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There are so many reviews spread around the web about the Zoom H4N, some of them praise this recorder, other say some things about bad preamps, hissy mics etc...

Who has had experiences with this device? Would you recommend it? How are the internal mics? I am thinking about going out into the woods to record ambient sounds. I also like the multi-track feature and would like to use external mics, too.

  • thank you so much for this question! I'm also interested in getting an h4n. – JM V Oct 7 '10 at 12:44
  • I love my H4n, using it as my main recorder atm, the only I don't like is the fact that I can't use it as a audio interface cause it acts weird on AMD computers like mine :/ – Stephen Saldanha Jul 6 '11 at 15:07

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I have that recorder as my keep in the bag at all times recorder - just in case. I gotta say I really do like it.

The reason I bought was for the multi-track recording and the M/S decoder. I thought I would use it as a travel recorder with my Sennheiser MKH418s (M/S), but turns out that I only ever use the on-board mics. Reason being is that if I'm gonna be bringing my other mic with the softie or windshield and all, then I might as well bring my Sound Devices. I used to only have a Fostex FR2 recorder, wich was very big to travel with, so this made sense.

I haven't even yet tested the XLR inputs, but from I hear they are pretty noisy. The on-board mics aren't very noisy at all. I think that sound pretty damn good actually. I also like that you can choose 90 or 120 deg for your stereo image.

If I had to do it again though, I would buy The Sony PCM D50. Because from what I hear it is even better sounding, and considering I never plug in other mics, then that recorder would be more suitable.

If you wanna hear some recordings from the H4n, there are a few from my holiday that I posted on {sound + design}. Otherwise you can listen to some older ones recorded on it.

Hope this helps a little.

  • @Andrew, have you ever used the Zoom H2 and compared against the H4n? Curious to know your thoughts. Thanks - btw, I find my H2 to be invaluable as a go-anywhere, always-in-my-bag, almost-disposable recorder. – Jay Jennings Sep 14 '10 at 13:50
  • @Jay my girlfriend bought a Zoom h2. I used it a few times, seemed to sound pretty good. Haven't done an AB test though. I do love the size of the H2, and that the mics don't stick out that you can break them. – Andrew Spitz Sep 14 '10 at 14:32
  • @Andrew - question on the multitrack - can you record 4 tracks, 2 being the internal mics, and 2 being the XLR inputs? – VCProd Sep 14 '10 at 16:00
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    @VCProd yup, that's exactly what it does. 4 discrete channels (if you wish). 2 being the on-board mics and two being the XLRs or mini jacks. It's super flexible like that. – Andrew Spitz Sep 14 '10 at 16:34
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    @Jay The H2 preamps seem to be a bit noisier than the H4n's or H4's. I haven't properly A/Bed the H2 and H4n, but both the H2 and H4 were used as extras in a dry ice + metal recording session some friends and I did a few years ago. The H2 also has its rolloff-below-70-hz issue. @VCProd Just a caveat that recording all 4 channels limits you to 24/48 (same as on the H2). It's still convenient to have the 4-channel option, though, especially if the Zoom is all you have with you at the moment. Great quickie recorders! – Tyler Sep 14 '10 at 17:33
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I love my Zoom H4n, but be VERY AWARE that the 1/4inch "line level" inputs that they advertise are actually -10db High impedance guitar level inputs, not +4db low impedance professional line inputs. I got caught on that one when I tried to hook up my Sound Devices MM1 external preamp to clean up the mic inputs and there was a severe level/impedance mismatch. Was quite pissed when I discovered that because they are not too forthcoming with that fact in their advertising :(

  • According to the manual, the 1/2inch is +2 dBm, hign-Z. The XLR is -10 dBm. I beleive impedance matching isn't applicable, but I've not learned whether a higher value has any drawbacks. – JDługosz Feb 26 '15 at 20:00
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I love mine...Always in my briefcase, and often in my booth.

I don't find the XLR's on my version to be noisy (not that I'm recording REALLY quiet sounds with it) - assuming you have your phantom power set correctly. The H4n has both 24 and True 48 volts phantom power, and I have found a lot of mics don't like the 24v very much, which is what the unit defaults to. Of course 48v eats batteries a LOT faster.

  • Isnt there a battery pack you can get with the h4n? I was asking andrew spitz if the noise could be be coming from the actual xlr cable? apparently the h4n only takes AA baterries is this true? I'm very interested in getting one – JM V Oct 7 '10 at 12:43
  • Double A's is it... I've got a couple of sets of very good NiMH rechargeables that I use when on shoots, or full on records. The rest of the time I just keep a pack of AA's in my breifcase. – Sonsey Oct 8 '10 at 19:10
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I'm not a huge fan of the built in mics on any of the smaller recorders but in a pinch they can do the job. My small discrete rig is the SONY PCM-M10 with a sounddevices MP2 mixer as a front end. The entire package fits into a tiny hip pack.

