Here is a quick review of the Zoom H4N that I have been playing around with for the past few weeks.

B&H was nice enough to loan me a Zoom H4N to review the past few weeks. I have used it quite a bit for voice over work mostly like as I demo in the video below.

After reading through the manual I was amazed all the things this little device can do. Most of the features I’m sure I would never use, but it is cool to know its there.

I hate adding extra steps in my work flow so I only used it a few times to sync up with my DSLR video clips.

I am thinking of getting the Zoom H1 soon, and using it with a lav. I would put the Zoom H1 in my back pocket wire a lav to it and then listen to my audio with an ear piece while I am the talent located far away from the camera.

Disclaimer: If you buy from B&H photo from the links above I earn a small commission, but to let you know that doesn’t sway my opinion on this product.

27 comments

  • The Zoom H4n is actually more complex, vastly more complex, than your T2i. There’s a lot to learn about it, but if you actually do learn it in a genuine way — in fact, it’s a hand held audio production studio. Used with quality lav and shotgun mics — it creates audio as or more pleasing than what I get from the Panasonic HPX3700.

    The key in field use is quality microphones. The built in mics are generally only acceptable for very short ranges. Using it as a computer mic you hack off its legs — restricting capture and bypassing its formidable processing capabilities.

    Bottom line — spend the weeks/months truly learning that H4n and use quality mics — and in truth you can produce audio on par with Hollywood or the BBC.

  • Dave
    I have the H1 being delivered in three days. Am looking forward to spending the weekend reading and learning everything I can. Anxious to compare notes! Please post more of your thoughts on the ZOOM as you play around as well. Thanks!

  • I have the Zoom H4 (non-n). It’s a fiddly thing to use but the quality of the files it makes is amazing. One thing I’ve never seen mentioned anywhere is that the first H4 that I have has both a line out and headphone out that I don’t believe the H4n has. This means I can monitor the audio been recorded through headphones and pipe the signal out to my 5D’s mini-jack mic in through a special cable I bought that lowers the signal value.

  • Good info Dave. I have this unit for years now and use it all the time. I put mine in the back pocket of people I film or on the ground out of site of the camera and use a small mic hidden under the shirt. It works great when the actor is to far from the camera to run a cable to. Then like you said just sync it in post. I never use wireless. http://www.trinityfxmg.com

  • Yes Dave, I tryed other lavalier systems before and had problems with interference, this way to sync in post is the best option, besides the audio quality is great, is 96 KHZ 24 bits, and no internal or external camera mic gives that. Also is sort of a mixer.
    I bought the Tascam version, and the quality is just as good as the H4n, BUT the screw where
    you screw the tripod or camera mount is plastic in the Tascam version, and without much effort
    got broken, the guys at Tascam didn’t have the spare part , and I had to velcro it to the camera or tripod. By the way you are a great composer ( ja,ja )

  • hahaha, that one was the best try to be like mgm… it was your normal style with a touch of mgm style. made me smile, especially the time lapse at the end hahaha.

  • Oh I forgot to tell you Dave that I love the music you put together with the zoom. Very cool. I also notice your videos are getting funnier.

  • We have been using the H4 and it’s successor, the H4n for a couple years now. I really liked the H4, but it burned through batteries like mad (even when NOT using phantom power) and the menu was needlessly complex and more than a little counterintuitive. The H4n is a vast improvement, but since I generally run camera, can’t make any promises as to the overall audio quality versus the H4 which I liked. I’d love to have one of my own… sigh…

  • I think its better to wait till next 22nd of sept.to get Canon release 60D. with huge improvements of 550D.

    With Stereo audio gain controler
    Rotatable LCD
    Weatherproof body
    Native 1080i HDMI out for realtime shooting (With external LCD monitor)

  • I have the H4n and its wonderful. I use “plural eyes” to sync my audio in post and its always worked like a charm. I hook a shotgun mic to it on a boom for when im running around.

  • This article has resolved a major challenge I encountered in producing 3rd party voice-overs on commercial videos I’ve shot. Using a Rode Videomic hooked into my H4N plugged into a USB port on my PC gives me remote audio mixing control along with superior sound quality over my Sennheisser headphone/mike alone. This also gives me direct input to Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 to 1) eliminate sync’ing chores, and 2) facilitates stop/start recording on the timeline by the voice-over talent.

