First look at the Zoom H4n

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

The previews of the Zoom H4n have generated a lot of excitement so I added a few airline miles to the family account and ordered one of these new hand held recorders.

Zoom Field Recorders

I’ve had a Zoom H2 field recorder since they were delivered and it has been a very satisfactory tool. I’ve used it to capture audio for my YouTube videos, to record hula accompaniment for my wife, to archive band rehearsals, and to save ideas for original compositions. A very satisfactory tool, but not quite CD quality, not quite the tool I would use for high quality recording. The self-noise just peeks into the quiet spots and long fades, the mics roll off a bit above 16 Khz.

I have posted some comparison tests between the H2 and other recording chains here on Home Brewed Music: a comparison with my best studio recording chain and a shootout with several other field recorders. In both cases the H2 was “amazing for the price” but not the winner.

The H4 preceded the H2, cost a bit more, does multi-track recording and has XLR inputs and 48V phantom power for serious microphones. There have been many complaints about the user interface and the fragile feel of the controls. I’ve never used one myself, so I can’t say anything about the recording quality.

Both these units offer a remarkable level of functionality, with multitracking on the H4 and surround sound on the H2, and both function as a USB interface for recording directly on the computer.

What’s new with the H4n?

This year Samson/Zoom announced a new recorder, the H4n. This unit has a larger LCD screen, improved user interface, and according to the manufacturer, improved mic preamps. I ordered one as soon as they were available and it arrived today.

The H4n is only slightly larger than the H2, but it is just that bit too big to be comfortable in a shirt or pants pocket. And the mics sticking out without protection also make it unlikely as a pocket device.

The bright orange LCD screen on the H4n is a big improvement over the H2 and H4. The look and feel is also more impressive, with a style and solidity that are missing from the earlier units.

The gain setting on the H4n is a big change from the H4 and H2. Both those recorders have a 3 position level switch, which sets the preamp level before the a/d converters. Then another control sets the recording level from 1-100, but this setting is applied after the a/d converter and mic preamp. This means that only the 3 position switch can actually lower the recording level in a way that prevents overload and distortion, and the second finer control is essentially useless.

The H4n has only the incremental gain control from 1-100. Hopefully it is implemented so that it turns down preamp gain and controls overload. I’m counting on the smart guys at the Zoom H2/H4/H4n forum to poke around and figure out the details.

I was expecting features like auto-level, limiting, and auto-record, but Samson/Zoom surprised me by including a Mid/Side decoding function in the preamp as well.

Recording with the H4n

Well, how about some clips? The big bright screen on the H4n makes level setting easier than the H2, and with my recording mode all set to stereo 44.1/24, recording is just as easy as the H2 – one press of Record starts standby mode for level checks, then one more press and we’re storing bits.

After a quick recording a feature I never thought much about – a monitor speaker – turns out to be very comforting. Just hit play and there’s confirmation that you captured something. Its time to move the tracks to the computer, and this would be good time to compliment Samson/Zoom on their manual. This little recorder has a ton of features and the manual has covered every one I’ve needed so far. Page 35 clearly explains how to connect the H4n to the computer over the USB connection and it worked like a charm on my XP SP3 system.

Another improvement is obvious and very welcome – this new unit is a USB 2.0 High Speed device. The previous H4 and H2 are both USB 2 compatible, but they are anything but high speed. This H4n makes my standalone cardreader obsolete. Switching cards in and out draws attention to a potential problem, though. The door over the SD card slot does not look rugged enough for the use it will get. I kind of expect to see a lot of these with masking tape or gaffers tape covering the SD slot when they get older.

Hey, as long as it’s hooked to the computer, let’s see how it works as an audio interface. Maybe I’m just having a good night, but everything goes smoothly, Adobe Audition 1.5 sees the Zoom H4n and records a decent track.

Here’s a little “Opihi Moemoe” using the H4n as an audio interface, using the built-in mics. The positioning is about 30″ between the guitar and mics:


or download opihi.mp3

Sounds pretty good to me, but in the fade at the end you can hear a bit of noise. Hmmmm.

A four way comparison

The main comparison is between the two Zooms, the Fostex FR2-LE, and my main studio recording chain, a John Hardy M-1 preamp feeding a LynxTwo-C A/D converter. A pair of Shure KSM141 mics provide audio to the Fostex and John Hardy. I tried to group all four units as close as possible.

Two mics and two Zoom recorders

Two mics and two Zoom recorders

Each of the clips is mono, I kept only the Zoom track from the mic that was pointed toward the guitar. The streaming clips are MP3, but the download is a PCM WAV file and considerably larger. I positioned the guitar 3 feet from the mics. This is a quite a strenuous test of the recording chain, because the guitar is such a quiet instrument that plenty of gain is required even for much lesser distances.

The Fostex:

or download 1-1-fr2.wav

The H2:

or download 1-2-h2.wav

The H4n:

or download 1-3-h4n.wav

The Hardy:

or download 1-4-jh.wav

I’m a bit disappointed with the results here. I was hoping the H4n’s new preamp and mics would provide a big improvement in noise performance compared to the H2, but I’m not hearing it. Listening to the long fade at the end of the clip, both the Zoom units exhibit more noise than the other two systems. Of course this is an extreme test, and with a more normal recording distance the noise wouldn’t be a problem. And the source of the noise might be the mics rather than the preamps, so it’s only fair to compare the H4n with one of the Shure KSM141 mics.

