First question on here...

So I will be doing lots of field recording in Asia for the next few months. I've got a sennheiser me66 for mono spot fx, which is linked into a zoom h4n via the sound devices mm-1 pre-amp (did not want to be using the h4n's pre's). So I think I'm all good there.

My issue is with ambience. I'm just starting out in this field (this is my first rig) and I've got a big name in major motion picture sound to impress. I know I won't be doing much impressing with a zoom device, but I don't have the money/don't want to take anything too expensive around less-safe parts of Asia.

So...do I record ambience 2-channel stereo on my h4n or 4-channel on my h2? I'm thinking 4-channel would be better, but I just got the h4n and don't know how much better or not the onboard mics are than the h2. I would be going for local walla and various nature ambience.

Any other advice is more than welcome too, this is my first time doing all of this so it's a bit daunting knowing I'm going to go back home to Los Angeles after this and try to impress people who have been doing this for twice my lifetime.


4 Answers 4


I'm not that personally familiar with the recording quality of the H4N vs. the H2, but I would say this: while four channel ambience recordings can be useful, I know far more people who prefer to build their own surround (or the occassional quad for television) ambiences. You have more flexibility and control that way. Chances are good that if you record a quad ambience, and find material that is distracting or you don't like in one of the channels, you're going to break up that group and, in the very least, shift that channel...breaking up the strict quad interaction to anyways. You may replace that channel entirely.

I'd suggest you focus on recording clean, interesting, stereo ambiences...especially considering your rig. You'll be able to respond to the recording environment more easily that way, and you'll probably get a larger quantity of useable material. Remember, if you really want a quad type sound, you can always spin 180 degrees and do a second recording facing the other direction. It won't be true quad, but you'll at least have that second perspective from the location.

  • Cheers! All very useful stuff for me to know. 4 channel would be more like, plopping the thing in the middle of the jungle and such. I know for film they've got 6 speakers to fill out. So maybe it seems 2 channel when I want to have more control/safety in my recording and 4 channel if I know it's likely to be a more pristine surround-type ambience? I do have the h4n and h2 so I could do both at the same time if it's not too much of a pain...
    – DrProximus
    Jun 15, 2011 at 14:39
  • @DrProximus - as long as you've got the storage capacity, redundancy doesn't hurt. ;) Jun 15, 2011 at 14:43
  • Great advice, well-delivered. Nice, Shaun! Jun 16, 2011 at 16:48

You can probably fit both Zooms in your bag?

I agree with Shaun's comment that stereo recordings are more useful for constructing quad ambiences, in most cases. However, in my opinion the joy of recording is more than just being able to use your recordings for work. I personally love doing quad recordings, just for archival purposes and listening back at a later stage. I might never directly use my quad recordings in a project (more likely I fold them down to stereo or ditch 2 of the channels altogether), but listening back to a nice surround recording of a place that I've visited often gives me more satisfaction than listening to music.

So my suggestion would be: take both, use em both! Document your trip not only for work but also for personal purposes :)


One thing I'm usually quite conscious of is the size and look - I find that the H2 is way more discrete than the h4n, so it's a lot easier to gather stuff without attracting too much attention. Sounds silly, but if you're travelling round "less safe" parts of SE Asia, this might be something to bear in mind!

  • Yes, the h2 is FAR more discreet. The h4n will be in my bag with my mic pre most of the time with just a cord sticking out for my shotgun. So pulling the h4n out and changing the input settings and dual mono monitoring to just record in 2-channel stereo is much more of a hassle than just whipping out the h2. And yes to Daan, I can fit both in this bag... products.lowepro.com/product/Passport-Sling,2190,4.htm awesome bag, room for a shotgun and pistol grip on the expandable front side and recorder + mic pre in the removable padded divider box. Also sd card pouch.
    – DrProximus
    Jun 16, 2011 at 9:10

You do realize that you can do 4 channels on the h4n? So you can have a stereo mic going into the two XLRs plus either stereo via mini jack or the onboard mics. So that's four separate tracks.

As Shaun mentions, I would focus on two tracks for ambiences. I think it's way more important to have interesting ambiences that are unique or hard to get or truly bespoke to a location than great sounding ambiences, obviously try anyway to get awesome sounds but don't not record something cause you think it's not perfect. Let the sound designers/editors build up the soundscape. Your sound will pro ably be one layer out of many.

  • Dang! You beat me to it!
    – g.a.harry
    Jun 17, 2011 at 10:59
  • I know the h4n is capable of 4 channels. However I do not have a stereo mic. Using an me66 shotgun so that only makes 3 channels. Being that these recordings are intended for film, I want to get mono fx. I totally get what you're saying about focusing on two tracks to get interesting ambiences. I record lots of 2 channel stereo during my time living in Japan. For example, I will go around many parts of a large train station doing lots of 2 channel recordings. Then, when I get to the main concourse area. I'll put my h2 right in the middle for 4channel surround
    – DrProximus
    Jun 18, 2011 at 6:34

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