Zoom H2n Handy Recorder Review

Writers such as myself like to romanticize about technology that was once essential to our craft but has been vastly usurped with the march of time. From carrying around a legal pad or  telling people that there’s “something about using an old typewriter,” to recording ideas and thoughts quickly using a personal tape recorder, it’s more about the natural usage, the image, and the heritage than the practicality, necessarily. It was with that spirit that I was excited to try out the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder.

Nothing is exempt from the forward march of progress, and even for a personal recorder, the Zoom H2n packs a wallop. In a package roughly the size of a studio microphone, the H2n houses five microphones that can record in stereo, surround, or variable mid-side in a radius of anywhere from 30 to 150 degrees. To get more out of each recording, it also comes packages with the editing and mastering package Steinberg Wavelab LE7 for Windows 7, so any recordings taken can be optimized for playback or use in other settings.

The Zoom H2n records directly to SD card and comes with a 2GB card included, but supports up to 32GB SDHC cards. It features ports for a remote control, line in microphone, or line out headphones to monitor the recording as it’s happening with adjustable volume, mic gain, and recording angles. Outputting natively in either WAV or MP3 formats at a variety of bitrates, measures can be taken to try and condense more content on your memory card if it happens to be filling up, something invaluable if a recording gets a life of its own and winds up much longer than expected.

Even with all the bells and whistles, it’s hard to get behind what the Zoom H2n doesn’t get right. Even with a boasted 20 hours of battery life, the reliance on 2 AA batteries or an AC adapter on a device which has a mini USB port on it just seems silly in this day and age. The menu systems are primitive, which isn’t necessarily so bad with a simple device, but navigating the menus using primarily the play/rewind/fast forward slider is a bit unnatural at first, and certainly takes some getting used to before it becomes second nature.

Some of the accessories included in the Optional Accessory Pack such as the aforementioned AC adapter, a USB cable, and the remote seem like they ought to be included considering the price tag of the H2n, and their absence prevents the device from being more universally functional. While far from perfect, if you have a need for a dedicated personal recorder that, most importantly, records very clear, customizable, professional sound, then the Zoom H2n is going to be an invaluable asset. For everyone else just looking to remember a grocery list or make a note of something before it slips our minds later, there isn’t any reason to take this device over making a quick recording on a smartphone.

 

Editor’s Rating

[rating:3/5]

Good

Bottom Line: Personal recorders have had their livelihood challenged by smartphones and audio recording software on laptops, but high-quality models such as the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder seek to keep the old form alive. The ability to record using four different patterns including four-channel audio really pushes this device toward its price tag, but there really just isn’t a lot of practicality for something like this that still runs on alkaline batteries and only records onto an SD card. What the Zoom H2n does, it does extraordinarily well, just in a fairly archaic and overcomplicated alternative compared to its cross-platform competition.

Pros:

  • Adjustable microphone channels allow for picking up the entire room’s audio or just limiting it to one space
  • Mic gain can be dialed up or down on the fly, with a display of the levels below the microphone to let you know if your recording is coming through too softly or too loudly
  • Built-in features allow the device to also function as a USB SD card reader, metronome or a bass or guitar tuner with a variety of standard tunings

Cons:

  • Use of AA batteries as opposed to a rechargeable battery to be charged via the mini USB port on the recorder means continued costs
  • If making use of the line in and out attachments, the device becomes almost too large and inconvenient to sit inside of a pocket or small case
  • Navigating the menus using the buttons on the side of the recorder can be fairly confusing

The Zoom H2n Handy Recorder is available from Amazon for $151.34.

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8 Comments

  1. I don’t know much about how to use the H2; suddenly it began to record everything very low. My female voice sounds like a man’s voice and music is low and s l o w… How can I fix it, please?

  2. The reviewer does not understand the things that make this mic the best portable audio recorder.
    First, the the real pros are – ease of use, value for money, and great sound quality. To be able to record with mid-side, xy, or surround is perfect. Low cut filter, metronome.. those are cool too.
    For the cons, 1. There are rechargable AA batteries. 2. If you need to use the line in and out ports, please don’t put the thing in your pocket. Put it on a Tripod. Tripods for audio, lights, and cameras can all work.
    3. It’s so simple, with few options to tweak, few buttons to move. I did not have to read the manual to navigate, but it’s there for those who need it.

  3. As domeone who uses portable recorders in the field, I would NEVER want a built in rechargable battery. Say your in the middle of recording a croud track for a benifit cd and the bands are playing all day. Your batteries are about to die. When they take a break or even between songs you can pop in a new set of batteries. With a built in rechargable your out of commission for a couple of hours. Of course unless you perefer hooking up to your laptop in the middle of a mosh pit…. I didn’t think so. If you like to save the environment and use rechargable batteries, you can use nickle metal hydride batteries and the unit even has a setting to account for the voltage differences from alkaline batteries. Being self contained and small has many advantages. If all your doing is tooling around in your bedroom recording your latest sobfest to your ex girlfriend then something that needs to be connected to another computer is fine but for real world field work zoom has nailed it.

  4. I’m a little confused, I used my H2N then transfered to my computer, deleted all the files,when I check the folders and files it says empty but then when I tried to record again it said the SD card was full so I had to re format and then re do my settings. what am I doing wrong or missing.

  5. The H2n can use rechargeable NiMH batteries, it says so in the manual. The menus do not take any time to get use to, they are controlled by two controls that are next to each other. So they can be operated while holding the recorder in one hand, with a thumb. The microphone gain control is a wheel, this is a big pro, as buttons can produce clicking noise in a recording. Not only is the gain controlled with a wheel, it is in a convenient location for single hand operation, with all the other controls.
    Since when is any recorder with external cords attached to it, convenient? All three of your cons, appear to be like you were grasping for something to put in the con list, to offset your pro list.
    I had a chance to record a band Saturday night. It was the first time I ever used anything to record in this way. When I took the recording home, and loaded it into Wavelab LE, I was floored at the amount of control I had over the sound. I used one feature to add a second voice to the singer, to give him a bigger sound, like there were two people singing together. It was completely adjustable. Then I used other controls to adjust the stereo separation, and another to raise the vocals a little over the instruments. All that from a novice. All the reviews I watched in YouTube were done by people who use these recorders, and have the H2 and other recorders to compare it to. I suggest that anyone wanting to know about how good this recorder is, watch some of the higher rated YouTube videos,

  6. Just purchased a Zoom H2n today from BB and it’s going back tomorrow. I was under the impression that it could be used as a USB mic but Win 7 just won’t recognize it.
    For $200 i expected a solid design but the Zoom has a cheap plastic feel with sub par controls, feels like it’s going to break any second…

    1. You can use it as a USB mic.  I use it for Skype.  You just need to rename the device as USB Mic since some softwares needs the device named as mic.  I also use windows 7.

    2. The H2n makes a terrific USB microphone. Don’t let your technical abilities urge you to say things that are not true. Your first post should have asked for help, not criticize the product. Also, the fact that the H2n can be used as a USB microphone is in the manual. Did you read it? Take it back to the store only because you have no need for a recorder like that. If you had a need for a recorder, you will pay big bucks to exceed the abilities of the H2n with anything else. You won’t exceed them by much, even at double the price.

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