The New Zoom H2n Rewrites the Book on Portable Recording

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Zoom has announced the latest addition to its highly regarded line of portable digital recorders, the new Zoom H2n. It's a big deal because this model is an update to the Zoom H2, which has been one of the most popular portable recorders ever. Along with a slew of other new features and capabilities, the reinvented H2n adds a new Mid-Side microphone functionality that will be useful for anyone who uses this recorder to capture sound in HDSLR filmmaking and video productions (I'll explain why later in the article).

With just a glance you can immediately tell the H2n is a complete redesign from the ground up. It's got a brand-new layout with updated physical controls and a rewritten user interface. Improvements on the graphical side are aided greatly by its bright, backlit 1.8" LCD screen. On the hardware end, users will appreciate the H2n's new input level wheel, and the larger (and more thumb-friendly) Record button. It’s a fine-looking piece of gear.

One of the big selling points of the new H2n is its five internal microphones (you read that right, there are five mics inside this thing). On top of that, Zoom claims that these are the best-sounding mics they've built to date. The array of microphones makes it possible for the device to offer four different recording modes: 90° X/Y, Mid-Side, 2-channel surround (2.1), and 4-channel surround (5.1). Like the original H2, the reinvented H2n shares the capability to create high resolution surround sound recordings in the palm of your hand. Zoom even included LEDs on the front and back of the H2n to inform you which mics are currently active.

A dial on the top of the H2n enables you to select the recording mode of your choice. The most basic recording mode has a very technical-sounding name: 90° X/Y. This option will create a standard stereo recording using two cardioid microphones in a fixed pattern. It’s a great choice for creating killer-sounding recordings of music, ambience and general-purpose audio. When you’re operating the Zoom H2n, you won’t need to know a lot about microphone positioning and audio engineering in order to make great-sounding recordings. You can just set the H2n’s dial on X/Y and press Record.

Another option on the H2n’s recording-mode dial is Mid-Side (MS). This mode employs a figure of eight microphone pickup pattern to the sides (meaning that the H2n will capture sounds laterally) and a cardioid mic pickup pattern facing forwards (meaning that the H2n will pick up sounds in front of it). To the casual user this might seem like a rather strange and mysterious microphone configuration. However, to anyone working in professional broadcast productions, Mid-Side miking is commonly used. It enables you to change the width of the stereo field of the recording. This is useful in video production because you can dial in the amount of ambience you want according to the kind of scene you’re shooting. Mid-Side recording is also beneficial to video productions because it holds up well in the event that the audio gets converted into mono (which is common in broadcasting). The H2n is the first portable recorder to have a Mid-Side recording feature built in. It’s also a useful mode for recording pianos, drums and other music-related scenarios.

The H2n handles Mid-Side recording in a unique new way, by giving you the option to create a “RAW” recording. In RAW mode, you don’t have to commit to the amount of ambience being used in the recording. You pull up the RAW file on the H2n after it’s been recorded, and you adjust the amount of ambience to include in the playback as you listen. Once you find a balance between the Mid and the Side recordings that you like, the H2n will create a WAV or MP3 file for you with your chosen parameters. You can then transfer this file to a computer and use it however you wish. You create and export as many different versions of the RAW file as you like.  

There are lots of other new updates that make this device a favorable little recorder. It’s got an automatic data recovery system, which basically means that if the battery dies (or something else goes wrong) in the middle of a recording, the material that had been recorded up until the problem occurred will be saved to the card. The new H2n boasts really impressive battery life, getting 20 hours of usage from a pair of alkaline AAs. A reference speaker is built in so you can listen to your work immediately, and like the Zoom H2, the new H2n can be used as USB microphone to record directly into a computer. A 2GB SD card is included with the H2n, and it’s compatible with up to 32GB SDHC cards. It connects to computers via high-speed USB 2.0 for quick data transfer. A ¼"-20 tripod mount is included at the base of the recorder, which enables you to attach the H2n to anything from a standard tripod to a DLSR video rig.

Zoom is also coming out with the APH-2n, a useful accessory pack that is available separately. It includes a table tripod stand, a form-fitting travel case (an essential item for a portable recorder), an AC charger, a USB cable (the H2n can operate on bus power from a computer), a wired remote control (with an extension cable), a foam windscreen and an H2MC Mic Clip Adapter which enables you to mount the H2n into a standard microphone clip. This is really useful for bands and musicians because they can then stick the H2n onto a regular mic stand and record their jams and rehearsals.

There are other tools built into the H2n that musicians will appreciate, such as its tuner, metronome, variable speed playback, key control, and A-B repeat. More experienced users will appreciate the Zoom H2n’s 3.5mm line-level input, lo-cut filter, and compressor/limiter, as well as being able to fine-tune the gain level with the wheel. For those who prefer not to worry about adjusting the input levels, Zoom has included an Auto Gain function as well.

Our take: The new Zoom H2n is a very well-rounded update and will likely take its place as one of the most popular recorders out there. Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth review! If you have any questions about the Zoom H2n, we encourage you to post them in the Comments below.

