Zoom H4N Audio Recorder

Good Sound for DSLR Video Shooters

Zoom's top-of-the-line H4n is a 4-channel handheld audio recorder that can record to 24-bit/96-kHz WAV files in stereo mode. In 4-channel mode, the recorder tops at 24-bit/48-kHz, which equals DVD audio quality.

The H4n has two onboard X/Y stereo condenser mics but you can use external mics, as well. I tested both stereo and 4-channel recording with the built-in microphones, with two studio microphones, and with a RØDE VideoMic Pro. (Note: The RØDE microphone needed an XLR-to-mini-jack converter.) The built-in microphones were astonishingly sensitive, with low levels of noise even when gain was set to 100%. Overall, they had good audio characteristics. Still, the RØDE VideoMic Pro did a tad better, but it took the studio microphones to get a really warm and rich sound.

For interviews, studio microphones would do great with the H4n audio recorder. Such microphones are phantom powered, however, and the H4n has only two AA batteries. This results in roughly 15 minutes before the batteries die, taking your active recording with them.

Working with phantom-powered microphones, therefore, makes using the included power adapter a necessity. Of course, it would be better if Zoom offered an accessory such as a large, battery-power adapter with six or eight AA batteries, specifically for use with such microphones.

Nevertheless, the H4n is feature complete and allows for recording under most circumstances. It even has functionality that video shooters will rarely need, such as built-in sound effects.

Company: Zoom Corporation
Price: $299
Rating: 4
Hot: 4-channel simultaneous recording; good sound quality
Not: Short battery life with phantom power; no remote in box