Audio Surveillance Buyer's Guide

AUDIO SURVEILLANCE BUYER'S GUIDE 

It's understandable to want to have a mic or surveillance system to protect yourself from lies, threats, and other misrepresentations that can happen in a conversation. Just make sure that the law is on your side. Surveillance systems can only help if they're legal to use. Otherwise, you're just creating evidence against yourself. This guide will cover voice recording, considerations you'll need to remember when recording a conversation, and some devices that offer excellent audio quality. We'll also take a look at some reasons why you may wish to keep an audio recorder around.


LEGAL CONCERNS

As stated above, you need to make sure that you're working within the confines of the law. Otherwise, you're likely to end up with more hassle than with what brought you here in the first place. In addition, you'll need an accurate date and time stamp for your recordings if you're to obtain the evidence for the courts or human resources department.

In the United States, the federal government has largely left the states to legislate on this issue of audio recording. Among them have grown two categories of legal recording parameters: one-party consent and two-party consent. Just as they sound, they relate to the number of people taking part in a conversation that has provided their consent that the recording occurs. One-party consent states require that only one person in a conversation know that a recording is taking place. In contrast, two-party consent states need all persons involved (two or more people) to consent to be recorded.

Have you ever contacted a business and heard the automated message stating that the call is recorded? They may be based out of a two-party consent state or do business within states that abide by those laws. Companies can also prevent violating these laws by visibly posting signs stating that all activities are recorded in storefronts and offices. In Texas, a one-party consent state, you could have a conversation with just about anyone and not let them know you recorded the entire thing.

Ensuring an accurate date and time stamp is critical to filing a case. After all, you can't take a recording to the court that shows an afternoon time stamp if you're claiming the neighbors are partying all night long! Thankfully, each of the spy voice recorders on this list and all video and audio devices we carry on SpyCentre.com can be date and time-stamped. Some have Windows-based proprietary programs for this stored on their memory, while other audio recorders can be adjusted using text documents that can be utilized by Mac and Chromebook users.


CONTINUOUS VS. VOICE-ACTIVATED RECORDING

A frequent request of callers is for voice-activated recording, but it may not be what they need. There are many use cases, benefits, and cons to using a recorder in either of these modes.

A typical scenario we get calls about is loud noises from neighboring apartments, keeping the caller awake. Of course, the police will do nothing if there isn't any evidence of the matter. Voice-activated recorders may do the trick, but what if it's a short sound like quick banging or stomping? The voice recorder may not trigger fast enough, so continuous recording would be best.

While many devices offer voice-activated recording, they may not extend their battery life. Descriptions of products that do get longer battery life will typically include keywords such as "standby," "sleep," or "low-power" modes.

Sound-activation modes may not capture every word of a conversation, particularly if conducted at a low volume. They shine, however, in situations where you could otherwise be recording hours of dead space. If working in silence (or with headphones), you may not generate much noise, but perhaps you need to capture random conversations throughout the day. Some devices allow you to adjust the recording sensitivity. You might be able to drive out quieter sounds like keyboard typing or store music so that you can focus only on the louder conversations.


COVERT AUDIO RECORDERS

Harassment and bullying in the workforce are unfortunate realities, but it's not something you need to buckle down and struggle through. There are ways to act in your defense covertly, and you'll need evidence if you're to take matters to court or the HR department.

Hidden voice recorders are masters of stealth, used by investigators worldwide to capture what they need. However, covert audio recorders can find their place in our daily lives. Watch out! Your conversations may have been picked up by one or two of these items already!

Why use a covert audio recorder?

Suppose you're trying to fight against bullying or harassment in the workplace. In that case, you can't exactly have people speak into a giant studio mic to capture what they say. Instead, the recorder will need a disguise, and a good one, too. The best covert devices function within their camouflage, enabling them to be used in everyday life.

Disguised recorders can do one thing no other recorder could: let people speak freely! If no one can tell the device is a recorder, they'll talk as if there wasn't one present. Depending on the environment and the disguise, you can utilize hidden voice recorders in the open without the need to hide the unit behind something or in a drawer, which will muffle recordings.


HOW MUCH BATTERY WILL YOU NEED?

Each recording situation is different, and they'll require varying battery lives. You may be trying to catch snarky remarks from someone you pass for only a moment each day. Or, you may not know when an incident could take place and require all-day recording. Some devices may have shorter battery life, but they make up for it either in size or audio quality.

Let's look at another common problem: remote property. People cannot always get to these areas as often as they'd like. Not all audio devices can extend their battery life with voice-activation modes. Read on to be impressed by how long the USB Power Bank Audio Recorder can last on standby noise-activation.