Using external mics

The Fostex with Shure mic:

or download 2-1-FR2.wav

The H4n with Shure mic:

or download 2-2-h4n.wav

In these clips the guitar is a little closer to the mics, about 30 inches. This is still far enough to require a lot of gain, and both units exhibit some noise. But again the H4n is a touch noisier than the Fostex in the fade at the end of the clip. With the external mic, though, the difference is a lot smaller.

In the four way comparison, the studio chain with the Hardy preamp and Lynx converters was clearly the quietest. How does the H4n do in a head to head with the champ?

The H4n with Shure mic:

or download 3-1-h4n.wav

The Hardy with Shure mic:

or download 3-2-jh.wav

This recording has the guitar even closer, less than 2 feet and just far enough to avoid proximity effect. With lower gain and the external mic the H4n sounds a lot less noisy but still just a hair more than the Hardy and Lynx.

And so the story is told

I’m really quite impressed with the H4n. It has a solid feel and a look that inspires confidence. The controls work cleanly and seem sturdy. The large bright display makes the unit much more friendly to old fogey eyes like mine. The manual is substantial because the feature set is pretty amazing. I’ll probably only scratch the surface, but plenty of other musicians will find use for the multi-track recorder with overdubbing, effects, metronome and so on. Folks doing interviews and recording lectures can benefit from the limiter, automatic gain control, and auto-record.

How is the H4n as a solo acoustic guitar recording tool? I’d say about 95%. The tonal balance of the recordings are fine, the dynamics are good. I’m quite happy with how the guitar sounds with either the external mic or the built-ins. I’m a little bit disappointed by the noise performance, though. A bit closer placement, a little noise reduction software in post, it’s a problem that can be solved, but I was hoping for world class performance from this little unit and I’m afraid it’s not quite at that level.



This entry was posted on Saturday, March 7th, 2009 at 11:29 pm and is filed under Audio, Comparisons. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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    67 Responses to ' First look at the Zoom H4n '

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    1. George Chase said in post # 1,

      on March 8th, 2009 at 7:02 am

      I just got mine from Sweetwater, and I’m really impressed. I’m a professional trumpet player, and in the past, I’ve either used a TASCAM mic. preamp connected to my PowerBook, or I’ve used a Sony MiniDisc. I really love the new H4n; the sound quality is first rate, I think. I’m hearing minimal noise from mine. I’ve got to do some more playing around with the unit this week, to learn more about what it can do; just scratching the surface of what this bad boy can do.

    2. Fran Guidry said in post # 2,

      on March 8th, 2009 at 9:19 am

      George, thanks for adding your experience. I’m sure noise is not an issue if the source is a trumpet. In fact it won’t be an issue for most of the recording I do either, but I had such high hopes. I guess it was unrealistic to expect this little unit to match my multi-thousand dollar recording chain.

      I still have a drawer full of minidiscs and a Sharp recorder. Maybe some day they’ll be vintage and worth a bunch (grin).

      Fran

    3. Mike Parker said in post # 3,

      on March 8th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

      I have one coming next week. I really appreciate the comparison. I’ll be using this mainly as a sketch tool and to record rehearsals, so a little noise shouldn’t be a deal breaker. I’m interested to see how the microphone quality (both internal and external) stacks up to my little BR-600 which has been filling this role for the past year.

    4. Aja said in post # 4,

      on March 8th, 2009 at 11:32 pm

      I also have an H4n in the mail, and I’m glad to see comparisons like this one finally showing up.

      I’ll be using mine mainly for field recording, though I was hoping the internal mics might be an improvement over the cheap condensers I currently use to record acoustic guitar. I’m glad to hear the extra detail and brightness in H4n over the H2 in that recording, even if there’s a bit of hiss (which, personally, I don’t find particularly problematic, especially not once it’s in the mix).

      Thanks for your efforts here!

    5. Alain said in post # 5,

      on March 9th, 2009 at 1:39 am

      Thanks for this extensiv testing!
      Also I found another test at:
      http://www.bradlinder.net/search/label/zoom%20h4n

    6. Jon said in post # 6,

      on March 9th, 2009 at 4:04 am

      Zoom H4n is ok but is not good as Fostex FR2le which much better value recorder in my opinion. Need to check Tascam DR100; i don’t even expect much from this either. Sony pcm d50 is brillliant but lacks XLR. one can XLR-1 but this cost as much as the unit. So therefore it would be advisable to buy Korg MR1000.

    7. tsochs said in post # 7,

      on March 9th, 2009 at 6:14 am

      Loving mine. I’m not a guitar player. I am a professional musician playing and performing for 30years. and this thing sounds great. Prefer it to my H2. Now – to get that surround feature happening with as little efforts as possible. H2 was so easy to get surround out of.

