Searching for the best sound baby monitor? We've got you covered. Since 2012, we have purchased and tested more than 90 baby monitors. In this review, we put the top 4 audio monitors available today against each other to find the best. Our detailed testing focuses on key performance metrics like sound clarity, ease of use, range, and more. Our results and hands-on experience in the real world influence scores and rank, and our insider details provide the information you need to find the best choice based on your needs.
The VTech DM221 is a full-service audio-only monitor with useful features and the best sound clarity in our tests. The DM221 includes sound activation and adjustable microphone sensitivity that create a silent parent room for a better night's sleep with a parent device that primarily relays sound when your baby cries. The parent device has talk-to-baby functionality that sounds like a natural voice bypassing the robotic-sounding voice found in some competing products we tested. The DM221 is budget-friendly, and it earned the highest overall score during testing.
This monitor has a shorter range than some contenders, which means it might be unusable in some larger homes or those with more than 3-4 walls between the nursery and parent device. Overall, we believe this product can get the job done with superior sound and the additional features required to ensure a peaceful night's sleep — the reason most parents consider purchasing a monitor in the first place.
The VTech DM111 is one of the least expensive options in this review. However, it offers an above-average range with good sound clarity and an easy-to-use interface. The range is better than some competition, making it a good choice for larger homes or multiple walls (over 3) between devices.
This option doesn't have all the bells and whistles, like two-way communication or sound activation, but it gets the job done and provides life-like sound from the baby's room, which is all you need at the end of the day. 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. We think this option is an excellent no-nonsense choice or a useful travel product thanks to its ease of use and good range. Parents looking for a quick, straightforward solution will be more than satisfied with this choice.
The Phillips Avent Dect SCD 730/86 is a high-end sound monitor with loads of features that are both useful and fun. In our tests, the sound filtering and sound activation created a silent monitor when the baby was quiet. The sound quality when the baby cried was better than average, and if you need a night light, projector, or temperature sensor, this is your monitor. It has some of the best range in the group and a battery life of the parent unit over 40 hours. The baby unit has a backup battery, a rarity in this group, and while the batteries aren't rechargeable, we will take what we can get.
This monitor is expensive by any standards, and you can get a top-ranked video baby monitor for less. However, you get what you pay for here, and we feel the performance and features justify the price. The nightlight and projector are also dim, but depending on your baby and goals, that might not be a downside. Overall, we love this monitor and think its ease of use, coupled with ample features and better sound, make it a monitor to consider for anyone who only wants sound monitoring and doesn't mind the higher price.
The Hatch Rest+ is an app-enabled monitor with several features for babies and parents. It has impressive sound filtering, a sound machine, a nightlight, lullabies, and more. The nightlight can be remote-controlled, and you can connect up to 5 parent devices to one monitor. When little ones get older, you can use it as a tool for teaching when it is time to get up. This unit has 2-way communication and is compatible with Alexa.
This unit requires WiFi and an app to operate. You'll need a little more tech-savvy knowledge than a typical plug-in monitor, but it isn't challenging if you are comfortable with your smartphone and other apps. Also, the sound quality isn't the best. It is better than many video monitors but isn't on par with the inexpensive sound monitors we've tested. Overall, this monitor is a modern-looking, cool addition to any nursery that can fill the need for many devices in one. We like that it can grow with your child and is a good choice for technology-driven families.
Because a monitor is a direct line to your baby, you need it to work as intended, reliably, with a good range. The features need to be easy to use and improve the overall functionality of the monitor. Each unit should have an adequate range, provide the functionality to potentially increase sleep, and offer clear sound. If a device doesn't work as intended, it could fail to help parents obtain restful sleep or respond to little ones as they intend.
We hands-on test and rate each product's performance and compare it to similar products in our in-house, side-by-side tests. We calculate scores with weighted values for the metrics we believe are instrumental in making a monitor exceptional and user-friendly. Sound clarity and ease of use are the most critical metrics, with range coming in next. Without a significant and reliable range, a monitor can fail to work. Without quality sound transmission and sound-related features, it might not alert parents when it should.
Our testing of baby sound monitors is divided into five rating metrics:
Sound Clarity tests (30% of overall score weighting)
Ease of Use tests (25% weighting)
Range tests (20% weighting)
Battery Life tests (15% weighting)
Features tests (10% weighting)
We've purchased and tested more than 35 sound monitors and over 100 baby monitors across categories since 2012. Our tests put each monitor through a multi-point analysis to rate sound and everyday functionality. We've literally listened to monitor sounds for hundreds of hours.
Sound Monitors go through more than 51 individual tests to rank their performance compared to the competition. The most important metric is the Sound Clarity score, which corresponds to 30% of the overall score. Our Sound Clarity score is developed by 6 individual tests including maximum volume, sound clarity, noise reduction, and sound filtering.
