Best Digital Voice Recorder for Writers

Best Digital Voice Recorder for Writers

Today, I’m trying out something new.

Using a voice recorder, I’m going to dictate this post, transcribe it, then publish it. And today is the perfect day to try dictating, as I’m penning this post on best digital voice recorders for writers.

This year, I do plan to write a lot of posts, so I do want to see if this is a better, more efficient option than staring at the blinking cursor!

Let’s get to it.

Do you really need a voice recorder aka dictaphone to write your book?

Could you use your phone to assist you in writing your book?

Yes you can. But your phone’s audio recording capability is simply not good enough. Buying a digital recorder will save you (and your transcriber) a lot of time trying to figure out what was said. Believe me, getting a dedicated voice recorder for writing your book is a sound investment.

So, what are the 3 things you need to consider when choosing the best digital voice recorder for writing a book?

Interviews vs Dictation

First, you’ll need to think about the source material for your book.

Are you planning to dictate your book or do you plan to conduct interviews and use your those interviews as the basis for your book?

Because, if you plan to conduct interviews, you’ll need to get a recorder that’s good at recording interviews (here’s a detailed post on best voice recorders for interviews).

If you plan to dictate your book, you need to get a dictaphone that’s good at recording dictations ( a key feature to look for is the overwrite function: here’s a detailed post on best recorders for dictations).

There are recorders that are good for dictation AND conducting interviews, and I’ll recommend one below. But they are pricey. If you plan to dictate and conduct interviews, and are on a budget, you may want to buy one voice recorder for conducting interviews and another voice recorder for dictating your book.

External Microphone(s)

Will you need external/clip on microphones?

The in-built voice recorder microphones are very good at recording conversation and dictations. However, there are a couple of instances when you’ll need to buy external clip-on microphones.

If you plan to conduct your interviews in a noisy location: restaurants, cafes, etc, you are going to need to use clip on microphones in order to record audio with minimal background noise. Here is a great post on how to record interviews in a noisy location.

And if you want to dictate into your recorder while you’re out for a walk, washing dishes, having breakfast, while on a treadmill, you’ll also need to get clip on microphones to keep your hands free.

If you do plan to use a clip on microphone, you’ll want to make sure that the digital recorder you get has a compatible mic input.

Best Digital Voice Recorder for Writers

The Giant Squid clip on microphone is a wonderful clip on microphone that is compatible with the 3 digital voice recorders that I recommend. I used it to dictate this post whilst having my morning cup of coffee, and pancakes!

Transfer to Computer

Once you’re done dictating or conducting interviews, you’ll need to transfer the audio files to your computer and begin the process of transcription; scripting the audio recording into text.  There are some digital voice recorders that do not allow you to easily transfer your audio recording to your computer.

A key feature to look for when choosing a voice recorder for writing a book is a USB port or microSD slot. If a digital recorder does not have one of these features, it’ll be very difficult for you to transfer your recorded audio files to your computer.

Having said that, all the voice recorders I’m going to recommend all have a USB port that’ll enable you to easily transfer your dictations and interviews to your computer.

With that out of the way, what are the 3 recorders that I recommend for writers.

1.      Sony ICD-UX570

The first one is the Sony ICD-UX570. This is a great recorder for recording interviews. And also works very well, coupled with the Giant Squid lav microphone, for recording interviews in noisy locations.

It does capture amazing sound while using the internal microphones. Has an in-built battery that fully charges in less than 3 hours. 4GB internal memory – that’s more than 42 hours of recording while using the 192kbps mp3 mode. And you can expand your storage capacity using a microSD. Very light – and easily fits into a pocket.

I could go on, but here’s a detailed review of the Sony UX570. The only major drawback of this recorder is the it lacks an overwrite function – which makes it not ideal for dictation. If you plan to primary conduct interviews for your book, get this recorder from Amazon. You won’t regret it.

2.      Sony ICD-PX240

The Sony ICD-PX240 is a wonderful dictation voice recorder. Unlike the UX570, it has Overwrite and Add functions. The overwrite function enables you to “type over” your dictations. The add function is useful for those instances when you realize that you missed something and you’d like to add it to the dictation without deleting what you’ve already recorded.

Best voice recorder for dictating your book
Best Voice Recorder for Dictating your Book

It comes with a USB port that allows you to copy your dictations to your computer or power the recorder – very useful if you are recording for an extended period and you don’t want to rely on AAA batteries.

With 4GB internal memory, that allows you to record 43 hours of super high quality (192kbps mp3) audio, you’ll have more than enough storage for your dictations. Runs on 2 AAA batteries, Alkaline or NH rechargeable batteries, but you cannot recharge the batteries using the recorder.

Really like this recorder, it’s inexpensive and has everything you need for dictating your book. And the sound quality is quite good considering it’s a mono recorder – more than adequate for dictations. Buy it now on Amazon.

3.     Olympus DS-9000

Best Digital Voice Recorder for Writers DS-9000

As promised, my final recommendation is a recorder that’s very good at recording interviews and dictations. The Olympus DS-9000 is a professional voice recorder that comes with a myriad of functions and features – including the ability to control it using a foot pedal! And you can upgrade to the DS-9500 that has even more features.