      The H4n doesn’t sounds noisy to me. It sounds brighter and less dense in the low-mids.

      Thanks George

    8. Tank said in post # 8,

      on March 9th, 2009 at 7:50 am

      I believe it isn’t that the pre-amps of the built-in mics are where the drastic improvements were, but the pre-amps for the external mics through the xlr jacks.

      If you watch the video on youtube of the representative at namm where they talked about the H4, he is clearly pointing at the XLRs when he talks about the improved pre-amps.

    9. Tank said in post # 9,

      on March 9th, 2009 at 7:51 am

      Where they talked about the “h4N” I should have wrote.

    10. Fran Guidry said in post # 10,

      on March 9th, 2009 at 9:46 am

      Thanks, Tank, I’ll check that video. I’m not sure that they include two separate preamps but anything is possible. Whoooooaaaaa, of course they have separate preamps, because the unit can record 4 tracks at once. I would sure agree that the system is quieter with high quality external mics.

      Fran

    11. Tim said in post # 11,

      on March 14th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

      OK all-
      A newbie here. I just recieved my H4n today. I have a question about recording a large group, 12 to 24, of ukulele players and singers. One of the main reason for my choosing the H4n is the ability to use external condeser mics. Our group practices once a week and gigs once a week at rest homes, schools, senior day care centers, etc. I want to record the practice sessions and gigs for the group.
      The question: What lower cost mics would be best suited for this application. I am considering ;
      Audio-technica AT2020
      ” ” AT2035
      MXLV65G
      AKG c1000
      Any comments or recommendations?
      Thaks to all-

    12. Ken said in post # 12,

      on March 14th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      I just got my H4N yesterday and so far I like it, mostly. But recording a band in a bar last night I had to bring the record-level all the way down to 30, and it was still getting uncomfortably close to clipping. Even if I turn it ALL the way down I was still getting input on the meters. I am missing the H/M/L switches on the H2 and H4 a *lot*.

      Also, I am so sick of them trumpeting the BWF markers. Unless I’m missing something, there isn’t a single piece of software out there that will read these damn things. Audacity doesn’t, ProTools doesn’t, Cubase doesn’t, Logic doesn’t — what is the point?

    13. Fran said in post # 13,

      on March 14th, 2009 at 7:18 pm

      Tim, I haven’t used any of those mics. I have a lot of confidence in AT mics and have heard good things about the AT2020.

      The AT3035 is a classic mic and has recently been discontinued. They’re selling around $100 in some places. I definitely don’t need any more mics but I’m thinking about getting a pair (grin).

      There are a couple of low cost options you might took at. I’ve tried Naiant mics and thought they worked well. These are omni-directional, though. I like omnis and find them useful, some people will only consider directional mics. I think they would work well for recording your uke group.

      Another mic that gets a lot of recommendation by working pros is the $40 MCA (or MXL) SP1.

      If I were you, though, I’d start by just trying the built-in mics. They’re designed to cover a large area with their X/Y configuration. You might switch them to the 120 degree alighment.

      Fran

    14. Fran said in post # 14,

      on March 14th, 2009 at 7:23 pm

      Ken, it sounds like the gain control worked for you if you were able to get down to a level where you avoided clipping. What would be the advantage of the HML switch? Especially since the gain control behind the HML switch did _not_ prevent clipping.

      I’ve never found a use for BWF either, but apparently someone somewhere does (grin).

      Fran

    15. Aja said in post # 15,

      on March 15th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

      I’m curious, fran, what you make of this recording test on Brad Linder’s blog:

      http://www.bradlinder.net/2009/03/zoom-h4n-audio-take-2-second-time-not.html

      I’m not convinced the PCM-D50 sounds NICER than the zoom, at least in terms of detail and richness, but the Zoom’s noise performance is fairly poor in this test, more so than in yours, it would seem. One commenter claims that this problem could be the result of the tester neglecting to switch off the internal compressor.

    16. Aja said in post # 16,

      on March 15th, 2009 at 1:51 pm

      sorry, I didn’t see you had already posted your impressions on the front page. :)

    17. Tim said in post # 17,

      on March 18th, 2009 at 9:21 am

      Fran-

      Thanks for the mic input. I ordered a pair of CAD M179 mic’s today. Great reviews on the web for this multi-pattern mic. frontendaudio.com currently has them on sale at $139.00 + you can add 3 ea CAD brand 25′ XLR cables, per mic, for only an additional $14.99 with free ship’g. I’m hoping that the CAD cables are pretty good as I don’t think they would sell something that would hinder the performance of their mic’s. The next cheaoest deal I could find was $199.00 ea.
      I will let you know what I think when I can. May be awhile!

    18. Fran Guidry said in post # 18,

      on March 18th, 2009 at 11:33 am

      Tim, I’ve heard lots of positive comments on the CAD M179. I’m sitting on three switchable large diaphragm mics right now or I might be tempted to join you in your purchase. Heck, even with the mics I have now I’m tempted (grin). Please let us know how these work for you.

      By the way, I’m editing a video right now discussing the Mid-Side mic arrangement that is supported by an internal decoder in the H4n. The CAD M179 is a cool way to experiment with this arrangement, because you have a figure-8 mic and another that can be any pattern you wish.

