Wondering which sound monitor is right for your baby monitoring needs? We researched over 30 competitors before purchasing and testing 6 top choices to determine which products have the features and functionality you'll want and need. Each monitor is tested for months concentrating on sound clarity, ease-of-use, range, and more. Our test results and real-world experience influence scores and rank, and our inside details give you the information you need to find the right product to meet your needs and goals.
The Best Sound Monitors
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|Pros||Excellent sound clarity, lots of features, long battery life, price||Great sound clarity, nice range, long battery life||Good sound clarity, easy to use, budget-friendly||Easy to use, nice range, inexpensive||Lots of features, lower EMF|
|Cons||Harder to use, shorter range||Harder to use, fewer features||Limited features, average range||Limited features, short battery life||Harder to use, shorter battery life|
|Bottom Line||Inexpensive, great sounding monitor with loads of features good for most families||Great sounding monitor that works well in larger homes||A great price for those who favor ease of use and price over excess features||Super budget-friendly choice that gets the job done without any fuss||Loaded with features and better sound quality this harder to use option is gadgety|
|Rating Categories||Vtech DM221||Philips Avent DECT...||Philips Avent DECT...||Vtech DM111||Vtech DM271|
|Sound Clarity (30%)|
|Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Battery Life (15%)|
|Specs||Vtech DM221||Philips Avent DECT...||Philips Avent DECT...||Vtech DM111||Vtech DM271|
|Indoor Range Test (walls & feet)||5 Walls
|Open Field Range Test||1325 Feet||1350 Feet||1320 Feet||1350 Feet||1375 Feet|
|Manufacturer's Claimed Range (*buyer beware!)||1000 Feet||1083 Feet||984 Feet||Not Listed||1000 Feet|
|Communication Technology||DECT 6.0 Digital Technology||DECT technology||DECT Technology||DECT 6.0 Digital Technology||DECT 6.0 Digital Technology|
|Adjustable Mic Sensitivity||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Sound Filtering Test Results||Excellent||Excellent||Poor||Very Poor||Excellent|
|Max Sound||103.4 db||101.8 db||101 db||103.6 db||88.9 db|
|Parent Unit Battery Life||46 Hrs||30 Hrs||19 Hrs||13 Hrs||14 Hrs|
|Nursery Unit Battery Backup||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|EMF @ 6 Feet Nursery Unit||3.11 V/m||1.02 V/m||0.95 V/m||2.63 V/m||1.63 V/m|
|Out Of Range Alert||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||1 Year||2 Years||2 Years||1 Year||1 Year|
Best Overall Baby Monitor
The Vtech DM221 is a full-service sound monitor with several useful features and the best sound clarity in the group. The DM221 has sound activation and adjustable mic sensitivity, which combine to provide a quiet room for a great night's sleep creating a silent monitor that only makes noise when your baby does. The parent unit has a take to baby feature that sounds clear and like a real voice to avoid upsetting your baby with a robotic sound. The DM221 is wallet-friendly for just about any budget, and it earned the highest overall score in our sound review, making it a shoo-in for the Editors' Choice award.
This monitor has a shorter range than some of the competition, which makes it a poor choice for families in smaller homes or more than 3-4 walls between the nursery and the master bedroom. Overall, we think this monitor will get the job done, with great sound and features to ensure a restful night's sleep ¡ª something every parent wants and needs.
Read review: Vtech DM221
Longer Range Baby Monitor
Philips Avent DECT SCD570/10
The Philips Avent DECT SCD570/10 is a quality sound monitor with a better range distance than the competing top-ranking products with an excellent battery life of over 30 hours. This sleek, sharp-looking monitor offers excellent sound clarity with one of the best full-bodied sounds in the group.
Unfortunately, the DECT SCD570/10 is one of the more expensive options we tested with a price that is more on par with video or movement monitors. However, if you want a quality monitor with true-to-life sound, this one is tough to beat and should make your shortlist.
