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Taylor

Taylor
August 19, 2011

Zoom H2N: The Future of Portable Recorders

Samson, the company that makes Zoom recorders, sent me a prototype of their new portable digital recorder the H2n. I originally wrote a blog detailing my initial impressions of the recorder before I was able to get my hands on it. Now that I have had the chance to play around with it, I must say that I am quite impressed with their new recorder.

Thoughts Post Demo

I wrote a blog on the H2n before I got my hands on it and I had some things that I thought were lacking. For instance I did not like how there was no XLR, 1/4 inch combination input like on the H4n. My doubts were quickly erased when I used the on board mics and played around with the menu functions. The mics are great and implementing an external input would have made the recorder larger and less portable.

In addition I did not like how a shoe mount was not incorporated into the package for DSLR cameras. I quickly realized that not only can you easily purchase an adapter to work with the H2n, but also that the mic should be operated by someone separate from the camera man. This will insure the best possible audio recording when working in the medium of film. For musicians, I think it is one of the best portable recorders for capturing instruments. You now have options for how you want to capture sound which is a huge plus in my book.

Construction

One of the things I could not comment on previously was the actual feel of the recorder in my hand. I was able to see photos and review specifications but it was not until I got my “grimy little paws” on it, that I was able to see how versatile and portable this recorder actually is. The overall size is smaller than the H2, but that’s because all of the menu functions are now selectable within the LCD screen. That allows for a much larger mic capsule with the 5 on board mics. Brilliant!!!

But what I really like is that the side with the LCD screen is recessed. So when you pick it up and hold it, it feels like it should fit into your hand. This is a huge improvement from the H2 where you had a boxy feel. The H2n feels much more ergonomic with its design. The record button fits into the recessed part of the recorder, which helps with being accurate when selecting the perfect time to record and stop. No more errors when recording on the fly.

The Demo

So Samson provided us with some test recordings which we used in the video. I had a chance to do some of my own vocal recordings, but felt that you guys would want to hear how instruments sound, as well as noises out in the field. Now that we have some content for you to drool over, I will take the time to do some of my own field recordings and report back with links to the sounds.

So listen closely to the test recordings that Samson provided. If you put headphones on and listen to the train, it feels like you are surrounded by the sound of the train. Also if you listen to the mid side recording of the drum set, you can hear the tom tom playing though the right side while the main beat is coming from the left. This type of stereo surround sound recording is such a new and exciting innovation for these recorders. It blew me away and got me really excited for the future of portable digital recorders.

The Verdict

I highly recommend picking up this recorder when we get our shipment here at uniquesquared.com. Its small, lightweight design and top quality on-board mics (there are 5!!! holy cow!!!) make it the perfect recorder for all types of audio geeks out there. I am picking mine up as soon as I am finished writing this sentence. Done!

Transcript:

