The Zoom H4N is a portable recorder released in 2009. This small device was one of its kind in the audio market and quickly found a niche in the early years of amateur digital film making.
This recorder has been updated since, and higher-end models have been released as well. In this review, we’ll see how the old model compares to the newer versions.
What is a portable audio recorder?
A portable audio recorder, as its name suggests, is a device aimed at recording audio in a small package that can be easily carried around.
The Zoom H4N was actually one of the first of its kind in the industry, hence its huge success. Now the market for portable audio recorders is absolutely filled with tons of products.
This device will let you record sound for any purpose. Whether it’s for sound design or recording voice, this tool will be essential to any video outside of b-rolls.
What are the features of this portable audio recorder?
This portable audio recorder has built-in microphones—two, to be specific—that allow you to record stereo sound.
There’s even the option to choose the angle of the recording to narrow down the audio to a specific source.
The device runs out of two AA batteries, and I have to say the batteries don’t last very long, though it can be powered via micro-USB.
The device also has two XLR inputs that can accept a 6.35mm asymmetric jack connector as well. The Zoom H4N can be used as an audio interface and has a decent preamplifier, though newer models have marginally improved on this part.
The device have Phantom power for powering an external microphone.
My thoughts on the Zoom H4N
I think as a first-generation device that hit the market, this product, even if very popular, is quite an early version of what a portable audio recorder should be today.
Don’t misunderstand me; this device has done the job and will do the job. But when it comes to ergonomics, I think that today there are much better options.
For example, the Zoom H6 seems to be a much more advanced device with multiple inputs. This is handy to record podcast sessions or even music on the go.
The H4N has a poor battery life. With new batteries, you’ll find yourself having to change them every few hours. This is not a camera; it’s an audio device. Even old MP3 players can last a few days.
Another issue with the H4N is the preamp, which is very noisy. You’ll have to put the level quite high to power a moderately impeded microphone.
With this H4N and the popular Rode NTG-2, I had to use an external pre-amp, the Fethead, which actually helped but still produced some white noise.
The build quality is decent but the backdoor for the battery seems to break after a while.
The new 32-bit float audio devices
I think the biggest factor that makes the Zoom H4N irrelevant today is the release of a newer product with 32-bit float audio technology.
This technology prevents your audio from clipping, even if the levels while recording are well above the threshold line.
With 32-bit float audio, you’ll be able to retrieve the information about audio that would have been the victim of overmodulation or clipping.
This technology makes monitoring audio and adjusting levels less crucial than before. I wouldn’t buy a device without this technology today.
The Zoom F6 is one of these devices that can achieve this type of recording. If you are on a budget, the Zoom F3 can do the job too and is actually a better value at around 300 euros than, say, the H4N Pro, which is the latest version of the H4N.
7.6 out of 10.
The Zoom H4N is an old and the first portable recorder of its kind. The device is still used today even tough newer versions have been release for over a decade now.
If I had to chose today, I would definitely save money to get the Zoom F6 and invest in a 32-bit floating audio recording device.
This can seems like a huge investment, but when it comes to sound you don’t want to have to mess with overmodulation and clipping.
These are things of the past and so is the Zoom H4N.
Official Website : https://zoomcorp.com
The new H4N Pro Black : https://zoomcorp.com/fr/fr/enregistreurs-portatifs/handheld-recorders/h4n-pro/
Our Video Production company : https://www.neonnight.fr/en/