Leading our baby sound monitor review is BabyGearLab founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier is a board-certified pediatrician, a mother of two, and a long-time tester of every type of baby monitor on the market. Working alongside Dr. Spurrier is Senior Review Analyst Bob Wofford and father of 7. Together, they developed the testing process for this comprehensive review and our other monitor reviews. Bob has conducted the tests for our sound monitor review since 2013, making him an industry expert with over 100 best baby monitor product testing under his belt! Rounding out our team of expert testers is Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, and mother of 2. She brings eight years of experience and knowledge of baby monitor testing to analyze tester feedback and test results to create valuable and informative reviews. The primary team members in this review have over 20 years of collective experience in testing monitors.
Analysis and Test Results
When testing sound monitors, we consider crucial metrics that demonstrate monitor performance and the features that give it an edge over the competition or provide additional benefits to parents or babies.
Sound monitors are typically the most budget-friendly option for keeping tabs on your little one (though there are some inexpensive video options). This monitor style offers an option for any budget. We feel choosing a slightly higher-priced unit is a smart option as the overall performance of mid-price monitors is better than the absolute cheapest. Because you'll typically use your monitor daily, there is significant value in spending a little more money to get a superior product. We believe the VTech DM221 is a good value in this lineup, as it is the highest-performing device in our tests and still has a very reasonable price tag. If "grandparent-friendly" is your highest criterion, you should consider the Vtech DM111. This straightforward monitor is one of the easiest to use, with the fewest buttons and features to cause confusion. It also includes two parent devices making it an excellent value for new parents who only need sound monitoring.
The sound quality separates the teacup pups from the big dogs. Any sound you hear from the parent unit should be clear, static-free, and realistic. Ideally, it should lack distortion, and we prefer features that limit the types of sounds relayed from the nursery to the parent device or the volume of those unimportant non-baby sounds. We believe the transmission of sound and sound-related features are the critical criteria for sound monitoring. You don't want to lose precious time wondering if the sounds you hear are your baby or insignificant background noise. If features like sound activation or microphone sensitivity (that limits background noise) don't work as they should (or are not included), then you might lose sleep using a loud monitor.
Several of the options in our tests scored above average for sound clarity, but it is somewhat shocking how poor the sound quality is for others, given the primary goal is to relay life-like sounds. Some products offer hollow and bright transmissions without the mid-tone and bass ranges. While disappointing, we think this is acceptable. However, static and distortion shouldn't be tolerated, and we heard it from more than one competitor. The best products bring a full tonal range and can change the sound level of what is transmitted (microphone sensitivity adjustment).
The VTech DM221 delivered the best sound results. This product has no distortion or static, even at max volume. The sound includes more vibrant tones, and while you wouldn't want to listen to your favorite music from them, it delivers a realistic representation of a baby's cries. All of the top products include sound activation that works as it should and is silent when your baby is quiet. The second best sound is offered by the Phillips Avent Dect SCD730/86. This monitor is a higher-end option with more features. The VTech DM111 earns a respectable score as well.
The worst sound quality in our tests is the Hatch Rest+. This unit isn't terrible, but it isn't as clear as the competition and lacks some of the control we prefer.
Ease of Use
Ease of use testing captures if monitors are intuitive or complicated, the simplicity of the setup, and whether the features are helpful or complex. A product with an on/off button and volume control might be easy to use, but it might not be the pack leader if it doesn't provide anything to improve the user experience.
Most of the monitors were relatively easy to use, with the Vtech DM111 and the Hatch Rest+ sharing high scores. The DM111 is a straightforward monitor you plug in and go with few features to speak of. The Hatch+ requires an app and is more complex, but the app is user-friendly; we think it is a straightforward option if you are comfortable with smart devices and apps.
Most of these monitors lack complex features and can be plugged in and used immediately. We think that given enough experience, parents can likely figure out how to use any of them. However, we think you should also consider caregivers who will need to use your monitor with a limited tutorial. The VTech DM111 is super easy to use and has no add-on features, making it a straightforward operation even grandparents can master.
You might think all you need is a product that sends sound from the nursery unit to a parent device. However, if the baby monitor can't connect to the parent device because it is too far away or there are too many walls between the units, it won't matter what information or sound it tries to send. While ranges, according to our test results, are usually better for audio products than other monitor types, it is still important that you consider the range and your home before buying a monitor. Most manufacturers include their open field range on the box, but they don't all report this number accurately compared to our test results. Few 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 might expect or, more importantly, how each unit compares to the competition side-by-side. Choosing the option with the best test results compared to your potential home setup is a good start to ensure the monitor you buy will work in your home.
