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4.5 out of 5 stars
Zoom H4N Handy Portable Digital Recorder
Style Name: 2009 ModelChange
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739 of 752 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2010
Style Name: 2009 ModelVerified Purchase
After having done a quick video test for the Kodak Zi8, I decided to do something which would focus more on its audio recording capabilities. I also wanted to test the Zoom H4n, a portable flash recorded I recently purchased... so, here I am, killing two birds with one stone.

I setup the Kodak Zi8 about 5 feet from the sound source, which is an upright piano... that's me noodling on it. The Zi8 is mounted on a tripod.

About 15 feet away from the piano, I've setup the Zoom H4n recorder. This unit has an XY stereo microphone built into it. It also has the ability to record two inputs, in the form of XLR or 1/4-inch. So, we'll be hearing the built in XY microphone on the unit as well as a pair of AKG 414s which I positioned above the piano, pointing into the open lid.

"Kodak Zi8 Internal Microphone"
Here we hear the internal microphone on the Zi8. Mono, a bit noisy and perhaps a little too close to the piano to capture a clean sound. In any case, this does the trick for capturing an idea, but definitely doesn't cut it if you're looking for high-quality audio.

"Zoom H4n XY Microphone"
Here the stereo image opens up suddenly. This XY microphone which is built into the unit is capturing a very natural, coincident stereo sound. It's a very reflective room, so you hear that, as the microphone is about 15 feet from the sound source.

"Zoom H4n Pair AKG 414s"
Here we're hearing the pair of AKG 414 microphones pointing into the piano. Because the microphones are very close to the sound source, there is significantly less "room" sound. This would be more suitable for a studio recording, while the XY sound would be more appropriate in perhaps a classical or field recording.

"Zoom H4n Mix of XY + 414s"
Here we have the best of both worlds. We have a blend of the direct signal from the 414s AND some of the room sound from the XY microphone. I believe this is the best overall option in most scenarios.

Finally we return to the Zi8 internal microphone to hear the major difference when using external audio equipment. At under $200, I believe the Zi8 does a great job capturing the visual and at under $300, the Zoom H4n does a remarkable job with the audio.

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329 of 340 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2009
Style Name: 2009 Model
Just like the customer above me, I have a fairly early model (serial 2211). I don't imagine them having any revisions or anything, because this unit is really solid. Let me start by saying that this device should not be considered a Mic in its own right. Sure, it has two condenser microphones stuck on top to record in stereo, but I wouldn't use these mics in any studio unless I had nothing better. This unit is for those people who want to record in the field, and be able to capture 4 tracks of audio in a handheld device.

First, the build quality. Obviously Zoom took a lot of criticism to heart from their first H2 and H4 models. The H4n sports a "rubberized" hardshell design that's easy to grip, and seems to stand up well to surface scratches. (Mind you, the rubber texture can attract greasy fingerprints which can get annoying if you're a gadget freak like me). The top of the unit where the mics are is metal. There is some plastic on the unit, but definitely better designed than the previous two recorders from zoom. The buttons are easy to press, and the screen is large, allowing you to see everything you need to very easily.

The poster above me wondered why there was no metal cage protecting the microphones (like the previous H4 had). The answer to this is the switchable pattern on the microphones. Each mic can be twisted and swiveled to change the directionality that the mic pics up. In its native position the mics pic up at a 90 degree angle, giving a pretty good stereo image. But when you twist them, the mics are then a 120 degree angle. This is good for picking up sources that are farther away, or even ambient sounds for a wider stereo image. If there was a metal cage over the mics, you couldn't reach your fingers in to twist them. Overall, I would rather have a switchable pickup pattern, than a protective cage. Just don't drop a $350 recorder.

Second, the packaging. Inside the box, the unit came with a hardshell plastic carrying case, usb cable, foam windscreen, ac adapter, mic stand adapter, manuals and cubase le software, and a 1gb memory card. This is leaps and bounds above the competition. Most other recorders won't come with any of this. Other companies will even make you buy your own ac adapter and memory card. And Zoom went even further and added a plastic carrying case (for those of you worried about dropping it). They were definitely thinking about the customers on this one.

