What is a Digital Memo Recorder?

M.C. Huguelet

A digital memo recorder is a portable audio device that records and stores voice messages internally. These devices are useful for recording personal notes and reminders such as driving directions, appointment times, or grocery lists. The size, storage capacity, and features of a digital memo recorder vary widely by model. Basic models are typically small in size but have limited capabilities. More advanced recorders are usually larger, but can store significant amounts of voice data and often feature computer connectivity.

A digital memory recorder can replace the long-standing handwritten grocery list.
A digital memory recorder can replace the long-standing handwritten grocery list.

In order to find a suitable recorder, the buyer should consider the ways in which he plans to use his device. If he wishes to simply make brief notes of disposable data, he may find that a basic digital memo recorder suits his needs. Should he want to record for longer periods and also to have permanent data storage options, he might consider upgrading to a more advanced model.

The most basic digital memo recorder can store around ten to 30 seconds of data. Typically these pocket-sized recorders consist of just a record and playback button and a small speaker, housed in a plastic casing. Often they feature a clip which allows them to be attached to a key chain or wallet. While this small size offers the convenience of portability, its limited internal storage capacity means that it can hold only brief messages that are frequently of poor audio quality. In most cases, a basic recorder cannot be connected to a computer, and thus its memos cannot be transferred to a permanent storage place.

There are many options available for those who seek a digital memo recorder with more advanced capabilities. While these recorders are usually larger in size than basic models, they generally have far greater storage capacities. Advanced models can hold anywhere from ten minutes to hundreds of hours of voice data. In addition, they often allow the user to manually select a quality setting. Typically these devices can store far more material recorded at a low-quality setting than at a high-quality setting.

Often an advanced digital memo recorder can be connected to a computer via USB (universal serial bus). This feature allows the user to transfer recordings from his device to a hard drive or other storage system, thus saving the data after it has been deleted from the recorder. Many recorders are also compatible with transcription software programs. With these programs, the user can easily transform his digital audio recordings into text documents.

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Discussion Comments


@hamje32 - That’s true. Basically you can do anything with these devices, whether it’s right or wrong. Still, I think the technology is pretty cool and opens up a world of possibilities.

Some of the units, from what I understand, record high quality MP3 files, which is a lot better than your standard WAV files. With MP3 level quality it might be possible to use the unit as a digital music recorder to record some quick tunes that you’re playing on your guitar or something like that.

It won’t be like listening to a CD but it would be good enough for music practice at least.


@Charred - I am concerned about potential violations of privacy with these recorders. Since they are so small, it’s possible to find memo recorders that are disguised as ordinary instruments.

I’ve seen a digital pen recorder advertised online which can surreptitiously record conversations without your knowing it. It’s sold in spy shops as a digital security recorder, and certainly it can work well as a security device.

But it can also be used to break the law. It is a crime to record someone without their knowledge for example. So I would be wary of anyone who was speaking to me with a pen in my face!


@summing - I’d say that for you a recorder keychain is probably the best option. Since you just want to jot verbal notes on the go, I think it’s more than adequate for your purposes. I’ve seen these units advertised online.

I don’t know any particular make or model offhand, but they are rather inexpensive. I’ve seen models that are under $10 that seem to work quite well.

The thing that you have to remember of course is that, at this price point, you aren’t getting a lot of functionality in the recording capabilities. It’s basically one touch, record, and replay. But that might be all that you need.


I bought one of these things for my wife when she went back to school and needed to tape lectures. I found that the voice activated recorder was the best option. Also, since it was important that she be able to understand the recording, the quality was very important in my selection.

I chose a recorder that had the highest bit rate. This meant that it took more samples per second than an inferior model, producing better clarity in the final recording.

The model also allows you to store up to four hours but with an expanded SD card you can record a lot more than that. It comes with software to allow you to transfer the files to your computer using USB, and even do a little cleanup to remove some static noise and stuff like that.


I've been thinking about getting one of those mini digital recorders but I really don't know which one to buy. They vary in price so much from very cheap to very expensive.

I don't need a super fancy recorder, I am just going to record my thoughts and maybe occasionally a guitar line that I want to remember. But I also want a handheld digital voice recorder that will not break or accidentally erase my recordings. So can someone recommend a good brand or model? Thanks!


I like to do random man on the street interviews for my podcast and I always carry a digital handheld recorder with me.

You never know when you are going to bump into someone who has an amazing story to tell you. But I don't just want the words, I want the sounds. I want my podcast listeners to be able to hear the person's voice, to hear the sounds on the street. It's all part of the experience. Having a handheld voice recorder is the only way to capture this moment without ruining it because of the intrusiveness of lots of big equipment.


I've got a digital memo recorder and it is a really handy way to keep track of the many ideas that pop into my head over the course of a day. I keep it in my bag and pull it out whenever the light bulb above my head turns on.

I write stories and songs and sometimes paint and on top of all of that run my own business. I have a lot to think about and I am not going to trust my brain to remember it all. Having a digital voice recorder helps me keep it all straight and it helps me keep the good ideas from slipping away.

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