Larger homes might be better suited to audio monitors (unless you use WiFi), given that their average range (in our tests) is close to 90 ft and through 6 walls. The longest range for the dedicated sound products in this review is the Phillips Avent Dect SCD730/86, with a range of 170+ ft through 7 walls. The shortest span is the Vtech DM221, working up to 90 ft and five walls. Most of the award winners in this review average six walls and 95 ft for an indoor range. The Hatch Rest+ is Bluetooth enabled with communication between the unit and your smartphone. Ours worked for 169 ft and 8 walls of separation. Your at-home results will vary depending on your style of home and competing products.
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. Several monitors offer a sound activation feature, something we think is an essential feature that will help you get more coveted sleep. This feature keeps a parent device quiet when the baby is not making noise, so it doesn't transmit white noise, room sounds, or chronic static, which could keep light sleepers needlessly awake.
Another feature we like is two-way communication between devices. However, the lack of two-way is not a deal-breaker, and many parents find they don't use it. Some of the other features we consider are nightlights, lullabies, alerts, battery backup in the baby unit, rechargeable parent unit, and temperature sensors.
The Phillips Avent Dect SCD 730/86 earns the top score in this metric. It has almost every feature parents want, including sound activation and two-way talk. These are the features that keep parents and babies happy. It also includes things like a ceiling projector, lullabies, and night light. The Vtech DM221 is hot on its heels with useful sound activation that keeps it quiet when your little one is quiet. However, the Hatch Rest+ is a strong contender for the ultimate in control and added features. It has a sound machine, nightlight, time-to-rise clock, sound level indicator, remote access to features, and sleep mode. Unfortunately, it is missing sound activation and adjustable mic sensitivity, which we think are useful for keeping a monitor quiet when the baby is quiet, and, therefore, are a must-have.
The product with the lowest Features score is the VTech DM111. Outside of the fundamental alerts for out-of-range and low battery, this monitor lacks features we feel make life easier or more enjoyable. It doesn't offer anything for sound control (beyond volume), and it lacks features for soothing. However, 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 every feature is necessary, we believe that sound activation is critical and should be something parents look for. 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 coming from the monitor. The other potential features are merely items of convenience. If you are a deep sleeper or enjoy white noise, the sound activation feature may be less critical, and a basic monitor like the VTech DM111 could save you money.
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 as the number of products we use that emit EMF increases. 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.
There is no doubt that short-term exposure to very high levels of electromagnetic fields can harm health. Current public concern focuses on possible long-term health effects caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields at levels below those required to trigger acute biological responses.
— WHO, Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)
The jury is still out on the risks of long-term exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields, such as those from WiFi devices, mobile phones, portable phones, and, yes, 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 exceed 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 Hatch Rest+ has the lowest average level of EMF at 6 feet from the baby unit, with a reading of 0.43 V/m. The monitor with the highest EMF reading is the VTech DM221, with a disappointing value of 3.11 V/m! Given that many competitors in all monitor types are below 2, this feels extra high. 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 sound monitors (unlike video or movement) will still work well from the other side of the room. Remember 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 good.
Our EMF level measurements were not factored into our overall rating scores. The best current scientific data suggests that low-level EMF from sources like sound monitors does not represent a known health risk to humans.
Battery life is mainly about the parent unit you carry to monitor your baby. The listening unit in the nursery typically plugs into the wall outlet. Parents usually rely on their parent unit most heavily overnight while plugged into a wall outlet near the nightstand. Batteries come into play during the daytime napping, so you can move around while keeping tabs on the baby.
We tested the battery life in 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 parent devices are rechargeable. This lack of rechargeability means that you will frequently be changing batteries if you use them regularly without their AC adapters.
The battery life range for the monitors in this review varied wildly from 13 hours for the Hatch Rest+ and VTech DM111 to 46 hours for the VTech DM221. These ranges mean that most devices can make it through the night without being plugged in. Given that all had a battery life of over 13 hours, with several over 20, there is ample time for napping, which is when you are most likely to use the parent unit unplugged.
The VTech DM221 once again stole the show for battery life, lasting up to 46 hours. It comes with rechargeable batteries, which is better than a more extended battery life, and we prefer rechargeable batteries over disposable AA or AAA options. A couple of options have battery backups in the nursery unit in case the electricity goes out. These batteries are not intended for long-term use, but they can be an added benefit. The Phillips Avent Dect SCD 730/86 has a battery backup with disposable batteries in the nursery unit. While we'd prefer rechargeable batteries, we appreciate the effort of offering more.
Finding the right audio monitor for your new baby often isn't as straightforward as you might think. If you aren't sure about the features you want or even what some features do, the process of selection can be challenging or guesswork at best. It can even be difficult to determine why one is better than another, given the variations in functionality, features, and price. We think most families will be able to find the perfect monitor for their goals and budget if they focus on the test metrics and essential features. Our winners are impressive selections that offer something in most budgets and for most goals.