Whether you're a band that needs to record your live shows, a music student who wants a quick reference of your practice sessions, or a songwriter looking for the easiest way to capture ideas, the Zoom H4n portable digital recorder is a truly professional solution. Zoom has struck a smart balance between extreme ease-of-use and feature-rich recording with this incredibly useful device. Record in stereo at up to 96 kHz/24-bit resolution, or record 4 simultaneous tracks at 48 kHz/24-bit using the high-quality on-board stereo mics and XLR combo jacks for mic, line, or instrument-level sources. If you've got a million-dollar studio that you plan on locking yourself into for the next 10 years, take our advice: don't get a Zoom H4n. Otherwise, we think you'll find innumerable uses for this portable wonder.
H Stands For Handy, 4 Stands For 4-Track
Ever try recording a live performance on your laptop? There's the power adapter, the audio interface, the microphones, the clips, stands, cables -- and the computer itself, precariously balanced next to the soundboard as it churns away. Don't forget to turn off the wireless card and set your OS not to go to sleep. And exactly how long can your DAW roll four tracks without freezing or running out of free space?
There's an easier way: mount the H4n on a mic stand using its built-in thread mount, and use its on-board condenser mics to capture a perfect X-Y stereo image, either 90 or 120 degrees wide. Next, run a stereo feed in from the soundboard onto the remaining two tracks via 1/4" or XLR cables, and presto -- you're recording on four tracks. A large red light flickers on when an input clips, so you can easily tell when your levels are too hot, and adjust input gain accordingly, via the dial on the side of the H4n.
You can record continuously for six hours on two AA batteries, and a single 32 GB card can record over 15 hours of uncompressed 4-track 48 kHz/24-bit WAV files. Or record directly to 320 kbps MP3s in stereo mode for an incredible 222 hours of recording time. Simply plug your H4n into a computer to transfer and back up your files -- it'll show up as a USB drive with your WAVs or MP3s. Handy, indeed.
It's the rare piece of gear that can actually inspire you to practice. With 18 built-in amp modeling presets and an on-board tuner, you'll find that the H4n is an excellent practice amp for bass or guitar -- just plug in the headphones of your choice to listen and record. And with two microphones that can so easily be mounted on a single mic stand, it's never been easier to record your drum kit, either. With variable playback speed from 50% to 150%, learning new songs is a breeze. You can even alter pitch without changing playback speed, cancel the center channel, and use an existing track as a backing track while you record new vocals or instruments on top of it.
Need to make a quickie demo before a song idea escapes you? Stop playing into your cell phone! Grab your H4n and lay down a clear, detailed track that you won't be embarrassed to show the rest of the band. With a built-in metronome and multitracking capability, the H4n is an incredible tool for capturing ideas on the fly, whether you're using the on-board stereo mics, your line-level or instrument-level source, or any mic of your choice. Use 50 on-board DSP effects including compressor, delay, and reverb. And when you prefer to fire up your computer and record into a DAW, the H4n functions as a 2-in/2-out 48 kHz/24-bit bus-powered audio interface.
While zZounds is known for providing great gear to musicians and audio engineers, we've also found the H4n is a indispensable field audio recorder for filmmakers and journalists. Use it to record high-quality audio on set when you don't want to run audio into the camera. Record interviews or location sound effects with the on-board mics. You simply won't find a better location recorder that runs on two AA batteries.
A Moveable Feast
Document band rehearsals, record field interviews, capture sound effects, or make demos just about anywhere -- the Zoom H4n can do it all. So, stop asking your friends if you can borrow their portable digital recorders, and get yourself one of the best on the market: the Zoom H4n.
