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Thread: Zoom H4N Recorder

  1. #1
    Administrator David Karol's Avatar
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    Zoom H4N Recorder

    Has anyone used a Zoom H4N or anything similar?

    I'm looking for something to replace my laptop/firewire interface for occasions where I'm only recording 2 channels. Generally just main or matrix outs of a FOH console. Having the ability to do 4 channels may prove useful too, by adding a stereo pair by FOH. I'd like a standalone unit like the Zoom to avoid driver issues with a computer. Having everything just go to an SD card, or any sort of internal NAND would be great.

    At least once or twice a month I end up on a gig that's just a pile of 7 or 8 local no-name bands. A lot of times, I'll sell the bands recordings of their sets. It also helps to get amplifier levels down on stage- because if the band is paying for a recording, they'll most likely listen to you to get the best result!

    Thanks,
    David
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    I have an H2 and have used the original H4 in the past. No complaints, both units work as advertised, onboard mics sound decent if you EQ the tracks a bit later.

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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    David, we just did a video interview project using a H4N for the subjects and it worked pretty well. We did have a good bit of noise that I had to reduce in post, but I am not sure if that was from the recorder's preamps or the old "wired dynamic" lavalier mics we used on the interview subjects. I do know that there are settings on H4N that have to be changed to get the XLR inputs to track to separate tracks instead of both channels recording dual mono files on top of each other. That gave us a hard time since we were unaware of it unitl after we had shot the interview had no good way to match the volume levels of the two subjects without the noise floor going up and down.

    As for recording music, I think it would be fine for local no-name bands via either a board feed or the built in X-Y stereo mics.

    Here is a link to an advertisement we did using parts of the interview. http://undergraduate.uncg.edu/academ..._720_480_.webm

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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder



    A friend shot this video using a few H series recorders (room mics and board feed), we provided audio and lighting.
    Last edited by Spenser Hamilton; 01-17-2013 at 02:30 PM.

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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by David Karol View Post
    Has anyone used a Zoom H4N or anything similar?

    I'm looking for something to replace my laptop/firewire interface for occasions where I'm only recording 2 channels. Generally just main or matrix outs of a FOH console. Having the ability to do 4 channels may prove useful too, by adding a stereo pair by FOH. I'd like a standalone unit like the Zoom to avoid driver issues with a computer. Having everything just go to an SD card, or any sort of internal NAND would be great.

    At least once or twice a month I end up on a gig that's just a pile of 7 or 8 local no-name bands. A lot of times, I'll sell the bands recordings of their sets. It also helps to get amplifier levels down on stage- because if the band is paying for a recording, they'll most likely listen to you to get the best result!

    Thanks,
    David
    I have used the H4N a zillion times and am very happy with it.

    With some effort one can record 4 line sources at once with it, or one can record with the internal mics + two line ins. The line ins can also accept mic levels and will provide switchable phantom power.

    One thing I don't like is that it's possible to overload the analog line inputs even if you turn the rec level all the way down. Plus for the clip lights showing that you are, though.

    Another shortcoming is that if it's dropped, it's almost certain that you'll break the mics. Plus points for the mics having two pickup patterns, though.

    I would have loved a digital input. Apart from that: A really nice little device

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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by Spenser Hamilton View Post
    I have an H2 and have used the original H4 in the past. No complaints, both units work as advertised, onboard mics sound decent if you EQ the tracks a bit later.
    What's your typical EQ curve to correct the onboard mics?

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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by kristianjohnsen View Post
    What's your typical EQ curve to correct the onboard mics?
    No specific curves, typically a cut somewhere in the 160 to 400 range to slim out the low mids, and a small boost somewhere below 100Hz if needed. Ben went a little bit further in the video linked above, using a stereo room mix with a stereo board mix and EQing to get the best out of both sources, I think he did a pretty good job.

    Also, not sure if the H4N would have the same mics as the H2 or the original H4, maybe someone who has both can compare?

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    Graduate Student Silas Pradetto's Avatar
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    From my experience, the XLR inputs ABSOLUTELY CANNOT handle line input.
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    Administrator David Karol's Avatar
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by kristianjohnsen View Post
    I have used the H4N a zillion times and am very happy with it.

    With some effort one can record 4 line sources at once with it, or one can record with the internal mics + two line ins. The line ins can also accept mic levels and will provide switchable phantom power.

    One thing I don't like is that it's possible to overload the analog line inputs even if you turn the rec level all the way down. Plus for the clip lights showing that you are, though.

    Another shortcoming is that if it's dropped, it's almost certain that you'll break the mics. Plus points for the mics having two pickup patterns, though.

    I would have loved a digital input. Apart from that: A really nice little device
    Thanks for the samples Rob and Spencer.

    Kristian- Is the 'rec. level' a gain control on the inputs? Or is it just a digital volume control based off an internally preset gain? I take it you've dropped yours before?

    Has anyone tried TASCAM's offerings in this price range?

    Thanks,
    David
    Last edited by David Karol; 01-17-2013 at 05:10 PM.
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    Curmudgeonly Scandihoovian Dick Rees's Avatar
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by David Karol View Post
    Thanks for the samples Rob and Spencer.

    Kristian- Is the 'rec. level' a gain control on the inputs? Or is it just a digital volume control based off an internally preset gain?

