The Zoom H2n is the newest addition to my audio and video recording arsenal. It features a number of options that make recording dynamic audio in the field much easier, with both internal and external microphone options.
I bought the Zoom H2n in part because I needed something to back up the RODE VideoMic Pro that I usually use for video recording. The VideoMic Pro is great, but it doesn’t allow for a lot of sound mapping. You get directional audio and not much else. The H2n features a Mid-Side (MS) recording option for directional and ambient sound. You can customize the size of the stereo map with a quick touch of a button, and that makes it a very useful field recorder for shooting video outdoors.
Audio podcasting is also one of my passions. I got out of it for a while due, in part, to just not having much time. With a portable recorder handy, I have a theory that interviews and other random encounters might make for an interesting audio production. The H2n fits the bill of being both portable and of exceptional audio quality.
So, let’s get down to the review. I’ll start by saying that Zoom (a part of Samson Technologies) is in no way involved in this review. I made the purchase myself after much research and careful consideration.
To test the audio capabilities of the H2n, I decided to take it on the road with me through the streets of Austin, TX.
I’m actually quite pleased with the H2n’s adaptation to the road noise. The Lo-Cut Filter, compressor/limiter, and auto gain options are all very welcome (and useful) additions to the H2n. In the driving scenario, the low end of the audio appeared to drop off, likely because of the background noise. This made voices sound a bit more tin-like than they should. Then again, you shouldn’t be recording audio while driving a car.
In a controlled environment, the Zoom H2n really shines. It sounds as close to true to life as I would expect from a stand-alone audio recorder. It isn’t difficult to master audio from this as a source, and I’d compare the quality to the Samson c01u sitting on my desk.
You can record in WAV up to 24-bit/96kHz and MP3 up to 320kbps. I’ve found WAV 24-bit/48 kHz to be my personal favorite as it matches that of my primary audio source.
You can record in four different microphone matters. XY is a stereo pattern that works well in situations where you’re interviewing someone on the same side of the microphone as yourself. There’s two and four channel surround sound options that enable you to capture a band playing or a meeting where participants are located on all sides of a centralized point. You can also use MS recording for directional audio with ambient stereo sound. This works very well in outdoorsy scenes and video production shoots where ambient noise matters most. You can customize how much stereo goes into the track very easily.
Build Quality and Design
This isn’t the type of recorder you’ll want to do a lot of handling while recording. The H2n’s body is made out of a cheap, creaky plastic that makes tons of noise as you shift it around in your hand. Rubberized feet make it easy to sit down and forget during your work. There’s a standard tripod mount (plastic) on the bottom next to the SD card slot which allows you to set it on a stand near your subjects or attach it to a mic clip adapter (sold in the optional accessory pack) and use it more like a standard handheld microphone.
Five microphones and an optional 3.5mm external mic jack make up the audio input features of the H2n. A dial sits on top with four patterns you can switch between by pressing your thumb on the dial and twisting it until the arrow matches your desired pattern. It’s not exactly the most aesthetically-pleasing design, but it does work.
I like the big LCD that allows you to select option and monitor audio levels before and during recording. The menu button and play switch make for easy navigation.
Perhaps my favorite external feature is the analog-style gain control. You can adjust the gain very easily using only your thumb. That is very useful, though it does add noise to your track while your thumb is moving the dial.
I’m not particularly impressed with the SD card slot cover. It looks as though I could easily break it off when trying to insert and/or remove a card. For that matter, the battery door also looks fairly easy to break. Taking it off for the first time came with a loud snap that I was convinced was one of the little plastic tabs popping off the cover. The tabs survived, but I’m still weary of that design decision.
Here are some additional features that come with the H2n.
- Lo-cut Filter
- Auto Gain
- Variable Speed Playback
- Key Control
- A-B Repeat
- File Dividing
- MP3 Post-Encode
- Marker and Surround Mixer
- Build-in Data Recovery
- Reference Speaker
The H2n brings remarkable bang for your buck. For less than $150, you can equip yourself with an invaluable audio recording device that will enable you to get that backup audio you need, when you need it. I wouldn’t recommend the H2n as a primary capture device in a professional environment, but it could serve as an essential secondary option in the event that your primary recording device fails.
What about you? Do you own an H2n? Is there another audio recorder you’d recommend for the price?