After recording again and being puzzled again by the levels on my Zoom H4n, I googled a bit and found this awesome handheld recorder shootout:
"Noise floor of the on-board mics and mic-inputs - Zoom H4, Zoom H4n, Edirol R-4, Sony PCM-D50" by Martin Doppelbauer
I thought this might be of interest to you guys....
Anyway, I'm a bit pissed because I have this great ambience in the part of the basement where all the plumbing passes of the building I live in...Dripping and gurgling etc.. Wanting to get a stereo recording, I whipped out my Zoom, cranked up the levels to 100 and recorded 7 minutes....while monitoring on headphones at 45 (on the headphone output meters)
I'm looking at the waveform in Audiofinder and it looks terrible...i.e. flat:
alt text http://db.tt/81PgtYce
For those of you that new all about this...sorry to bore you. The comparison linked above should still be fairly interesting anyway. I mean, I've used the H4n for lot's of things and have been satisfied with the performance, noise-floor aside.
Anyway, I guess I'm buying one of these
and one of these then