Third, and most importantly, the sound quality. This is why you buy the unit right? The sound quality has to be good or nothing else matters. Overall I was surprisingly impressed with the sound quality. I am an audio engineering student, going to school for sound reproduction, and sound reinforcement. Needless to say, I know my way around a microphone. I was expecting this unit to sound average, just like a pocket (or handheld) recorder usually sounds. But in fact, the H4n sounds pretty decent. The high end is nice and defined, the microphones built into the unit sound really clear. The one thing I can say about the sound is that it is accurate. I have recorded a few tests using my voice, a guitar, and some other misc. elements. I did notice that the microphones gave off a little bit of condenser hiss when the input gain was turned up. This could probably be solved or lessened if you were to get closer to the object and turn down the recording level. But still, it worries me to have a little bit of noise floor coming from the mics, especially if I were to use the recordings for post production video work.

The other thing I noticed was a lack of bass response. This could have been because I was a foot or two away from the microphones, but the bass on the microphones was a little lacking. My voice sounded a little thin. My guitar sounded fine, but guitars don't really have a lot of low end in the first place. Also watch out for handling noise. If you think that you're going to carry the unit around and do interviews while holding it, forget it. All handheld recorders suffer from this (I've read), but its true for this unit as well. Anytime you hold the H4n and move it around, you can hear low end rumbling and handling noise. Just use a tripod, or the included hand/mic clip adapter and you should be fine. (Also get a better windscreen if you're going to use it outside, the one included doesn't do anything outdoors for wind noise. You should buy a fuzzy or "hairy" windscreen if you want to use it outside)

Overall I think this recorder is the best on the market right now. Although there are a few units that have better sounding built in microphones (sony), it's only marginally better. Plus the H4 is cheaper (by about $150) and has more build in features/functionality. Like the fact that the H4n can record with two built in mics, and two XLR mics simultaneously (4 tracks at once). This means that you can record with the built in mics, but also use your own microphones if you want to add variety, redundancy, etc. You can also just use the unit for a preamp if you only want to use your own microphones to record in the field. I won't name off all of the features, but some included features weren't even necessary and Zoom was nice enough to add them in anyway (guitar tuner, audio interface, stamina mode, MTR mode, 96k recording, etc).

Needless to say, if you need a recorder for any reason, even if it's just for a school project, or for recreation, don't buy the cheapest recorder you can find. Spend a little extra money and get the H4n, it's seriously worth the extra cash for something that will last you much longer. It's simply the best value for a handheld recorder on the market right now.
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211 of 217 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2009
Style Name: 2009 Model
In looking for a portable handheld recorder for scratch tracks and samples, I weighed the benefits of a few of the handhelds available today and settled on the H4n. The other recorders on my short list were the Edirol R-09 and Sony PCM-D50, and also the H4. So far the H4n hasn't disappointed.

I settled on the Zoom H4n for a couple of reasons:

1) 1/4" and XLR inputs with phantom power - Very handy for throwing a mic on a kick and snare, and the H4n will record those plus the internal condensor simultaneously, which is perfect to get the rest of the drum kit for some quick loop scratch tracks.

2) More geeked out features than the others - They are not needed but still fun to have. The H4n is like the Leatherman of handheld pocket recorders with plenty of built in effects (which sound really good btw), built in 4 track recorder mode, tuners and metronome, playback speed control, MP3 encoder, acts as USB audio interface (both input and output), built in monitor speaker, and more. I also like the little things I'm still discovering, like when I put Ni-MH batteries in and then plugin in the adapter it recharges the batteries.

3) Build - I like the build quality compared to the H4 - Not as nice as the Sony but the thing does feel solid and substantial in your hand. The built in mics are a little exposed without a wire cage on the top like others have, it would probably not be a good thing to drop this unit and have the mics hit first.

