6 Differences between a Dictaphone and a Digital voice recorder. Similar but not the same.

On the surface, a modern dictaphone almost looks like a digital voice recorder or notetaker, so you may be forgiven if you think they are the same. Looking closer at the 2 devices and details, you’ll quickly find out that though they share many similarities, they are different in many ways and do different specialized work.

Essentially, a Dictaphone can be called a digital voice recorder, because it records voice and stores it in a digital audio medium. For the purpose of this article, and to clarify the differences, we’ll consider a digital note taker or recorder to be a digital voice recorder. This way, we can compare dictaphones to them. Let’s jump right in.

Here are 5 ways a dictaphone differs from your standard note taker voice recorder.

6 main differences between dictaphones and regular voice notetaker recorders.

1. Dictaphones are ideal for a single speaker while regular voice recorders can record multiple speakers at the same time.

Dictaphones — Dictaphones work like portable hand-held microphones. They have to be lifted up to the mouth of the speaker to capture their voice and this makes them a one person per session voice recorder.

Digital Voice Recorder — With digital voice recorders, the microphones are usually more sensitive and can pick up multiple speakers at the same time. Whatever is said within the range of the DVR, by anyone, will be picked up.

2. Dictaphones have large physical stop start switches while regular voice recorders use record/pause/stop buttons.

Dictaphones — You’ll usually see a large side switch on dictaphones. This is because they record in a start-stop fashion. Like a

e, you have to push on that switch to start recording and once you let go, the device stops recording. This makes it ideal for professionals who usually record short sentences at a time.

Digital Voice Recorder — With digital voice recorders, you have a button somewhere on the front that starts the recording and this recording state will remain active until you either pause or stop it using one of the main control buttons on the device. This makes it ideal for set and forget style recordings, like meetings, lectures or interviews.

3. Dictaphones can be quite expensive while recorders are usually cheaper.

Dictaphones — Due to the nature of the work Dictaphones are used in, by professionals like lawyers, doctors, law enforcement etc, these devices are quite beefed up with features and can be quite expensive to buy. For those professionals that need it, it is worth the price though.

Digital Voice Recorder — DVRs come in all forms and prices. Starting from the very basic and cheap recorders all the way to expensive professional recording gear. Usually, you’ll be able to find a recorder that will serve you right as a good mid-range price. Here is a list of voice recorders we compared.

4. Dictaphones can be quite bulky/heavy while recorders are usually small and light.

Dictaphones — Professional dictaphones are well built bulky devices that can also be heavy. This is just a result of how well built they are and the materials used in their construction.

Digital Voice Recorder — Most digital voice recorders are small and light, especially the mid range ones built out of plastic materials. They are easy to hold and use and can be quite portable.

5. Dictaphones typically output small file sizes which can be sent via email, while voice recorders usually output mp3 or wave larger files.

Dictaphones — While more advanced dictaphones allow you to record in popular formats like WAV or MP3, they are usually set to record DSS which is a proprietary format that can be read by specific software. While this may come as an inconvenience to some, it is appreciated by professionals, who need to send these files over email to their secretaries or transcriptionists.

Digital Voice Recorder — Voice recorders or notetakers record in mp3 usually, with more expensive versions including other audio file formats. The files end up bigger and harder to share via email, but they are readable by every audio player out there.

6. Dictaphones add your recordings to the same file, even after pauses/stops while digital voice recorders start every new recording in a new file.

Dictaphones — As these devices are used by professionals who dictate short notes at a time, these dictaphones are set by default to keep expanding the recording into the same file. Once finished, the user can send this single file over for processing. There is a possibility to start a new file at the press of a button, making the device flexible depending on the use case.

Digital Voice Recorder — Unless you pause the last recording, a digital voice recorder or notetaker will create a new file for each recording you start by using the record button. This can be joined together with audio editing software later, but for some, can be a headache to manage, name correctly and track multiple files.

Summarizing the main differences in a short and sweet table.

DictaphoneDigital note taker/voice recorder
Mainly used for single person memo taking.Can be used for single person recordings but also to record multiple speakers in meetings, lectures, seminars as well
Usually comes with a rocker switch to activate recording. Recording button has to be held down to record.The recording button is one click to start recording. You’ll need to press pause or stop button to stop recording.
Outputs recordings in small sized DSS filesRecording usually comes out in MP3, WAV files
Adds each new recording to the same filecreates a new file with each new recording started
Very high build quality and durability, but can be bulky / heavy devicesDepending on the price range, can go from quite flimsy devices to well built ones. They are usually quite light devices
Are quite expensive as they are geared towards professional useHave a wide range of prices based on the features they come with
Summarizing the main differences between a Dictaphone and a Digital voice recorder/note taker.

Who invented dictaphones?

The invention of the original dictaphone can be attributed to the work of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. Graham Bell’s company — Volta Graphophone Company — was the first to release a Dictaphone, hence many attribute the actual conception and creation of the device to Bell.

Are dictaphones still in business?

Dictaphone as the company was later named to, lives today through their acquisition by Nuance Communication, the creators of the super popular Dragon professional Individual dictation software.

Who is the dictaphones for?

As you may have picked up from the article above, dictaphones are professional pieces of kit. They are also not cheap, at least the good ones. For this reasons, they are mostly used by people in profession work that need to keep short blurbs of memo recordings that will end up getting transcribed into typed text format.

Those professionals include:

  • Doctors who have to record patient interactions or followups
  • Lawyers keeping tab on their cases
  • Law enforcement officers creating a report of an incident
  • Insurance adjusters on the scene of accidents
  • Surveyors doing rounds on properties

If your work does not include the need to have the content transcribed, but you just need to record audio, then a digital voice recorder or notetaker will do the job sufficiently well for a fraction of the cost.

Wrapping up.

So now that we have shown you the main differences between these 2 recording devices, I hope your questions have been answered. You now know which of these devices is the one you need for the type of work you intend to do with it.

Thanks for your visit and best wishes.