Zoom H-4 Review and Audio Sample Recordings

Welcome to my Zoom H4 discussion page. This will contain my comments and impressions about the H4, and some actual recordings that I made using it in various places. I purchased it as a main audio source to use with my video cameras, as camera audio is unusable except for very limited applications.

The H4 is a lightweight, economical digital recorder that runs on 2 AA batteries. It records 16 and 24 bit audio at sample rates of 44.1, 48 and 96KHz. It also has an MP3 record mode and supports various sample rates from about 64 to 320kbps.

It accepts a 2GB SD card, which allows almost 3 hours of 48KHz 16-bit audio to be recorded. There are switches for power, input 1 gain, input 2 gain and mic gain. A push-select dial enables menu selections to be made. The remaining controls are headphone volume, four buttons for instant selection of bitrate and recording format and a menu joystick. Jacks include headphone and line outputs, and two balanced TRS/XLR combo jacks with phantom power.

The menu system is a little confusing at first, because the menu joystick is not used for selecting or confirming a selection. The dial on the right side of the body is used for that. Once this protocol is understood, operation is quite easy. Basic operation is about as simple as turning on the old-fashioned microcassette recorder and pressing record. On the H4, you power it on, wait 5 seconds for the system to boot up, and then press the record button once to arm it for recording (the button will blink red) and press again to start recording.

For many situations, the internal mics are quite suitable. I perched this recorder on top of my Sony HVR-V1U with a hot shoe mount and used it on a number of demanding occasions this weekend. One was a trip to New York City and another was recording the fireworks.

One of the first things you notice about the recording quality is the near complete absense of noise. The preamps are very quiet. Zoom claims about 110dB noise floor. That is very believable. The built in mics sound surprisingly good. The bass response is breathtaking, although the high end is a little over sibilant and 'tinkly' sounding, but not bad. Recordings of rain have great detail, not a nebulous hissing sound. I'm in the process of adding some sample recordings below, of the H4 recording different types of sounds.

The phantom powered XLR inputs are an amazing thing. I connected a high quality pair of studio condenser mics and made some test recordings and the results sound like studio-quality. With the 3 step attenuators, the H4 can handle a wide range of sound pressure levels.

The battery run time is about 4-5 hours on alkaline and somewhat longer on 2700maH NiMH batteries.

There is a foam wind screen that slips over the built-in mics, but it falls off easily and is only moderately effective at reducing wind noise. The mics are sensitive to handling noise, so it is best to use on a tripod or placed on a solid surface not connected to a wooden floor. Mounted on top of  a video camera, it does a decent job of sound pickup with minimal handling noise that is inaudible in most medium sound level environments.

MTA Train in Station Recorded at the MTA platform under Grand Central Terminal, NYC. This is an electric train leaving the station.
Thunder Roll Recorded using external studio condenser mics at 48KHz sample rate. Good bass boom!
Thunderstorm Recorded using external studio condenser mics at 48KHz sample rate. Two minutes of really active storm activity!





































Last Updated 07/30/2007 07:10 PM