4) Cost - This recorder was midrange even with it being brand new. It's less than the Sony and more than the H4 or R-09. I suspect the price will come down a bit when it's been out for a couple months down to where the R-09 is now. For what it has built in it's amazing to be it's as inexpensive as it is.

5) Sound quality - The H4n sounds clean. I believe turning on the built in compressor, or boosting a really weak input signal with a lot of input gain could cause hiss, but for the most part I don't notice any. Usually the noise floor is so low on what I've recorded that it is not audible. Some different mics and setups might have different results, time will tell.

6) Menu and button layout - I really like the way they set this unit up. Very easy to navigate and record with, and does what I want quickly with only a few caveats mentioned below.

7) SD card format - SD cards are cheap and readily available. I don't care so much for the memory sticks the Sony uses.

Now the downsides, maybe all these handheld recorders suffer from similar issues but I'm going to give my first impressions never having used one before and the H4n is the best I have to compare with:

1) Menu system - While easy to navigate, still feels like it could use refining through a firmware update. It feels like it wasn't finished when the product shipped. The fonts look a little like a 5 year old put them together, Zoom could have done better with the screen they put in the H4n. A lot of products like this are rushed to market to meet revenue goals, so hopefully they will get time to take another look at the firmware and make UI improvements. Also the firmware is trying to be a little too fancy with the menus. There is a little expanding box effect that happens when you open a menu, but it ends up just looking like screen artifacts when changing the menus. It would have been better to immediately jump to the menu, it would be faster and would look better.

2) File naming (another UI complaint) - I really wish the firmware gave you the ability to delete a character in a file name. The filename can be edited, but characters can only be added or changed, not deleted. If you use divide alot, the name gets larger and larger but cannot be made smaller. This is a bit annoying when combined with the divide implementation....

3) No divide while recording - there is no divide while recording that I could find. It seems like it would have been very easy to make one of the unused buttons act like a divide when recording. Instead you can set a "mark" (non editabled btw, after one is set it is permament in that wav file). The marks let you easily jump to that point and divide it later, but when it divides the file you end up with an 'A' or a 'B' tacked on to the filename. Now, imagine recording an entire gig or practice with only marks to use to delimit the songs, and then you have to divide them later with the naming scheme and lack of delete character function I mentioned above. What you end up getting is files named something like 'STE-001A.wav', STE-001B.wav', 'STE-001BBBBA.wav', and eventualy 'STE-001BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBA.wav' etc and there's not a lot you can do on the device to fix it since the best you can do is replace the extra characters with spaces so that you end up with a file named something like 'song blah .wav' (you can plug it in as a USB interface later and fix all the filenames in the folders, but not a lot you can do on site except stop and restart recordings versus using "marks").

4) Documentation - I'm not sure what Zoom was thinking here. The documentation looks like it was passed through a translation program without any proof reading before shipping. It is filled with sentences such as "On stereo mode can be made 19 different setting using. WAV & MP3. If you want to change, operate before recording". I get the general intent most of the time but it hurts. Luckily the unit is easy enough to use that you don't have to rely on the documentation too much.