      Have you had a chance to try recording the group with just the built-in mics?

      Fran

    19. Tim said in post # 19,

      on March 19th, 2009 at 7:08 am

      Fran-

      Can you recommend a software package that is basic and simple to use. I just want to edit my recordings for an annual “Best Of” CD for the group and possibly some MP3 files for e-mailing. Gotta be cheap and intuitive. I’m a strong believer in the “KISS” principle!
      The Cubase LE 4, which came bunddled with the H4n, is reportedly cumbersom to use, learn and remember.

      Thanks-

    20. Tim said in post # 20,

      on March 19th, 2009 at 7:09 am

      Fran-

      Pls let me know when the new video is out. Thanks-

    21. Fran Guidry said in post # 21,

      on March 19th, 2009 at 7:50 am

      Tim, Audacity is free and straightforward. I prefer the Beta version and have had no stability problems.

      Reaper is another very low cost program, in fact the free demonstration never limits the use of the program. It’s a bit more complex than Audacity but very light on computer resources and very very powerful.

      Fran

    22. david said in post # 22,

      on March 25th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

      New to here. I plan on buying something soon. can anyone tell me if the H4n is pristine when recording through the 1/4″ jacks on the bottom. I’m premixing my signal from our soundboard and laying it on top of a signal from an AT Pro 45 in the house; I’m mixing these with some EQ on a little Mackie Mixer, and just want a crisp recording off that mixer. I’m trying to get away from lugging the laptop around and dealing with ASIO issues.

      I hope to hear that the built in mics don’t have too much noise as I’ll probably use them with other mixers in simular configurations.

      So can anyone tell me if there is ANY noise from a direct input recording? And do we have any consensus on how the built in Mics perform?

      I sure appriciate your input here.

    23. Fran Guidry said in post # 23,

      on March 26th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

      David, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t test the line in connection, so I can’t comment on it. You might want to visit the Zoom H2/H4/H4n forum and ask your questions there.

      Fran

    24. david said in post # 24,

      on March 26th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

      Hey Fran,
      I see on the Forum that you sent your unit back. Rats for hoping that it would be “The One”.

      Can you tell me real straight forward your opinion of the built in mics: If I record a session with the built in mics and then make a CD of the recording, will there be audible noise or hiss wherever there isn’t music playing?

      You posted a pic of an in line atenuator. Will I need such a thing if I’m running from my Main outs on my Mackie to the 1/4″ inputs on the H4N?

      Thanks again for your time,
      David

    25. Gerard said in post # 25,

      on March 28th, 2009 at 8:57 am

      Hi,

      I have used my H4n yesterday for the first time, recording a live concert on 4 tracks, mics and XLR input:

      Mics: I had to set the recording level at 1 and set a lo cut at 150 hz in order to reduce clipping, which still occurred, I even added the pop shield (indoor venue)…

      XLR: i connected Matrix out of my desk, line level, to XLR in of my H4n, and had to set the recording level to 1 and the matrix output level to its minimum and just got away without clipping the input !!!

      Great interface, very user friendly, I cannot believe that there is no way of switching between line / mic level !! plus the mics are far too sensitive ….

      I have emailed Zoom in Japan and their distributor in UK, I will let you know what they have to say, if they cannot resolve this issue with a software update, then I will ask for a refund, I invite you to do the same…

      Gerard
      Mixing Engineer
      http://www.gerardalbo.com

    26. Fran said in post # 26,

      on March 30th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

      Gerard, thanks so much for giving us the benefit of your experience. Many of the users posting on the Zoom forum are reporting problems with sensitivity. It sounds like a software upgrade is indeed in order, if the chips used will support the modifications. Let’s hope so.

      For line inputs, the H4n doesn’t have any. Even the 1/4″ inputs are “guitar amp” sensitivity rather than true line level, so an external attenuator is needed to bring in line level signals. Zoom product planners set out to create a combination field recorder/guitar scratchpad & practice tool and they clearly missed some opportunities to optimize the unit as a recorder.

      One poster on the Zoom forum also reports problems maintaining connectivity with the 1/4″ jacks, but his unit may be faulty.

      Fran

    27. Romolox said in post # 27,

      on March 31st, 2009 at 1:35 am

      My ask is: the H4N seems to miss the line input… But was it there in the H4?
      I’m reading the specific of the H4N (i’m waiting to receive it) and they are similiar with the H4’s… Is it possible?

    28. Fran said in post # 28,

      on March 31st, 2009 at 8:20 am

      I just checked the manual online at Zoom/Samson site. The line input on the H4 is a 1/8″ stereo mini.

      Fran

    29. Romolox said in post # 29,

      on March 31st, 2009 at 11:47 pm

      This is the answer at my email to ZOOM asking about the line level input in the H4n:

      “Hi, the H4n does not have a seperate line level input, but the combo jacks will accept a line level input provided the record level is set properly. We’ve done numerous tests here with various line level sources and not come up against a problem.

      Thanks for your interest in Zoom products.”

      What should I think about it?

