Zoom H4n Handy Recorder - Closer Look at the H4n

Article Index
Zoom H4n Handy Recorder
Closer Look at the H4n
Buttons, Controls and Testing Info
Zoom H4n General Usage

First Look:

H4n Front We first saw the Zoom H4n at CES in Las Vegas earlier in 2010.  We never got a chance to handle it much though, so I was quite excited to get a look at this not-so-little recorder to see what it was capable of, and how easy it is to use.  If you're familiar with the other Zoom recorders, it won't take you too long to get used to this one.  The original Zoom H4 was similar I understand and the "n" simply means "Next".  It's not an entirely new product but they did fix some of the issues apparently.

For those who are merely looking for a simple voice recorder, the Zoom H4n appears to be quite daunting and is overkill for many people.  If you are looking to record a lecture or some other audio that isn't require to be high quality, there are a bunch of cheap recording products for you to use.  If you're looking for a lot of features, the ability to record four separate channels, output to another device, plug in external microphones, provide phantom power to devices that require it, as well as basic mixing features, the H4n is geared for you.  One of the more recent uses for this product has been attaching it to DSLR cameras. This allows you to record much better audio that with the tiny built-in microphones.  We even managed to take it along to hear Leonard Nimoy in Vulcan on the weekend of April 23, 2010.

The back of the device is pretty basic and houses an external speaker, external microphone input as well as a standard tripod mount so that you can keep it stationary if desired.  The included "Mic Clip Adapter" also screws into this central hole.  The two "AA" type batteries are loaded from the back as well. A nice little touch also located here are the three small rubber feet that help keep noise transfer to a minimum if you are recording with the H4n lying flat on a table or counter.  It's not a huge deal, but it's nice to see they paid attention to the little things as well.


H4n Back
H4n Back

 

The top of the H4n is taken up by the two small condenser and somewhat directional microphones.  They work at 90° as well as 120° simply by rotating them to the indicated position.  While the difference appears negligible, there is a noticeable difference in pickup and stereo separation for different circumstances.

H4n Mics
H4n Mics

H4n Bottom
H4n Bottom Inputs

 

The bottom contains the double-purpose XRL / 1/4" input as well as the DC power input connector.  It is a nice feature to see that Zoom has included support for 1/4" powered microphones - including guitar pickups as well as standard XRL inputs.  If you need phantom power, you can go into a menu on the H4n and select either 24v or 48v power.  Please make sure you know which is required by your devices before you turn it on.


The right side of the H4n is quite simply and contains the record level switch as well as the menu button and a job wheel.  You'll also notice the cover for the SD Card.  Thankfully, the H4n supports up to 32GB SDHC cards so you should be able to record for days without transferring data off the card if required.

H4n Right Side
H4n Right Side
H4n Left Side
H4n Left Side

 

The left side of the H4n gets a little busy - but is still laid out well enough to be useful.  On this side we find the wired remote (optional) connector as well as a line out/headphone jack if you want to monitor what you're recording.  The playback/monitor volume control is on this side as is the mini-USB connector and power/hold switch.  Buttons are spaced well and are within easy access of your fingertips when holding the H4n.

As we jump into testing on the next page, we'll cover the full gamut of buttons and controls on the H4n on the next page.