What is a Digital Voice Recorder?

R. Kayne

A digital voice recorder is a small hand-held device that is used to record voice memos to a memory chip, and play the memos back. It can also be used to record lectures, conferences or conversations. Standard DVR's are not intended for recording music, as the sampling rate is lower than what is normally used for quality musical reproduction.

Some digital voice recorders have USB capability.
Some digital voice recorders have USB capability.

DVR's come in various capacities regarding the maximum recording time, dependent on the amount of internal memory. Another factor that effects maximum recording time is the quality setting of the recording. DVR's offer a higher quality setting for a clearer recording, and a lower quality setting. The lower setting uses a lower sampling rate, and therefore less memory. This translates to leaving more room for other recordings. Consequently the lowest quality setting will allow the maximum number of recording hours, while the highest quality setting will allow the fewest recordable hours.

Digital voice recorders may be used to record interviews or press conferences.
Digital voice recorders may be used to record interviews or press conferences.

Most DVR's advertise the maximum hours the device can record. The device will get less than half that amount at the highest quality setting.

DVR's are extremely handy for a variety of uses. The memory is solid state, meaning there are no moving parts. Unlike cassette recorders, there is no need to rewind a DVR. Upon finishing recording, you need only press play to hear the recording immediately. Pause, search, and tracking through files are all standard features.

Files are saved in a numbering scheme with a time-and-date stamp, and most DVR's have between 2-5 folders where messages can be stored. DVR's may also include functions that allow moving messages between folders, splitting messages, and deleting messages.

Some DVR's have USB capability to download voice files to a computer, and of those, some models come with software that automatically converts the voice file to text for easy transcribing.

At the high end of the DVR line there are models that can use external flash cards to supplement internal memory. This feature is referred to as expandable memory.

DVR's are normally powered by 1-2 AAA alkaline or rechargeable batteries.

Unlike cassette recorders, digital voice recorders don't need to be rewound.
Unlike cassette recorders, digital voice recorders don't need to be rewound.

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Discussion Comments


When buying a digital voice recorder it is a good idea to shop carefully. Depending on how high a quality you make your files it can really eat into your hours of recording time.

Some recorders are capable of holding multiple file formats because of their storage style. This could be great for business people who want to record notes while carrying around PDFs.

Some other things to look for include voice activated recording and transcription software. Not all digital voice recorders have these features, but they are very handy.

Does anyone else have any other tips for buying a digital voice recorder?


Digital voice recorders have a lot of great uses. You can get one cheaply and use it to record notes to yourself, or equally useful, you can pick on up one for a forgetful relative to carry.

These are also a great option for students in university and college that need to record a professor’s lecture. Some of them come with a SD card slot so you can switch to a new disk if you run out of space. If you have one disc for each class, it makes it super easy to organize all of your recordings.

While the quality may not be great for music, theses digital voice recorders are perfect for everyday use.

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