There are a number of reasons why you might want to record what someone is saying without them knowing about it, or also when they do know about it.
For example, you may want to catch someone doing something illegal, record an important conversation to refer back to later, have a record of verbal abuse, help with taking minutes at a meeting, or even record a lecture at your university.
Whatever the reason, here are our top picks for audio listening devices that will help you do just that. Some of the devices you might want to consider include USB audio recorders, mini car cameras, nanny cams, keychain voice recorders, and parabolic listening devices.
Best Listening Devices
Keep reading our buying guide for brief reviews of each type of listening device to help you make the best choice for your needs.
16GB Mini USB Voice Recorder for Lectures,TOOBOM USB,USB-C and Micro USB 3 in 1 Digital Audio...
- One slider to Start 512Kbps PCM Recording✔: Push the slider to on to start recording, recording...
- Mini USB recording device playing on the phone ✔: Grey metal case, looks simple and stylish.This...
- 16GB Built-in Memory✔：16Gb flash memory could save 76 hours recording files in 512Kbps or 4000...
- You will never lose important recordings✔：Your recordings will be automatically saved when the...
- Mini and Small Design,Best Gift choice✔：Only 2.5*0.8*0.3 inches and 0.47Oz.Exquisite packaging...
A USB recorder is one of our favorite listening devices. It’s a kind of hybrid between the ones that you keep out in the open that have high-quality microphones and excellent sound quality, and the hidden audio recorders.
The way it works is that you plug it into the USB port of your computer and it looks just like a regular USB key that you might use to store files on. Except that it can record audio as well.
It’s an ideal way to record meetings at work, or conversations with colleagues in your office. Or, you may want to use it to just take notes on things you have to remember later.
Another common use for USB audio recorders is for students. You can easily record lectures to refer to later with these devices.
Get Yours Today
You can check our top pick for USB voice recorders over on Amazon.
Keychain Voice Recorder
16GB Voice Recorder, Digital Keychain Audio Activated Recording, Intelligent Noise Reduction,...
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Voice Activated: Mini keychain recorder device has continuous recording and audio...
- 🔊keychain Voice Recorder Design: Voice recorder keyring has a mini, small, sleek and simple...
- 💎Easy To Use: Digital voice recorder is one-button operation to start, start recording, save the...
- ⏰160mAh Battery and 16GB Memory: Keychain recorder with 160mAh lithium battery supports 20 hours...
- 💯Mp3 Play And compatible with Mac or PC: Mini recorder can be connected directly 3.5mm headphones...
A top pick for a spy audio recorder is a keychain style one. They are designed to look just like a keychain charm, or a key fob, but they actually secretly record audio.
Most of them have two modes: Continuous and voice activated. If you have an important conversation coming up, just hit the continuous record button and you’ll have the whole conversation on record.
Or, you can use the voice activation mode if you don’t know when an important conversation is going to happen, but you don’t want to miss it.
Keychain Audio Recorders are an ideal spy gadget because you bring your keys with your everywhere, right? It certainly won’t look out of place to have them with you at any meeting.
The only real negative to these voice recorders is that they may not have the highest quality microphones. If you leave them in your purse, backpack or pocket, you may not get a very clear recording. For best results, you want to put them out in the open, like on a table or desk.
Head on over to Amazon.com to learn more about our top pick for this style of listening device:
Parabolic Listening Device
Sound Shark Long-Range Microphone - Equalized XLR Kit
- The Sound Shark provides a great alternative to shotgun microphones. (Because of the feedback caused...
- The Sound Shark can capture audio from 30 feet, or more, compared to 3 to 5 feet for a typical...
- Record a speaker from up to 6 feet as if they were wearing a lapel mic.
- Reject more peripheral sound than a shotgun microphone, and record outdoors with much less wind...
- A premium, waterproof, omni-directional lapel mic with XLR connector is included in this kit. It is...
If you want to eavesdrop on conversations from a distance away, then you’ll need to consider parabolic listening devices. They work in a similar way to satellite dishes.
Satellite dishes getting signals from a wide area and then condensing them into one. The parabolic audio device works the same way. It catches all the waves from a single direction and then amplifies them into one single sound. Many of them also have a noise reduction feature which helps to reduce background noise that you don’t want to hear.
If you’ve ever wanted to know how broadcasters get that “bone crunch” during NFL games or hockey games, it’s with one of these devices. It’s not like they can put mics on the players!
Some reality TV shows also make liberal use of this technology to get some candid, off the record remarks from their contestants.
Which Parabolic Listening Device Do You Recommend?
We strongly recommend Sound Shark. It’s a cut above the rest in terms of the audio quality and it also allows you to record the footage. And you can’t really beat the price. Check it out for yourself on Amazon.
Sound Shark Review
Light Bulb Camera Wifi 1080P HD 360 Fisheye Wireless Security Camera Home LED Light Cameras Motion...
- 【1080P Full HD Day & Night Vision】: The light bulb camera with 1920*1080P Bright Full HD...
- 【Motion Detection & Alarm Function】:Motion detection runs under the support of a Micro SD card....
- 【Remote Control & View Everywhere】:Once the light bulb camera connect WIFI, the living stream...
- 【Remo【Micro SD Card Storage & Playback】: The bulb camera supports memory card up to 128GB (not...