As I see it, the complaints I have are mainly around details of the UI implementation and documentation and relatively minor. All around the unit is great and a lot of fun to use. The sound quality is top notch, and the capabilities of the device are astounding. I would have given it 5 stars if the few UI details had been better thought out and someone had read the documenation. For a great all around handheld recorder with excellent sound quality, lots of features, and a reasonable price, the Zoom unit is going to be very hard to beat.
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158 of 168 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2009
Style Name: 2009 Model
I purchased the H4n after being unhappy with the H2's performance most significant where I couldn't record a good sounding signal that wasn't distorted with the Line In jack. Only to find that the H4n has the same problem but not as bad. If I try to record a line level signal from a sound board or stereo receiver and connect to the H4n's 1/4 inch jacks, it is almost impossible to not to have a distorted signal. It appears that on both models the line in preamp is too sensitive and clips very easily and because it is clipping in the preamp, adjusting the gain doesn't correct it. I contacted Zoom's tech support about the H2 and was told that I likely had a defective unit. I returned the H2 and decided to give Zoom another chance and try the H4n after seeing many positive reviews.
I really like the H4n's design, the menus and controls are nicely organized. It feels more sturdy than the H2. The recording quality using the built in mics is excellent. Most other recorders in this price range don't have XLR inputs. Since I plan to use it mostly for recording concerts by connecting to a line out or tape out on a sound board, if the line in jacks don't work properly and can't accept a normal line level signal without clipping, I can't use this for what I bought it for. I have used my Sony minidisc recorder for the same type of application for the past 8 years and have never had any problems. I've worked with pro sound equipment for over 25 years and have used many types of recorders and so far the Zoom products are the only ones where I have encountered this problem. If you are using this to record with mics, it works great, but if you need to record from line level sources, the Zoom recorders may not be a good choice. I exchanged this for the Tascam DR-07 and while the Tascam doesn't have as many bells and whistles, It is a nice recorder and I'm very happy with it.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2009
Style Name: 2009 Model
Among the many other recorders on the market today, I looked seriously at the H2 and the original H4. I ended up not buying anything for awhile because every single one of these devices seemed to be missing something or have a negative aspect that I just wasn't enthusiastic about paying for. Then I heard some rumbling that Zoom was coming out with the H4n, which was supposed to be their response to all the feedback they'd gotten about the H2 & H4. So after all the good things I'd read about those two, the H4n had me at hello. I grabbed one as soon as it became available, which was about a month after they announced it. (Serial # 1438!)

I won't review every little detail of the H4n but I'll tell you the three major improvements that made me buy this:

- The screen is now a healthy size and displays everything you need to know clearly.

- The interface overall is a pleasure to use. You can operate it easily with one hand. It's very intuitive and all the controls feel solid. I usually go through the manual once anytime I get a new piece, but for basic recording you really wouldn't have to. Even the 4-track mode is a breeze.

- Zoom has really stepped up the build quality on this piece. Unlike its all-plastic predecessors, the H4n's case is rubberized and the mics are solidly mounted on... what's this, metal? It has a nice solid weight and feels pro. One thing I didn't understand though: the original H4 had these protective pieces surrounding the mics and the H4n does not. But it's slightly top-heavy and if dropped I can easily imagine the mics hitting the floor first and I'm pretty sure they would be tweaked/broken. Or what if you had this in your back pocket and sat on the mics? It's like, for all the work they put into making this more durable, they left the most important part vulnerable. Which kind of makes me wonder whether the extra heft of this unit is just for feel, not for real. (Time will tell..)

I will primarily be using this to record DJ sets and sounds from the field. I did that this past weekend and the quality is just as good as the other reviews say it is. I'm looking forward to being able to record a stereo mix from the mixer, simultaneous with a room mix with crowd noise, in 4 channel mode. Also this is the first condenser I've owned and I look forward to using it in the studio. I leave some cables hanging off the back of the cable box so if I hear something on TV I can just plug in and hit record. I thought I wouldn't use the 4-track but already it has me exploring ideas in the car. The built-in speaker is really handy. The FX are very high quality and there are some interesting ones beyond the typical reverb and delay.

The H4n is like the Swiss Army Knife of field recorders. The big one, with all the weird blades and tools you'll probably never need. It's one of those rare moments of technical glory when a company collects a ton of great ideas from their customers, refuses to compromise, and you end up with a truly inspired product.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2010
Style Name: 2009 Model
I have used the H4n for over a year now, average 9 hours of recording a week, small and large venues, using the built in mics and direct inputs off a soundboard. I love using this recorder, every detail but one is great.
The other reviews are accurate. This won't handle a normal line level. I use a small mixer in between the H4n and my front of house mixer signal just to step the signal down. I have had to go to extremes to step the signal down in other situations, like taking the signal off a mixer and running it through an old boom box with an aux in, and back out the head phone jack of the boombox then into the Zoom. You can use anything to step it down, but what an unreasonable pain. What were they thinking? I have been in several situations where I didn't have anything to step the signal down, and lost the recording opportunity.

