Green webcam with sensors mounted on a clear plastic stand

Bugging and listening devices serve an array of functions, and there's no definitive best choice; it's all about what suits your needs.

Common applications for bugging and listening devices

  • Record keeping and safeguarding; some conversations are best had with the safety of an audio record. This can often help both parties feel more secure.
  • Monitoring; if you suspect a person may be in danger, at risk of being approached by criminals or currently engaged in illegal activity, a discreet and low-profile recording device can provide sufficient evidence to confirm your worries.
  • Surveillance and counter-surveillance; for sustained, remote monitoring of individuals or entire areas, remote recording devices enable you to capture the required audio without the need to enter a dangerous space or indeed reveal your intentions.

Voice recorders

These can range from very basic dictaphone devices used for record-keeping and safeguarding to disguised and discreet voice recorders used for evidence-gathering. As with most things, it's senseless to pay for more than you need, and it's risky 'cheaping' out; always get the best you can afford that meets your needs. If you need to record a person or a conversation without the subject or subjects knowing, a disguised listening device may be your best choice. If you want to record a conversation, a digital voice recorder will do the trick. In order to avoid the need for you to be physically present when recording, most audio recorders are voice or remote-activated.

Call recording

Call recording devices serve a different need than audio listening devices. Namely, they capture a conversation that happens on a targeted phone line rather than in an ambient space. Therefore the audio capture needs and means of transmission (how you get the recording) are different. If you suspect criminal activity is being arranged or discussed via a phone line, call recording devices can assist in gathering vital evidence.

GSM audio listening bugs

These are somewhat more advanced than audio recording devices. While an audio recording device may be disguised as a calculator or teddy bear, GSM audio listening bugs are disguised as room fixtures, such as plug sockets or power adapters. These sorts of things are less likely to be inadvertently removed from a room. If you have a target area, such as an office or a room in a house, this method of audio capture is likely to serve your needs the best. If you don't have a target area and instead are focused around a specific person or people, a digital voice recorder that you transport with you may be more adept.

Devices that let you listen through walls

When it's too dangerous or too indiscreet to even attempt to gain access to a site or location, devices that listen through walls can be the perfect solution. Using highly sensitive directional microphones, infrared or, in some cases, even lasers, these devices enable you to keep a safe distance and a low profile while gathering evidential voice recording evidence. Some laser-guided audio recorders enable you to gather robust audio evidence from as far away as 500 meters while maintaining pinpoint accuracy.