Read review: Philips Avent DECT SCD570/10
Best Bang for the Buck
Philips Avent DECT SCD501/10
The Philips Avent DECT SCD501/10 is a high-quality monitor that is easy to use with the features many parents want, like impressive sound quality and sound activation, which is something we think is more important and very useful in a sound monitor. This product has a reasonable price for most families, and it is simple enough that even grandma can use it without frustration.
This bare-bones monitor doesn't offer much in the way of additional features, however, with no two-way communication, or features like a temperature monitoring or lullabies. While some may consider this a deal-breaker, we find most parents fail to use these features over time, even if their monitor has them. We like the look and ease of the DECT SCD501/10 and think most parents will agree its an excellent addition to a stylish nursery at a reasonable price.
Read review: Philips Avent DECT SCD501/10
The Vtech DM111 is one of the least expensive options we tested. However, it offers above-average range capabilities with good sound clarity and an easy to use interface. It also has a better range than some of the competition, making it a good choice for larger homes or multiple walls (over 3).
This option doesn't have all the bells and whistles, like two-way communication or sound activation, but it gets the primary job done and provides life-like sound from the baby's room, which at the end of the day is all you need. The DM111 battery life is 13 hours, and the batteries are not rechargeable, so it is probably best to keep it plugged in when possible or have spare AAA batteries on hand as backups. We think this option is an excellent no-nonsense choice or a useful travel product thanks to its ease of use and good range.
Read review: Vtech DM111
Why You Should Trust Us
This review of baby sound monitors was led by our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, a board-certified pediatrician. Dr. Spurrier is a mother of two and a long-time tester of baby monitors of every type. Dr. Spurrier worked with our Senior Review Analyst, Bob Wofford, father of 7, to develop the tests for this review and our other monitor reviews. Bob conducted all of the testings for this review as he has for the last 6 years, making him an industry expert! Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz (mother of 2) rounds out the team using her 5 years of experience and knowledge of monitor testing to analyze tester feedback and testing information to create understandable reviews. The three major team members in this review have over 17 years' collective experience testing monitors.
Related: How We Tested Sound Monitors
Analysis and Test Results
For sound monitor testing, we consider key metrics that demonstrate how well a monitor performs (quality) and the features that help it perform better or are useful to parents or babies. Given that monitors act as a direct line to what is happening in the baby's room, it is important that they work as intended, reliably, with a useful range, and have features that are easy to use and contribute to the overall function of the unit. Each product should have adequate range capabilities, offer features to increase your potential for sleeping, and provide clear sound and useful features. If a product does not work as intended or fails to stay reliably connected, then it will likely fail to help parents rest easy, defeating the purpose of using a monitor.
Each monitor in this review is rated on how well it performs and how it compares to similar products in its class in our in-house side-by-side testing. The scores are calculated based on weighted values for the metrics we feel make a monitor exceptional and user-friendly. Sound clarity and ease of use are the most highly rated metrics, with range coming in as the third most crucial metric. Without a significant, reliable range, a monitor can fail to work at all. Without quality sound transmission and sound-related features, a product may not work alert parents or help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
Want to skip to the spoiler alert of what we would buy or what we'd recommend to a friend? Jump down to read what we would do for our baby.
Sound monitoring is economically the best way to keep tabs on your little one. There is something for every budget when it comes to sound monitoring options. We feel that stepping up slightly from the lowest priced products is a good idea since the performance of mid-price range products is much better than the lowest priced products. Given that you will use a sound monitor every day, spending a bit more than the lowest price products is a smart move. We consider the Vtech DM221 to be the best value overall as it was the highest performing product in our tests, and still quite affordable. If "grandparent-friendly" ease of use is of key concern, then you might consider the Philips Avent DECT SCD501/10, which costs a bit more but is the easiest monitor to use with top performance.
For audio monitors, the sound quality is what separates the chihuahuas from the big dogs. Any sound from the parent device should be clear, static-free, and easy to hear. Ideally, the sound should have no distortion, and we prefer features that limit the kind of sounds transmitted or the volume of sounds. We believe the sound transmission and features are the most important metric for this kind of product. In the middle of the night, you don't want to lose precious sleep, wondering if the noise you hear is your baby or normal house noises. If features like sound activation or microphone sensitivity that limit background noise don't work like they are supposed to, then you might lose sleep listening to a loud monitor even when your baby is peacefully sleeping.
