There’s a myriad of ways to record your research interviews. You could use your phone, laptop, or even a camcorder. However, I strongly recommend using a digital voice recorder. Handheld digital voice recorders are compact, affordable and enable you to easily manage the audio recordings, which makes the process of getting your dissertation interview transcripts easy and cost effective.

Summary: Best Voice Recorder for Interviews

Best Voice Recorder for Interviews
Best Voice Recorder for Interview:
Sony ICD-ux560
  1. Sony ICD-ux560:

    Lightweight and low profile; powers up instantly; amazing sound; records in LPCM format; 3.5mm mic input with plug-in power; clear, sharp, and crisp LCD screen. Perfect for recording interviews. Stop shopping around and go and buy this beauty on Amazon!
  2. Sony ICD-PX470:

    If you are looking for excellent interview recorder on a budget. A very similar recorder to the Sony ICD-ux560, but larger and bulkier. Uses 2 AA alkaline batteries (no USB recharging), no backlight. If you can’t afford the Sony-ux560, this recorder will save you some money. Check price on Amazon.
  3. Zoom H1n: 

    Very good recorded sound. Lots of recording versatility – 96 kHz/24 bit wav. 2.5v plug-in power, 5v USB power, USB microphone. With accessories that you’ll need, a bit pricey, but a good professional (not for “newbies”) recorder for research interviews. Buy it from Amazon.

The greatest advantage of digital voice recorders over older digital tape recorders is that they have no moving parts, which make a lot of noise. Thus, your interview recordings are crystal clear, which makes interview transcription easier. In addition, modern handheld digital voice recorders are less bulky, can hold more audio data (up to a 1000 hours) than their analog digital tape recorder counterparts. What are the 3 key features you need to look for when buying the best recorder for interviews?

3 best voice recorders for interviews
From Left: Zoom H1n, Sony ICD-ux560, Sony ICD-px470

3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Voice Recorder for Interviews

Memory

You want to buy a voice recorder that has both built-in memory and a memory card slot – which gives you virtually unlimited recording capacity. It’s okay to buy a digital recorder with a low built-in memory – you can easily increase the storage capacity using an external memory card. There are many different types of memory cards; Secure Digital, CompactFlash, MicroSD just to name a few. The most common digital memory cards are microSDHC, and microSDXC and store 4GB to 256GB of data.

When choosing a memory card always check its storage capacity. However, the most important consideration should be compatibility.  Always get a memory card that is compatible with your voice recorder. If you want to learn more about voice recorder microSD cards, check out this post. 

Microphone Jack

All digital recorders have built-in microphone(s). However, using an external lavaliere microphone enables you to record high(er) quality audio, especially in a noisy environment (here’s a great post on choosing external microphones). A microphone can either be unidirectional (cardoid) or omni-directional. Unidirectional microphones capture sound from a targeted source, while omni-directional mics capture sound evenly from all directions. Unidirectional mics can suppress unwanted noise and are great for one-on-one interviews. Coupled with a high quality digital voice recorder (for instance the Sony ICD-UX560), you can also adjust and monitor microphone sensitivity/recording levels.  Ultimately you want to choose a recorder with a microphone jack, the most common and compatible jack is the 3.5 mm jack.

Audio Recording Format

There are two types of audio file formats, compressed and uncompressed. Generally, higher data compression leads to lower quality sound. You should buy a recorder that allows you to capture uncompressed audio in  PCM (wav) format.  Pulse Code Modulated audio (PCM) is a file format that store the audio in its raw uncompressed format, meaning you maintain the original recording quality. High quality voice recorders enable you to record your interviews in an uncompressed audio format.

The biggest mistake you can make!

Be Forewarned: The biggest mistake that researchers make when choosing a interview recorder: they buy one without a USB plug or external memory slot. Make sure the recorder that you buy has a USB port or an external memory card slot. This will enable you to easily transfer your audio interviews into a PC/Mac, so that you can easily share them with your transcriber. Most (cheaper/older) low quality digital recorders (for example the Sony ICDB600, Olympus VN-7200, Olympus DP-201) don’t have this feature!

