Best Audio Baby Monitor 2021
VTech’s affordable Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor DM221 has 6.0 DECT technology for a secure, interference-free signal. This monitor is loaded with features (intercom, vibrating sound alert, rechargeable batteries with low battery alert and more). It is the best of the audio bunch, in our opinion. Scroll down to read more about the brand and the DM221 model.
New to Monitor shopping for baby’s room? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying an Audio Baby Monitor for advice and tips.
More details on the VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor. VTech is probably best-known for their cordless phones and interactive toys. In recents years, they entered the baby monitoring market with well received audio and video models.
The Safe & Sound Digital Audio (DM221) monitor comes in both single and double receiver versions and boasts 6.0 DECT technology for a secure transmission that is free from most interference. There is also an intercom feature, sound/light display, vibrating sound alert, night light and rechargeable batteries (with low battery indicator). Range is rated to 1000 feet.
Parent feedback has been very positive—it’s clear VTech’s successful track record in cordless phones is a major help here with the technology. The few criticisms we heard from parents centered on the range being less than the stated 1000 feet (that’s probably a given for most monitors, sorry to say).
VTech claims 18 hour battery life for this unit, which sounds like a stretch since most folks say it barely lasts a night. For night time monitoring, we’d suggest leaving this unit plugged in, instead of running off batteries.
While we recommend this monitor, we should note we have received occasional reports from readers about defective VTech units. One reader said the quality of the monitor was excellent, but the battery on his unit would not hold a charge. Others report monitors that don’t link properly. As with all monitors, we’d recommend purchasing this unit from a store or site that has a decent return policy just in case.
Table of Contents
- Why Trust Us
- How we picked a winner
- 7 Things No One Tells Your About Buying An Audio Monitor
Why Trust Us
We’ve been rating and reviewing audio monitors since 1994. In addition to hands-on testing of monitors, we have done extensive research on monitor reliability, range and efficiency. We also evaluate consumer reviews posted on our own message boards.
Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!
How we picked a winner
We evaluate audio monitors with in-depth inspections and tests, checking models for overall quality, interference, battery life and more. We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking monitors on quality and durability. Besides interviewing parents, we also regularly talk with retailers and consumer experts to see which brands are most trustworthy and other key quality metrics.
Testing monitors can be tricky, as factors unique to a home’s environment (urban vs rural, gadget heavy vs not) can bias results.
7 Things No One Tells You About Buying An Audio Monitor!
1. Hacking alert: some audio monitors are vulnerable to eavesdropping.
You may have seen stories over the last few years about strangers being able to hack into baby monitors. Pretty creepy, we know. But remember this: an audio monitor is made up of a transmitter (the base unit in baby’s room) and a receiver (kept in your room). Yes, you are basically putting a microphone in your baby’s room. Anyone with another baby monitor on the same frequency could pick up conversations and sounds on your baby monitor.
The take home message: many baby monitors do not encrypt their transmission. Therefore the best advice is to remember that your house (or at least your baby’s room) is bugged. If you want to protect your privacy, don’t have any sensitive conversations within earshot of the baby monitor. You never know who might be listening. It is wise to turn OFF the baby monitor when baby isn’t in the room.
So are there any monitors that are private? Until recently, the answer was no. But there is good news: several models feature “digital” (DECT) technology—their signals can’t be intercepted, unlike older analog monitors. Both monitors we recommend use DECT.
2. Baby monitors eat batteries.
Most baby monitors have the option of running on batteries or regular current (by plugging it into a wall outlet). Our advice: use the wall outlet as often as possible. Batteries don’t last long—as little as eight to ten hours with continual use.
Another idea: you can buy another AC adapter for ten bucks or less—you can leave one AC adapter in your bedroom and have another one available in a different part of the house. (Warning: make sure you get the correct AC adapter for your monitor, in terms of voltage and polarity. Otherwise you can fry the monitor.
By the way, when shopping for an audio monitor, consider buying a model with a low battery indicator. Without that feature, your monitor could die with no warning (and you wondered why baby was so quiet!). Only a handful of monitors have low battery indicators. Both models we recommend on this page have low battery alerts.
3. Interference issues can hamper your baby monitor, thanks to all the gadgets in your house: WiFi routers, cell phones and other electronics.
Let’s talk baby monitor frequencies and interference (geek alert: fun terms like megahertz will be used in the next paragraph).