AUDIO PICK UP RANGES

We noticed a general pickup range of about 30 to 40 feet for each recorder we've tested. Of course, this has a bit of variance between each device. Keep in mind that this is based on an open-air scenario. We do not recommend placing sound recorders inside drawers, hidden in laundry, or anything like that. Covering up a microphone means you're going to get muffled recordings. Even putting recorders in a pocket can be an issue if you're moving around with fabric rubbing against the microphone. Read on to the accessories section of this article to learn how to place an audio device creatively.

ACCESSORIES FOR AUDIO RECORDERS

The metal plates that come with the SCOSCHE MagicMount Surface 2 protect electronics from the magnetic fields from the rubberized magnets.

Sometimes, you need to get creative when placing a covert audio recorder. Wouldn't it be great if you could slap a device up under a table and walk away? Try out the SCOSCHE Magic Mount Surface 2, which comes with two sticky-sided metal plates and two magnets so you can get two recorders for different locations!

Android users are in luck with this next item. The Dual Android OTG Cable enables the user to connect any of our audio recorders to their Android phone or tablet to view as an external storage device. From there, the VLC Media Player app can open your recordings so you can listen right off your smart device or send the file to collaborators.


CELLPHONE VOICE RECORDERS

Use it all the time! The Bluetooth Cell Phone Recorder can handle up to 144 hours of audio storage!

Phone recorders will capture both sides of the conversation. Use the Bluetooth Cell Phone Recorder for business or personal calls by seamlessly pairing it with your Bluetooth-capable smartphone. It will act as an earpiece and capture the conversation within its internal memory. It can also record audio from the surrounding environment like a traditional audio recorder. Playback recordings using the built-in speaker, or uncap the USB connection to plug it directly into a computer without any need for power cables! It's truly an all-in-one device for on-the-go recording.

WHY USE A CELL PHONE RECORDER?

You may use your smartphone for essential conversations with lawyers, doctors, or your business. No one can remember everything said during a call, and frequent pauses for note-taking may be OK for some situations, but not all.
Many people have used smartphone apps to do just this, but are your recordings stored on your phone or someone else's server? How much do you trust your third-party apps?


VOICE RECORDER SPY PEN WITH 31 HOUR BATTERY
With a twist of the cap, you're off and recording with the Voice Recorder Spy Pen with 31 Hour Battery.

Who would think this basic looking pen in a pen jar was a secret voice recorder? Pen recorders have always been a perfect way to sneak a recording device into a conversation. They're carried into our business meetings, classrooms, and in our pockets and purses. The pen is mightier than the cassette recorder when trying to be sneaky.

This spy pen recorder has excellent versatility. It has 31 hours' worth of continuous recording battery, which is way more than enough for any working day. The device goes into a low-power standby state to conserve the battery when set to voice activation. This standby state can last up to 30 days with no sound to trigger it. But best of all, it writes, allowing for this pen to blend in seamlessly anywhere.

It's also more covert than our other spy pen voice recorder (shown below) in that it doesn't use any wires! Instead, it unscrews from the middle to reveal a USB connection!


VOICE ACTIVATED SLEEK AUDIO RECORDER PEN WITH 16 HOUR BATTERY
Slim, sleek, and powerful! The Voice Activated Sleek Audio Recorder Pen has been a favorite of investigators for years!

While some may enjoy the fancy, Mont-Blanc style feel of the 31-hour spy pen, others may prefer the thinner style of this sleek audio recorder pen. You'd think not much would be able to fit within this slim frame, yet a powerful audio recorder whose settings can be adjusted on the fly rests inside.

The sleek audio spy pen is a favorite among investigators, from the professional to the very green. One reason is that you're able to listen to recordings right away with a set of headphones and a remote that come in the package. This remote plugs into the recorder's top and lets you control the volume, skip between files, adjust the audio quality, and switch from continuous to voice activation.

No other device on this list allows for the same range of functionality while still out in the field, away from computers where you can easily review recordings. This sleek pen writes, making it the perfect tool for work, school, or home.


PRO USB FLASH DRIVE AUDIO RECORDER VOICE ACTIVATED
Functional as a real flash drive, the Pro USB Flash Drive Audio Recorder Voice Activated can store all of your documents with 8GB of memory.

Flash drives are used every day in offices and classrooms, but this Pro USB Flash Drive can also record audio for an entire day! This small device can capture up to 24 hours of continuous sound. Not only that, but just like the 31-hour pen, this unit enters a low-power sleep mode when set to voice activation, which can last for up to 25 days!

Spy flash drives aren't as standard as pens, but they're just as easy to use. This one has a half-wheel switch with a notch pointing towards one way or the other, to voice activation or continuous recording. On the other side is a USB to plug it into a computer for review and recharging. The manufacturers really couldn't make this device any more simple.


USB DRIVE VOICE RECORDER STORES 90 HOURS
No extra buttons; the USB Drive Voice Recorder only has an on/off switch!