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- Built-in X/Y stereo mics record at either 90 or 120 degrees
- Four channel simultaneous recording using built-in and external mics
- Digitally controlled, high-quality mic preamp for improved audio quality
- Large 1.9-Inch LCD screen and improved user interface for easy operation
- 24bit/96kHz Linear PCM recording for pristine recording
- MP3 recording for increased recording time
- Built-in reference speaker to check recordings
- Shock resistant rubberized body for improved chassis protection
- Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) compatible time stamp and track marker
- Records on SD/SDHC media of up to 32GB for maximum recording time
- Auto-record and pre-record feature so you never miss a moment
- Variable speed playback capability for "phrase training"
- Stamina mode enables 10 hours of continuous battery life
- Onboard mid-side matrix decoder for additional miking possibilities
- Built-in mounting joint for tripod and mic stand mounting
- USB 2.0 port for faster file transfer
- XLR inputs with phantom power allow recording with any mic
- Supports plug-in power type external mics
- Hi-Z Inputs for recording guitar and bass
- Studio effects onboard, including guitar and bass amp modeling
- USB audio interface capability
- Low-cut filter to reduce noise
- Normalizing and file splitting functions
- Mono mix function
- Onboard tuner and metronome
Includes 1 GB SD card, wind screen, mic clip adapter, AC adapter, USB cable, protective case and Cubase LE recording softwareOptional remote control RC4 (Sold Separately)
- Dimensions and Weight in Packaging
- Base Item
- Shipping Weight: 2 lbs
- with Remote, Headphones, WT Bag, and 4GB SD Card
- Shipping Weight: 5 lbs
The Zoom H4n combines the functions of a stereo field recorder, portable digital four-track, and USB audio interface into a single, no-compromise, audio recording wonder-tool. Capable of recording up to four simultaneous tracks of audio, the Zoom H4n is a single piece of pro-audio gear that can tackle a multitude of different audio tasks.
Stereo Field Recorder
Sometimes, having just two tracks is plenty -- that's what 2CH mode on the Zoom H4n is for. The Zoom H4n's pair of detailed and accurate microphones are arranged to capture a perfect stereo audio image every time you hit record. The unit runs for hours on four AA-batteries, but Zoom includes an AC adaptor in the box for when an outlet is handy. Because the Zoom H4n can support up to 32 GB removable SDHC cards, you can record over 15 hours of uncompressed, better-than-CD-quality digital audio (it ships with a 1GB card to get started right away).
Four Simultaneous Input Channels
Switch over to 4CH mode, and the Zoom H4n becomes a very special field recorder indeed. Just like on the original H4, the Zoom H4n sports a pair of combination XLR / 1/4-inch input jacks, and just like on the H4, you can hook up instruments, stereo mixing board feeds, dynamic mics or even condenser microphones to these inputs. Except on the Zoom H4n you can use all four inputs -- your input jacks and the built-in mics -- at the same time.
Multitrack Recording Studio
When in MTR (multi-track record) mode, the H4n can record two tracks simultaneously, but play back four tracks independently, jut like digital four-track recorders that cost much more. Use the Zoom H4n in MTR mode to build a song, track by track. There's a whole toolbox of Zoom-designed effects like vocal processors, compression and reverbs, and even an entire guitar and bass amp modeling suite for direct recording of electric instruments.
Recording at home or with a laptop handy? Record directly to your computer by using the H4n as a USB audio interface.
- Built-in adjustable stereo mics
- Four channels of simultaneous recording when combined with two external mics
- 1.9" LCD screen
- Recording resolution up to 24-bit/96 kHz
- Built-in reference speaker
- Supports both SD and SDHC memory cards (up to 32 GB)
- Up to 10 hours of continuous battery life
- 2 XLR inputs, both with phantom power
- Can be used as a USB audio interface
- Low-cut filter
- Onboard tuner and Metronome
zZounds Expert Review
Out Of The Box
As I pulled the H4n out of the box, I was struck first by the improvement in design and construction over the original H4 recorder. This one has a nice, rubberized feel with a more professional heft than its predecessor. It seemed solid and rugged in my hand, as if it would better withstand the rigors of field recording. I like the squared-off look better than the more rounded profile of the original H4. It still won't fit in my pocket, but the included carry case will protect it when it's not in use.