DS-9000 supports the Append, Overwrite, and Insert functions. The append function enables you to add a new recording to the end of a previously recorded file. The overwrite function allows you add a new recording from a selected position of a previously recorded dictation and delete the rest of the file from the selected position. The insert function adds audio into the middle of a previously recorded dictation without deleting the previous recording. 

As you can imagine, the Olympus DS-9000 is not cheap, but it does come with some features that you’ll not find on other cheaper(?) recorders. For instance, it’ll allow you to encrypt and password protect your recordings. If you are working with sensitive data, this is an important feature that’ll protect your recordings in case you lose the recorder. If it were not for the price, this recorder would get my recommendation for the best voice recorder for writers. Buy it now on Amazon.

That’s it for this post on the best voice recorders for writing a book. Hope you’ve found it useful.

If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, feel free to post them in the comment section below. And keep us mind for all of your interview and dictation transcription needs.

PS: My experience writing this post made me realize that dictating and writing are dissimilar. Once I’ve written a post, I do very little editing. But this post required a lot of editing after transcription – I guess I’m not a very good dictator! But I plan to get better, here a great post on how to dictate effectively. Enjoy.


Isaac here. At Weloty, we provide bespoke academic transcription services to qualitative researchers. If you wish to hire us, get in touch. Please note that if you choose to buy the products we recommend as a result of our research and testing, we’ll get paid some money through an affiliate commission from the retailer when you make a purchase. You can find out more here.

11 responses to “Best Digital Voice Recorder for Writers”

  1. saquib Avatar

    very pinpoint review
    precise too
    really helped in making up my mind

    1. Isaac Avatar

      You are welcome.

  2. Stephanie Martin Avatar
    Stephanie Martin

    Thank you for this simple consise review!

  3. Cat Avatar

    Do you have any recommendations on a voice recorder and transcriber software or app? I need to record lectures and be able to transcribe from voice to text without having a person or service involved.

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Hey Cat. I’ve yet to come across an app or voice recorder that has an inbuilt transcription capabilities. Voice recorders can be bundled up with transcription software, headphones and maybe a foot pedal. That’s a good option if you plan to transcribe the lectures manually. You can also use software installed on a computer to transcribe the lectures, Dragon is an ok option. The other alternative I’ve come across are apps that are linked to a transcription service, and that service can be human or machine transcription service. All the app does is record the audio and send it to a remote server for transcription.
      So, I’ve yet to come across a recording device or app that integrates recording and transcription. And there are reasons for that, the app or recorder would need to have a lot of processing power for the transcription AI, or has to be remotely connected to a human transcriber/server (if the connection fails, there’s no transcription).
      What would I recommend? You’ll need to make a choice between machine and human transcription. There’s no way around that. Machine transcription is less accurate and cheaper, human transcription is more accurate and cost more.
      My recommendation, get a good lecture recorder and try one of the numerous automated transcription services (they’re more accurate than Dragon). I don’t recommend using your phone to record lectures, you’ll get very poor audio recordings.
      Hope that helps.

  4. Kindra Battles Avatar
    Kindra Battles

    Very helpful information. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Thanks Kindra, I’m so glad you found the post useful.
      Don’t be stingy, share it with your friends and colleagues!
      We can all benefit from the exchange of ideas.


    Thank you this is very helpful information that I didn’t know and I will use it. Thank you again.

  6. Writer Avatar

    Good article. I’m still working on reading your recommended. Well written, rarer details, helpful links, and peppered with some fine humor. I’ll be reading all.

    What I can not find is a QUICK-START audio recorder. The quicker the better. Even very very simple would be fine as long as it’s a short time between pushing the On button & ready to record. Reliability would be nice.

    My Sony ICD-AX412 just died after several rough years. Physically it was a tank, but it was 1-2 minutes from hold the on button down to press record. Aaargh.

    I guess in the movies when a writer or PI is putting thoughts into a recorder they are not showing us the very frustrating wait to do so while the thought floats well away or the target dropped his ID in the bushes.

    Can you recommend a QUICK START recorder? Elvis and I want to “Thank you very much.”

    1. Isaac Avatar

      A couple of recommendations for you.
      The Olympus VN-541PC. A good easy to use recorder, one push and you can power on the recorder and start recording, nifty! My only gripe with it is that it does require batteries. And you don’t want to store your recorder with batteries.
      The UX570 is, in my opinion, the better quick start recorder. Requires two actions to start it, but it powers up so fast that it only takes 2 seconds (I have timed it), from powering up to start recording. And it has an internal battery – so you don’t have to look for and insert batteries…

      Personally, I prefer the UX570. But the 541PC is also a good choice.

  7. Don Thompson Avatar
    Don Thompson

    Wow, I finally found a post that answered all or most of my questions. I am an artist looking at doing a photo book on the tattoo body art in our small town. Following the photographs I want to include the persons thoughts on their stories relating to the body art. Thank you so much for leading me and others down the path of voice recording/ transcribing. You are great.

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