Friday, August 31, 2007

Zoom H2 review roundup: cure for the common minidisc?

The Zoom H2 Handy Recorder has been shipping for a few days now. This unit is a followup to Zoom's H4 Handy Recorder. It's smaller, lighter, seems to have a sturdier plastic case, can record 4 channels at once (instead of 2), and costs about $100 less.

First off, let me say that I do not own a Zoom H2 at this point, and after reading the initial reviews, I'm probably not going to buy one. But for a reporter/podcaster/musician on a budget, the H2 looks like a great step up from low-end minidisc recorders. This $199 flash-based recorder actually costs less than most of the minidisc recorders on the market today (although it's not cheaper than whatever used model you might want to pick up from eBay), but seems to pack most of the best features of a minidisc, and then some.
  • Record in 16-bit or 24 bit at 44.1, 48, or 96kHz
  • Record in WAV or MP3
  • Time Stamp and Track Marker functions in BWF format (Broadcast Wave Format)
  • Record in stereo or 4-way mode with the built-in 4 mic capsules
  • Ships with a 512MB SD card (the Zoom H4 includes only a 128MB card), and supports cards up to 4GB (The H4 can only handle 2GB)
  • Low-cut filter to help reduce wind noise
  • USB 2.0 connectivity for transferring files to your computer
  • Acts as a USB audio input for your computer, allowing you to record audio on your computer from the internal mic, an external mic, or the line input
The menu system and controls are reportedly a huge improvement over the H4. The convoluted system of button presses in order to configure pretty much anything on the H4 have been replaced with an interface that is simple and intuitive.

Sounds great, right? Well, sort of. I'll wait to hear more recordings before passing final judgment, but so far, one user has made a sample recording and posted it online. There's a noticeable hiss in this recording, which sounds comparable to the hiss I usually get with minidisc recorders. This recording was made using the built-in microphone. Using the internal mics on the H4, I don't get this hiss.

From this sample recording, it doesn't sound to me like the H2 has the same electronic pulsing noise you get from the H4 when running on battery power. But there was a relatively easy fix for that.

I would love to hear some samples recorded using external microphones. But I'm not optimistic that the hiss will go away. If anything, I would expect it to be louder due to the cheap preamps included in a $199 device. While the Zoom H4 uses combination XLR/quarter inch inputs, the H2 uses 1/8th inch inputs. I'm not happy with the preamps on the H4, but unless the H2 sounds amazing with external mics, I'll probably just keep my minidisc recorder for situations when I can't use the internal mic on my H4.

That said, it would be nice to be able to record direct to WAV or MP3. So perhaps I'll crack and pick one of these up at some point, although right now I'm leaning toward the Fostex FR2-LE, which is larger, sturdier, has more input options, and reportedly has a great set of preamps.

If small size is your thing though, the H2 is pretty tiny. Here are some photos from a user who placed it next to the H4 and an iPod Nano.

The Zoom H2 is distributed in the US by Samson, who has been kind enough to post the entire instruction manual online in PDF format.

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7 comments:

iain010100 said...

Hi Brad,

You wrote "... I do not own a Zoom H2." Nor is there any indication that you've ever even touched or even seen one in person.

I'm just curious why you would write a review on a product you have no experience with? Your review is based on other's reviews. Seems rather irresponsible don't you think?

Brad Linder said...

I never claimed this was a review. Rather, it's a review roundup. That means it's a roundup of reviews you can find elsewhere on the internet. If you search for the Zoom H2, you'll find a lot of information from a lot of sources. My goal with this post was to make it easier for people who wanted to find out about the H2 to find a list of real world reviews all in one place without having to wade through sites that just list spec sheets or retail sites that have a vested interest in making the recorder look like something you want to buy.

iain010100 said...

My mistake then. I found your page through a Google search for "Zoom H2 Reviews," and the page appears to be and isolated review rather than a roundup.

I'm interested in the H2 and was looking for specific information. Your report about hearing a hum gave me pause since I've not heard about such a problem, and two people I know own it and tell me it's super silent.

Brad Linder said...

If you listen to the link I point to, you'll probably be able to hear the same hiss.

For under $200, I still think the H2 is a great recorder, and in fact I've recommended it to several people who seem to be happy with it so far. If you're looking for a low cost recorder capable of making relatively decent recordings, it's hard to find anything much cheaper or user friendly. But there are some downsides. It doesn't sound great with an external microphone. You get some handling noise if using the internal microphones. I've had both of these same problems with my Zoom H4, which is why I recently bought a Sony PCM-D50. But as a radio journalist, my sound quality needs might be a bit higher than many people's who use these devices to record podcasts, musical performances, and the like.

Jack Sass said...

I do a daily podcast and use the H2 for ALL my field sound gathering. If you'd like to hear a pretty good display of just what it can do I recorded this entire clip with it. Listen to it with headphones if possible. http://hostedon.cyberears.com/cyberears/files/2658.mp3

I highly reccomend the H2.

Jack Sass

spencercperry69 said...

The Zoom H2 product review

Zoom H2 Review by Spencer Perry of Saybrook

Recently I had the opportunity to demo and review the Zoom H2 courtesy of X-TREMEGEEK.com. www.x-tremegeek.com When I first unpackaged the zoom h2, I found that it was a very well packaged device; everything was well organized and neatly laid out. It even had tons of information about it on the box. The recorder though looked a little too plain. Samson’s website says, “The H2 is the only portable recorder with 4 mic capsules on-board for 360° recording. With 4 mic capsules in a W-X/Y configuration, the audio is decoded instantly, bringing these four signals together for unparalleled stereo imaging. But the H2 doesn't stop there. For maximum flexibility, you can record from the front of the H2 in a 90° pickup pattern or the rear of the H2 in a 120° pickup pattern at up to 96 kHz/24-bit resolution as a WAV file, or as an MP3 file at bitrates up to 320 kbps. Additionally, you can record in a 360° pickup pattern at up to 48kHz/24-bit resolution which will allow you to convert your recordings to 5.1 Surround.”

I read the simple recording guide and found that the controls were quite easy, press record once to put into record mode. Adjust the sensitivity with the [MIC GAIN] switch. Press record once more to start recording, and one more time to stop recording. To play back I plugged in my headphones, and simply pressed play/pause button. My younger brother and I tested it out on a new song he had been writing, and for $199 the sound quality was great.

I used it also to record solo drum tracks. If the guitar/ piano player in my band has a new song he can record his part with the zoom h2, and pass the music file to me so I can practice the song without him being there. It also records unmiced vocals quite well, I apologize that I have not yet had the opportunity to test it on vocals through a pa system. The Zoom H2 has 2 file structures wav and mp3.

The Zoom H2 has great mounting capabilities. Right out of the box we could mount The Zoom H2 on its own stand, a handle that allows you to connect to a mic stand, or a camera tripod using a standard camera mount, which I chose to use for convenience. I think that the Zoom H2 would make an excellent holiday gift. Tell all of your friends. For samples visit http://www.myspace.com/saybrook123.

Product details and purchase information:
http://www.x-tremegeek.com/templates/SearchDetail.asp?productID=22118

Jack Sass said...

I do a daily podcast and use the H2 for ALL my field sound gathering. If you'd like to hear a pretty good display of just what it can do I recorded this entire clip with it. Listen to it with headphones if possible. http://hostedon.cyberears.com/cyberears/files/2658.mp3

I highly reccomend the H2.

Jack Sass

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