    30. Romolox said in post # 30,

      on April 1st, 2009 at 12:03 am

      And… sorry but I’m reading the H4 manual too and I dont see any input 1/8″ stereo… Where did you read it?

    31. Fran said in post # 31,

      on April 1st, 2009 at 9:47 am

      Romolox, my apologies. I clearly misread on page 8 of the manual and got line input mixed up with the line output they show there. However, on page 10 of the manual they illustrate that the input XLRs are combo jacks that also accept 1/4″ input, just like the H4n. They describe this connection as:

      “The [INPUT 1]/[INPUT 2] jacks can be used to connect external
      equipment such as a mic, bass, guitar, or keyboard.”

      As far as Zoom’s answer to your question, and referring back to Gerard’s description of his experience a few posts up, he _was_ in fact able to record a line level source by turning the H4n sensitivity to the minimum. So based on this evidence, I’d say the Zoom engineers are correct, and you should be able to record line level sources without an external attenuator.

      Fran

    32. Romolox said in post # 32,

      on April 1st, 2009 at 2:55 pm

      Hey Guys tomorrow or the day after I will receive an H4n and I will try to connect to my mixer output line… Than I’ll post the results!
      Thanks anyway by now.

      Romolox

    33. Romolox said in post # 33,

      on April 6th, 2009 at 7:23 am

      No problem to manage line level, i confirm it… Just set the right inpt level or select auto level and it work proprely!
      Fantastic UNIT!

    34. CG Bush said in post # 34,

      on April 11th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

      Well I got my H4N last week. I’ve spent a little time with it with my drums and guitars. I must say say I’m a slow learner. Any word on an updated manual?

    35. Timo said in post # 35,

      on April 19th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

      I like the Zoom H4n, but there is one disappointment. I’ve been trying to use it as an external soundcard for recording, but the out latency is too high: 13-14ms. This is true in Reaper and Cubase LE4, but oddly not in Reason.

      So, when I have the zoom set up and monitor through Reaper or Cubase, when I snap my fingers there is a slight but audible delay. What’s also strange is that sometimes it seems worse that other times. One poster on the Reaper forum suggested that using the 44800Hz connection works better…

      ps: I have the latest firmware and am using the Zoom H4n Asio driver i downloaded.

    36. Tom Caron said in post # 36,

      on May 4th, 2009 at 7:14 am

      Just got my new H4n and I’m not having a problem with audible hiss.

      I recorded my group in 4 channel mode and was excited to see that, on page 072, of the manual that I could run the external inputs in “mono mix.” I’m using them for a signal from the PA for vocals and the last channel for piano. I wanted to pan the vocals to the center.

      Unfortunately even though the manual says mono mix is available in 4 channel mode, it is not as confirmed by Zoom. It is a manual typo and I’m stuck with vocals panned hard left and piano panned hard right.

      Am I missing something here?

      Thanks

      Tom

    37. Fran Guidry said in post # 37,

      on May 4th, 2009 at 10:58 am

      Tom, all I can suggest is that you transfer the files to a computer and remix them there. Either Audacity or Reaper or the Cubase that came with the H4n will give you the ability to edit your recordings to meet your needs.

      Fran

    38. Tom Caron said in post # 38,

      on May 4th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks Fran,

      I guess that is what I’ll have to do. It’s a shame that the H4n is marketed as a four track for live performamnce but is really limited to two stereo tracks with stereo track limitations.

      Would have been nice to “mix” the four tracks on board the H4n before dumping to Cubase.

      Tom

    39. John said in post # 39,

      on May 14th, 2009 at 1:19 am

      more portable recorder sound samples if anyone is interested.

      http://www.wingfieldaudio.com/portable-recorder-noise.html

    40. WILLIAM JONES said in post # 40,

      on June 10th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

      I think the improvement with the H4N would definitely be the display and the digital pre-amp.

    41. Didier Brest said in post # 41,

      on June 20th, 2009 at 4:26 am

      Fran, thank you very much for all these very informative shootouts. I have a collection of nice microphones (Schoeps, DPA, AKG, …) and good preamps (Fearn, DAV). Your tests convinced me to buy a Zoom. But I suspect there is something wrong in you recording with the H4N and his built-in mics: in spectral analysis one can see a strong HF lift (about 10 dB above 5 kHz), which explains why the H4N noise sounds louder that the H2 one. I corrected this by means of EQ. You can get the file from here: http://dl.free.fr/rDfflW2FI.
      Cheers,
      Didier

    42. Fran Guidry said in post # 42,

      on June 20th, 2009 at 7:05 am

      Howdy, Didier,

      Thanks for stopping by. Do you have your Zoom yet? I’ll be interested to hear if yours exhibits the same 5K lift. Many people describe the H4n mics as bright and that was certainly the case with mine.

      Fran

    43. Didier Brest said in post # 43,

      on June 22nd, 2009 at 2:10 pm

      Hi Fran,

      not yet. I just took the decision to buy. I think to get an H2 rather than the H4N. I’m interested in the concept all-in-one of this recorder. So I’m not interested in the mic inputs. From your recordings, the H2 sounds aa good, actually better without EQ correction, like the H4. In your blind test of recorders, I put first the Forster, second the H2 and third the Sound Device. My ears were likely wrong… Anyway the Edirol is much behind, cannot even be compared to the Zoom.

    44. Fran Guidry said in post # 44,

      on June 22nd, 2009 at 5:24 pm

      Didier, hello again,

      The H2 is certainly an wonderful tool at an amazing price. I use mine often.

      The poor Edirol certainly suffered abuse in my test, with the high pass filter on and recording MP3 instead of WAV. I hear the newer version is much improved.

      Fran

    45. Troy III said in post # 45,

      on July 15th, 2009 at 4:54 am

      Hello Fran, I’ve just took my time and listened to the samples you’ve recorded.

      And this ismy report:

      I’ve just listened to the first 4 samples as in given order

      Fostex
      H2
      H4n
      Hardy

      I rang them this way:

      -I- 1. Hardy; 2. Fostex;
      -II- 3. H2; 4. H4n;

      (The best sounding is the first on the list &v.v.)

      I’ve put them in groups because the difference between them inside the group is less than ~3%

      But… The difference between groups is roughly greater than 33%;
      Group II ads mudd that is higher than ~28% compared to Ist gr.
      White-noise is sharper for about the same amount in the 2nd gr.
      Low rumble is also unacceptably dense and masking in 2nd gr what makes the capture highly nontransparent. (misty or foggy)

      In both samples of ‘Fostex’ and ‘Hardy’ I’m able to hear a 1-2-3 nock-like sound on the background, but not on H2 & H4n samples, I even think I’m able te hear something like hartbeat sound preceeding the nock-like sound at the end of both samples, and on both: “Fostex” and “Hardy” but not on “H2″ and “H4n”.

      ***
      @ seccond gr. of samples
      Again “Fostex” is beating “H4n” for at least 3-5% in transparency. (with sure mic)

      ***
      “Hardy” is again better than “H4n”
      (I’ am afraid that H4n is somehow applying some ~3dB gain to the signal)

      end of report.

    46. Jim said in post # 46,

      on August 5th, 2009 at 7:30 am

      Hi – am very interested in hearing someone comment on (and hopefully point to a solution for) Timo’s question about latency using the H4n as an audio interface with Cubase LE. It would appear that the H4n was not designed to be used as audio input for multitracking/overdubbing in Cubase. Any ideas?

    47. Fran Guidry said in post # 47,

      on August 5th, 2009 at 11:24 am

      I rarely do overdubs, but when I do I avoid latency by monitoring at the interface instead of after recording. This means I can’t use my DAW effects on the monitored signal, but it also means zero latency. As I recall, this is very easy to set up on the H4n.

      Fran

    48. fran said in post # 48,

      on September 24th, 2009 at 10:52 am

      the duck told me to do it

    49. Ed Wiles said in post # 49,

      on October 6th, 2009 at 4:24 am

      Hello all,

      We’ve just bought an H4n to permanently connect to a mixing desk for use by many different people. So we’re using the AC adaptor, and switching on/off at the mains which switches all of our equipment (including the H4n) on/off in one go.

      The trouble is, after switching on at the mains you also have to switch on manually at the H4n. That’s tolerable, but more scary is you also have to remember to switch off manually after powering down the mains because otherwise the batteries kick in and leave the H4n switched on – and then the batteries run out and you lose all your settings!

      Am I missing something? I hope so :-)

      Thanks a lot

      Ed

    50. Greg said in post # 50,

      on January 2nd, 2010 at 7:45 am

      Zoom ASIO Driver/Cubase LE4 Problem

      ——————————————————————————–

      I bought a Zoom H4n and attempted to install the included Cubase LE4 software this weekend. The package insert told me to go to the Zoom site, download and install the ASIO driver before installing the Cubase software. I downloaded the driver and attempted to install it on my Windows XP desktop with no luck.
      Every time the result is exactly the same… have tried this several times. The install appears to go normally, and after clicking Next on the screen that states ‘the driver will now be installed’ I immediately get an error stating that the software ‘could not find any compatible devices’ It then tells me the device could not be installed. It does show up on add/remove programs in the control panel.
      After that happens, I uninstall the portion of the software that did install, reboot, and try again but the results are always the same.
      Is there a driver availible specifically for the H4n?

    51. Jedi said in post # 51,

      on May 14th, 2010 at 5:51 am

      I’m sorry, dear friendS but i bought a couple of them h4n and realized that they share a BUZZ problem, which appears to be a major BUG.

      Whenever you connect a couple of professional Canon Mics and use it in PHANTOM +48 MODE, your H4N recording will record a 45db buzz noise on both channels that will enable you to APPRECIATE standard power 50 Hz buzz. This apparatus won’t perform a professional recording. Apparently there is no attenuator of such a problem and filters to stop this Buzz.

      Rechargeable Batteries on the other hand, that will solve the problem temporarily, will last one hour maximum in phantom mode.

      Does anyone have any suggestions? Shall I flush them in the loo?
      I bet they are not waterproof either….

