Voice recorders – an alternative to taking notes?
By Martin Roe Eidhammer

Voice recorders are the solution for busy people who want to record notes, meetings, and ideas without balancing a pen and a notebook in their hand. The digital recorders are the most convenient as they have the ability to record and transfer information to your computer, making it easier to organize, edit and play back your voice files. Also, digital voice recordings last longer than tape. What to look for when buying a voice recorder:


  1. Think through how you will be using the recorder. Are you just looking for a voice recorder or do you want the capability to record your grandson’s piano recital? This choice will bring you down different aisles in the store and it has big implications for the price.
  2. How long is the recording time? It is, of course, better the longer the recording time it has. When you look at different recorders make sure you check with which recording quality you get what recording time. The better the quality, the shorter recordings you can make.  If you plan to also use voice recognition software these will normally demand a good quality recording to be able to recognize the speech.
  3. How is the recorder powered? Some has internal rechargeable batteries. The most convenient is the devices that use exchangeable batteries. Even though some of these also can be recharged, you can always run into any store and get a fresh set if you run out of power.
  4. How is the data stored? Some voice recorders has an internal memory. The best is, however if you can use some kind of memory card. There are several kinds of cards with different storage capacity. If you also carry a camera it would be very convenient if your voice recorder can use the same kind of memory card.  In any case you should choose a midrange card size. Try to think through the sessions you will be recording, read the owner’s manual and find out the amount of memory you will need to make these recordings. Cards can be damaged so I strongly recommend you to carry several mid range size cards instead of one large.
  5. How to start execute the recording? It is very convenient if the recorder has “voice activated recording” This means that the recording starts when sound hits the microphone and shut off when no sounds is heard. In any case, you should be able to easily turn the device on and then start to record without a whole lot of fuzz. Check the “feel” of the recorder. Does it fit in the palm of your hand. Can it be turned on and off with a flip of your thumb?
  6. If you think you will be doing lot of interviews I strongly recommend that you get a recorder that has external microphone inputs. If quality is important the inputs should be XLR’s. This gives you the possibility to arrange one or preferably two high-quality microphones.  Remember, some recordings are just for transcription, but the interview where your Great-Grandmother tells about her childhood in Norway is one you want to keep with good quality!
  7. Can the voice recorder be connected to a PC? This is a stupid question. Your recorder must be able to connect to a PC so that you can transfer your files and perhaps store them on an external hard-disk or burn them to a CD. If your recorder uses memory cards the most convenient way to transfer the data is to use a card reader that plugs into your USB port. Card readers nowadays are cheap and you should get a reader with slots for different kinds of cards. (You can use it with your camera, cell-phone and a lot of other gadgets that stores on a memory card).

Get a recorder that supports recording to mp3. You can use mp3 files with virtually any music listening or sound editing software. This means that your files can be played with Windows Media Player on any PC.

Here are some examples of voice recorders: Sanyo, Sony and Zoom: