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I'm seriously considering buying a zoom h4n recorder.

Primarily for set recording for film. I am aware there is an unwanted buzz when connecting a mic through an XLR, however there isn't such a problem if you connect a jack coming from the same microphone.

Can I mute the onboard XY mics and record exclusively through the XLR/Jack inputs with "the simultaneous recording function" how do I go about it?

How does the "stamina mode"effect the recordings? As I understand it, you can record twice as long in stamina mode when recording 44.1kHz/16 bit, what about 48 kHz can the zoom h4n be set to 48 kHz? I don't think the battery life will last as long as if it was recording at 44.1.

If I do get the recorder I will get an me66 mic from sennheiser with a k6 power module (obviously with a boom pole but I've only found one place that actually sells them here is Johannesburg South Africa and that is the sennheiser offices in aukland park) do you think this is a good decision?

Personally I find it to be because it is practical/economical and realistic.

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okay I tested it out and this "buzz" complaint is a smear campaign against this awesome little machine, the only buzz that is there is if you plug an XLR into only one input, you can eliminate it by simply panning the recording! –  JM V Apr 26 '12 at 13:35
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18 Answers 18

I've recorded a bunch of stuff via xlr to my H4N and haven't noticed any terrible noise floor. I'm not saying it's ultra quiet; i just think that people on forums blow it out of proportions. If you're using it on location, i'd bet that your environmental noise floor would be higher than any preamp noise.

You can choose to record with the built in mics, the XLR/jack inputs, or all 4. It's pretty easy to use. Good idea on the K6 power module, as the +48v on the H4N drains the battery super fast.

As for the stamina mode, i'm guessing that the 44.1k/16 bit setting is what allows it to conserve power. You can set it up to 96k/24 bit.

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+1 on the battery life when using phantom from the recorder. you need powered mics with this! like the K6 :) –  RedSonic01 Oct 19 '10 at 8:05
    
And, for non-powered amps you can always get a phantom power battery pack, to use non-powered mics and take the drain off the h4n. –  Dave Matney Oct 19 '10 at 13:21
    
@Dave Will a DI work instead of a battery pack? –  Adrian Millington Oct 25 '10 at 18:02
    
A powered DI, probably, but I can't say for sure as I've never done it. –  Dave Matney May 11 '11 at 17:59
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For its price it's pretty good.

The biggest con, and also because of 'selective' advertising by Zoom/Samson, are the quarter inch inputs. While the specs label them as line inputs, they are nothing more than Hi-Z unbalanced inputs. So the only way to use them with a mixer or external pres is to use unbalanced outputs with a 15-20 dB pad.

Here is a nice comparision (preamps, noise floor, distortion) of the H4n with the Edirol R-4, H4 and Sony D-50:

http://www.martin-doppelbauer.de/fieldrecorder/index.html

You might also want to check Rene Coronado's handheld recorder shoot out:

http://thesoundmyheadmakes.blogspot.com/2010/11/handheld-recorder-shootout-part-1-specs.html

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DONT USE STAMINA MODE for Video unless synch is not important. 44.1 will eventually fall out of synch on longer takes you want to be in 48/16 or 48/24 if you are going to synch for 24fps.

found this out the hard way ;)

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Are you bringing the audio into Final Cut Pro? If so, it may actually be your timeline or project settings. If they're at 48k, and you try to bring in 44k, then you'll be out of sync, as FCP doesn't automatically do the sample rate conversions. –  Roger Middenway May 11 '11 at 18:31
    
ja man I only record 48 K also 24 bit drains battery life but I always carry spares :D –  JM V May 28 '11 at 17:34
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It's a great machine for the money. I've used it on a wide range of projects from small commercials to documentary and films. With a good mic and a bit of knowledge it's perfectly capable.

PRO's-

  • For a portable device to be able to record 4 independent tracks is amazing. That's the 2 Xlr mic inputs plus either the built in mics/ the 3.5mm ext mic input.(I prefer the 3.5mm input via a mixer) allowing me to record 2 radio mics, one boom mic and 1 extra positioned mic.

  • Small and inconspicuous for those covert recordings.

  • Quite a lot of functions. Compressors, limiters, bass cut-off, fx etc

  • With the remote control can be triggered to record from distance. I've had the remote stuck to my boom for almost hands free recording.

CON's - I don't use the in-built mics that much as a bit noisy. Maybe they would have been alright but when you start using proper mics there's no going back.

  • Batteries get eaten up in no time when using Phantom power on external mics. Can be a pain in pressured recording situations.

  • Adjusting input levels of individual mics on the fly is a bit slow compared to a mixers dials but if levels set well first can be got around.

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@Nikky and Mr Auld, I'm glad it works great it seems though some version has a hiss on the line/XLR inputs during recording. Have you experienced these problems? Could the hiss be a DC offset/can it be fixed in post (pro tools)? I'm glad I have one :D –  JM V Mar 30 '12 at 13:10
    
The hiss is simply pre-amp noise--nothing to do with DC offset. You either need to get a hot enough signal in to get well above the pre-amp noise (without overloading the input) or fix the hiss in post with a good noise reduction program. –  Robert Auld Jun 29 '12 at 5:46
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I have used my Zoom H4 quiet often in the past and must say it has served me well for corporate shoots, commercial shoots and doccie shoots and it still resides in my sound kit as a backup recorder. I recently purchased the Sound devices 552 and hence the demotion of my H4! :)

My main issues with the H4 are that it can only accept Mic level signals via the XLR inputs and the fact that the levels cannot be accurately set and the buttons to set the levels are prone to accidental adjustment.

The noise floor is as mentioned in the mail above, negligible. The stamina mode forces the unit to record at 44.1/16bit and saves battery power, but I would say that is only an option when recording consumer level stuff as professional broadcast quality sound requires 48Khz/16bit or 24bit (better) resolution.

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the coolest thing about it that you can record on 4 inputs and the recordings are all in separate folders! depending on how yu position/disguise the H4 in a shot or out of frame it just gives you MANY options in post which I think is key :D –  JM V May 28 '11 at 17:37
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H4n is fantastic! I use it with my Sound Devices 302 mixer. Works awesome since I can set the output volume of my 302 to be lower than line, cause H4n can't take line signal through the inputs.

I can recommend you to buy a remote though, it's 29 dollars or so I think.. It's great cause then you can hide the H4n in a backpack or as I do, under the mixer in the little pouch in the bag. So that it's never touched by rain and stuff. The remote has controls for pretty much everything. The only bad thing is that you have to use your ears for monitoring :P, so be sure to set the right level before you stow the device away... The remote is of course also good if you put the h4n on a boom pole, if you were planning on that...

Anywho it's a great purchase!

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cool but i decided against the remote because it it works on a cable which kinda defeats the purpose of a remote :( are you talking about the plastic box when you mention the pouch? Anyway I think it is the most amazing machine and I'll never regret buying it –  JM V May 28 '11 at 17:32
    
No I have a mixer bag that has a space underneath where you put the mixer, and that's where I put the H4n. I should put a photo here to show you! –  Olle Sjöström May 28 '11 at 19:23
    
@Olle I was wondering if there was a way to use a separate mixer then record onto the H4n, to what level would you turn down the output volume of your 302? How do you know what's "lower than line"? What would happen if you just fed the H4n input with line level audio? Also, does that mean the signal path goes through 2xpre amps (sound devices and H4n)? If so, have you found this adds unnecessary noise to the recordings? –  El Capiton Fonze Jan 26 '12 at 14:30
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I have the H4n. Very good for the money, but some limitations: the line inputs (1/4" jacks in the combo jacks) will not accept full pro level (+4 dBm) without overloading on peaks. They will accept consumer level signal (-10 dBv) OK. I use my H4n with a Shure FP-33 mixer. The Shure will send mic-level outs, but the cables pick up noise when used that way. I settled for sending line-level out the Shure and padding the signal down at the H4n mic inputs--that works OK.

The mic inputs of the H4n are noisy when used with typical dynamic mics, or condensers with similarly low output. Hotter condensers will probably overide the noise. The built-in mics sound good, but again, the noise floor is not as low as I would like--pre-amp hiss is evident. If you get a good signal into the H4n, it sounds very good.

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Hi there. It's true about not being taken seriously on a professionally-crewed (to some degree at least) multi-mic shoot with a Zoom, however it seems to me that people on this thread and site are not considering its use in that context anyway.

On the other hand, I've worked on shorts and corporate things where a Zoom was used, and (although I am stating the obvious here) the only issues for me were in the work of the sound recordist / boom operator, as opposed to the Zoom's inherent qualities. In context, let's be honest, it's far worse to have bad coverage and badly miked dialog than anything audible in the Zoom's circuitry. In the end it is the quality of the recording decisions that ends up counting to the post audio person. However, SC Audio is right again - the Zoom is a first step for an aspiring production recorder, and as soon as budget permits would mostly be relegated to a secondary / off-set recording role (plus there are some noise issues when combining some mics together with the Zoom, but these can mostly be worked around).

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I will be using the H4n for the first time on a set this weekend, it's just a pilot though. I havent actually tried to jack in an XLR to connect and me66 or boom/rifle mic, but I have heard there is a hum on the XLR input on te H4n. However it doesnt look the budget could cater for a boom or mic so I'm happy to use the on board mics on the zoom, I used it to record some buskers soundcloud.com/meme-studios/buskin-out-david-jansen If there is an external mic for me on saturday and I do plug it in, does pro tools have a DC offset feature to remove that hum/is that what it does? –  JM V Apr 26 '12 at 6:43
    
DC offset is not audible as hum. Further, if you are picking up hum from a mic plugged into an H4n (or other decent recorder), you are probably using a dynamic mic that is picking up electromagnetic interference (some lighting circuits/lamps can put out hum fields). –  Robert Auld Jun 29 '12 at 5:52
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I don't think anybody here is using a H4N for high stakes audio. It does a perfectly good job for low-budget short films and student projects. Of course, if there's serious money on the line, then use professional equipment. It's obvious. Don't believe the above poster and think you have to shell out mega-bucks for top of the line equipment if you're doing something that's creative and experimental...it will carry the day. Besides, half the people on a film set don't have the first idea as to what proper sound equipment is anyway. If you're using one of these, you'll have at most two sound people. So your boom-op is going to laugh at you? Like anyone gives a shit when someone's mother is dishing out at the kraft table. Best sound and functionality for the money, which isn't a lot.

