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[gear] Zoom H4 recorder

Subject: [gear] Zoom H4 recorder
From: "oryoki2000" oryoki2000
Date: Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:26 am (PDT)
The Zoom H4 is the latest entry into the low-price field recorder
sweepstakes.  Read about it here

The Zoom H4 has several features to distinguish it from low-cost
competitors like the Sony MZ-RH1 minidisc recorder, the M-Audio
Microtrack 2496 CF recorder, and the Edirol R-09 SD recorder.

To start with, the H4 has a street price of $300, cheaper than its

Next, the H4 has decent quality mic capsules built in.  They are set
up in X/Y fashion at one end of the recorder, similar to the approach
Sony took with its PCM-D1 model.

If you prefer external mics, the H4 has two combination XLR/7mm phone
jack inputs, not the smaller and less durable 3.5mm TRS mini-jack used
in the other recorders.  The H4 can provide 48V phantom power for pro
mics as well.

The Zoom H4 records WAV files up to 24/96, too.

Last, when attached to your PC via USB 2.0 port, the H4 can act as a
digital audio interface (like an external sound card) for recording
direct to PC disc.  The other recorders can transfer the files they
recorded by USB, but can't act as a sound card.

The H4 is powered by two AA batteries, which provide about four hours
of recording time.  Files are stored on Secure Digital flash memory
cards.  The largest capacity Zoom recommends is 2GB, but some owners
report that the H4 recognises 4GB SD cards.

The Zoom H4 is somewhat larger and heavier than the competition, but
can be held in and controlled by one hand (ok, a large hand).

Zoom H4........70 x 153 x 35 mm...volume 375 cc...190 g
Edirol R-09....63 x 102 x 29 mm...volume 186 cc...146 g
M-Audio 2496...57 x 105 x 29 mm...volume 174 cc...147 g
Sony MZ-RH1....84 x 85 x 15 mm....volume 107 cc....96 g

Zoom does not publish information about the H4's self-noise.  It
remains to be seen how noisy the pre-amp section is.  At this price
point I'm not expecting miracles.

Another weak point of the H4 is that the "tape transport" controls for
playback are via a menu rather than by buttons dedicated to play,
pause, rewind and fast forward.  Fortunately, there is a large button
to start and stop recording without using the menus.

As the name suggests, the H4 is a 4 track recorder.  Just two tracks
can come from mic inputs, however.  The other tracks are played back
from the H4's Secure Digital card.  This lets a garage band mix vocals
with previously recorded instrument tracks, for example.  

Even though the multi-track recording feature will have limited value
to nature recordists, it might be fun to try to build a composite file
of nature sounds like waves at the beach from recordings taken close
to and far from the shore. 

The H4 is available now in limited quantities. I'll post links to
sample recordings as I find them.


"Microphones are not ears,
Loudspeakers are not birds,
A listening room is not nature."
Klas Strandberg

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