ZOOM H4N by Mordae
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 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.
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