Pros All the features of a desktop recording unit in a small package.
Excellent recording quality, and flexibility make it perfect for all but the most finicky of audiophiles.
Flexible microphone use allows for a large variety of venues and performances.
Cons Bulky yet rugged.
Battery life seems a bit short.
Only a 1 gig SD card included.
Wind screen makes the unit look totally ugly.
Summary I have personally tried out over half a dozen of the current crop of portable audio recorders and the H4n is the only one that I have kept. When you look at the flexible options you have with this unit you will see why. I can use the built in mics in either 2 or 4 channel (surround) mode or I can hook up my own external XLR or 1/4 inch mics to the Zoom and use those. I can even mix between the two built in and two external mics at the same time if need be. Plus on top of all that the H4n provides phantom power to any condenser mics that I might need to use and very few (if any) handheld units can make that claim. Another nice thing is that the XLR mics work with the H4n natively. There is no need for an adapter. The CNET review above seems to put a bit too much emphasis on the location of the mic mini jack. Honestly, how many people are going to use a mini-plug mic with a unit that has XLR capability? Show me a decent, full range mic that has a mini jack connector on it??? They don't exist (IMHO).
The convenience of the microphone jacks makes the whole unit a bit bulky, but when I am in my khakis and a dress shirt doing a rehearsal or an informal concert I can still carry it in my pants pocket if needed. The hard shell case that comes with it is a great little thing to have for that purpose though.
I may sound like a Zoom fanboy on this one, but I know what works for me as a professional musicians and conductor and for convenience as well as for sound quality. I can't be so boisterous about other Zoom products (like the laughable Q3 video/audio recorder), but the H4n has more of what I need and at a price point that makes sense. If you compare it head to head with all of the other major audio recording competitors (http://www.musicedmagic.com/audio-video/portable-digital-audio-recorder-buying-guide-with-reviews.html) you see that it does much more than the others for roughly the same amount of money. If Zoom could just improve the battery life a bit and splurge on a decent sized SD card the unit would be almost perfect in my opinion.
Pros Real mic inouts - XLR jacks with phantom power
Ability to symultaneously record 2+ tracks
24 bit/96kHz sampling like in my studio
Cons Need to think hard because there aren't many....
- Could be a metal case like the Sony
- No way to by-pass the preamps and use my studio gear
Summary Zoom has packed more bang for the buck in to this portable recorder than anything in the under $1,000 range. They should be dominating this market - at least for customers who understand the things needed to do hi-quality recordings.
Pros The perfect balance of Sound quality, portability, functionality and cost.
Cons Stock foam Windscreen is useless outdoors. I use the RedHead windscreen which works like a charm and comes in various colors depending on your taste.
Record button needs to be pressed twice to start recording. Not that big of a deal really.
Summary I use my Zoom H4n for film making purposes and for this it is a joy to use. It's the perfect companion to my Canon 5D Mark II which doesn't have pro audio capabilities. The future is looking bright for indy film makers with the introduction of these cost effective and highly functional audio solutions. Cheers to you Zoom !
Pros High quality recordings, very usable as a USB audio device also, works seemlessly together with Garageband and Audacity, mp3 encoding, easy interface, world adaptor
Cons Bit bulky, configuration of Cubase LE in OSX is complicated, power hungry, battery life can be rather short
Summary Overall weight with batteries is 350 grams. Playing around with it intensively it drained a pair of Duracell NiMH 2650 mAh in just a couple of hours. The side of the case even felt a bit warm. It is power hungry - not so strange if you take into account the things it does. Does it matter? Not really, just take a pair of extra batteries with you. (The Sony DCM50 seems to run longer on batteries but uses 4 instead of 2.)
It will take some time and playing around to learn how to use this tool in its best way. This is really a tool that you have to learn in order to get the best results. What is the best position for the microphones, narrow or wide angle etc. Since it can be used in a variety of situations it is good that it has so many options.
Clipping sounds nasty as always with digital devices but can be avoided easily by choosing a lower recording level. Dynamic range is such that it will always be considerably larger than the background noise in the place where do your recording. So simply make sure that your peaks do not go higher than minus 12 db.
The mains adaptor (switching type) eats everything between 100 - 240 VAC/ 47 - 63 Hz. (I bought my unit in Europe, such details might vary between countries). This makes the unit usuable all over the planet. It doesn't get hot. It has a single 5V output. I guess you'll be able to feed the device from another 5V power source without difficulties.
My three year old son was able to do basic operation within half an hour. (Play, stop, record...)
I love this device right now already and will use it for interviews, meetings, podcasts and audio registration at video recordings and in the theatre.
Pros THE H4N HAS EVERYTHING TO RECORD A "GARAGE BAND" SONG AND SOUNDS LIKE A STUDIO RECORDING
Cons NONE AT ALL
Summary IF YOU CARE TO "MAKE A MARK" IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, THIS IS THE RECORDER TO HELP YOU GO THERE.... ONE DAYWHY PAY A HIGHER PRICE FOR ANOTHER UNIT... IT'S ALL HERE IN THE H4N
YOU MAY BE ON "AMERICAN IDOL"
Updated on Mar 2, 2010