That being said, is it worth buying the Zoom H4n? Without a doubt, YES! I recorded a piano concert the other night, I placed the H4n inside the piano with a boom stand about a foot off the stings, back a foot and a half from the hammers, and set my mic levels. Once the recording was complete I shared it with a university level music instructor. He was amazed by the quality of the recording. I have a friend who has been a top notch, professional, big name recording engineer in the past, he is also an amazing piano player. He listened to the recording I got off that piano. His jaw was dropped the whole time. He said it was good enough to master, studio quality easily. He picked up on the noise floor which is present... because it wasn't done in a studio... it was taken in a small chapel with maybe 30 uncouth participants who were making plenty of noise and driving me nuts. Sometimes we take things too seriously, huh? or maybe they just didn't know that I was tracking an amazing performance that would be worth putting on a CD... except for their talking, rustling, opening and closing doors... it all shows up on the recording... along with every detail of every note played on that piano, all in full stereo with great separation, complete left to right panned pick up of the full scale of the piano... everything is crystal clear and perfectly accurate. The recording encompasses you and captivates you. The stereo field of this recorder is breathtaking.

I have recorded full sets with drums, bass, keyboard, guitar, electric guitar and vocals with effects, everything I do is Christian, these sets were jazz and rock genre... in a sound insulated room... and the musicians agree everything sounds like it was picked up in a studio. Every detail of the drums is present, the attack, the presence, the resonance of each hit. Same with the other instruments and voices, you can hear every detail of every instrument and voice in the set. The sound in the room was well balanced and aligned and the musicians were great, the noise floor was very low, so it all came together with this recorder and now I have some sweet tracks. Not bad for the investment in the H4n.

As far as the signal quality of the built in mics on the H4n is concerned, I have never detected even a trace of self noise from the mics, and they pick up the full frequency range completely. I have recorded at concert level volumes with plenty of headroom left before risk of clipping. Unlike the line level adjustments, the mic level adjustments are very adequate.

Recordings in small venues don't sound perfectly clear because of the noise floor. In large venues they are even worse. Don't blame the recorder for less than perfect live recordings... it's the background noise that kills the recording quality. Like I say I have recorded with the H4n in sound insulated (studio) environments... and the recorder is perfect! If your environment is clean from noise your recordings will be as clear and perfect as you could ever dream... the recorder picks up every high, and every low, and everything in between perfectly, accurately, through it's built in mics.

If you step your line level signals down, it records perfectly directly. The remote is handy for setting your levels as it indicates with LEDs when you are within 6db of clipping. Don't trust the LCD display levels, they can show the signal is within range but your button lights are flashing because your hardware is clipping. Go by the button lights or the remote LEDs; if they aren't blinking red, then set your levels by the LCD. Most of my recordings are off a little mixer with an adjustable output for the tape out, so line level is not a problem in my most frequent application.

I have a few bits of advice. My rep at Sweetwater talked me into a set of Beyerdynamics DT770 pro headphones. They are terribly expensive; I argued that I have a set of Sennheiser HD280's and thought they were unbeatable. I didn't realize they were missing everything under 70Hz. Until you listen to recordings through a real pair of studio-grade headphones you don't realize what is really available in a recording for your ears to hear and what you have been missing without them. The Beyerdynamics bring that much out of your music. I would recommend them to anyone who is taking the time to create or record music; invest in a good set of cans.

Next I would recommend my favorite sound editing software, Audacity. It is FREE. It is worth the learning curve. It is fast in it's performance. It is perfect for the tracks and mixes you will be picking up with the H4n. You need good editing software to get the most of your recording experience. Audacity is great for chopping up your recordings into separate songs, making them ready instantly to put on a CD. It is great for mixing the tracks you pick up with the mics and at the same time with your direct inputs. The EQ in this program is amazing once you get used to drawing curves, you can EQ extremely precise... if you can hear the details in your recordings... (thus the recommendation for the good headphones). When first learning to use this program print out the help files on selecting your audio ranges for editing... and practice on a track. Once you are used to it you will love it. I spend at least 20 hours a week using this software.

I have used Free Audio Editor a lot, too. It has the most intuitive interface but it is slow; editing with it takes a lot of time. Also, it is not free for their full feature version. I have used WavePad a bit, you might try it, the free version is pretty complete. The parameters of the EQ in Audacity are superior, though the real time interface of WavePad effects is priceless. I really like the compressor and its interface in WavePad. I have Cubase AI4 and can't even grasp the learning curve for it, it is way over my head without serious time to devote to figuring it out; plus it is not even free. All this, of course, is personal opinion.

Don't do your sound editing without a programmable mouse. You need to have the frequent commands at your finger tips when editing sound.

Take the time to assign hot keys to your frequent commands, how and where you want them.

Invest in dual monitors. Video cards are cheap, monitors are virtually free at thrift stores or garage sales, flatscreens are inexpensive now. I use dual 19" monitors for my editing, and a third smaller flatscreen for other apps. Couldn't be happy without them.

Other notes on the H4n:
If you need a power supply with a longer cord the Tascam PS-P520 power adaptor works perfectly and reaches about 12'. Identical connector, same voltage and polarity, twice the rating, twice the cord reach.

If you are using the unit outdoors or near even the slightest breeze you need the windscreen, and I would recommend an aftermarket fuzzy one. Without a windscreen ANY breeze sounds like a tidal wave crashing over the recorder.

Also, don't expect to hold the unit in your hand while recording, any movement with your hand sounds like a building falling on top of the recorder.

The H4n comes with a flawed extra, beware. It comes with a mic clip adapter, which is shaped like the stem of a microphone and screws into the back of the recorder so you can put the recorder in a mic stand. Two problems. The adapter is too small for the average mic clip on a mic stand. I had to wrap mine with a thin piece of leather so a mic clip would hold it securely. But really beware. The adaptor thing, about 4 inches long, is made of two parts of plastic, the cone part and the top part that has a metal screw thread sticking out of it. The two pieces of plastic are glued together. The glue doesn't hold! You screw the thing into the back of your recorder and stick it in a mic clip on a mic stand 6' off the floor... and the adapter comes apart! If you are lucky your precious recorder just falls into your hand... if you are not lucky it falls to the floor! I had to use primer and Black Plastic Pipe dope to fuse the two pieces of plastic together so I wasn't risking having my recorder fall to the floor from 6' up!

As far as cables go, watch out for Hosa 1 / 4 " connectors. First time I used Hosa cables I could barely get them disconnected from the recorder... it took way too much force to remove them. The unit doesn't play well with Hosa connectors. Other makes fit perfectly.

Before you buy, check out the Zoom Q3 video recorder. If you are looking to record just with the built in mics this thing is cheaper, has the same mics. Don't expect to carry it around and get clear sounding recordings, as stated above, it will pick up handling noise terribly.

Enjoy the H4n. Hopefully Zoom fixes the line level issue and then they will have the perfect recorder.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2009
Style Name: 2009 Model
I've been using the Zoom H2 for approximately a year. On the strength of the company's product description, I have now purchased the Zoom H4n. While the H2 seemingly met all desired requirements of a portable digital recorder, I find the H4n a worthy replacement.
What I like about the H4n:
- sturdy construction and design (doesn't feel plasticky at all)
- jack for external mic plus 2 XLR ports
- *stamina* mode for batteries, extending the life of 2 AAs to 11 hours
- gain control slider now replaced by +/- switch
- much easier menu operation, including larger, brighter screen
- accommodates up 32G sdhc cards
- quick access to 90/120 degree mic positions
- unbelievable sound reproduction, even using built-in mics
- on-board speaker, which cuts out when headphones are in
- hard plastic carry case provided.