If you want to record audio as well as video, then you’ll want to consider a nanny cam. They are hidden in a variety of ways including the following:
You might consider one of these covert recording devices if you suspect that your nanny or babysitter is mistreating your children. You’ll be able to have proof of this, or be reassured that your children are being treated well when you’re not with them.
You may also want to keep an eye on your employees, especially if you’ve had problems with missing equipment or theft.
Of all the choices available, we recommend a light bulb camera. They have the advantages of being a common sight in any room of any buildings. They also look down on the whole room from above and have a wide field of view.
Some of them even have two-way audio so you can communicate with someone in your house when you’re not there. This is ideal if you’ve not using it for covert purposes.
Why Choose This Style Of Listening Device?
One of the main advantages that nanny cameras have over other kinds of spy gadgets is that they look like something else that serves an unrelated function. Some actually fully function as this device. For example, a hidden recording device in a light bulb, clock radio or USB charger.
It can often be easier to hide something like this in plain sight if you have a high risk of someone looking for a bug.
Where Can I Get One?
You can easily find a light bulb nanny cam for yourself over on Amazon. Check now for the current price on this product.
Mini Car Cameras
APEMAN Mini Dash Cam 1080P Car Camera Driving Recorder Night Vision, 170° Wide Angle, Motion...
- Self Development & Brand New Design - C420 continues the lightweight, mini design of the previous...
- 1080P High Definition & Night Vision - 1080p recording and advanced sensor ensure full...
- 24/7 Reassuring All-weather Monitoring - The car recorder includes motion detection and parking...
- Loop Recording & G-sensor - When these two functions are turned on, the dashcam overwrites the...
- Easy to Set Up & Manual Provided - Professional manual can be found on product page. The dash cam...
There are a few different reasons why you might consider a mini car camera. You can keep an eye on what’s happening with your car when your child or employee is driving it. Or you may want to have a record of any vandalism that happens to your car. Finally, you may want to record any encounters with police.
Whatever the case, you can find these tiny cameras for your car that have excellent video quality. Most of them record in full HD at 1080P. In addition, many of them can be used as listening devices as well.
Or, you may also want to consider a GPS tracker if you want to know where you company vehicles are going during work hours.
What Should I Look For In A Listening Device?
There are a number of features that you’ll want to consider when picking out the best listening device for your needs. Here are a few of the most important ones.
Hidden, Or Not?
Depending on your needs, you may want a spy listening device. That is, something that looks like a regular object but is actually recording. For example, a USB recording device, nanny cam, or a Keychain voice recorder.
In addition to listening, some of them will also allow you to capture video which can be extremely useful in cases where you think that your nanny is mistreating your children.
Of course, if you just want to record a lecture at a university then you won’t need something to do this covertly. You can just set an audio recorder on your desk and not worry about hiding it in some way.
Probably the most important question you should ask yourself before buying any kind of audio recorder is, “What is the capacity?”
Most devices will have built-in memory of at least 8 GB, and some have the option to add more in the form of a memory card. This is the minimum you’ll want to have because anything less will mean that you may run out of space too quickly. You’ll also have to frequently upload the audio to your computer.
The best devices charge in under an hour while the ones that are not as good can take longer than 2 hours. You’ll also want a recorder that can go for at least 8-10 hours between charges.
Most devices offer voice activated recording. That is, it’ll start recording when it senses noise. You may have to make sure it’s on the table, for example, instead of in your jacket pocket or purse. Some units are more sensitive than others.
There are some that also offer continuous recording at the touch of a button. This can be a nice feature to have if you anticipate wanting to record an important conversation, or something like a lecture that you don’t want to miss.
The best audio recorders transfer data quickly from the device to your computer. The slower ones seem to almost take forever to do this!
You may want to consider a device that has a headphone jack so that you can listen to the recording without having to download it to your computer first. However, this can also make it less covert, unless the device is designed to look like a simple MP3 player.
All units should work with both Mac and Windows-based computers. Some these days are even compatible with Android phones and come with a micro-USB cord to allow for this.
Remote Access Via Wi-Fi
There are two main styles of devices, the ones that record the footage on a DVR/NVR or SD card of some kind. These ones are usually pretty difficult to detect.
Then, there are devices that are connected via Wi-Fi or a cellular network and send the footage to the cloud. These usually give you alerts in real-time via phone app when audio or motion is detected. If you’re serious about someone not finding it, these devices that connect via Wifi are usually easier to find.
Which style you might require really is up to you and depends on your individual needs.
Is It Legal To Record People Without Their Knowledge?
This is a great question and we’re happy that you asked! It is indeed illegal to record people without their knowledge in many countries around the world. Laws may also vary from state to state and province to province.
So, you’ll need to check the laws in the jurisdiction where you live for the most up-to-date information.
And of course, remember our #1 rule: Only for good and not for evil.
I think I’ve Been Bugged: What Can I Do?
If you suspect that you’re being listened to without your knowledge, there are a number of ways you can detect this. They include a close physical inspection, listening carefully, using a special detection device, and finally, getting some professional help.
You can learn more about this: How to Detect Bugs and Listening Devices. Or, check out this short video below:
Best Listening Devices: Your Thoughts
What’s your top pick for a listening device? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. It’ll help other people interested in technology find this useful resource.
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Last update on 2021-01-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API