    Many thanks for this!

  • I will be blogging about this aspect (audio) of my video-making in near future. Would you mind if I linked back to your review? Basically I blog about the trials and tribulations of a neophyte convert still photographer —> videographer. The voice-over aspect has been a major pain in my side for creative control with quality. I’ve been using my H4N and Rode videomics strictly in the field; this expands their use into “studio” applications. (We talking home PC, Adobe PP CS5, and the voice-over talent (my wife) requiring many takes to nail down the audio; syncing can be a nightmare with so many false starts. Your review showed me how I can monitor & control the voice-over audio quite remotely and less a distraction to her.

  • In case anyone cares you can actually buy the H4 in many Best Buys now. They even advertised it in their Sunday flier this week. I myself will be ordering the H1 from Amazon this week. At $99.00 its a steel!

  • Hi Dave i am learning a lot from your blog and i love because we use the same camera, i am interested in this product but i am confuse between this and the rode mic u reviewed, i am considering this H4n bec of the AUDIO INTERFACE capability, in the video you recording using the built in mic of H4n would you consider the quality good, i know its not pro studio mic recording but can it be considered good for a home recording? thanks for your advise

  • Hello Dave, I was wonder if you could show how to reduce noise on Zoom H4n. I am having very hard time finding it out. If possible could you show up step by step in the menu.. Thank’s

  • Hi David, thank you for such a great video, I didn’t know that the Zoom H4n could be used as a USB mic. Just what I’ve been looking for, a portable recorder and a high quality usb mic, great. Thanks again greatly appreciated.

  • Great review, Dave! I love my H4n. I use it to capture audio along with video from my t3i. I did run into some trouble with syncing at first. It seems that in Sony Vegas, .mov videos do not properly sync and the video somehow runs back slightly slower than the H4n audio. (it may have something to do with drop/non-drop frame) On short clips, it probably will go unnoticed. But longer clips reveal the audio drift problem. I’ve developed a way of effectively dealing with the issue without buying pluraleyes and I’ve posted a video..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5Lj5vT9ohA

    -Jared

  • I sold my Zoom H4N and bought a Tascam Dr-40 because it does not time drift. The sync issue with sound and DSLR is because the internal clock of the Zoom H4N is very unprecise. This also leads to audio quality and fidelity issues!

    In pro music studios time drifting is unacceptable, not only for practical issues, but also for sound quality. They actually use very expensive master clock units to get all the audio precisely in sync at the sample level.

    Remember audio recording is actually measurements of sound levels at specific point in time, thus the timing clock of the unit has to be precise in order to actually capture the true sound.

    The Zoom also has issues with harmonic distortion:
    http://www.martin-doppelbauer.de/fieldrecorder/distortions.html

    All in all the Zoom is impressive feature wise but it really lacks in what counts: precision and audio quality/fidelity.

  • By the way Tascam have improved the screw connection vastly on the new DR-40. I also owned the DR-100 and can confirm the crew is too flimsy on that unit.

    Also the DR-40 has the option of recording a backup track at a lower level, so you have a safe copy if your primary recording clips, this is a killer feature, because when you record you always want your levels as high as possible to maximize the signal to noise ratio, thus maximizing audio quality. With the new backup track at a lower level, you can switch to that track of parts of your primary recording clips.

    For those interested in the best audio quality possible check out what Fostex (the brand the pro ENG audio technicians primarily use in the field) will come out with soon:

    The Fostex DC-R302 – I bet the Preamps will be much nicer on this unit compared to many other portable recorders, and this unit is actually mad with DSLR in mind:

    http://www.fostexinternational.com/docs/latest_news/EFpkuAAElFRSSZGVPA.shtml

  • Jan Frederik Poulsen

    can u tell me what are the feature h4n have but dr-40 lacks??

    I just want do this. connect dr-40 directly to dslr to recording while shoot and also connect another mic to the XLR port to record another track at same time..

    can dr-40 do this?

  • I’ve been using the H4n for a couple of years now and have finally found a glitch, the sound goes out of sync for longer shots, not cool. Thankfully I mostly use it for short audio in dialogue, but when using it in a longer than usual interview, I had to cut and shift over a frame every 30 seconds or so.

    If I had to do over again, I’d probably look else where.

    Thanks @Jan Frederik Poulsen for the links!

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