I purchased an RCA VR5520-A digital voice recorder at Wal-Mart for $34.76.


It's mono, with 512 MB of memory, for 17-200 hours depending on recording quality. Power is provided by 2xAAA batteries.

Nice features: built-in USB connector that slides right out the top of the unit. On many computers you might need a short extension cable (I do) just because there's not room to connect it directly. The buttons are easily operated and fall readily to hand. The most important of them all is the "lock" switch, to prevent accidental activation of the others. It has a built-in speaker, but it's as tinny as you would expect for such a small speaker. The 1/8" jacks for headphones and an external mic are nice.

Not-so-nice: the tiny LCD display is pretty hard to read. This would matter if you were trying to edit files directly with the recorder, or if you changed modes frequently. For me it's going to be set-and-forget, so I'm not worried about it.

Important note: the box says the software works with Windows, but on MacOS the audio files can be played with Quicktime. This is true, if you choose High Quality, which records in .WAV format. If you choose SP or LP, the files are in .VOC format and will require conversion before use.

Since I'm a Mac user, it's HQ mode and .WAV files for me. I also set it to "conference" mode, which does a better job of picking up audio that isn't right in front of the microphone, compared to "dictation" mode.

As a test today, I started recording and slipped it into my shirt pocket (covered by a flap. I spoke with several coworkers, then on my drive home I listened to the radio at normal volumes, and made a few comments along the way at certain waypoints. I dragged the files into Audacity (freeware), and found everything very listenable. And if I needed to, of course it's easy to edit with Audacity.

There is built-in audio software on the recorder, which will install on Windows if you connect to a WinPC. This can be used to listen to and edit the .VOC files if you record in LP or SP.

It might not be as good as some of the more expensive models, but this is well worth $35.