And you’ll want to get 2 recorders to record your research interviews. Why? Because you do want to have a backup recorder in case “something” happens…

Best Voice Recorder for Interviews

1. Sony ICD-UX560

Best Recorder for interviews, the sony icd-ux560
Sony ICD-ux560

Amazing little recorder that’s perfect for recording interviews. Records amazing sound. And you get even better quality sound if you record in the LPCM 44.1kHz format that this recorder supports. 4GB internal memory. If you plan to use it often, get additional memory – compatible with 128GB microSDXC cards (but 64GB microSDXC should be have more than enough capacity for most researchers). With the right settings, works well even in noisy locations (see this post for the settings I recommend). In-built battery…I could go on but here’s a detailed review. Stop shopping around and go and buy this recorder from Amazon.

2. Sony ICD-PX470

Best Voice Recorder for Interviews : Sony ICD-PX470
Sony ICD-PX470

Great budget recorder. If you are looking for excellent interview recorder on a budget, this recorder is perfect. It records great sound, not as good as Sony 560, but close enough. And you get even better quality sound if you record in the LPCM 44.1kHz format that this recorder supports. 4GB internal memory.

If you plan to use it often, get additional memory – supports microSDHC cards (4 GB to 32 GB). I bought a 32GB microSDHC for less than $20 on Amazon, and it works well with my Sony ICD-PX470. With the right settings, works well enough in noisy environment (see this post on the px470 settings I recommend). However, does not recharge batteries, no backlight…I could go on but here’s a detailed review of the PX470. Buy it now from amazon, you won’t be disappointed.

3. Zoom H1n

Best Voice Recorder for Interviews: Zoom H1n
Zoom H1n

The Zoom H1n is an entry level professional digital recorder that records very good sound, better than the older H1 version. As it’s geared toward audio professionals, it’s got a lot of features. Most of which you won’t use when recording research interviews, for instance the 96 kHz 24 bit wav recording format is overkill.

Why do I recommend it? I really like the sound of the recordings. A minimalistic design – which I also like. It’s bulky, but fits like a glove to you hand; perfect for recording field interviews where you’ll need to hold the recorder up. Outputs 2.5v plug-in power – enough to power most external microphones. And you can also use it as a USB microphone. Pretty nifty.

You are limited to 32 GB max (and it has no internal memory so you’ll need to buy a microSD card) and 10 hours battery life (and you can’t recharge batteries using this recorder). But you can power the Zoom H1n using a USB charger, which is what I recommend you do if you’re recording a long session. Here’s a detailed review of the Zoom H1n.

If you have experience recording audio and want to step up your game, try this recorder – you won’t be disappointed. Are you are looking for a “plug and play” recorder? The Zoom Hn1 is not for you: newbies are not welcome.  If you want to take your interview recording to the next level – get this recorder from Amazon.

Concluding Thoughts…

I’ve shared with you my top 3 recommendations for the best digital voice recorder. These choices represent my best advice when it comes to choosing a digital voice recorder to record your interviews. Researchers are pretty lucky these days, as high quality handheld digital voice recorders are more affordable than ever.

I hope you see something you like in my recommendations. At the very least I hope they serve as a starting point for your quest to find a recorder that’s right for recording your research interviews. Please let me know if this post was helpful to you in the comment section below. And good luck while collecting your research data!

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Jennifer
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Jennifer

Thanks, was looking for a field recorder for my dissertation research. This helped a lot!
Jennifer.

RAMZI ABDULLAH MANSOUR NAJI
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RAMZI ABDULLAH MANSOUR NAJI

Could you please tell me which one you favored?

Sean Quiney
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Sean Quiney

A full range of Portable Recorders and Transcription kits can be purchased from dictaphones

Erik
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Erik

What about the Panasonic model RR-US550 audio recorder, do you have any experience using it?

Sofia Lily-Anne McKey
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Sofia Lily-Anne McKey

Thanks for this info. It helps a lot when deciding on a recorder for interviews. 🙂

Amelia
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Amelia

Hi, just wondering if you think it is necessary to use an external microphone with Olympus WS-823 if interviewing in cafes etc. ? If so can you recommend any in particular?

Marry Harris
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Marry Harris

Hi, guys! Have you ever used Roland recording devices? For example, something from R-05 series? I know they are of another price category, but I need a professional device at the moment.
Roland is producing excellent equipment for musicians, as well as musical instruments, so I decided to choose one of his recorders.
Is it worth? Could you please give me a piece of advice?