Baby Monitor 101: the higher the frequency, the longer the range of the monitor. Basic baby monitors work on the 49 MHz frequency—these will work for a few hundred feet. Step up to a 900 MHz monitor and you can double the distance the monitor will work (some makers claim up to 1000 feet). Finally, there are baby monitors that work on the 2.4 GHz frequency, where you can pick up your baby in Brazil. Okay, not that far, but you get the idea. Of course, “range” estimates are just that—your real-life range will probably be much less than what’s touted on the box.
Now here’s the rub: Wi-Fi networks and other gadgets can often interfere with your baby monitor. If you have an old cordless phone in your house, it works on the 49 MHz frequency, but modern models are more likely to be found in the 900 MHz or the 2.4 GHz (or even 5.8 GHz) bands. If you’ve got a baby monitor at 900 MHz and a cordless phone on the same frequency, expect trouble. Ironically, as more and more devices use the higher frequency, the old 49MHz for baby monitors now seems to be the most trouble free when it comes to interference.
Wi-Fi routers work on the 2.4 GHz band—yep, the same frequency used by some baby monitors. The same advice as above: don’t get a baby monitor on the same frequency as your Wi-Fi network. FYI: Baby VIDEO monitors work on either the 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz frequencies and can have the same interference issues as audio monitors. Even if your router doesn’t cause a problem, you neighbor’s ten-year-old Linksys router may.
As we mentioned earlier, newer digital or DECT monitors, which work in the 1.9 GHz range, are a solution to many interference troubles. Since very few other electronics operate on this band, DECT monitors are virtually interference-free and work at even longer range than 2.4 GHz monitors. (Both of our recommended audio baby monitors are DECT).
So, to sum up, here is our advice: first, try to buy a baby monitor on a different frequency than your Wi-Fi network. Second, always keep the receipt. Baby monitors have one of the biggest complaint rates of all products we review.
We suspect all the electronic equipment in people’s homes today (cell phones, Wi-Fi routers, large-screen TVs the size of a Sony Jumbotron), not to mention all the interference sources near your home (cell phone towers, etc.) must account for some of the problems folks have with baby monitors. Common complaints include static, lack of range, buzzing and worse—and those problems can happen with a baby monitor in any price range.
Again, the best advice: always keep the receipt for any baby monitor you buy—you may have to take it back and exchange it for another brand if problems develop.
4. Out of range indicators are helpful.
If you plan to wander from the house and visit your garden, you may want to go for a monitor that warns you when you’ve strayed too far from its transmitter. Some models have a visual out of range indicator, while others beep at you. Of course, even if your monitor doesn’t offer this feature, you’ll probably realize when you’re out of range—the background noise you hear in your home will disappear from the receiver.
5. Intercoms are a nice feature to consider.
More and more baby monitors are adding intercom features, enabling two-way talk between the transmitter and receiver.
Why is that helpful? Let’s say you’re breastfeeding your baby in the nursery. You’re thirsty . . . or hungry or any of a hundred things. Wouldn’t it be nice to buzz your partner to bring you a glass of water. Or perhaps your baby is alone in the room and awake, but you don’t want to run in immediately to sooth her. You could talk to your baby on the intercom or sing a song, which might help her settle down.
6. Audio baby monitors are a significant savings over video monitors.
Audio baby monitors are such a deal compared to a video monitor. Our top pick for best video monitor is the Infant Optics DXR-8 is about more expensive than the VTech audio monitor above. And you don’t have to see a picture of a crying baby to realize you’ll need to check up on your child–you just need to hear it.
Video baby monitors are a gadget . . . fun, but not necessary for most folks. Think of of video monitors as a pacifier for parents, especially nervous first-timers (we know, we were there too!). In most cases, however, a simple audio monitor will do the trick. Experienced parents will tell you that you don’t need to see a picture of baby to know someone needs attention! You’ll soon recognize your baby’s cries just with the audio alone. Trust us.
7. Skip the frills.
You don’t need a temperature gauge on your audio baby monitor—besides they aren’t very accurate. A basic room thermometer/hygrometer (which monitors temp and humidity) are cheap and will be far more accurate than your baby monitor. Just as you want a nursery at a comfortable temp (not too warm or too cool), you also should monitor humidity. The ideal range is about 40%.
Same goes for a nightlight—it isn’t necessary to spend extra for a baby monitor with night light. Simple night lights with dawn to dusk sensors are very affordable.