    Thanks,
    David
    AFAIK, the answer to your question is "yes", but I just use mine for a back-up unit and set it at 320BPS w/ARL. If you set your input feed conservatively, you don't lose all the program dynamics with the ARL. Or so it seems to me. But then again, I'm using it for a safety net.
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by David Karol View Post
    Has anyone used a Zoom H4N or anything similar?
    I spent a lot of time late last year going back and forth between buying the H4N and the Tascam DR-40. I was looking to do almost exactly what you're looking to do...simple, hassle-free board recordings.

    I finally settled on the Tascam because:
    • The Dual recording feature really sold me...this allows you to make a second stereo recording off of the same source at a lower level...automatic backup recording.
    • Can switch between an A/B or X/Y mic configuration.
    • The unit itself seemed more stout...caged mics, etc.
    • Neutrik locking XLR's/combo jacks. The Tascam will take TRS, the Zoom 1/4" ins are TS only according to the manual.
    • Prerecord mode - when you ready the record mode (paused) it automatically tracks the three seconds prior to you starting the recording. This has resulted in saving a few missed downbeats for me.
    • Reading the manuals for both, it seemed that the Tascam was a lot simpler to use for the way I planned to use it.


    Both units have four track recording so that wasn't a differentiator.

    I've had it for about three months and it's been a super device. Easy to use, always a good recording, easy to get line level signal without clipping the inputs. Incredibly easy to cut tracks and start a new file during recording too, that was a pleasant bonus. I couldn't be happier with it.

    The only downsides I've seen are:
    • I need to use my keys to pop open the card slot cover, which is a minor irritant.
    • The Tascam doesn't come with much in terms of accessories (case, mic stand adapter, windscreen). I got around the case issue by using this $10 Plano pistol box, which actually worked out better because I have room for an adapter and batteries in the box. For power I've been using an old Blackberry USB supply which works great.


    Hope that helps,
    Craig

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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Interesting points about the DR-40, I think we have one at the retail shop, I'll have to check it out and compare against the Zoom products.

  13. #13
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    I use a H4N on a regular basis to record board mix of a church service.

    It works as advertised. Depending on your needs keep in mind it takes a few second to boot. This was a problem for a friend of mine who's a documenty film maker.

    I also 100% agree with Kristian and Silas that the XLR in can't take line level. Gut feeling is they clip around -10 dBu. I can't say for sure how the rec level works other than if you go below 1 it's simply a digital pad. So you can be cliping the input while not cliping the recording.

    Hope this helps.

    Philip
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  14. #14
    Graduate Student Silas Pradetto's Avatar
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    On a side note, the Tascam sscdr200 is a fantastic multi format recorder that I use exactly for the op purpose:2 track board recordings. I connect it via spdif and record to flash drive. So easy it's ridiculous.

    Typing on my phone is a huge pain so please excuse the mess...

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    Sophomore Rob Ottaviano's Avatar
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by David Karol View Post
    Has anyone used a Zoom H4N or anything similar?

    I'm looking for something to replace my laptop/firewire interface for occasions where I'm only recording 2 channels. Generally just main or matrix outs of a FOH console. Having the ability to do 4 channels may prove useful too, by adding a stereo pair by FOH. I'd like a standalone unit like the Zoom to avoid driver issues with a computer. Having everything just go to an SD card, or any sort of internal NAND would be great.

    At least once or twice a month I end up on a gig that's just a pile of 7 or 8 local no-name bands. A lot of times, I'll sell the bands recordings of their sets. It also helps to get amplifier levels down on stage- because if the band is paying for a recording, they'll most likely listen to you to get the best result!

    Thanks,
    David
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by Silas Pradetto View Post
    From my experience, the XLR inputs ABSOLUTELY CANNOT handle line input.
    I used one last week with line inputs to XLR. I had that mix on subgroup faders and had to run them at about -30.
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip Roberts View Post

    I also 100% agree with Kristian and Silas that the XLR in can't take line level. Gut feeling is they clip around -10 dBu. I can't say for sure how the rec level works other than if you go below 1 it's simply a digital pad. So you can be cliping the input while not cliping the recording.

    Hope this helps.

    Philip
    To be a little clearer: The XLR inputs are mic inputs, so will be overloaded easily by a line level. No surprise there. I always use the 1/4" jack inputs for line sources, but they may also be overloaded a little to easily. Like Philip descirbed, you can have the recording be in the "clear" and still overload the physical inputs. It will tell you, though.

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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Quote Originally Posted by kristianjohnsen View Post
    To be a little clearer: The [H4N] XLR inputs are mic inputs, so will be overloaded easily by a line level. No surprise there. I always use the 1/4" jack inputs for line sources, but they may also be overloaded a little to easily.
    This was one of the influencing factors I failed to mention. The DR-40 has a physical slide switch on the side to select the XLR mode as Line, Mic, or Mic+Phantom.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  19. #19
    Administrator David Karol's Avatar
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    After what Craig mentioned, I'm going to go ahead and order the DR40. I'll post a review once I have a chance to use it!

    I'll also look into getting one of each to try out. We'll see how that goes...

    Thanks,
    David
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  20. #20
    Sophomore Frank Koenig's Avatar
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    Re: Zoom H4N Recorder

    Hi David,

    I got the Tascam DR100 mk ii last summer to do some nature sound recording on a trip to Borneo. It worked well enough for that using the built-in mics. The XLR inputs have 3 gain steps and should handle loud sources well. The problem is at high gains where they are not as quiet as a top-shelf mic pre (I measured in the lab). The only other issue I'm aware of is that the digital input is not fully AES3 compatible at all sampling rates. It also uses a very dinky 2.5 mm phone jack.

    I'll lend it to you to try at a gig if you like. (I'm in Palo Alto.)

    --Frank

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