Why a Voice Activated Recorder is a Great Bargain

Jan 18, 2017 | Voice Recorders | 2 comments

A voice activated recorder is a neat device that starts and stops recording automatically depending on whether there is audible sound around it.

How is that useful? In several ways:

Better memory management

Let's say you are in the middle of a classroom lecture and the professor stops to write something or maybe you're interviewing an important contact, and they step out of the room to take a call.

A normal voice recorder will continue recording while you wait but a voice activated recorder will go on standby and resume recording only when the lecture/interview resumes .

This means the voice recorder's memory is better utilized by eliminating silent gaps on the recording.

No manual switching on/off

The situations described in the examples above are not uncommon. You often have to pause or stop recording during a session for a number of reasons.

In a normal voice recorder, you would have to do this manually, but in a voice activated there is no need to press buttons after you have switched it on, leaving you free to focus on the speaker.

This also eliminates the distracting 'beep' that accompanies start/stop/pause functions in most recorders.

No long silences on the recording

Because a voice activated recorder pauses automatically when the speaker is quiet, you end up with a cleaner recording without those annoyingly long periods of silence that you have to skip during playback later.

Better battery life

The auto-pause functionality of voice activated recorders improves battery life because the voice recorder switches to standby-mode when it's not recording.

When you combine these benefits with excellent audio quality, you get a voice recorder that is perfect for lectures, interviews, meetings, and dictations too!

Here are 4 great voice activated recorders you can find on Amazon:

Olympus VN-7200

The first voice activated recorder on our list is the Olympus VN-7200 - a simple device that is great for recording lectures and dictations.

It's basic features are a built-in mono microphone, 2 GB internal memory, a 3.5 mm earphone jack (that can double up as a port for data transfer cables), and a simple 28-mm speaker.

It records in MPEG-4 format.


  • Lightweight (2.3 oz with batteries, about the size of a regular cellphone).
  • Simple design.
  • Indexing and folders.


  • No in-built data-transfer options like a USB stick or a microSD card slot.
  • No stereo recordings.
  • No back-lit display.

Voice activation can be switched on by going into the menu and selecting VCVA (Variable Control Voice Actuator)

Best for: Dictations and lectures

Read more: How to Record Classroom Lectures


The next voice activated recorder on our list is the Sony ICD PX333 - a PC/Mac compatible mono recorder with a mini USB port and a microSD card slot.

This handy little recorder comes with 4 GB internal memory, a microSD card slot, 3 scene select options (music, meeting, interview, dictation), and a USB cable for data transfer. It runs on 2x AAA alkaline batteries and records up to 44 hours of audio in MP3 format (192 KBPS - HQ).


  • Data transfer via USB cable or microSD card.
  • Track mark and 'skip-to' functions.
  • Good sound quality.


  • Slows down at startup when using a microSD card.
  • No back-lit display.

Voice activation can be manually switched by selecting VOR in the Menu.

Best use: Lectures, dictations, and meetings.

Olympus WS-853

This voice activated recorder from Olympus is an improvement on the VN-7200 in several ways and delivers great audio quality for a budget recorder.

It comes with 8 GB internal memory, 2 unidirectional microphones that deliver stereo quality audio, and a noise cancellation feature to reduce ambient noise.


  • In-built USB stick for data transfer.
  • MicroSD card slot.
  • A built-in stand to reduce surface vibrations.
  • Stereo recordings.
  • Can record telephone conversations (Telephone Rec mode).


  • Small screen.
  • Low playback volume.
  • No back-lit display.

Voice activation can be switched on by selected the [Rec Level] [VCVA] option from the menu.

Best use: Lectures, focus groups, interviews, meetings.

Tascam DR-40

This high-end voice activated  recorder is for those looking for feature-packed device that can deliver high-quality audio.

The Tascam DR-40 comes with two built-in, high-quality unidirectional microphones that can be placed in A/B and X/Y positions, XLR / TRS balanced MIC/LINE inputs with phantom power, a mono speaker for playback, a 2 GB microSD card, and a USB connection cable. It runs on 3x AAA batteries and records WAV, BWF, and MP3 formats.


  • Excellent sound quality.
  • Large screen.
  • 4-track recording.
  • Tripod mounting hole.
  • PRE REC function with voice activation can be used to ensure that beginning of the recording is not lost.


  •  Heavy (7.5 oz without batteries).
  • Low battery life.
  • Complicated interface.

Voice activation can be switched on going to Menu>Rec Settings>Auto Rec.

Best use: Interviews, focus groups, lectures, meetings.

Read more: 6 Ground Rules for Recording an Interview

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