Zoom Recorders | The good, the bad and the ugly.

March 30, 2013

Zoom recorders, you gotta love em! Here’s a current lineup and quick overview of Zoom’s most popular digital audio recorders. Thanks for checking us out! Feel free to email any questions you may have for at us anytime!

All of the mics below offer up to 24bit 96k audio recording in wav or mp3 formats.

1. Zoom H1 -

Pros : Tiny, super portable and the perfect solution for expensive wireless lav solutions. Plug a lav into the line in jack, clap in front of your main cam, walk off and enjoy super clean audio at a disgustingly low cost. Use this lav to keep costs ultra low and quality right up there with the best pro wireless solutions on the planet. It’s really that functional.

Set the Zoom H1′s input level to a volume that brings you around -12db with that lav for super clean, low battery consuming audio. The lav has it’s own built in pre-amp and the Zoom H1 will thank you for it!

Slap a Redhead Windscreen on it and use it as a powerful little interview microphone. Just BE SURE to hold it with a firm grip or your audio track will pick up your hand rustling like a wild man as you interview your talent. Even better, pick up this grip and thread it into the Zooms 1/4 20 standard threading at the base of the recorder. This GRIP rules!

Cons : Cheap feeling. Pfff, who cares.. It’s all I read on the interwebs. “It feels cheap, blah blah”.. I prefer to look at as feeling LIGHT which it is.. You have to check your pockets twice as it will not weigh you down. Ever : )

No XLR inputs so you will be limited to the types of external mics you can pair with. That being said, you CAN make any mic work with the Zoom H1′s line in, you just may have to get an auxiliary phantom power source. If this is the case, you might be better off with the mighty Zoom H4n!

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2. Zoom H2n 

Pro’s : I use this mic EVERY DAY and by far, the best thing about it is battery life. They last forever. I don’t know what kind of witchcraft and sorcery they’ve built into this little powerhouse but it’s fabulous. Even when the battery is on 1 bar it just keeps on going! A couple pairs of rechargable AA’s (Duracells rock) and you’ll be recording ultra clean sounds through up to 5 internal mics, all day.

5 internal microphones. If you want to record nature in all of it’s splendor, slap a Redhead Windscreen on this puppy for auditory bliss. Bonus points if you have the skills to mix in 5.1 surround!  I love pretty much everything about this microphone. Very intuitive and easy to use menus, big, clear easy to read LCD and fast startup time. Starts about 2x as fast as any of the other Zoom recorders listed in this review.

Con’s : Again, no professional XLR inputs! I guess Zoom didn’t want to encroach into Zoom H4n territory but damn, XLR’s would make this just about the best mic you can buy for the price. Still it’s no that big of a deal if you will be using the on board mics this recorder has to offer. That’s really it, I can’t think of anything this mic doesn’t deliver, it’s really a great piece of audio tech. Lowest price here : Zoom H2n

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3. The mighty Zoom H4n

Pro’s:

What can I say?, this is an excellent, low cost, do it all digital audio recorder. The Zoom H4n is powered by 2 AA batteries and has professional XLR inputs with phantom power which allows you to use virtually any external professional boom mic or studio condenser mic on the market, and can fit in your back pocket. My favorite recorder to use with my Nikon D800 or Canon 5D MKII DSLR. There are two ways this mic greatly benefits the indie filmmaker.

A. The run-and-gun documentary powerhouse. Slap a quality Manfrotto hotshoe on the camera and screw your Zoom H4n on for an uber compact audio/visual machine. To make life even easier here’s a super fun tip that most run and gunners don’t use.

PRO-TIP : Use the headphone jack as a nice LINE-OUT and run it into your camera’s 1/8th mini jack for one of two purposes. A. The camera will record a very clean and usable audio track DIRECTLY TO YOUR SD CARD! or act as a very clean track to later sync your Zoom H4n’s internal recording to. I have found that for most street interviews, documentary shooting or video journalism, this is my preferred choice as you don’t have to sync ANYTHING in post. If you have a clip that the audio gets a little hot or distorts you can still pull from your Zoom’s master track. Boom! Win, Win!  PS: don’t forget your Redhead ; )

When using the above tip, you will lose the power to monitor your audio so you might want to look into a good middle man to get the job done. This little puppy is your DSLR and Zooms best friend and can supply phantom power as well, should you need it. Best Pre-amp I’ve come across here.

The Zoom H4n is a great audio device when you are in need of XLR and has been one of my favorite choices over the last few year for ease of use, simple menu’s, excellent audio quality and robust form factor.

Con’s: 

This sucker likes it’s power, it will go through AA’s like there’s no tomorrow, so bring extra’s!

Outside of that I have nothing negative to say about this very popular digital audio recorder. Mine has gotten drenched by the ocean, fallen on the ground, and been abused by weather on several rainy occasions. It just keeps performing like a champ.

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I hope this mini review has helped you! Good luck with your quest into happy audio land!


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