Best Voice Recorder for Interviews and Lectures

Dec 21, 2015 | Voice Recorders | 1 comment

[Updated on January 20, 2017]

There are tons of great voice recorders available in the market today but finding a voice recorder that is uniquely suitable for interviews or lectures can be a challenge.

You really need to know what to look for so that you don’t end up buying something that is either too simple or too high-tech/expensive for your needs.

In this post we discuss the essential features you should look for in a voice recorder and provide a list of top voice recorders to consider. First up, the voice recorders we think are best for recording lectures and interviews:

Best Voice Recorders For Lectures:

Best Voice Recorders For Interviews:

You’ll find a rundown of features of these recorders at the end of this post, but first let’s take a look at key features a voice recorder must have for making good interview and lecture recordings.


Must-Have Features

The Correct type of Microphones

Voice recorders can capture sound from one or more directions depending on the directionality of their microphones. Check the technical specifications of the voice recorder to see if it has a unidirectional or an omnidirectional microphone.

Unidirectional microphones capture sound from one direction.

Omnidirectional microphones capture sounds from all directions.

Unidirectional Microphones for Lectures:

For recording lectures, voice recorders with unidirectional microphones work best because they capture the voice of the lecturer in front and block out other voices around it.

Omnidirectional Microphones for Interviews:

For interviews, voice recorders with omnidirectional microphones work great because they capture voices all around.

voice recorder

Voice recorders with unidirectional microphones can also be used for interviews, provided they are placed facing the participants .

Tip: If you choose a recorder with an omnidirectional microphone, remember that these devices capture sounds from ALL directions, so you can easily end up with a lot of ambient noise on your recordings (doors banging, loud music, cars passing by, etc.). Try using these voice recorders in quiet surroundings to reduce unnecessary noise on your recordings.

Low Cut Filter or Noise Filter

If you or your transcriptionist have ever despaired over ‘white’ noise and ambient sounds drowning the voices on a recording, then you would appreciate the low cut filter that some voice recorders offer (a.k.a. noise filter or noise cancellation).

This feature filters out low-frequency sounds (for e.g. distant voices, cars honking, chairs creaking, etc.) from a recording, improving the clarity of voices that are closer or directly in front of the voice recorder.

For lectures this feature is very important because it cuts out the general noise that is present in almost all lecture halls.

For interviews this feature is important when:

  1. The recording is at an outdoor location.
  2. When the recorder has an omnidirectional microphone (i.e. it records sounds from all directions).

Easy Data Transfer

What if you used up all the data storage space (i.e. internal/external memory) on your voice recorder and needed to record more? You would have two choices:

  1. Transfer files from the recorder to a computer and clean out it’s internal/external storage.
  2. Delete the files on the recorder to make room for the next recording.

Option 2 may not always be feasible, so there must be an easy way to transfer data from the voice recorder to a computer.

Good voice recorders would come with some or all of the following data transfer options:

  1. An external microSD card slot.
  2. An in-built USB stick.
  3. A USB port and data transfer cable.
  4. Bluetooth connectivity.

Convenient File Formats

Some voice recorders require proprietary software to play recordings on a computer. This doesn’t work very well when files have to be shared with others (or if you have to pay extra to buy the software!).

A standard voice recorder would record audio in MP3, WMA, and/or WAV format. These globally recognized audio formats can be played on almost all devices and do not require any additional software. MP3 files are smaller with average sound quality while WAV files are larger with better sound quality.

For lectures, MP3 quality is usually sufficient.

For interviews, WAV format would be better if the audio is going to be used on podcasts etc. For regular playback for research or transcription MP3 format should suffice.

That covers the ESSENTIAL features a voice recorder for interviews and lectures must have. Based on your specific requirements, here are some more features you may consider-

Other Features to Consider

  1. Dual microphones for better sound quality.
  2. Long battery life.
  3. Rechargeable batteries
  4. Indexing/marking system (this allows you to place bookmarks at important points on a recording that you can later ‘skip-to’ quickly during playback).
  5. Folder system.
  6. Voice activation.
  7. Backlit display.
  8. External microphone jack.
  9. Tripod slot.

Depending on where and how you use the voice recorder, these feature can simplify audio-recording no end.

Now that we have a good understanding of the various features to look for, let’s review the list of voice recorders mentioned at the beginning of the post and see which key features each recorder offers:

Best Voice Recorders For Lectures:

1. Sony ICDUX533

The Sony ICDUX533 is a practical budget recorder. It’s small size, a powerful microphone, long battery life, and a set of useful features like index marking and ‘skip-to next/previous index’  make it perfect for recording classroom lectures.

  • Single unidirectional microphone
  • Stereophonic MP3 recordings
  • 4GB internal memory, MicroSD card slot + built-in USB stick
  • Back-lit panel
  • Intelligent noise cut (low cut filter)
  • Voice activation
  • T-mark functionality that helps move to next/previous mark quickly during playback

2. Zoom H1

The Zoom H1 voice recorder is probably the best choice for both lectures and interviews (and dictations too!). This portable device comes with two highly sensitive microphones and tons of great features like a user-friendly interface, a backlit display, and easily accessible buttons.

  • 2 Unidirectional microphones set in X/Y pattern
  • Stereophonic MP3 and WAV recordings
  • MicroSD card slot + mini USB port
  • Low cut filter
  • Backlit display
  • Index marks functionality
  • Tripod slot
  • Rechargeable batteries

3. Olympus LS-P2

This excellent voice recorder is slightly higher priced, but totally worth considering because of its great features. It comes with 3 built-in microphones, metallic body, and an inbuilt USB stick that can be used for both data transfer and recharging batteries.

  • 3 Unidirectional microphones
  • Stereophonic MP3 and WAV recordings
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 8 GB internal memory, MicroSD card slot + Built-in USB stick
  • Index marks functionality
  • External microphone jack

Best Voice Recorders For Interviews:

1. Zoom H1

The Zoom H1 voice recorder is great for recording interviews because it come with dual microphones that capture excellent sound, good battery life, and a tripod slot that you can use to set it up on the side so that it doesn’t catch any handling noise.

  • 2 Unidirectional microphones set in X/Y pattern
  • Stereophonic MP3 and WAV recordings
  • MicroSD card slot + mini USB port
  • Low cut filter
  • Backlit display
  • Index marks functionality
  • Tripod slot
  • Rechargeable batteries

(Full Review)

2. Tascam DR-05

The Tascam DR-05 is similar to the Zoom H1 but has a more durable body and comes with two omnidirectional microphones which are great to capture audio with the recoder placed in the center of a group.

  • 2 omnidirectional microphones
  • External microphone jack
  • Stereophonic MP3 and WAV recordings
  • MicroSD card slot + mini USB port (4GB card + data cable included)
  • 3 low cut filter levels
  • Tripod slot
  • Backlit display

3. Zoom H4N

If you are looking for rugged, high quality voice recorder for your interviews, this is the one. Zoom H4N has the same highly sensitive unidirectional microphones as the Zoom H1, but it comes with XLR inputs and has a stronger body.

  • 2 Unidirectional microphones set in X/Y pattern
  • Stereophonic MP3 and WAV recordings
  • MicroSD card slot + mini USB port (2 GB card included)
  • Pre-record function
  • Low cut filter
  • Great for audio and video recording
  • Tripod slot
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Voice activation
  • Windscreen, AC adapter, USB Cable, and protective case included.
  • Rugged built.

(Full review)

Here’s a neat video showing a comparison between the Zoom H1 and the Zoom H4N by Dough Shill:

We hope this article helps you make an informed decision about which voice recorder is the right one for you. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy Recording!

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