About half of the monitors we tested scored above average for sound clarity, but it is a little shocking how poor the sound quality is for some options given the primary goal to produce realistic sounds. Some of the units were hollow and bright without the mid-tone, and bass ranges, which we feel is disappointing but acceptable. However, static and distortion are not satisfactory, and we heard it from several of the units. The best products offer a fuller range of tones and the ability to change what level of sounds are transmitted (mic adjustment).
The best scores for sound are 10s earned by the Philips Avent DECT SCD570/10 and the Vtech DM221. These products have no distortion or static, even at maximum volume. The sound has more vibrant tones overall, and while you wouldn't want to listen to your favorite music through these speakers, the sound is good enough to deliver a realistic interpretation of the baby's cries. All of the top units offer sound activation that works well and goes silent quickly when the baby is quiet.
The worst score in our tests for sound is a 4 for the Summer Infant Baby Wave Deluxe, which had a lot of static and distortion. This product didn't provide a good representation of what was happening in the baby's room and could be disturbing in the middle of the night if you wake up suddenly. The Vtech DM271 and the Vtech DM111 are the second-lowest for sound with respectable scores of 7.
Ease of Use
Ease of use captures whether or not a monitor is intuitive or complicated, how easy it is to set up, and whether or not the features make it easier or more useful. Including all of this prevents the simple featureless products from walking away with top honors in a category that shouldn't be solely about simplicity. Obviously, a product with an on/off button and volume control is easy to use. Still, the bigger question is if it offers anything that improves the user experience or makes using the monitor easier.
The Philips Avent SCD501/10 earned the highest score for ease of use with a 10 of 10. It has an easy to use button system that you may be able to use without the manual. The extra features it boasts make using it an overall nicer experience than much of the completion, and we liked the clean lines and simplistic styling it offers for both devices. The parent unit also has a handy lanyard for transport, and the baby unit has buttons with clear easy to read labels. The two units auto-link, and the instructions are easy to follow.
The Vtech DM271 earned the lowest ease of use score in this review with a 5. This unit has a variety of additional features, not standard on a sound monitor, which makes it more challenging to use. With a motion and door open sensors, there is a lot more going on here that you need to set up and navigate.
In general, all of the competitors are easy enough. They lack truly technical features that are complex to use, and they all can be plugged in and used right away without altering factory settings. We also concede that given enough time and experience, parents can get used to any monitor interface. Still, we believe you also need to think about caregivers, like a babysitter or a relative, who should effectively be able to use your sound monitor with a limited overview.
You might think all you need is a product that sends sound from the nursery unit to a parent device, but if that baby monitor can't connect to the parent device because it is too far away or there are too many walls between the units, then it won't matter what information or sound it sends along. While ranges, in general, were greater for the audio products than ranges for the video or movement options, it is still important that you consider the range and your home when deciding which unit might fit your needs. Even though most manufacturers include their open field range on the box, they aren't all reporting this number accurately, and even fewer manufacturers report a potential indoor range for their products. While indoor range can be affected by several variables from walls and floors to appliances, our tests can give you a general idea of the potential range you can expect, or, more importantly, how each unit stacked up against the competition in the same location.
Larger homes may be better suited to audio monitors (unless you plan to use Wi-Fi), given that their average range is close to 90 feet and through 6 walls and video monitors are significantly less. The most extended range for sound products is the Summer Infant Baby Wave Deluxe, with a range of 100 feet through 8 walls. The shortest range is the Philips Avent DECT SCD501/10 with 90 ft and 5 walls. Most of the award winners in this review average a useful 6 walls and 95 ft for an indoor range.
Some of the products in this review have very few features and do little more than transmit sound from one device to another. You may be thinking, well that's what these products are for, what else should they do? While we'd love it if they made breakfast or took out the trash, we aren't looking for features outside the realm of reality. We want attributes that help the monitors function better or make using them easier to use. About half of the monitors offer a sound activation feature, something we think is an essential feature that will help you get more precious sleep. This feature keeps a parent device quiet when the baby is not making noise, so it doesn't sit transmitting white noise, room sounds, or chronic static, that could keep you needlessly awake.
