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Top 8 Digital Voice Recorders

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Digital voice recorders are the solution for busy business people or anyone with a need to record notes, meetings, presentations, lectures and dictation. For musicians and other professionals, better quality recorders have additional features that, for example, allow them to make high fidelity stereo recordings of concerts. Yes, a modern multifunction device such as the iPhone can provide voice recording functionality, but in comparison with dedicated voice recorders multifunction devices can be limited in recording quality, battery life, audio storage capacity, and may also lack such features as voice activation, index markers, etc.

These top digital voice recorders are loaded with features that will make your voice recording chores a snap. Some come bundled with Dragon Naturally Speaking software which does automatic text to speech conversion to turn your recordings into text. Others, such as certain Olympus models, include sound editing software. All provide easy transfers of voice files to your PC or Mac.

1. Zoom H4n Handy Portable

Zoom H4n Digital Recorder
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This is CNET's top choice for a professional grade digital voice recorder; reviewer Donald Bell says that it's "an outstanding value for musicians and podcasters who demand professional-sounding results". The Zoom H4n has the ability to record 4 channels at once and its XLR balanced inputs with +48V phantom power let you connect professional microphones to it. Of course, you pay more for professional quality, but at about $350.00 this one is still a bit of a bargain for the features. Auto-record, pre-record, variable speed playback, Hi-Z inputs for recording guitar and bass – this is truly a "do-it-all" machine.

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2. Apple iPad 9.7" 32 GB Wi-Fi Black Tablet

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The newest version of the iPad has the latest generation processor, 32 GB memory, Wi-Fi connectivity, a 9.7" LED Multi-Touch Display and two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. For digital voice/sound recording external microphones will improve the sound quality. For the iPad/iPhone there are a number of choices when it comes to voice recording software. Audio Memos is a top-rated choice based on its superb list of features including the ability to pause, restart, and combine recordings, attach pictures to recordings, set markers, and transfer files to the cloud or send as email attachments. Dragon Dictation allows you to convert spoken words to text that you can edit as required and email or post online. Typically these apps have free "dumbed down" versions - the pay versions have more advanced features.
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3. Olympus LS-100

Olympus LS-100 Voice Recorder
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The LS-100 is Olympus' professional-grade audio recorder. While it is mostly aimed at musicians and broadcasters you don't have to be a musician to appreciate this Olympus recorder's excellent sound quality. The LS-100 offers 24 bit/96 KHz linear PCM recording and has high-sensitivity and low-noise stereo microphones that "capture every detail and nuance". It has multi-track recording - you can edit up to 8 tracks at a time.  It is compact, rugged, and has multiple inputs, headphone output, built-in tuner and metronome, and a 12 hour lithium battery. Con: this voice recorder can be pricey.

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4. Olympus DM-420

Olympus DM-420 Digital Voice Recorder
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What I really like about the Olympus DM-420 is all in the numbers. 533 hours of recording time in LP mode with 2GB internal memory. 51 hours of battery life with USB recharging. This is a lot of voice recording for the price. The icing on the cake is that the Olympus DM-420 handles both MP3 and WMA formats so you can record and play back in either one, lets you use an additional micro SD Card for extra memory, has Voice Guidance to walk you through folder navigation and set-up options and has CD-quality sound. For all the features, the price is a good number, too.

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5. Olympus DM-620

Olympus DM-420 Voice Recorder

The DM-620 is an excellent choice for a non-professional grade digital voice recorder.  It has 4 GB internal memory (expandable to 32 GB via a MicroSD card slot), records in 3 formats (WAV, MP3, WMA), and has a 3 microphone system for excellent sound quality.  The rechargeable lithium ion battery gives a long battery life.  Voice Actuation allows you to begin recording by voice. The recorder comes with Olympus Sonority editing software that is both PC and Mac compatible. If you're a gadget lover, this is the digital voice recorder for you.

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6. Sony ICD-SX712

Sony ICD-SX712 Digital Voice Recorder
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Sony's ICD-SX712 has a lot of features to make your work easier, such as six recording modes (including the ability to record and play back in MP3 format) , a voice email function, cue/review, track mark and noise cut for clearer speech playback. It also has 2GB flash memory built-in which will give you over 500 hours in recording time and a memory card expansion slot so you can add even more memory if you like, and a dual stereo microphone. And it fits into a pocket or purse. My one beef is the 25 hour battery life. It's not terrible, but there are other recorders that have more. The unit comes with sound organizer software.

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7. Sony ICDUX512

Sony ICDUX512 Digital Voice Recorder
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This model shares almost all the features of the Sony ICD-SX712. They both offer over 500 hours in recording time and a memory card expansion slot, dual stereo microphone and features such as noise cut and cue/review. It doesn't record in as many formats as the ICD-SX712 and doesn't have as many functions. For instance, it doesn't have a Voice Email function or Add Recording or Correct Dictation functions. On the plus side, it has a little more projected battery life (29 hours compared to 25), has a Direct USB Connector, which attaches the recorder directly to a computer without the need for a USB cable, and is a little cheaper (about $30 less).

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8. Olympus VN-801PC

Olympus VN-8100PC Digital Voice Recorder
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My budget choice is the Olympus VN-801PC. For under $70, this Olympus model provides a reliable, long-lasting way to record your ideas and meetings and has some nifty features that you don't expect in a recorder in this price range such as index marking so you can easily find a particular place in a recording and the ability to record and play back in both MP3 and WMA formats. Other than that, this recorder stands out for its up to 843 hours of recording time and its long battery life (up to 51 hours).

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