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Hi !

This sunds like ( ... sorry )  REALLY good news !

The obvious question : Does it, or does it not, have

EXTERNAL MIC INPUT ??

- Or even line input ?

Thanks in advance!
 I'm a bit exited over this one ...   :)
- but OF COURSE the proof of the pudding is in the actual Sound Quality !

All the best !
Regards from Sweden ! :)
// Johan

I have the H2 and love it. The sound quality is excellent. It's easy to use and has been rugged. In fact, I'll be using it to interview some Olympic athletes in NYC tomorrow. I'll be interested in seeing if this new version is worth the price of an upgrade. 

 My question is?

Could it be a good mic to use in video capturing?

Directly plug in to camera and simultaneous as a back up ...

Does anyone got this kind of experience already? 

Or is it a stupid thought ?

Thanks

Hello,

Devices such as the Zoom H2n can record audio independently and is not connected to a camera. Videographers often use a separate recorder because it will delivery better results than the camera. You will have to sync the sound to the camera audio and video in post though.

Singular Software's PluralEyes for Final Cut Pro is an indispensable addition to video post-production workflows in which audio was recorded separately from the camera, or when sound from multiple cameras needs to be synced up for editing. This is especially useful if you're shooting DSLR video and want to record professional-quality audio on portable recorders (such as the Zoom H4n or Tascam DR100). Whether you use a slate or timecode--or nothing at all--for reference, once you import the video and audio into Final Cut Pro, the PluralEyes plug-in will compare the external audio to that recorded by the camera and automatically sync the two together. No more fussing and tweaking and squinting at waveforms--not only bringing better organization to your production, but saving hours of precious time.

It's awesome as an external mic for video shoots.

Hi, 

 I would like to know if the usb port can also be used as an input?

So the zoom could be used solely as a recorder with for example a sound devices mix pre-d.

 Cheers, 

 F

Could I ask how? I just bought one, and my Mac doesn't seem to notice when I connect it... anyone knows what's up with that?

Hi ,

just received my h2n and loving what I have seen. I want to use it for recording interviews between myself and one or two others as a handheld mic. What settings do you think are best for this ? if I use just the front or rear mic its a more rounded bass sound but all mics gives me a better chance to hear both parties ? also there are auto gain settings but doesnt seem to be one for interviews.

I think I can record the mic and another input so will be looking at trying to record skype interviews using that which if i can manage will be great

 any help most welcome !

What is the line-in voltage max?  If I want to record from CD player do I need to make up a resistive pad to prevent overloading the line input.?  If so what does that do to the signal to noise ratio?

Hi Kelly,

I own a Zoom H4n that I use for personal projects, and I haven’t encountered the issue you’re having with its meters and low volume recordings. However, it sounds like I use my H4n differently than you use yours. I use my H4n as a back-up recorder for video shoots. I connect the XLR outputs of my Sound Devices 302 mixer to the XLR inputs on my H4n. The inputs on the H4n are mic-level only, so I attenuate the level coming out of my 302 mixer down to mic-level. When I do this, I am able to get a healthy recording level on the H4n, and its meters give me an accurate representation of the signal level, and everything works out fine. Since this method works for me, I would suggest that you try sending a mic-level signal into the H4n’s XLR inputs (don’t use its 1/4" inputs).

I use a different portable digital recorder to record line-level signals.

Best,

Sam Mallery

Hi Kelly (and Alan, Chuck, Sam),

your question is very important as the same design flaw is present also on the old H2! 

Too hot input signals get distorted even if you lower the rec level, since the DAC precedes the input gain control. (I guess the input gain is just made in software.) And just as you say, the meter doesn't indicate this. It's a really bad design detail - probably justified by lower noise and less components when the signal level *is* right, but in reality it adds a huge risk of ruining your recordings... in a confusing way, also.

I've found that setting the rec level to 100 (not 127, which is the maximum setting!) gives clipping at the top of the meter - just as anyone would expect - whereas any rec level below 100 gives clipping before the meter reaches its top. Therefore I never ever lower my rec level below 100. I flick the L/M/H mic gain switch instead. ...Which makes handling noises in the recording.

The even worse thing with this stupid design flaw is that the input clips really really early. I often need to record radio programs from my ordinary hi-fi stereo system, and the usual low-level consumer line level signal is too hot for the H2! Since neither the radio unit nor the amplifier unit has volume controls on their line outs (this levelling is normal to have at the input of the cassette deck etc), and since the H2 has no level adjustment before its DAC, I just CAN'T RECORD FROM A NORMAL HOME STEREO TO THE H2 LINE INPUT without having to build an external resistive pad in an extra piece of cables & plugs. (!!!) And with professional even hotter signal levels, it's of course out of the question.

I'm *really* surprised to hear that the H4n has the same design flaw, I would never expect that even from the cheap plastic H2 (which I like a lot in almost all other respects). But since the new H2n only has a mic gain knob, instead of the old H2's rec level buttons *and* mic gain switch of approx 30dB, I suspect that the H2n mic gain knob really controls the input gain *before* the DAC so that clipping level is controlled?