The H4n's control interface is pretty intuitive, but because of all the functionality crammed into this little device, you have to dig deep to get to some of the parameters. Fortunately, the menu system is very straightforward, and some of the most common features can be accessed with dedicated controls. Input levels and playback volume, for example, can be set from up/down switches located on either side of the H4n. Transport controls are within easy reach on the front panel, along with the four channel select buttons. These buttons also do double duty, allowing you to change the media format (WAV or MP3) and playback speed, or select specific files or folders.
The menu system employs a small jog wheel for scrolling through available options. Pressing on the jog wheel selects a parameter, usually taking you to a submenu where you repeat the process to change and store new values. A separate Menu button backs you out of the menu tree. It's a pretty slick way to manage all the available options, and in no time at all I was navigating with ease.
All that said, some of the features did take a bit more work to set up, and can be frustrating to manipulate. In multitrack (MTR) mode, for example, you can record up to four channels of audio simultaneously, or overdub on some channels while playing back others. Effective overdubbing requires a good balance between input and playback volumes, though. On the H4n, this involves navigating through the menu system to set the volume on one of the channels, then backing out of the menu to hear how it compares to the rest of the channels, and back and forth ad nauseam until you're satisfied with the blend. Then repeat to set the pan, effects levels, and so on. It's definitely doable, but not always quick or pleasant.
The large, backlit display on the H4n is very nice, and gives good feedback during recording, playback, and menu navigation. And the feedback extends out beyond the display. Remember those channel buttons that do double duty? Make that triple duty; they flash to let you know the input signal on that channel is clipping. You can see this from well out in the room, so it's pretty easy to ensure your audio will be clean right at the outset instead of recording the whole take and finding out it's worthless.
Handheld audio recorders serve many purposes, and I used the H4n for a bunch of them in the course of my demo. I grabbed some spontaneous sound effects and ambient audio as opportunities presented themselves, and tracked some acoustic instruments and spoken-word voiceovers in the studio. I also tried out the onboard multitrack recording feature, and set the H4n up as a mobile audio interface on my laptop.
The onboard microphones on the H4n really stood out compared to other handheld recorders I've used. For the first time, I felt like I could use the audio from a handheld recorder in a professional project as the main source material. The self-noise was very low, and the adjustable stereo angle provided a noticeably different sonic character. The ambient audio I recorded had a well-defined stereo spread with excellent depth between near and far sources. The response was flat and balanced across the frequency spectrum, and the audio was much cleaner with less distortion than I normally see in other recorders in this category. Similarly, sound effects came through with crisp clarity both close-miked and from out in the room.
Next, using the H4n's onboard phantom power, I connected a pair of studio condenser mics to the recorder's XLR/TRS combo inputs and recorded some acoustic guitar to all four channels. I wanted to compare the two stereo signals. I will say I did prefer the outboard mic tracks, but the onboard mics were very close. They didn't have the same sparkle in the high end as the outboard mics, but the response was very even all across the fretboard. Transients were captured cleanly with no appreciable distortion, and I would have no trouble dropping the H4n's onboard mic tracks into a mix. The voiceover tracks were equally great, with nice presence and a deep, rich tone on my boomy baritone.
As a multitrack recorder, the feature set was impressive. The onboard tuner and wealth of amp models and effects was more than I expected out of this compact device, but as I said, setting levels for overdubs was kind of a pain. It's nice to know the H4n can do this, but I would probably only use it in this context as a last resort. It would be great out on the road for sketching out song ideas with some more context than you usually get just playing and singing.
As a mobile interface, the H4n also performed admirably. I connected it to my laptop with no hassles, and was able to track a direct guitar input into Cubase without a hitch. Again, this functionality seems secondary to me compared to its typical handheld recorder duties, but it's nice to know it's there in a pinch.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality and features found on the H4n. It's a little bulkier than some of its competitors, but it's still pretty amazing they were able to jam all that functionality in there. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the sound, and for the price, no other recorder comes close to professional quality of the H4n's onboard mics. Do I have to give it back?