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Zoom H4n


4.15 4.15 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

Thorough review of the four-track Zoom H4n portable recorder.

8th March 2012

ZOOM H4N by Mordae

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Zoom H4n

The H4n is a four-track portable recording solution
designed and engineered by the Zoom corporation in Japan.
It currently goes for around $299 or 269€, although the prices might vary a bit by location.
I myself bought this piece of marvel almost a year ago when it was almost a 100€ more expensive.

-----THE REVIEW-----

The package contains the device, a protective case, a windscreen, AC adapter and a USB cable.
The device comes with a 1GB memory card, but I recommend getting at least an 8GB one, if you don't
plan on recording just mp3s. Bundled is also a LE version of the Cubase recording software.
Although the device is designed in Japan, like many others, it is built in China.
This does not mean that it's flimsy, however. The Zoom H4n feels extremely sturdy,
and weighs quite a lot too, creating a good first impression of the device's build quality and durability.
Feels a lot like a Nokia, so to speak.

The body is made out of rubberized plastic, with the exception of the top part, which is made from
a sort of a metal alloy. The areas where the buttons are located are plastic as well, but without a rubber
surface. The device's X/Y Microphone casings are metallic, with the exception of the angled caps.
The SD card slot (up to 32GB) is located at the right side of the device, and the batteries are put in the back.

The body is a bit too square for getting a comfortable grip, but luckily the device comes with an
attachement handle that screws into the tripod mount located at the back. This allows for better
comfort at the cost of single handed operation, which is in itself quite a task, considering the
dimensions of the H4n. I would not recommend using the Zoom handheld anyways, since the
handling noise is quite large.

Zoom H4n-h4n_sd.jpg

Starting up the device, there is a wait of around 5-6 seconds, before the device is ready to
record. In my opinion this is quite a long time for a device that costs as much as it does. After the
startup, the usage is simple, although it might take a while to get used to. The menu for example is
controlled with your right hand, using a scroll wheel. The menu is quite simple, and thorough, but it
still took me a while to figure out how to switch from the 2-track mode to the 4-track recording mode.
And it seems to be pretty hard to use for my dad, who isn't as savvy with devices as me.

The recording part is easy. Just press the REC-button twice! First time it starts to blink,
the second time it starts to record. And believe me on this, I learned it the hard way. (The blinking can be
a bit confusing, and can make you think it's recording. Maybe I should read the manual next time )

You can record in a variety of formats from size-efficient mp3s to 24bit 96kHz Wavs.
This range possibilities is expanded with the ability to choose from two different XY patterns.
You can record in a normal 90° degree mode or flip the capsules and get a huge and wide 120° degree area.
Combine the built-in near-noiseless microphones with two of your own and get a perfect recording.
You can even feed them with +24V or +48V of phantom power. Unfortunately though,
it's either both channels, or none. And I can honestly tell you that the quality is amazing.

Obviously it doesn't compare with real studio equipment, but it isn't that far either!
You can even input 1?4 inch guitars, synths, basses or even a mixer directly into the H4n.
On the back, there is even a plug-in spot for a 3.5mm mic!
The battery life is pretty good as well, ranging from 5 to 6 hours, and in stamina mode, which limits
your recording capabilities to 16-bit 44.1kHz, it is extended to 11 hours.
Combine this with the around 50 or so built-in effects ranging from compressors to guitar-sims
and you get yourself a pretty darn capable device!

Here's a few recordings from the Zoom H4n. Nothing fancy, some high gain tests, and then drums.
Note that come compression was added in post, so that brought the noise up a bit.

This psychedelic song is recorded just using the two built-in microphones,
placed on the floor behind a guitar case.

Overall the H4n is a brilliant piece of engineering, and I recommend it full-heartedly to those
who are looking for a four track portable recording system. Obviously there are competitors and
I would recommend to check them out as well before making your decision.
The Zoom series also has a few other portable systems, like a 2-track, and even a surround recorder.
There is not much to not like about the H4n. You can use it on the field, in your studio, at an interview
or at the band rehearsal.

+ Full range of features and connections
+ Four-track simultaneous recording
+ Good sound quality
+ Easy to use package (once learned)

- A bit heavy and bulky
- Can be a bit confusing


Attached Thumbnails
Zoom H4n-img_4124.jpg  

17th January 2016

ZOOM H4N by Lau Bjerno

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Zoom H4n

I only have a few additions to Mordae's review:

The content of the package is not always the same.

My Zoom H4n came with a plastic case, an AC adapter and an 8GB class 4 SD card, and it is bundled with Cubase LE and Wavelab LE.
There was also a rather large and reasonably well written user manual, which one can study for a long time to find out about all the features.
There was however no USB cable, no windscreen and no handle.

For an additional sum of money an accessory package was available: It contained the "dead cat" windscreen, a USB cable (standard mini B), a long mini jack stereo cable (male-male), a mini jack splitter (1 stereo male - 2 female), and a hot-shoe adapter with a 1/4'' screw on top, that allows for mounting the device on top of a DSLR camera via the tripod screw hole on the back. This adapter is not so easy to use, though: Getting it firmly attached to both camera and the Zoom H4n with it's microphones pointed forward is a bit fiddly.

Also available is a cabled remote control.

Personally I do not find the device to big or heavy to hold in one hand. That will of course depend on the hand; my hands are fairly big and strong, but by no means unusually so.

I like the fact that the two sockets for external microphones can take jack plugs as well as XLR plugs. There is also a mini jack input socket on the back for either an external stereo microphone or - using the splitter - two external mono microphones. The internal stereo microphone will not work if that option is used, however.

26th January 2016

ZOOM H4N by megablahblah

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Zoom H4n

I primarily used this to easily record band rehearsals and live shows. It is very easy to use, has tons of features to fit almost any mobile recording need, and produces very high-quality sound files.

The only negative was that the sound was a little thin compared to other recording options I had tried in the past. I often wanted to hear more beef in my recordings of live shows.

But the pros far outweigh the cons. This is a great buy.

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