Just ordered this bad boy! Can't wait to get it. I'll be using it to do voiceovers for my video tutorials. I was previously using the Zoom H1 and a Blue Snowball mic. The Snowball didn't sound as good and I used the H1 mostly due to the XY stereo recording function. Now that the H1n has the ability to record direct to the computer I had to pick it up.

Hi I just read the very informative article by Sam Mallery. I have a basic question regarding the Zoom H2n; To begin, I've ejoyed using the H2 for the last year and when the H2n was issued I saved up my pennies until Iwas finally able to 'upgrade' to the H2n--my new H2n arrived via Fedex about two weeks ago. Whenever I buy a new coponent I tend to ease myself into the learning curve by reading user manuals and culling advice from online sources-in fact that's what  brought me to Sam's article.

Although I know that the main selling point of these little recorders is the high functionality of their on- board mic systems; most of the recording that I have been  doing with my H2 has been with the line in jack connected to varios extenal components such as cd players, my Macbook to record audio from Youtube videos and even stuff I recorded on an old Fostex cassette 4track. Zoom supplies a y cable with left anjd right RCA plugs to a mini stereo plug for just this kind of task. The H2 has a line in (and mic line in) with the line in overriding the mics-insuring a clean recording  from the sources I just listed.

Well, as luck would have it, I was in the middle of recoding a project when I dropped my H2 and it is now it's way to the services center and will probhably be a month before it is repaired and returned to me. So, I'm not too upset because this is a perfect opportunity to try out my brand new H2n!

To my dismay I see the is no line in "for external components" as there was on the H2. And the instructions for the H2n doesn't even bring up subject of these kinds of recordings. I assumed the the external mic in jack simple covered both functions (external mic and external components). I did a basic test recoding from my cassette 4 track, using the rca plugs to the stero mini and I can't hear anything be recorded from the 4track and all I do her is ambient sounds from the room being picked up from the on the mics. Please tell me that there is a way to turn down the on board mics and continue to record fro the other sources? The 4track has a heanphone out jack and of course that's what I used on the Mac macboo 

Hello -

The Zoom H2n has a 3.5mm Mic/Line input jack. If you are recording from a CD player or other device (cassette deck) connected to the LINE IN jack, raise the output level of the connected device.  Be sure to select "INPUT" from the Meu and scroll to "Auto Gain" with the scroll wheel.  If you have further questions, feel free to e-mail me at: audio@bandh.com

Hi there,

I'm looking at the Zoom H2n to record lengthy interviews.

1. What would I have to do set up two lavalier mics?

2. I'm also presuming that I can easily plug in headphones to monitor sound quality - but could i do this with standard mac earphones that have the speaker attached along the wire and use that microphone for recording myself and plug in an external mic for my interviewee?

Thanks...

Hello Leonie -

Since the Zoom H2n has a 3.5mm stereo 1/8" - two simple wired lavaliers could be added by using the Azden CAM-3 3-Channel Mic Mixer allowing you to add and mix sound from up to three wireless or hard wired microphone sources simultaneously. 

The Pearstone OLM-10 Lavalier Microphone features an omnidirectional pick up pattern. The pattern offers a generous pick up and even frequency response at the direct and off-axis sections of the capsule.The cable is terminated with a 1/8" (3.5mm) connector. This stereo mini connector splits the mic signal for dual mono operation. When plugged into the external mic input, the signal is recorded on both the left and right sides of a recorder, camcorder or DSLR.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

We have been using a new zoom H2N to record a Steinway piano in a cathedral. (backed up by a zoom H1).
It is providing marketable results with terrific accuracy. I found that using the 4 channel surround feature, which provides two sets of WAV stereo tracks, gave us the ambient sound true to the cathedral and after minor engineering a beautiful clear sound.
the unit was positioned about 8 feet away at a 45 degree angle at about 4-1/2 feet off the floor, facing into the piano lid. the sound is really true and the cathedral was empty. I recorded many of the ancient steam heat sounds, and was able to subtract most of them. Excellent quality sound.

So, if I record in 2-channel surround mode and then play back through a surround decoder (e.g. Pro-Logic) will it decode to surround? Which side of the mic is the "front" in that case?

Does Zoom make a device that functions as a video camera and audio recorder?

Hi there.  I have had this recorder for a few months.  My question is -- how can I see the files I have recorded on my PC?  I can see the SD card, but the files are not there...  I have not named them anything special -- so -- on the device, I have ZOOM13.wav, for example... and this does not show up as a file when I look at the SD card.  Why?  As you can tell, I am a beginner at this.  The manual and online videos are not answering this (basic) q.

Lisa

Hi Lisa -

1.  After turning the power on, connect the H2n to a computer by a USB cable.

2.  Press "MENU"

3.  Use the PLAY control wheel on the side of the recorder to select USB and then PRESS the PLAY control wheel to select.

4.  Use the "Play" (control wheel - CW) to select SD CARD READER, and then press it  to select.  The SD card will appear on the computer as a connected drive where you can check the files on it.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com