So do you even need a dedicated digital voice recorder (DVR ) when you already have a super-powerful multi-function device called a smartphone in your pocket? This is a question I asked myself as well right before I went ahead and bought my Sony digital voice recorder a few years back.
As a disclaimer, you are about to read an article by a guy who also has a dedicated GPS navigator from Garmin in his car. Another function that modern phones excel at has made most navigation systems obsolete.
So while I am a bit biased towards having dedicated devices doing the work they were made for, I believe it makes sense and that I made the right decision choosing to buy a DVR when I had a phone and also had old spare phones which could have been repurposed for the task of recording audio.
Digital voice recorder versus smartphone. Why the DVR is the king of recording.
In this article, I’ll share with you why I feel like a dedicated device for recording audio, interviews, meetings, snoring and even ghosts is a must-have and the ways in which a digital voice recorder beats the smartphone when it comes to these functions. Let’s jump right in shall we.
Checkout our article on How smartphones do better than digital voice recorders
1. Recording Audio Is Its Job. Its One Task
Recording audio is what a digital voice recorder is made for and this is a job it does easily and fantastically well. This is the main reason why having a digital voice recorder as a dedicated device is the better option.
Once you pick up this device, you know what will happen next. You won’t be logging in to social media, scrolling through Reddit, checking your emails, watching a few YouTube videos etc.
Once you pick up a voice recorder, and you switch it on, the very next thing to do will be reviewing past recordings or starting a new one, at the push of one button.
2. No Interruptions, Ever
As of the time of this writing, digital voice recorders don’t have cell phone functions. That means that no one is going to call or message you on your voice recorder. Once you’ve started a recording, nothing will interrupt it except you press a button, the memory space is filled up or the battery runs out. With this device, there is no need to put it in silent mode, non disturb mode, airline mode – like you’d need to do on a smartphone.
3. Simple To Start & Stop Recording With One Button
Compared to smartphones, digital voice recorders are simple devices. They usually come with large marked buttons with clearly defined features. The big button with a red dot usually is the record button. So from the time you turn on the device, one push of that button starts a recording and you’re on your way. Smartphones on the other hand will need to be unlocked, an app needs to be opened and then you can start the recording.
4. Screen Remains On Showing You What’s Going On With Your Recordings
This is a big one. Remember how your phone and its limited battery keeps shutting off the screen after a few minutes? Well, that’s the exact opposite when it comes to digital voice recorders. Once you switch it on, the screen which is massively low-power will remain on and keep giving you the exact status of the recording, as well as other information that you need to know how it’s going.
The screen remains on up until you actually switch off the device. To get the same benefit on a smartphone, you have to turn off the screen sleep setting, and that would drain the battery fast. When I started using a smartphone to dictate for transcription with my Dragon software, I was trying to avoid getting a digital voice recorder as I believed that my phone was quite capable of doing the job.
So I used my Samsung Galaxy S4 and I remember being caught out quite a few times with the recording not having been started and I didn’t know about it until I turned the screen back on to find out I had nothing. It did not record. This was one of the major contributing factors to my ordering my first DVR.
5. Long Long Battery Life
Unlike mobile phones that need to be charged constantly, digital voice recorders that go on replaceable AAA batteries has great battery life. I personally have used my digital voice recorder to record a sleeping session to try to catch snoring, and have used the same pair of batteries for more than 10 nights, 10 full nights of recording. That is incredible battery life which can’t be compared with what a phone can offer.
6. Cheap Replaceable Batteries
There are some digital voice recorders that now come with built-in rechargeable batteries. This is the trend following the removal of replaceable batteries in cell phones. I personally go for digital voice recorders that use cheap AA or AAA batteries. Not only do these last long enough for me to forget about them, but they are also readily available anywhere I am, at home or in the field.
7. Bigger More Sensitive Microphones
If you’ve ever opened up a smartphone, and don’t know what electronic SMD microphone components look like, you struggle to find the microphone it offers smartphone. It is that small. Digital voice recorder comes with a beefy microphone that can also capture voice and sound from much farther away. This opens up the possibility of using digital voice recorders for lectures, interviews and meetings where the speaker is quite far away — or for more intimate recordings like interviews or personal note-taking. The versatility is quite wide and that’s a win for the digital voice recorder.
8. Multiple Scenes Recording Settings And Features
Because digital voice recorders are specifically created to record sound, they come with a wide range of preset scenes that can be selected based on what and where you want to record. These scenes have different audio settings ideal for those scenarios.
For example, you could have voice memo scene-setting which will reduce the microphone gain for a closer recording and you have meetings scene-setting which we’ll boost the microphone gain to capture sound that comes from a greater distance.
These are all presets and can be accessed easily on a digital voice recorder. As I mentioned in the last point, because of the versatility of these type of large microphones, the possibility to change scenes and make adjustments to the sensitivity of the device becomes a reality.
9. Smaller, Lighter And More Discreet
Phones keep getting bigger and longer almost as if in competition with television remote controls. When I took delivery of my 1st digital voice recorder, a Sony PCX ICD device, I was shocked at how light and small it was. I placed it on top of my Samsung Galaxy S4 and it was half the size.
I was really expecting something bigger and heavier but was pleasantly surprised. As a device that needs to be taken out to work in the field or even for use indoors, you’ll quickly come to appreciate these tiny devices that are so powerful when it comes to recording audio.
They can be placed in a pocket and be almost forgotten about. Grabbing onto them is also easier because your fingers can go around most of them, fully — with the exception of very large professional digital voice recorders.
10. Durable And Can Take A Beating
I do try my best to keep my devices safe and well taken care of. Sometimes, however, the inevitable happens and my electronic devices fall to the ground. A phone falling to the floor is a horrific experience. Picking it up and inspecting for damage is a heart-stopping event.
Digital voice recorders, on the other hand, being light, robust and not made of large pieces of glass, can fall down, take a beating during use and survive. I don’t tempt fate, so I have a lanyard or wristband hooked up to my DVR to cut down on the times they will take a fall.
11. Looks More Professional
Let’s face it, holding up your phone to someone’s mouth as they speak during an interview or recording session doesn’t look like the most professional thing ever. The digital voice recorder is recognised as a recording device and will be taken more seriously. This is one of those smaller reasons why a DVR is better than a smartphone, but for some, it’s quite an important one. People tend to take you more seriously when you turn up to a job and have the right tools.
12. Easily monitor your recording in real-time
With a digital voice recorder, it is quite easy to monitor how your recording is going via a headset. Most of these devices come with separate headphones and microphone input jacks. These enable you to plug in a microphone that can be used to make your recording, and also plug in your headset or earphones into the earphone jack and monitor your voice or recording in real-time.
There are a few applications on smartphones that can enable you to do this, but we all know most modern smartphones today come without a headphone jack. And those that do, come with a combined TRRS jack. You need an adapter to be able to split this combined jack into separate microphone and audio lines. This is one of the hardware versatilities is of a digital voice recorder.
There you have it. An exhaustive list of reasons why you may want to lick up a digital voice recorder for doing serious audio recording work and leave the smartphones for what it’s intended for.
You can check out some of our reviews for digital voice recorders for various types of users and use cases.
You can also read about how the smartphone excels at certain things in voice recording as well, just to keep it fair and show the other side of the coin.
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