Now what I find less pleasing:
- it is noticably larger and heavier than the H2
- no stand provided, so you'll have to buy a mini tripod, preferably one that ensures the unit will sit low and securely on any surface
- the external 3.5mm mic jack is situated on the back; not exactly ideal
- seems to take fractionally longer to boot, especially in stamina mode
- English translation in manual can be confusing.

Despite any slight faults I've found with the H4n, I have used it extensively over the last week and find it a remarkable piece of tech. I'm glad I opted for the upgraded model.

ADDENDUM: Since penning the above review, I've discovered that it's possible to record only in .wav format in Stamina mode, not mp3, thus using up more precious space on the sdhc card. As I use Vapex 2900mAh rechargeable batteries and change over halfway thru the day, I'm able to use mp3, use up little card space, and battery power is absolutely no problem.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2009
Style Name: 2009 ModelVerified Purchase
I generally don't like to rate anything five stars because I feel like there's always some room for improvement and a product is never really perfect. While I wouldn't call the Zoom H4n perfect, I think it set out to be something and achieved it fantastically. It exceeded my expectations, especially for the price, and I use it any chance I can get.

I'll start with something trivial...but not really. It records to SD/SDHC media. If you have something like the M-Audio MicroTrack II, you're stuck with Compact Flash. For an audio recorder there's really no need for larger and/or faster cards. SD/SDHC is larger and fast enough and it's tiny. Most laptops and desktops these days have SD/SDHC slots in them and I love any chance I get to leave the USB cable at home.

But on to more important things...

One of the wonderful upgrades in the H4n is that there is a mic level switch on the right side of the device. Previously this was achieved through a menu. But the new preamps in the H4n are really what make it a better device than its predecessors. The recording quality you get from the built-in mics alone is impressive, but when you hook up a nice microphone to the H4n it sounds just too good for a portable recorder. You can plug in XLR or 1/4" inputs as well. There is a lot I could talk about in regards to the versatility of this device but I'll only mention one other thing in the interest of keeping this relatively short. One feature I find really compelling, being that I travel a lot and it saves some room in my suitcase, is that you can use the H4n as an audio interface with your computer rather than just a stand-alone portable recorder. Most of the music I make utilizes sampled or synthesized instruments, and so I'm generally only recording vocals (with the exception of acoustic guitars). This makes it very easy to grab vocals just about anywhere with Cubase and my laptop. Zoom includes a free copy of Cubase LE but it works just fine with regular versions of Cubase.

Battery life is decent. It's certainly as good or better than anything else, but it's still less than I'd hope for. I does use AAs so you can just replace the batteries as needed, or use rechargeable batteries. I use those rechargeable batteries with the USB port as much as I can and those work quite well. Standard AAs tend to last for about a ten hour work day of use (that's been my experience, anyway). The battery life is definitely sufficient, but it's not impressive.

The zoom comes with a number of recording settings, allowing you to select various levels of quality in your WAV and MP3 files. If you're willing to bring your sampling rate to 44.1 Khz and your bit rate to 16, you'll be able to turn on a power efficiency mode that'll increase the battery life significantly. So, if you need to get that extra power out of your batteries, the H4n offers an option. While it won't always work for everyone, I think it's a nice addition.

A downside of the device, for some, may be the size. I definitely like the pocket-size of the M-Audio MicroTrack/MicroTrack II, but zoom definitely achieves a much higher level of quality (the important thing) and so I think the increased size is worth it. It's ultimately necessary for the XLR inputs anyhow. Still, this is not something you're going to put in your pocket. A cargo pocket, maybe, but not a regular pocket. I don't really care, but it is a fairly large device for a portable so that may be worth noting for some.