  • I have heard good things about the PCM-M10, too. – P. Lockhead Sep 15 '10 at 9:20
  • @sepulchra forgive me but I can't see the MP2 on Sound Devices site, did you mean the MP1? Just curious. – JTC Sep 16 '10 at 11:58
  • @Joe The MP2 has been discontinued and replaced with the mix-pre. – sepulchra Sep 16 '10 at 14:39
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If you are looking at doing nature recording, I urge you to check out the nature recordists group on Yahoo groups. You will find a lot of hardcore expert advice there, especially on their FAQ.

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I bought the recorder and only have one major grievance with it: each different mode is limited with a different bit/sample rate as opposed to them all being able to record up to 24bit 96kHz broadcast wav. It goes like this:

Stereo: max 24bit 96kHz wav 4 Channel: max 24bit 48Khz wav multitrack: 16bit 44.1kHz wav

As I bought it to get into field recording I was slightly disappointed with the multitrack option being on 16/44.1 as I had hoped this would have allowed me to record in mono using my NTG-2 at 24/96. HOWEVER I improvised a work around: If you want to record 1 or 2 mono tracks using the XLR inputs, record in 'Stereo' mode with inputs 1/2 selected to get your 24/96 and then separate the stereo file into left and right tracks later (I use Snapper to quickly do this) which will produce your two mono tracks e.g. input 1 = left track, 2 = right. Not ideal but good for those of us with lower budgets or whom are just getting started.

Also the software updates now allow for individual adjustment of the record levels of the mics (e.g. can set mic 1 at rec. lvl 70 and mic 2 at rec. lvl 50) as opposed to this being fixed as the same for both XLR inputs which it previously was making my previous work around even more viable. When using the inputs press the rec. lvl button on the side and then input 1 or 2 to select which input level you wish to change before going back to the rec. lvl button on the side to then adjust.

Here's the link for the updates:

http://www.zoom.co.jp/downloads/h4n/software/

From the other reviews it would also appear that I ran into the 1/4 -10dB problem when trying to use a hydrophone with it. I found the levels very quiet and in some cases it was necessary to turn the rec. level up to 100 (when recording stiller water generally).

Despite all that I do find it to be a generally good recorder and all I'd say was just compare it to what you will be using it for before diving in. All in all though, for what it is, thumbs up!

  • Thanks for the link I didn't realize there was a new update on Jan, I love you no homo. – Stephen Saldanha Jul 6 '11 at 15:12
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Interesting questions - I'm currently considering selling my Fostex FR2 LE and buying a H4N; the Fostex just isn't convenient enough for me, its too bulky! I love it, but it spends most of its life sat on the shelf, I need something more handheld.

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I have an H4n and like it a lot. Very versatile.

The one disappointment is (as has already been mentioned) how the different modes have different record formats.

I'm hoping that Zoom's successor to the H4n will address this, and wondering when that might happen. The H2n looks nice, and is new, so maybe a new 4-channel will soon come out. Anyone have any ideas? (It was that exact question that somehow led me this forum, btw.)

I'm a studio-only songwriter/producer (which I've always thought of as sound design), and bought it just to have a good quality recorder for ideas, etc. But the 4CH and MTR modes intrigued me and have turned out to be surprisingly useful... if only it weren't for the format limitations.

It's a sturdy device, and the software is well designed, easy to get around, and work within each of the modes. Even MTR mode, which could easily have been a nightmare, is straightforward to operate. Very useful as a portable recorder & mini studio.

Finally, FYI, if you're thinking of getting one: In the US, Amazon sells an H4n package for a bit over $300 USD that includes the remote (whihc is VERY useful). I was able to get zZounds music store to beat the Amazon price on their Zoom bundle, which normally sells for over $350 dollars and includes a remote AND a decent pair of headphones, a small gig bag, an extra SSD card, and a few other useful accessories. Very happy w purchase.

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I did some comparisons (Zoom H1, H2, H4n, and Sony D-50) and really the Sony PCM D-50 is the best what You can get from a handheld recorder.

Just take a look at these samples:

http://www.wingfieldaudio.com/portable-recorder-sound-samples.html

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i'm really hoping to see a new product from zoom that addresses the "hissing", the upcoming IBC 2011 show would really be a swell time to announce it. h4n really could use an update. that sony d-50 and their pcm m10 indeed have excellent, low-noise recording and good user interfaces (but sadly do not double as a computer i/o, which is why the h4n interests me particularly).

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Any one compared the H4N to the H4? I've got an H4 and been trying to figure out if it's a worthwhile upgrade. The bigger screen and pre-record sound nice but does it sound better/same/different?

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I spent a year with it, recording corporates...short films etc and I have to say that it got me through them, albeit clumsily. For field recording, I'm sure you can get some really nice results, but for stuff like shorts, I had no-where near enough control…but that's why you pay for something like the SD744 I guess.

For recorders in its class I'm pretty confident in saying it beats them all, but it depends how much you need to push it.

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