So this is Taylor from uniquesquared.com and today we’re talking digital portable recorders once again. This time we’ve got Zoom’s H2n. Now this is a brand new recorder from Zoom, it’s next generation from the previous recorder the H2. So we’re going to get into it, I’m going to show you the construction, the features that are involved with it, and then let you listen to some sample recordings. Let’s check it out. So one of the first things we want to talk about is the construction. I have here the H2, which is Zoom’s first recorder in this line, and right of the bat you can tell the difference in the mic capsule size, which is really nice because you know you’re going to get a better recording with this larger mic capsule over here on the H2n. One of the other things you’ll notice is the LCD screen. Now it’s a little smaller on here, and much bigger on here, which is really nice so you don’t have that eyesore problem trying to hunt down your menu functions. I really like what Zoom did with that. One of the things I will mention though is a prototype, so when it ships it may look a little different that what you see now. But I can assure you that all the functions are going to remain the same as what I’m about to go through. So you have your menu selection, your play/pause as well as your track selection, and your power and hold feature for saving battery life. You’ll also have this analog mic gain adjustment which is really nice, so a lot of times that stuff is selectable through the menu and you have to monitor that through the LCD screen. But now if you’re hearing the clipping or you’re seeing it visually on the screen, you can simply adjust that on the side without any problems, I really like that. Looking at the other side, you’ve got your mic line in over here as well as your volume adjustment for your headphone monitoring and your USB out, now this converts audio through your USB 2.0 so it’s one of the fastest converters of audio on this recorder. Now you also have this remote in so you can hook up a remote which comes with an accessory pack that Zoom provides. It’s got things like a tripod stand, and a DC power and USB connection, and a lot of other things that really compliment this recorder well. One of the other things that I really like is the speaker on here, it’s got an onboard speaker for monitoring so you’re not always having to fumble with headphones. If you want to listen to recording immediately you can do that by listening through the speaker. Ok so let’s talk about the microphones that we’ve got on here, it’s got the XY mics that you find on the H2. But this is the very first recorder that has mid side recording. Now mid side recording is very cool because you can record your source directly and monitor though the sides. Now that’s very nice and this is the first recorder that does that, I can’t stress that enough this is a new innovation in portable digital recorders. But not only that, you also have two channel and four channel recording. Now this helps for developing a surround sound recording. You switch it to two channel and it just uses the mics on the back, you switch into four channel and it uses all five mics on this recorder. Yes I said it, five mics on this recorder, how cool is that? So one of the most important features on this recorder besides the microphones is the brain, which is all the features which are selectable within the LCD screen. Now this recorder records in 24bit 96k, you can also record in wav or mp3 format. And one of the other functions in here which is really nice is the input function which allows you to do different things, like you can put a low cut filter, you can also put compressors and limiters on there. And there’s three different compressor modes, three different limiter modes. Really nice to have that versatile option for your onboard recordings. It’s also got system setting functions and a USB function for transferring all your audio, just kind of basic standard stuff on any portable recorder. But the real standout feature on here is the data recovery system. So if you’re out in the field recording and your batteries suddenly die, don’t worry because all your recordings will be saved. It saves from the last thing you recorded basically until the batteries die, so it works in the same way that a lot of certain softwares work where you have a recovery system for all your files. I really like that about the H2n, especially as a field recorder. Some other features to mention is that it comes with a two gigabyte card. It can record with a 32 gigabyte card which is really nice. It also runs for twenty hours on two double A batteries, that is phenomenal, really really like that. It also comes with Steinberg wavelab LE software, and if you’re one of those guys that’s just getting started with recording it’s really nice because you have a software to start playing around with to trim your recordings or beef them up with some equalization or whatever functions you want to add on top of that. So now that I’ve gone over the construction and the features, as well as the microphones and the LCD screen. I’m going to let you guys listen to a couple sample recordings to let you guys see how this thing sounds.
So now that you’ve gotten to hear what it sounds like, I’m going to give you my take on the H2n, it’s great. I’m a musician and a filmmaker so I like the versatile options you  have. You can take it in the studio and record or as a filmmaker you can take it to record dialogue as well as sort of like room tones and ambient soundscapes to be able to put them into your soundtrack. One of the things that I found limiting is that you do not have a ¼ inch XLR input on the H2n. But after playing with the onboard mics you don’t really need it, these microphones sound really great and I think putting an XLR and TRS input on here would have actually limited what this thing is because it’s supposed to be a small portable recorder. Putting those inputs on here would have made it a lot larger and bulkier. So I think Zoom did a good job actually not putting them on here and I look forward to using this thing a lot in the future. But to find out more information check us out on uniquesquared.com. You can also check us out on our blog at uniquesquared.com/blog where you’ll see a write up on this and a ton of other products. And be sure to follow us on twitter, like us on facebook, and subscribe to this youtube channel. And as always, be you, be unique, on uniquesquared.com.

Comments

  1. Heather G says:

    I can’t wait to try this. You did a great review this one looks promising.

    1. Taylor taylor says:

      Thanks Heather!! Post some recordings and share them with us when you get a chance to use it.

  2. MykroBeatz says:

    I really like the USB function with wav/mp3 outputs. The speaker and data saving feature sounds awesome.
    I could really use one of these for sampling for my beats. w00t

  3. Steven C. says:

    Love how you can switch from the mid side to the xy polar pattern, makes the device that much verstile.

  4. Steven T. says:

    These look awesome

  5. Nicole Warren says:

    What a great blog. I truly appreciate your retraction of the previous comments from your last blog. That’s respectable. Reading this really make me want to have one in my “grimy little paws”. It seems to be an essential piece of equipment that records and displays brilliant sound. You sold me, Taylor. Awesome job!