      Jedi

    52. Peter Miller said in post # 52,

      on July 14th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

      Seems the zoom H4n is quite good. Thanks for the detailed information
      Anyone used the Zoom R16?

      I have a pc based studio at the moment, it’s all in one room ( can nearly always hear the computer at some point)
      Looking for something to record on then I can edit etc. on the pc.

      All solo acoustic guitar.

      regards
      Peter

    53. Fran Guidry said in post # 53,

      on July 14th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

      Hi, Peter, I’m listening to “From A Distant Shore” right now. I’ve always loved the sound of an echo well used.

      I have an R16 and am quite impressed. I haven’t done a careful comparison to my main recording rig, but it works pretty nicely just to listen to it. The last few videos in my slack key channel on YouTube were recorded with the R16. http://www.youtube.com/franguidry

      The best low(er) cost recorder I’ve discovered in my searches is the Fostex FR2-LE. I sold mine fairly shortly after I did this blog post because I just never used it, but the preamps were quieter and cleaner than anything else under $1000 USD.

      Fran

    54. Peter Miller said in post # 54,

      on July 18th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks, for the reply.
      I will look into the Fostex.
      The R16 are real cheap now in Australia to compete with online prices apparently. it might be a better option than the zoom h4n maybe?

      I wonder, the if i can keep the r16 channels separate and load them into my PC without having to mix down to 2 channel?

      My last Cd was recorded on an m-audio audiophile 24/96.
      I’m very happy with it but looking for something mobile and with more inputs.

      Will also look into buying a Firewire/usb interface as well.

      keep well

      peter

    55. Fran Guidry said in post # 55,

      on July 18th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      Peter, I responded to your by email, but let me respond here as well. I love my R16. When you open the directories on the memory card, each track is a separate file. It’s a snap to bring them over to the computer for mixing and editing.

      Fran

    56. D Longworth said in post # 56,

      on July 20th, 2010 at 4:34 pm

      Hi Fran

      If you had to record only 2 tracks (spoken word) using an external condensor mic, and your primary criteria was sound quality, would you use the H4N or R16?

      thanks

    57. Fran Guidry said in post # 57,

      on July 20th, 2010 at 5:02 pm

      Since I don’t have both units here to compare I can’t offer an opinion. I don’t even have the other equipment that I used for the H4n comparison, so I don’t have any yardstick. If I had to choose, I’d say go for the H4n just based on cost, because I don’t think there’s a quality difference that will impact your project.

      But there certainly might be other considerations. The R16 is nice to work on, with bigger controls and such. But the H4n is more portable and I preferred the sound of the H4n built-in mics. You might find the H4n mics more than adequate for your project and save a bunch of hassle and setup time not to mention cost.

      Fran

    58. Peter Johnson said in post # 58,

      on November 26th, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      Just got the H4n. Using a recent Fender Strat direct plug-in mode. The H4n seems to get overloaded and distorts with even moderate attack on the strings, without preamp and effects. From the recording level indicator, the max level seems to be reached, and voila overload. Any help?

    59. Fran Guidry said in post # 59,

      on November 26th, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      Peter, I wish I could help you, but I didn’t keep my H4n and I never used it as a DI for an electric guitar. In fact, I don’t even have an electric guitar.

      Have you visited the Zoom forum? Perhaps someone there can offer a suggestion.

      http://zoomforum.us/viewforum.php?f=15

      Fran

    60. Tuan Enslinger said in post # 60,

      on December 2nd, 2010 at 10:59 pm

      We really like this website. Wewish I could come here all the time.

    61. Peter Hyatt said in post # 61,

      on July 8th, 2012 at 3:40 am

      Fran,

      your website has become a real “go to” for learning; thanks. Here is my question:

      Given the few years that have passed since Zoom H4n, do you see the H4n being replaced any time soon? Will purchasing it in 2012 become obsolete in a few years?

      My second question to you: if you could have only one portable recorder, would it be the H4n? H2n? thanks for your work here. Peter

    62. Fran Guidry said in post # 62,

      on July 8th, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Peter, thanks so much for stopping by.

      The latest announcement from Zoom is a new video recorder, the Q2n. This looks like the M-S mic of the H2n wedded to the cell phone camera from the Q3HD. It lacks the line in port but includes live connection to the computer so it can be used as an HD streaming camera for Skype and Ustream. Interesting product if live streaming takes off in a big way. http://www.zoom.co.jp/products/q2hd/

      I just checked the Zoom “news” page and there is no announcement of a new audio recorder. I would expect that they will announce a new one in the next three years, but if you need/want to record something now, waiting doesn’t seem like a very good option.

      I currently have an H2n and an R16, so those two cover my stereo and multi-channel needs very nicely. But honestly if I had only one recorder and I were shopping today with all the knowledge I have, I’d get the H4n. The ability to connect external XLR mics adds too much to the package. These days when I record duets in the field I use two recorders and the job would be much easier with a single recorder with 4 channels.

      Fran

    63. William said in post # 63,

      on January 2nd, 2013 at 7:00 am

      Hi Fran,

      Thanks so much for your reviewing! But I’m so confused with the “direct input”.