The H4n comes with a bunch of accessories. You get a screw in stick for holding or, I assume, placing in a microphone stand (it looks like the base of a microphone). You get a case, a 1GB SD card (which is often sufficient), a power adapter, a wind screen for the stereo mics, a USB cable and probably some other things I'm forgetting. My point is that they give you pretty much everything you need to get started out of the box, except for the batteries. I always like it when a company includes the batteries, because it says to me that they want their product to be usable as purchased, but it's obviously not that big of a deal. The accessories you get with the H4n pretty much say that already. In my experience, it's uncommon to even get an SD card.

There are a lot of things to talk about here and going into them all would take a long time. The H4n offers a lot of great options. It has a somewhat clunky but very usable interface. It's very simple to operate with virtually no learning curve. It would be great to go into detail about the interface and other features and so on, but it's all pretty good. They did an excellent job with the most important parts of this device and that's really what matters the most.


+ Phenomenal recording quality for a portable recorder

+ Excellent built-in stereo microphones

+ Record level adjustment buttons on the hardware, rather than just on the software

+ Two combined XLR and 1/4" inputs

+ Battery save mode by recording 44.1 Khz 16 bit WAV

+ Replaceable batteries

+ Doubles as a USB audio interface

+ Comes with many accessories (most of which are actually useful)

= Reasonably fast operation

= Good but not exceptional battery life

= On the larger side
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2009
Style Name: 2009 ModelVerified Purchase
I am aiming this review at the guitarist or soloist on any instrument who likes to study/copy lines from recordings of their favorite musicians or create their own backing tracks out of anything from their cd collection.

After working with the H4n for a couple of weeks, I am truly amazed by the features of this recorder when you delve a little deeper into the manual, especially in the MTR (4 track) mode. The manual could be better written, but with a little experimenting, it's pretty easy to understand. The Karaoke section of MTR mode is really useful not just for Karaoke, and here are some work-arounds that the manual does not explain.
What if you want to change the key of a recording you have made, and then change its playback speed also? Changing playback speed is available only with a stereo mode file, while changing key in playback is only available in MTR mode. If you record a song off a CD in MTR mode, do so by setting "stereo link" which will record stereo on tracks 1 and 2. For playback, turn on Karaoke which allows you to change playback key as well as a center cancel useful for removing vocals or lead instruments if you want to make a backing track to practice over. When you are done, use the "bounce" feature to create a stereo file, and then the "move" feature to move this file from MTR project to a file in the stereo folder. You now have a stereo file in the key of your choice and can alter playback speed and use the A-B repeat to loop a section for practice. This will make sense and be easy to do if you have the manual in front of you.

For doing your own music transcribing, this recorder is great. If you have directv or cable, look for the OVTV (Ovation) station which is always running programs of the Montreux Music Festivals. You can find some great music to practice with here. On Directv it is located somewhere around channel 260.

Summing up--the H4n is a brilliant little device with great sound and a deep set of features. Musicians should check it out.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2009
Style Name: 2009 Model
4 Stars with reservations. A great unit BUT there is still room to make it killer.

First, and importantly as far as I'm concerned, the advertising of a built-in limiter and compressor is misleading. It needs to be understood that these are not analog but digital and come AFTER the A\D converters. You WILL get digital clipping when you submit signal that is too hot. This severely limits the usefulness of these effects and, to me, makes their addition a toy that verges on false advertising.

Secondly, if you use external microphones you should be aware that dynamic mics sm57\58 etc will not provide very satisfactory results due to the high noise floor. Phantom-powered condenser mics ($) do tend to fair much better. Your mileage may vary.

Thirdly, as mentioned in other reviews, the built-in mics are not the quietest and do tend to exacerbate sibilance in my experience.

So, for the H4m, please add ANALOG (pre A\D) compressor\limiter, graphic eq, and noise gates + preamps\built-in mics with a little less noise with the ability to use dynamic mics without penalty.

I should say though that for the price point you sure do get a lot of b-f-t-buck! But the missing\substandard features will cause it to miss the mark for worry-free professional use for some (like myself).
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