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Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder
Name: Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder
Essential Sale 1-10
1 = I almost never use this thing.
10 = You had better own this, like yesterday.
Essential Scale: 6

The Zoom H4n is the ideal audio recording device for photographers and videographers shooting on the run.


Representing the next level of professional recording performance, the H4n delivers superior audio quality and dramatically improves the user experience. Zoom’s most sophisticated handheld recorder to date will amaze, no matter the application. The H4n’s onboard X/Y stereo condenser mics are arranged with the right and left mics on the same axis. This design ensures that the mics are always equidistant from the sound source for perfect localization with no phase shifting. Frequency response remains uniform throughout your recording. The result is great stereo recording with natural depth and accurate imaging every time.

Technical Details

  • Built-in X/Y stereo mics record at either 90° or 120°
  • Four channel simultaneous recording using built-in and external mics
  • Digitally controlled, high-quality mic preamp for improved audio quality
  • Large 1.9-Inch LCD screen and improved user interface for easy operation
  • 24bit/96kHz Linear PCM recording for pristine recording


The Zoom H4n is the ideal audio recording device for photographers and videographers shooting on the run.

Personal Experience

It turns out that audio is a very important part of good video. You can get away with poor quality video if you have great quality audio but not the other way around. The Zoom H4n allows you to capture great audio either in the studio or on location. I started out using it to record Phlearn episodes, basically just pointing the built in microphone straight at me.

The problem I found was that the audio sounded great when it was very close to my mouth, but as I got further from the mic it degraded. This is not something that is wrong with the recorder, it is just how it is built. Certain microphones are better for picking up sounds in different ways. The Zoom H4n is great because it has onboard microphones, but it also has inputs for using XLR mics. You can use any tpy of microphone with this audio recorder and it will record onto its SD card, giving you many options on the way. The Zoom also provides phantom power which will operate microphones that need a power source.

When I am on location and need good quality audio I will hook up my Rode NTG-2 to the Zoom H4n via XLR cable and record great sound while not having to lug around a ton of gear.

 The Goods

  • Portable – Most interfaces for recording audio are much larger and require being plugged in to a power source. The Zoom will fit in a large pocket and is powered via AA batteries.
  • Connectivity – Having 2 XLR inputs makes the Zoom infinitely more usable and expandable.
  • Menus & Navigation – It is very easy to navigate through the menus and get to what you need to
  • Ease of Use – For a person who know nothing about audio recording like myself, it is easy enough to be recording great audio about an hour after opening the box.

The Bads

  • Levels – It can be a little difficult to judge the quality of audio from the onboard speaker. To help with this I would recommend using headphones or doing a test recording and listening to it on a computer.

Who is the Zoom H4n For?

Photographers who are getting into video will soon realize the importance of great audio, and the Zoom delivers at a price point that most people are comfortable with. This is not a professional piece of equipment, and I doubt Hollywood is going to be recording Avengers 2 with a Zoom, but for most people it is a great option.

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