    1. Nicole Warren says:

      I forgot to add…the LCD screen holds more menu feature allowing a larger microphone capsule to handle more mic features seems to be one of the greatest improvements.

      1. ariff says:

        Thanks for writing in Nicole. How do you like your prize pack?

  6. DJ Hart says:

    I like the new construction design that incorporates a bigger mic capsule and LCD screen. Having the volume adjustment located externally on the side is a nice addition. I cant wait to try out the mid/side recording feature with the “FIVE” mic’s. I’m looking forward to putting the new Zoom H2N to work. Very good review.

  7. DJ ShafT says:

    It looks truly promising with 5 mics, n 4 channels. I also like that i will b able to change setting on the fly while recording, i am looking forward to trying this unit out.

  8. Timo says:

    Sold! Definetly next must-have-gear.

    If it´d also make coffee of my taste it´d be the perfect solution, like swiss army knife, in portable recorders.

    But this is unperfect world we´re living in.

  9. Brent says:

    I’m happy to hear about the new features on the H2N.. better screen, recessed buttons, etc.

    We use a Zoom for recording rehearsals and it makes it much easier to give each other

    feedback on our parts, and is totally humbling to hear your own playing!

    Makes you a better player.

  10. Mike S says:

    Wow, this would be perfect for my daughter. She plays both flute and viola and currently does not do any recording / playback.

  11. Frank Sparti says:

    The multiple directional source patterns will really help when integrating interviews and other stuff recorded “in the field” into my studio recorded bits of my podcast without getting the feeling the walls just blew off every time i edit one in and the room acoustics change at the same time as source direction.

  12. Cristiano says:

    Wow…must be incredible record only with that on 4 channels and either change the polar pattern…we can’t imagine all this just looking into it.
    I still can’t believe on that Mid Side…no more words!

  13. Ben says:

    I get the disappointment in the lack of XLR inputs, but my guess is that at the price they wanted to hit, an XLR + a mic preamp wasn’t going to get them there. I can still see it as something I’d chuck in my bag and carry around with me, though. Right now I sing into my phone to get ideas jotted down, and it’s not ideal. Having more inputs (line in!) is pretty sweet.

    1. ariff says:

      Thanks for writing in Ben. What would be an ideal replacement for recording on your phone?

  14. Shane Dickson (Oregon Slacker) says:

    Wow, what a truly great product, sounds like its great for product reviews, interviews and even creating your own jams. Love it, thanks for the helpful information.

  15. Angel Yi says:

    I can’t believe there are 5 mics on board! This definitely would fit my need for a portable hi-quality recorder during practice and shows! Definitely will look into this! :)

  16. Kevin Liu says:

    Wow, this is a great mix of portability while maintaining excellent quality. Will definitely check these out.

  17. Mihaly,Stojka says:

    “there are 5!!! holy cow!!!”

  18. John says:

    Question: I just (20min ago) bought the Tascam DR-07mkII from UniqueSquared, because of the ability to switch the mics from X/Y to A/B, but it appears this Zoom does the same. Is it worth the extra $50? (Using mainly for field recording)

    1. Taylor taylor says:

      The H2n is actually a little different in how it records audio with the different microphone positions. The H2n has mid side recording which records with a microphone facing forward and on the sides (A/B), while the Tascam DR-07 mkll only has the side recording in A/B position. I really like Zoom products so I would recommend the H2n. The Tascam is still a great field recorder, but you have more options with the H2n hence the $50 difference. Hope this helps.

      1. John says:

        Ah, I see. So the H2n can run two on the side plus one in the middle at the same time. Yeah, I just got the Tascam in and it’s pretty impressive. Love how sensitive the mics are. I think it’ll suit my purposes for now, but I won’t lie, as soon as I laid down a test track on it, I wanted to overdub it! But I bought this knowing I have two digital records that I need to use for overdubbing.

        Thanks for the reply Taylor. I’m doing Sound Design at UGA. Weeze neighbors mang! Holler at me if I can help you guys with anything: pacepave(-)uga(-)edu

        1. Taylor taylor says:

          You’re welcome John. Look forward to hearing some recordings from you.

  19. Cesare says:

    Hello, great video review, thanks. Was undecided but you really pushed me to buy it.
    Just 2 more info:
    - will I be able to use it as an audio interface for example with a guitar and a daw for recording? any latency?
    - can it use both external microphone and its own simultaneously like the h4n?