Ramzi
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Ramzi

I would like the best ever recorder for a very sensitive and accurate field works for my dissertation research. Knowingly, that sounds that are to be analysed. This mean that when the word “tell” is recorded when spoken by someone, /t/, /e/, /l/ are going to be analysed. That’s why I need the best ever recorder regarding this work.

Luke Smith
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Luke Smith

I have transcribed an interview before, and it was not very easy. I could not hear very clearly at times, and rewinding was a pain, I needed a great recorder to do that. It seems that getting a recorder of high quality, and with a Sim card would be the best thing to do.

Hazel Owens
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Hazel Owens

I like your advice to choose a voice recorder that has both internal and external memory options. Like you said, it’s usually fine to have a device that mainly relies on external memory cards because they’re affordable for the amount of data they can hold. However, I’ve found that it’s also nice to have some memory on the device itself as well, just in case the memory card runs into problems. Thanks for the article!

sara
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sara

hi i need help if you can
i need to record memorie & most of digital voice recorder dont have play back & re recording option lets say i record for 10 minute but in middle i need to add or remove some part from that 10 minute can i do with digital device ? same as good old cassette player that record too ?
sry my bad english
sara

Cheta
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Cheta

Hello Isaac..
thanks for your help.
What of HccToo 8GB Multifunctional Digital Voice Recorder Rechargeable Dictaphone Stereo Voice Recorder ?
Is it recommended for a research interview?

Kathryn McLellan
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Just wanted to let you know this is super helpful!

Leah
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Leah

Hi Issac,

Your articles have been so helpful! Thank you! For my new job, I am conducting around 60 focus groups (with 5 to 10 people in the room) and around 100 individual interviews. The Zoom H4n or Zoom H5 seem to be good options for recording the sessions.

I was wondering if you had any tips or suggestions for transcription. I am new to the interview/market research field and I am a bit overwhelmed by the idea of transcribing all the information that I will be receiving. Are there devices/softwares/apps that would help with the transcription?

Thank you!

suzanne
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suzanne

Hi Isaac,
I like your tip to buy the Sony ICD-UX533BLK Digital Voice Recorder . If I’m doing a focus group with 8 people in a relatively quiet room, would I need additional microphones?
Please advise.
Thanks.

Judy
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Judy

My husband has Alzheimer’s, early stages and I want to interview him about his life and memories before they are lost. Like the blitz in London and the partition of India, things our children and grandchildren might enjoy. I will need to transcribe it so being able to pause while my flashing four fingers catch up is necessary. What would you recommend?

Thank you for your article

Titus Livingston
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Titus Livingston

Thank you for this great information. I will be able to suggest the best voice recorder to my clients.

James
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James

I read this article and found it really helpful in finding a voice recorder. I went for the Olympus WS-853 and got it from onedirect

Thanks for the help!

Dee
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Dee

Isaac, thank you for your wonderful post and all the extremely helpful tips you have provided! I do a lot of interviews via a landline telephone and have been using the Olympus VN-6200 for many years with good results. Since I recently broke it – by formatting via the computer, doh – I am looking for a replacement and would prefer another Olympus, but the market is saturated and the choice endless. I wonder what you would recommend to someone like me, who does a lot of interviewing by phone and wants something that is simple to use, preferably with… Read more »

Eric
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Eric

Is the WS-835 or the Sony ICDUX560 Mac Compatible. If not can you recommend me a device that is compatible with an apple device. Also, how easy are they to use. I am not that tech savvy.

William
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William

I am looking to recored college lectures and upload them to my computer so I can listen later on. I don’t want to go overboard but I will be recording from a distance of about 20 feet and using it about 3-4 hours a day. Which recorder would you recommend.

Karolina
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Karolina

Hi Isaac! Thanks for a super useful post. I am just wondering what are the advantages/disadvantages of mono and stereo recording of interviews and focus groups? Can one make it easier to transcribe than other?

Thank you!