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I'm very happy with the Zoom H4n. That and a Sennheiser ME66 K6 is a solid investment. I've been using both for boom swinging, field recording and such for a couple of years now. Stamina mode is nice if you need to record 11 hours straight, but you don't need it. Stick to recording at 48kHz if you're recording to sync with film or video. The battery life of the Zoom is plenty - and you can get more if you put another battery in the K6 instead of using phantom. Here are some of the main pros and cons of the unit you should find relevant to your interests:

PROS

  • It costs half the price of the cheapest audio field recorder, but has nearly all the essential functionality
  • Two inputs on the bottom are combo XLR/quarter inch inputs
  • Built in stereo mic - or plug in your own mic into the 3.5mm input on the backet
  • Record up to 96kHz 24bit into two channel mode, or up to 48kHz in four channel mode (channels 3 and 4 are the stere mics)
  • Small and light. Gives you much more mobility than most large field recorders
  • Great battery life and runs on two AA batteries. You lose a couple of hours when your running powered mics, but the life is long enough. Invest in 4 or so rechargable batteries and you'll be good

CONS

  • Volume controls are buttons; can be tricky to quickly adjust volume for say a scene where a character whispers and then fires a gun
  • Only output is the 3.5mm jack, so you can't really run a cable out into the XLR input on the camera. You have to record and sync later
  • Can't rename folders and renaming files takes time. I really like the scene/shot/take file name generators some proper field recorders have. As is I take time to rename files on the computer before passing to the editor
  • Slow bootup time. Never timed it but maybe 20 - 30 seconds. Enough to miss that helicopter that you spotted coming towards you
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I haven't done it personally, but I know many who have used the H4N for production sound. One thing is that it doesn't do timecode that I'm aware of. Depending on the film editor, this won't be an issue - especially if they have something like PluralEyes. However, I could see the file naming and lack of TC making extended ENG work -very- tedious both in the field and during post.

All that aside, though, it's cheap and can get the job done in a pinch. Also great for capturing sound effects.

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I've used a zoom h4 (not the newer H4n) lots in the past. The thing I like is that it can live in the bottom of bag and I can just get it out when I hear an interesting sound that I want to record. Better quality devices may be available,but for the money and convenience it is an excellent.

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I would say this hiss on my H4N recordings can be outrageous when recording quiet scenes, so much that I think it could just be my version. Wouldn't recommend it for dialogue recording at all, but love it for recording sounds on the fly.

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I'm going to be slated by people on here for what i'm about to say! But here goes!

Anyone even considering using the H4N as a production sound recorder should not do production sound. It's impractical, does not sound good, badly built and generally just not a nice piece of kit to use. It's a backup/emergency recorder not a primary recorder at all.

If you are seriously considering doing production sound, take my advice and DO NOT go down this route, you will not be taken seriously if you turn up on set with a Zoom and an ME66.

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Does anybody know if it is possible to use as an audio interface? I am using Pro tools 9 and i have to travell alot, so it would be great to have a recorder and audio interface all in one.

Thanks

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It can be used as an audio interface, but PT9 needs an official PT device for the software to work. –  Si Charles Jun 21 '12 at 12:48
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Heres a nice video about using an external mixer and zoom h4n http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRNd9DT0_is

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There's one big disadvantage to the H4n... something will stop working after a while, like probably with all low-priced recorders. My headphone output isn't working any more, for example, making it a pretty useless device now. I have been using the H4n since it became available, and although the recording-4-tracks at a time-functionality is a great feature I wished I had bought the Sony PCM-D50, which is much more stabile, so it will last a great deal longer! That means in the end it is cheaper, even though it has a higher initial price tag! I guess what I'm saying is: if you're in for this for real (sound recording), buy the good stuff! (i bought a sound devices recorder and I can still get excited about it how rugged and real that machine feels!)

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I have found the zoom hn4 \tascam in battery operation lasts around 20 minutes ,and is completely useless and expensive! , you have to plug into mains but that can cause earth hums if all the gear is in a loop ie : mic into zoom , zoom into 5d . I get great results with a decent mic plugged into a pre mixer like sound devices then straight into 5d , ( i realise the sound devices is around £500 , but it's brilliant! ) note : put the mixer slate on and pull back the manual level in the 5d three notches back from o db then peak your voice recordings at around 0 db on the mixer ,always re slate and check in the 5d manual recording page before every take , the little lead going into the 5 d can dis lodge so very very easily , also take an output of the mixer into the zoom/tascam for backup sound. I think the 5d mk11 and external devices are no good for run and gun shoots but great for setup interviews where you have plenty of time to check things back etc..the 5d image quality is still the best out there I reckon before you start going Arri and Scarlet etc...

www.walkthroughfilms.com

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