient.

This model is Ideal for journalists and busy individuals, skipping the lengthy process of transferring files to a PC with other portable recorders.

Even with the 2 directional microphones which are more than enough for the prolific novelist, I was still surprised how great the quality of the audio is for dictation tasks, but I can’t sing its high praises if you’ll use it for music. It is quite a battery monster, which limits its continuous usage for up to 4 hours. Using alkaline batteries may stretch the run time somehow. Ultimately, this device is a good investment at under 300 dollars for those who will not require more than two microphones in any given session.

Strong points of the Zoom H5 Handy Recorder

  • simultaneous recording of multiple tracks
  • interchangeable mic capsules
  • backlit LCD and foam windshield
  • low latency monitoring
  • automatic recording function
  • compatibility with all Zoom capsules
  • maximum 140 dB sound pressure input
  • dedicated line for direct camera connection

Areas for improvement

  • bulkier compared to other portable recorders

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

Olympus DS-9500 Digital Dictation Voice Recorder

If you are annoyed by the extra weight that a typical digital recorder has, get this model.

The Olympus DS-9500 is lightweight as it is portable. Dictate ideas away, whether you are on the road or in tight spots.

The user interface is free from complicated instructions, it’s pretty straightforward.

I can simply slide the switch upwards and it starts recording. The USB port is conveniently located at the bottom and has the plug which connects to its charging dock.

Let’s talk about its microphone which is where it gets exciting. I find that the two stereo mics are top quality.

This unit’s audio is loud and clear with superior ambient noise cancelation. Makes for easier transcription or playback afterwards.

And if you dare test the structural integrity of this device, it won’t break, at least if you’re dropping it from less than 5 feet. Yes, it is shockproof. Meanwhile, the 2.4-inch color display is modest, nothing spectacular in that area. The decent pixel resolution, which is bright and readable, is enough.

Another convenient perk of the DS-9500 is the wifi capability which I’m sure will only optimize workflow because you can send recording files directly from the unit to your recipient. It is rechargeable, has external memory, and works flawlessly with the Olympus proprietary dictation software. Some users feel though that the OS of this particular Olympus model is not as intuitive as the others, and falls short with its plastic build. My only issue would be its inability to be used with MAC programs, but if you are using other systems, you should be fine.

Strong points of the Olympus DS-9500

  • effective noise cancellation
  • Olympus dictation management system compatibility
  • intelligent dual microphones
  • rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • includes a 16GB SD card
  • secure file management
  • wifi connectivity

Areas for improvement

  • incompatible with any Mac program
  • could use a bit more of the intuitive functionality of its Olympus predecessors

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

Olympus DS-9000 Digital Voice Recorder

I understand why this Olympus model is a bestseller. It has many practical features one would look for in a digital recorder. You have the two microphones, a standard headphone jack, decent storage, the lightweight portability and its ease of use. I would recommend this even for beginners because it has no learning curve. Pretty much plug and play. I can always use a motion sensor especially during times when I have to capture audio at the spur of the moment, without fumbling with the device.

Busy writers may be just as pleased since it has data encryption and triple layer pop filter for the perfectly recorded audio.

This model works on a single lithium polymer battery which can stretch your sessions to 20 hours max.

Olympus has come out with the PIN security lock in its more recent models including the DS-9000. This is a nice feature on top of the optical slide switch. Depending on your industry, it also provides three modes for optimized recording in quiet environments, noisy backgrounds, and conference setup.

I thought the dictation is crystal which facilitates the transcription, whether performed manually by a transcriptionist or through a speech recognition software. File-sharing ought to be easy with its USB connectivity so you can download files by sliding them out, which is a standard feature in portable recorders anyway.

There is no free memory card. Not much of a big deal in my case because the freebies are usually basic and you’ll likely end up buying another one that has a bigger capacity.

This is an opportunity to own a recorder that you’ll get a lot of use from for years to come.

Strong points of the Olympus DS-9000

  • clear and accurate speech recognition
  • with internal and expandable memory
  • body has impact resistance
  • equipped with data encryption
  • device security through PIN code
  • four-position slide switch
  • offers dictation tagging through DSS Pro
  • has motion sensors

Areas for improvement

    • No memory card in starter package

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

Olympus DS-2600 Digital Voice Recorder with docking station

If you’re looking for a great combination of quality and power in one small package, try the DS-200.

This device is portable with a size of 9.69×7.76X3.39 inches and 1.64lbs in weight.

It’s not the lightest and smallest in the market but it does come with great features that the Olympus brand is known for.

Whether you’re writing a sci-fi classic or the next ‘book to movie’ thriller project, this model’s great combination of features and power delivers the mobility and portability you need when dictating your next book.

The DS-2600 has a stereo microphone, superior noise canceling feature, and a triple layer sound studio pop filter.

This feature optimizes the sound in any environment and blocks breath sound and wind vibrations, as well as ambient sound and background noise.

It also features a precise 4-position slide switch for functions like Record, Stop, play and rewind. And like the other Olympus DS models, it comes with motion sensors that detects any movement, and automatically wakes up the device and starts recording. The DSS feature (Digital Speech Standard) feature allows for fast file editing like inserting, overwriting, appending, erasing and cutting. Multiple external microphones can also be connected when recording conferences and meetings.

It is powered by 1 lithium ion battery. This device can record in 3 different audio formats and has dual microphones with directionality.

When purchased, the DS-2600 comes with a docking station. Which also serves as the devices’ charger and it allows you to connect to your computer to download the recordings to the PC.

Strong points of the Olympus DS-2600

  • Dual Microphones with directionality
  • Noise canceling system which lets you record in any environment
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Comes with a docking station
  • Triple layer sound filter
  • 4-position slide switch
  • USB Connectivity
  • Motion Sensors
  • Records is 3 different audio formats (DSS/DSS Pro/ PCM/MP3
  • Compatible with the Olympus Dictation Software

Cons:

    No 256-bit AES Encryption

Check Amazon for Availability and Pricing

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.

If you’re looking to collect info for your books, blog posts, or articles by talking to sources, check out my reviews of the best voice recorders for interviews.

If you need to record large or small focus groups, check out my my reviews of the best audio recorders for focus groups.

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!

Affiliate Disclosure: Dictablogger earns commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

2 thoughts on “Best Voice Recorders for Writing a Book”

  1. Jessie Montagne

    Thanks for the guidance on recorders.

    I have been using an app on my phone and it’s not really up to the job.

    I don’t know what it is but I tend to get a lot of ideas when I am out and about so I need a recorder that is powerful and clear enough to record my thoughts.

    Using my mobile phone set up, I’ve been able to dictate 10,000 words worth of content so far.

    1. I’m glad to help.

      If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

      I’d love to help you with any issues you may have with voice recorders for blogging or book writing

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