Sarah Anderson
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Sarah Anderson

Hi, and thanks for the helpful info. I am looking to buy a recording device for outdoor, on-the-go interviews. I will be walking/hiking/picking berries etc during interviews with my informants, so have very challenging conditions for recording. What I need is a recording device with good battery and storage, and which I can attach several microphones, as I will often be interviewing/walking with several people at a time. Alternatively if the recorder is able to pick up all our voices within a 5-10 metre range outdoors. The quality does not have to be top notch as the recordings will be… Read more »

Marisa
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Marisa

Hi Isaac, Thanks for all the useful information you’ve posted here. I in a review of the Sony ICD-UX560 that it is not compatible with the latest Mac OS. That gets me wondering about the Olympus models you review. Have you any info? Thanks again, Marisa

Jill Decker
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Jill Decker

Hi Isaac,
I am looking for a recorder that I can use to record over the phone conversations for a radio show I have. Any suggestions ? Would like something of good quality because it needs to go as a radio show and possibly a pod cast.
Thanks ,
Jill

Cheryn English
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Cheryn English

I have heard that the 2 Olympus digital voice recorders you recommend are not available at some stores because of upgrades. Can you tell me if there are upgraded versions of these? I heard the Olympus DM-270 was better, for instance. I will want to get transcripts from you (depending on price), and then upload the recordings themselves and also transcripts (not necessarily synched) into NVivo11. For a series of 15 interviews. What do you think would be the best for this scenario?

folly
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folly

Thank you for this valuable information. I will get one for my study.

Cheers

Lew
Guest
Lew

Thanks for a useful review.
Re the Sony you say “Especially if you foresee recording your interviews or focus groups in non-ideal conditions (little or no background noise).” I will be working in non-ideal conditions, which I consider to be a great deal of background noise. Are you only recommending this recorder for conditions where there is no background noise? Thanks.

Susanna
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Susanna

Hi Isaac,

I am planning to get the SONY ICD-UX560 for my one-one research interviews. Thank you for the very helpful information on here. Is there a specific external microphone you would recommend for this model?

Many thanks,
Susanna

Lucy Arendt
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Lucy Arendt

I’m also interested in this. I bought a Sony ICD-UX560 and will be conducting one-on-one interviews. I’m assuming I need two mics (one for me, one for my interviewee) plus a splitter and will greatly appreciate your advice on both the mics and the splitter. I start my interviews Aug 6 (yikes!).

Jenny Claeys
Guest

Good morning Isaac. We are an historical archive, and are recording historical letters donated to our archive. Our volunteer records in starts and stops to maintain accuracy; and we are currently using the Tascom DR-05. What we found out after listening to files, was that the audio received no amplification — we could barely hear the files after transferring them to the computer, or with headphones, and the unit itself will not play back the files. The speaker is on, no sound comes out, and unfortunately there is not a lot of help in the user guide. We did manage… Read more »

Emily
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Emily

I will be doing interviews of people for research. I would like to have crisp recordings so I have a good chance at getting them accurately transcribed. Over time, I imagine that some of the interviews will be done on a landline, sometimes over my cellphone,perhaps sometimes in person or Skype. Is there an all around recording system you would recommend that I can plug into my computer, landline or cell phone. Is this asking too much of a device? Am I looking at 2 or more devices?

Vicki Black
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Vicki Black

I plan to interview people via a cell phone. Can you recommend the best recorder, transcriber (and anything else that I might need)? Thank you for your time and assistance.

SuzieM
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SuzieM

Really helpful. Only query I have is, is it possible to password protect the recorder?

Susan M
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Susan M

Fab many thanks… thought so..probably will take your recommendation of the sony…it looks the best, and easy to use.

Dawn Goodwin
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Dawn Goodwin

i have just brought the Sony UX560 – it states that is records for 1hr 23mins. I have 3 back to back interviews that will not exceed 1hr but do i have to download each recording before the next or will this device enable me to record 3 back to back interviews at 1hr per piece?
otherwise your feedback has been great – thank you.

Stephane di Bari
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Stephane di Bari

Hello, Did you try the sony TX650? it is smaller but more expensive than the 560.

Marlon
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Marlon

Your analysis is really helpful, I’m considering buying a recorder for my Doctoral dissertation interviews. I would like to ask if you have any recommendation about recorders with transcription technology embedded.