Another feature we like is two-way communication between devices. The lack of two-way is not a deal-breaker, and many parents find they don't use it, but if you want it, it is a nice add-on that rarely effects price. Some of the other features we considered are nightlights, lullabies, alerts, battery backup in the baby unit, rechargeable parent unit, and temperature sensors. You may not need bells and whistles to get the job done, but some parents want them.
The Vtech DM221 earns the top score in this metric with 9 of 10. This product has almost every feature parents want, including sound activation (a must-have) and two-way talk to the baby. Our other Editors' Choice winner, the Philips Avent SCD570/10, earns an 8 in this metric and also features sound activation and two-way talk to the baby. The Philips Avent SCD570/10 also sports a nightlight, adjustable microphone sensitivity, alerts, lullaby, temperature sensor, and sound level LED indicators. We think both units have features to keep parents and babies happy.
The product with the lowest features score is the Vtech DM111 with a 3. Outside of the fundamental alerts for out of range and low battery, this monitor has no features that we feel make life easier or more enjoyable. It doesn't offer anything for sound control, and it lacks added features for soothing. This product is inexpensive and has relatively good sound and an adequate range making it a good option for parents who aren't concerned with features or have a limited budget.
While we don't think that every feature is a necessity, we do believe that sound activation is critical and should be something parents look for when deciding what to buy if the budget allows. You will be glad you insisted on it when you are trying to fall asleep at night, and your room is silent instead of filled with white noise, static, and strange sounds emanating from the monitor. The other potential features are merely items of convenience. If you are a deep sleeper or enjoy white noise, then the sound activation feature may be less critical, and a monitor like the Vtech DM111 could save you money without the bells and whistles.
Electromagnetic Field Levels (EMF)
Will your cell phone give you brain cancer? What about your baby monitor's health impact on your newborn infant? Concerns over EMF exposure have increased in recent years as the number of products we use that emit EMF increases every day. Add to this that infants have sensitive developing systems that are more susceptible to the effects of EMF, and we believe it is something parents should consider when making a purchasing decision.
— WHO, Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)
The jury is still out on what the risks are from long-term exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields, such as those from sources like Wi-Fi devices, mobile phones, portable phones, and yes, getting to the point, baby monitors.
Even though the jury is still out, we believe there is enough evidence to keep EMF in mind. We've measured the EMF levels of each monitoring device to learn whether some options produce significantly higher or lower levels of EMF than others. Our tests focus on the nursery unit (the listening unit you place in the baby's room) since our concern is primarily on the potential impact of EMF on the baby's health.
All of the monitors in this review emit some level of EMF. Most of them had average values under 1 V/m when tested at 6 feet from the baby device, but a few managed to come in over 1 V/m. Most of the values were below the levels we saw in our video products. In addition to having generally lower EMF values, the sound products can also sit further away from the baby, which should help limit exposure even further. It is good to know that the unit can be placed as far away from the baby as possible and still work well. These results make choosing a sound product better than video options if you are concerned about EMF.
The Philips Avent DECT SCD501/10 has the lowest average level of EMF at 6 feet from the baby unit with a reading of 0.95 V/m. The monitor with the highest EMF reading is the Vtech DM221, with a disappointing value of 3.11 V/m! Our other Editors' Choice option, the Philips SCD570/10, has a reading of 1.02 for the average at 6 feet. No matter which product you decide to purchase, we suggest you move it at least 6 feet away from the baby's crib, and most monitors will still work well from the other side of the room. Keep in mind that EMF levels usually decline rapidly with distance, so by locating your monitor across the room, you dramatically reduce the EMF exposure to your baby. These precautions will help limit your baby's exposure to EMF, which we think is a good thing.
Our EMF level measurements were not factored into our overall rating scores since the best current scientific data available suggests that low-level EMF from sources like sound monitors do not represent a known health risk to humans.