Well, there is one other flash drive audio recorder that was designed to be easier than the Pro USB Flash Drive, and that's this USB Drive Voice Recorder. Typical with flash drives, it has the standard USB connection. At the other end is an on/off switch. That's it!

This device automatically goes into voice activation. Continuous recording is not available. Battery life isn't increased by sound activation, so you're limited to the 16-hour ceiling.

It's a reasonably basic USB audio recorder, but it has something most other devices don't: a lanyard hole. Slip the included lanyard string through the hole to easily attach the flash drive recorder to your keyring and take it anywhere you go!


LAWMATE KEYCHAIN AUDIO RECORDER
The Lawmate Keychain Audio Recorder's lanyard hole is pinched off from the sides to reveal the connection port, vibration on/off switch, and continuous/voice-activated mode switch.

Many people carry keys in their hands, walking place to place, with one or two keychains like this model already on the key ring. This keychain recorder doesn't function within its guise, but this body style is prevalent for car key FOB devices.

The key feature of this spy voice recorder is in the activation! A very low vibration will run through the unit to let you know a recording has begun when turned on. You could use this vibration rather than the buttons to know which one was pressed with practice.

Not all devices in this list will increase their battery life when switched to voice activation. However, flipping this spy audio recorder to noise-activation can extend the battery life from 10 hours of continuous recording to nearly 50 hours of voice-activated standby time.


MULTI-FUNCTIONAL DIGITAL VOICE RECORDER WATCH WITH BLUETOOTH

The ability to listen to files from the Multi-Functional Digital Voice Recorder Watch via Bluetooth cannot be overstated.

This Multi-functional Digital Voice Recorder Watch doesn't just sit out in the open, gathering audio from your wrist; you can connect with it using Bluetooth headphones and secretly listen to recorded files! It's the perfect partner for recording and reviewing what was captured on the go!

A digital face shows the time and date. It also allows access to the massive menu of options available for this covert audio recorder. It has the highest quality audio recording capability of any other hidden voice recorder we carry, capturing audio at up to 1536kbps. For reference, the next best on this list gets only 705kbps! Remember: varying quality means varying storage capacity, and the higher the quality, the less storage available.

You'll probably need to take a rest before the 18-hour battery runs out, but it'll only need an hour to recharge.


MINI WRIST BAND VOICE ACTIVATED RECORDER
Whether worn on a thin or large wrist, the Mini Wrist Band Voice Activated Recorder can be a constant companion for recording on-the-go!

Sometimes, you may not need all the bells and whistles. The Mini Wrist Band might be the best unit for those with nervous fingers. All it takes is a flick of a switch to begin recording your surroundings immediately. When worn on the wrist, you'll always have it with you, and it'll be ready at a moment's notice.

Despite its simplicity, this unit has plenty more features. Voice activation is initiated by holding down a secondary button while turning it on. It comes with headphones to listen to your recordings right from the device. Ninety minutes is all it takes for this unit to recharge the 16-hour battery.


USB POWER BANK AUDIO RECORDER

Our longest lasting recorder in both categories of voice-activation and continuous recording, the USB Power Bank Audio Recorder with 150 Day Standby can be your audio sentry!
The USB Power Bank Audio Recorder is a fantastic set-it-and-forget-it tool if you're looking for long-term audio surveillance. It'll address a significant issue people often have: not enough battery! When set to continuous recording, the battery can last up to 336 hours. However, voice-activation mode puts the covert audio recorder on standby that can last up to 150 days. Talk about blowing other products out of the water!

The ability to record noise or conversations for that long can't be understated for the person that wants security or peace of mind. Don't have anyone writing down the minutes of your millions of meetings? Do harassments at home, or the office come at random? The USB Power Bank Audio Recorder is great for that, with two weeks of continuous recording power or five months of standby time! It'll only take 5 hours to charge it up, too, so it'll be back and gathering the evidence you need in no time.

WORLD'S SMALLEST MICRO VOICE RECORDER

The smallest we could find, our World's Smallest Micro Voice Recorder fits easily into a front-shirt pocket or purse.

Sometimes, size does matter. The World's Smallest Micro Voice Recorder has an exceptional battery life of ten hours while only being as large as a paperclip! It weighs just a few grams, making it unnoticeable when sewn into clothes or dropped into a bag. Charge it up and use it again eight times over: it'll store up to 90 hours! Collect everything said during a meeting to review for minute-writing, later, or review a lecture you couldn't stay awake through. It activates with one click and can be set for continuous or sound-activated recording.

From bringing a stop to bullying to simple dictation of critical ideas, voice recorders have their place in everyday life. Most hidden voice recorders can be operated with one-touch, making them easy to use and helping by not adding any tension in stressful situations. Many have voice-activated recording functions, too, only triggering audio capture when a sound is heard within range of the device. You'll gain that peace of mind knowing you will never have to worry if the device is recording.


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