    Thnk you!

  20. Taylor taylor says:

    Cesare,

    Yes you can use it as an audio interface for recording. You cannot however use the on-board mics and the external mic input simultaneously. Like all Zoom recorders, when you plug in an external mic, it cancels out the internal microphones.

    Don’t let that stop you from getting the H2n though. I have played around with it throughout the weeks and it is awesome.

    1. Cesare says:

      Hi Taylor, thank you for the prompt answer.

      Do you have any experience using it as an audio interface? I would like to know if it has direct monitoring or if I will experience some latency, seen that I will sometimes use it to record live reharsals but for sure I will use it mostly as an audio interface.

      I thought that the h4n could record with both in mics and ext mics, glad you told me, that was the only reason for me to buy the h4n instead of the h2n, but no more now.

      1. Cesare says:

        Well, I discovered that h4n can actually record simultaneously from both internal and external. Bye

        1. Taylor taylor says:

          Yes you can use the XLR/1/4 inch inputs and the X/Y mics simultaneously. To be clear though, you cannot use the 1/8 inch external mic input on the back of the H4n (H2n is on the side) and the X/Y microphones simultaneously. This is what I was referring to. The H4n allows for four track recording which is why the X/Y mics and combination inputs can be tracked simultaneously.

  21. Bob says:

    Does it provide sequential numbering of the recorded files even after clearing the memory? My old MicroTrack did this and it was great. This is a severe drawback on my Zoom H1 and is the reason i am looking for a replacement. Thanks.
    B

    1. Taylor taylor says:

      Hey Bob. Unfortunately the H2n does not allow for sequential numbering after clearing the memory. Although you might find that a drawback, the H2n is still a great recorder with many features. Happy Recording!

  22. B.E.N. says:

    This guy hardly knows Audio tech.
    Or the specs of the original H2.

    Well ,I guess I’m just a nerd – go ahead and thrash me ; if that’s what’s inside of you.

    1. Taylor taylor says:

      You’re right, I’m not an expert on the H2 and I never owned one personally. I was not able to truly dive into everything the H2 offers. Is there anything I may have overlooked?

  23. Ibn Saeed says:

    Should i purchase Zoom h2n or Rode Shotgun ?

    I want to know the basics of using it for recording lectures of a teacher. the Recorder will be kept in front of the Speaker as he wants his lectures to be recorded. The speaker already has a Camcorder so I plan on recording the video with the Camcorder and using Zoom H2n for recording Audio and then syncing them both. Video will be recorded in PAL 25 FPS.

    Is a Lavalier mic necessary or could i just use the Zoom H2n’s mic by placing it in front of the speaker. The speaker would be sitting and wont be moving.

    Also,Which Rec Mode should i choose for recording Speech/Lectures ?

    44.1 / 16 bit
    44.1 / 24 bit

    or 48 / 16 bit
    etc.

    1. Taylor taylor says:

      Great question Ibn! The Rode Shotgun microphone is a great mic. However for the type of recording you are doing, you will need to buy some sort of interface to record the audio into like an H4n. With the H2n you have the microphone and interface all in one so that’s one purchase to make.

      As far as microphone placement goes, in front of the speaker should be fine but be mindful of the mic gain settings so you do not clip the recording. How is the lecturer miked?

      Because you are recording a speech vocal, especially for an extended period of time, you should record at a mode which wont eat up too much of your SD car. Something like 44.1/16 bit should be just fine. Its really up to you so I recommend doing some test recordings at different formats to see which one is best for you.

      We have a great price on our website with included accessories which may help like a mini tripod, AC adapter, and 16GB SD memory card. http://www.uniquesquared.com/zoom-h2n-with-acc-pack-16gb-soft-case-and-samson-hp10-headphones.html

  24. Richard Links says:

    Can the H2n handle a +4 signal coming directly out of a mixer? In essence, I would also like to use one of these devices as a back-up capture when I record live chamber music locally. The microphones I own are professional models from Milab of Sweden so the idea was simply to feed signal into an H2n and let it run with that while I use my pro rig of an Aphex 1100 mic pre and my Milabs going into my Alesis Masterlink.

    I hope you can answer this question!

    Thanks

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    1. Taylor taylor says:

      Thanks Cherian!! Be on the look out for much more in the near future.

  26. Ruth says:

    I am trying to decide between the zoom h2n and the tascam 07-mkII for my daughter. She plays violin and needs something to practice along with and also to record to send out recordings for college scholarships. Which would be better? Thanks!

    1. Taylor taylor says:

      Great question Ruth!

      Both are great recorders for the type of application you are describing here. I personally like the functionality of the interface on the H2n better because it is easier to control. Also the Zoom H2n has more options for how you record like mid-side recording. Plus Zoom is the industry leader when it comes to portable digital recorders.

      If you are on a budget however, the Tascam DR -07 mkII is still a really great recorder. Hope this helps. Good luck to you and good luck to your daughter on getting that scholarship.

  27. rls. says:

    i am going to be doing vocals in a studio setting and we are going to be going to a cafe to do a performance that i want to capture(video and audio) and post on youtube….. whats your opinion on using this h2next for vocals and capturing piano and light drum? my overall main concern is vocals… we have recoding software but i dont want to over think think it for one take sessions…..

    1. Taylor taylor says:

      For a truly no hassle recording of your performance then something like the H2n is adequate. You may feel limited when you take it into your DAW and you cant isolate certain things like cymbal ambience and natural room tones. With that said, I dont want to mislead you into thinking that an H2n is the best option for recording vocals, piano, and drums. You could really benefit from a set of microphones, an interface, and laptop.

      Who is doing the recording? Do you have a friend who will run the session or are you the one recording and playing?

      There is the easy way and there is the right way in these situations. The more time and effort you put into the recording, the happier you will be with the end result in post-production.

  28. DSLR user says:

    Hello, I’m trying to find decent info on this, but finding it tricky because most people buying these recorders seem to be musicians. I’m a photographer with an occasional need for documentary type video.

    I’m undecided over the H2N or the H4N.

    I want to do on-the-fly video with my SLR (Canon 5Dii)

    It will mostly be ”field recording”, so sporadic interviews in various locations (indoors and outdoors), and would like to be able to isolate people talking from relatively noisy environments.

    Sooo.. I understand that the H2N has more mics, so does that make it more versatile for field recording than the H4N? I’d like to know if the H2N can be more directional than the H4N, and also whether it can also be more omni-directional.

    One of my main concerns is the lack of holdability without a handle being attached.. unlike the H4N, which seems to be better designed for walking around. Would that be a deal breaker considering my needs? I’m totally new to microphones I’m afraid, apart from realising that my camera’s internal mic is rubbish.

    Lastly, size and weight are a concern of mine because I’m carrying an already heavy camera/lens set, so don’t want to get even more weighed down, and on that front the H2N wins…

    What do you reckon?

    1. Taylor Taylor says:

      Great question. You have a couple things here that bare responding to individually as each Zoom recorder are good for different things.

      Isolating people in noisy environments is always a tricky maneuver with any microphone no matter what the quality. The H4n in this case wins but not because of the built in mics, but because you can connect something like a lavalier or a shotgun microphone to the XLR input. This will give you directional functionality.

      The H2n is better suited to capture all of those ambient environment noises if you have it placed within your space properly. Since you will be doing interviews in noisy environments, the H4n is really more appropriate because at the end of the day its better to capture the speech properly then go back later and capture room tones to lay down underneath your dialog in post-production.

      Trying to juggle your camera while also doing audio is probably the solo DSLR shooter’s biggest nuisance. If you are more concerned about weighing your rig down then I would go with the H2n and look for a hot shoe mount or a shoulder rig that has attachements for audio capture devices. It is important when shooting with audio and video simultaneously and alone that you have a stabilization system to control your shots and audio.

      With all this said I have yet to put the H2n through intense practical situations in the field outside of a few test recordings. I do however use the H4n almost everyday and I find it to be my go to choice for portable recorders. The H2n is great but without those external inputs I find it limiting for DSLR/run and gun shooting.

      Check out the links below for great prices on both the H4n and H2n.

      http://www.uniquesquared.com/zoom-h4n-portable-handy-digital-flash-recorder.html

      http://www.uniquesquared.com/zoom-h2n-handy-portable-digital-audio-recorder.html