Battery life is mostly about the parent unit you carry with you to monitor your baby. The listening unit in the nursery generally plugs into the wall outlet. Parents typically rely on their parent unit most heavily overnight, when it is plugged into a wall outlet near the nightstand. Batteries come into play during the daytime during napping, so you can move from room to room doing errands while keeping tabs on the baby.
We tested the battery life in all the parent devices of these monitors. Only a few products offered battery backup capabilities in the baby units. It is important to understand that the batteries in the baby units are only a backup stopgap for power outages; they are not intended for extended use overnight. Also, not all product parent devices are rechargeable. This lack of rechargeability means if you use them regularly without their AC adapters, then you will be changing batteries regularly.
The battery life range for the monitors in this review varied wildly from 9 hours for the Summer Infant Baby Wave Deluxe to 46 hours for the Vtech DM221. These life ranges mean that some of the devices will be able to make it through the night without being plugged in, and others may not. However, the majority of products had a life over 13 hours with several over 20, which is ample time for napping, which is when you are most likely to use the parent unit unplugged moving about your home.
Our two Editors' Choice options, the VTech DM221 and Philips Avent SCD570/10, once again stole the show for battery life with the Vtech lasting up to 46 hours and the Phillips up to 30. Both come with rechargeable batteries, and the SCD570 also has a battery backup in the baby unit. We think that having a rechargeable battery is better than a longer battery life, and would choose rechargeable monitors over AA or AAA options.
What Would BabyGearLab Buy
After years of testing and experience, we feel parents should create a hybrid solution for full-coverage baby monitoring by combining a Wi-Fi video monitor and an award-winning sound product.
Why would we recommend this? Wouldn't that be redundant or a waste of money?
The primary reason parents purchase a baby monitor is to increase the ability to get some much-needed sleep while baby sleeps. Your baby crying is what will alert you that your baby is in need, and sound monitor offer the best sound clarity and most useful features for sound like sound activation. However, sound options don't let you peek inside the nursery to see if your baby is truly in need or just fussy and falling back to sleep on their own. Enter the video monitor. So, why not get a video monitor only? None of the video monitors offer noise filtering features or quality sound. Superior sound can assist parents in attaining quality sleep. So, using a top-ranked sound monitor as your primary baby monitor with a sound activation feature keeps your bedroom quiet (an essential element for quality sleep) so you and your baby can achieve deep sleep. Plus, it can still transmit the sound of your baby crying when you need it.
The Wi-Fi video monitor is what you need after you are alerted to baby's cries. The sound product alerts you to a problem, so you can use your Wi-Fi video monitor to get eyes on your baby to determine your next moves. A Wi-Fi video option can also let you check in on your little one when you are away — this ability is one we love and is only an option in the Wi-Fi monitors.
Why can't you rely on your video monitor and skip the sound product? Generally, Wi-Fi products don't have great sound or sound-related features. Wi-Fi video monitors transmit all background noise (think static white noise or anything in the baby's room that makes noise) when your baby is silent. A lack of sound-related features can impact your ability to fall asleep or maintain deep sleep. Then, the sound they transmit when your baby is crying isn't the best.
We think parents should buy a sound monitor like the Best Value Vtech DM221 or the Philips Avent DECT SCD570/10, to get the sound quality and features you need for great sleep. We then suggest you add a top-ranked Wi-Fi product like the LeFun 1080p Wi-Fi or the Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi to create a "system" that provides impressive sound and the video you want.
We think creating a combination of a sound, and a Wi-Fi monitor can be a win-win. You can create this kind of mix for a low price that saves you money compared to some fancier video choices.
Finding the right monitoring product out of the variety on the market can be tricky if you don't know what you want or what is available. With wide-ranging prices and features you aren't familiar with, it is hard to say what makes one option different or better than another. However, if you stay focused and consider the important metrics and features, we feel confident you can find the right monitor for you. Our award winners are great options that can work for most families, no matter what they desire. However, if you need something a little different, we've outlined the pros and cons of each in our review for easy reference to help you find the right option for your needs.
— RJ Spurrier