Zoom recorder, but which one?

I’m going to buy one of the Zoom sound recorders, but I’m undecided which model I should go for. I usually either over-spend and then regret it because I don’t need what I bought, or I buy something cheap and then find it lacking and regret it also. ;) So I wanted to get some second opinions from you guys!

There are three models that I’m looking at:

Zoom H2N for about ~€140
Zoom H-4N for about ~€225
Zoom H-6 for about ~€345

The second and third have multi-track recording. What I mostly want to do is record all sorts of sounds (“found sounds”) and perhaps use the device as a memo pad (e.g. when I have an idea for a tune, but I’m not at the computer). Based on this, I don’t think I need the two more expensive models, but then again, when I bought my audio interface I also didn’t think I might eventually want MIDI I/O (and got the Scarlett 2i2 instead of the 2i4).

One thing on my mind is that I might want to use it to record acoustic instruments (my own), and at least for the ukulele it may be a good idea to capture it using multiple mics. Then again, I’m just a hobbyist, and very much an amateur, so I have no professional needs.

What are some situations where you feel it would be really helpful to have 4 or 6 channels? Do any of you have first-hand experience with these devices? And did you regret what you bought? Since the H-4N is a bit older, I think the choice is mostly between the cheap and the expensive model. I’ll need some accessories for it, too, which adds another 30-50 bucks.

Thanks for any thoughts. :)

h4n is amazing, I`ve recorded all kinds of things on it. Never used it to multitrack, but the manual is loaded with features.
I would highly recommend it

I have the h4n as well. Gets the job done for sure but I ended up regretting not getting a smaller device. Would be cool to be able to carry it on you all the time. And it wouldn’t make a big difference for recording found sounds and stuff. If you wanna record actual instruments that is another story but then again I don’t see why you would use it instead of proper mics.

Edit: And I’ve never used the multitrack either.

I own a H2 and have done many recordings with the H4.
What I love about the H2 is that it’s compact and sturdy. I use it a lot for random field- and foley recordings. You can just throw it in your bag and not worry about it too much.
What I love about the H4 is that it’s got XLR inputs. If you have a nice mic you can just hook it up anywhere.

I have no regrets on buying the H2 and I would buy it again if it broke.
If I’d want a good field recorder for an external mic I’d look further for a device with a little less noisefloor than the H4 since in my experience it’s relatively high.

If you’re just going to use the thing at home for instruments I’d probably go for an H4 though, you don’t need the small size and it doesn’t matter that it’s a little more fragile than the H2 because of the protruding mics.

Don’t forget the H2 has 4 mic’s, you can make a ‘surround’ recording with, which you can’t do natively with an H4.
I also regularly connect a selfmade transducer(piezo) mic to my H2 with the jack input. Works like a charm and can be used for acoustic instruments aswell.

Great comparative review - better than most that I’ve been able to find online! I’m also in the market for a portable recorder, primarily for found sound recordings. Have been doing a lot of online research, which suggested the H2 might be ideal. Thanks for the info.


buy tascam., the Zoom is so slow, i get reagy with tascam DR40 with 4-5 sec. and Zoom is boot up 30-45 sec. and pre record!!! you wont miss any sounds…!!!
the preamp is so basic on zoom, not enough input power, i mean to noise and to quiet recording levels then th others, like tascam and roland…
zoom h4 is eat battery like hell, tascam is work for half a day…zoom has terrible menu, tascam has goot fast and easy to use user interface, and buttons are so logic and usefull
h6 has terrible placed xlr’s and still not Neutric Standard. u cant lock the XLR in the recorder!!!ooohh i hate this in zoomh4 and while testing h6
lcd on the zooms are terrible, u cant see anything on it while daylight. i turn on the backlight in tascam and i see everything brilliant in daylight!

if you need 4 xrl you but other recorders like sounddevices ot tascam and fostex, u cant hold you recorder in your hand while shoting 4 bodypack… :D/> or 2 mic…

zoom has colored lcd, whoaaaaa who the hell need that? broadcast recorders need VU meter and analoge level controls, not a useless colored mini LCD screen…

think about it and judge yourself… oh Tascam has Dual recording, zoom cant do this. while you record 2 track DR40 record a safe track in -12dB , so if the basic trakc is cliped you get a safe track where no clipping…!!!

Don’t spread lies because you’re a fan of another product. I just timed it for you, my H2 takes 8 seconds from off to recording. It also has a pre-record option.
I would like a Tascam DR-100MKII as much as the next guy but you can buy two H2’s for the same price.

Thanks everyone for the feedback, I really appreciate it. :) I decided to be reasonable, for once, and get the H2N, since I really only need it for recording found sounds.

Just pitching in here for anyone who comes to the thread looking for ideas - I bought a Zoom R16 recently, and that’s working out really well for me. I already had an original H2, which was a solid recorder but kind of clunky in use. The R16 is nowhere near as portable - it’s probably comparable to a netbook in terms of size, so still pretty small - but it runs off batteries, has built-in stereo mics and also functions as an 8-in 16-track multitracker, an 8-in 2-out soundcard and a MIDI control surface. It runs off mains, batteries or USB - it basically does everything EXCEPT: it has no external sync, which is a real shame.

But if you want a flexible portable recorder and you’re also after an audio interface, it’s crazy value for money. I’ve tested it as an audio interface with Renoise and it plays along very nicely - external synths keeping pace nicely via MIDI even with several tracks coming in. And of course you can easily carry it to another room and sketch out something on a guitar or similar, with a beatbox plugged in and maybe an external mike crammed into your hamster’s cage or whatever you might need.

The sync is a real missed opportunity, though - if it just had a single MIDI port, it’d be perfect as a standalone. Anyway, one to consider, though obviously the smaller units have their advantages depending on your needs.

Just an update on this: The H2N turned out to be too noisy for me. After doing more research, and going back and forth between the various options, I eventually settled on a Sony PCM-M10 instead. Very happy with it, too! The internal microphones are very quiet, the battery life seems extremely good, it’s easy to use, and at €199 it’s also affordable.

The way it handles folders is a bit sub-optimal (can’t rename folders on the device, can’t see new ones unless they have something in them), and the built-in speaker is wimpy, but overall this is a fantastic device. Doesn’t feel cheap, either. I love how little self-noise there is, especially compared to other recorders in the sub-€400 category.

This review covers it well:http://kenrockwell.com/audio/sony/pcm-m10.htm

Thanks for the update. Your post made me want to get a Sony PCM-M10 as well. Small size is so important. Still regret overlooking that when buying the H4N back in the day. Battery life is a bit of a problem in Zoom so that’s another big plus. Good stuff.

Let me see if I can convince myself that getting a second recorder wouldn’t be extravagancy -.-

Ha… I entered this thread thinking that I was going to have to excuse myself for recommending the Sony PCM-M10 in a thread about Zoom recorders, but it looks like I’m not the only one. :walkman:

Yeah, after evaluating the options I also went with the M10. It’s been great. Super portable, long battery life, and the mics are excellent. Also very light.

Tascam DR-5 does the job excellently for me. It’s cheap, very simple to use, high quality sound and seems sturdy.

If you are interested in quality then the H-6 has far better pres. (of the zoom models you mention, that is).