      1. Does the H4n have a direct input?
      2. What is a direct input actually?
      3. Does it mean it will only record the sound from the guitar’s pickup without recording the sound of the environment?
      4. What are the pros and cons of direct input comparing to the H4n’s in-built mics
      5. I have a Ko’olau Tenor ukulele with the L.R. Baggs Five.O Pickup, can I connect the ukulele into the H4n and record the sound directly from the pickup?

      I am planning to buy the H4n but want to make sure that it has the function that I want. Thanks.

    64. Fran Guidry said in post # 64,

      on January 2nd, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Hi, William,

      The term “direct input” is often abbreviated DI and refers to a level matching and signal balancing device for connecting unbalanced sources to balanced mic level inputs. These are used primarily in PA sound reinforcement applications to minimize noise on long cable runs and to provide unbalanced inputs for mixing boards that don’t have a native unbalanced capability.

      But I suppose the 1/4″ input jacks on the H4n represent a kind of “direct input” since you can plug an unbalanced source into them.

      Which brings us to point 3, and yes, it does mean that you can record the sound of the pickup without any external sounds being captured.

      Point 4 – generally the sound of a pickup is not as natural and “acoustic” as the sound captured by microphones, but it certainly can serve the purpose of capturing the music in a noisy environment. I have done this in several of my recent videos like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXReoi5cD1g Here I ran the guitar pickup into an effects box then directly into the recorder.

      So point 5 – yes, you will be able to connect the Baggs pickup to the H4n and record the pickup directly.

      Hope that’s helpful. By the way, if I were you I would wait until The end of January before buying an H4n because it’s possible that Zoom will announce a new recorder at one of the major trade shows happening this month. I don’t have any concrete information, but the time is about right and the H4n has been marked down on some retail sites in the past few months.

      Fran

    65. William said in post # 65,

      on January 2nd, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Hi Fran,

      A few more questions:

      Is there a specific cable used for connecting the pickup and the DI? Do you have any recommendation?

      Can I monitor the sound of the DI during recording? What if I record with the DI and built-in mics simultaneously, which source will I hear in my headphones?

      I watched your video! Nice playing! Did you record it outdoor? That’s exactly what I want to do! I don’t the external sound and only want to capture the sound of the pickup. But what does the A2 do? Adding effects like reverb in an amplifier? Again, when you plug your guitar into the A2, and then plug the A2 into the H2n, will you hear the original sound from the pickup or the sound with effects added in your monior headphones?

      THANKS!!!

    66. Fran Guidry said in post # 66,

      on January 2nd, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      I strongly recommend that you download and read the H4n manual. It has lots of good explanations, including pictures and details of the cables. http://www.zoom.co.jp/downloads/h4n/manual/

      Connect from your guitar to the line/instrument input of the H4n with a male to male 1/4″ mono cable. This is a standard guitar cable.

      Yes, you can monitor all the inputs of the H4n. You’ll need to read the manual to get the details.

      Yes, I recorded the video outdoors. I was playing live on the side of the road while I shot the video. The A2 provided EQ, reverb, and mono to stereo conversion.

      Once the signal passes through the A2 is has the effect added to it, and any place it is heard or recorded after that will have the effect.

      Fran

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    Leave a reply






    About the Blog

      Howdy, my name is Fran Guidry and this is my Homebrewed Music blog.

      I play Hawaiian slack key guitar and recorded my solo acoustic CD at home. Most of the recording information I find on the internet seems focused on bands, drums, multitracking, and so on but my main focus is recording solo acoustic guitar. Lately I’ve been enjoying video recording along with audio, so that shows up in the blog as well.

      I’m also a guitar nut. I love big ones and little ones, handmades and factory guitars, cheap ones and expensive ones. So I’ll be sharing the fun of exploring guitars as well, along with the challenges of amplifying acoustic guitars for live performance.

      Welcome!

    Philosophy

      My recording philosophy is pragmatic, skeptical, not super critical. After all, the performance is by far the most important component of a track, and every aspect of any recording is a matter of taste.

      But I do like to know “about stuff.” Back in hifi days I learned about double blind testing. I learned that we humans can easily hear differences that don’t really exist. The more I’ve learned about our human auditory system, the more I’m skeptical of what people say they hear, especially if they claim that a particular microphone or preamp or cable has some magical property.

      I’ve only been recording since 2001, and when I started I found the usual places on the internet. I sought advice and accepted it, thought I would improve my recordings by using more expensive equipment. It didn’t work.

      Two things that did seem to lead to better recordings were experience and room treatment. Getting an appealing sound is the combination of many small details, and learning those details only comes from experience. Amd the sound of the recording space is obviously a big factor.

      I’ve only recorded seriously using digital technology, but I remember trying to record rehearsals and gigs back in analog days. I don’t have any nostalgia for analog recording and playback systems at all. I think even low end digital systems can capture marvelous recordings. So when I look at gear, I look for good specs: low noise, broad flat frequency response, wide dynamic range, low distortion. I’m not interested in colorful components, mics and preamps with a sound, I want the sound to be the sound of my guitar.

      But the last word is that I’m just learning and I hope you find something useful in my posts.