Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Zoom H4 2.0 firmware update fixes almost everything

There's a new firmware update for the Zoom H4 Handy Recorder, and boy is it a doozy. In fact, Zoom seems to have addressed almost every single complaint anyone's ever had with the Zoom software. Version 2.0 includes:
  • Larger fonts making the tiny display easier to read
  • Battery meter shows how much juice you've got left when recording in stereo mode
  • Specify whether you're using alkaline or Ni-MH batteries for a more accurate battery reading
  • There's a remaining time meter in stereo mode
  • Mono mix recording in stereo mode (In other words, you'll still be recording on two tracks, but the output will be dual mono instead of true stereo. This doesn't save you any space on your memory card, but it does make voice recordings more accurate).
  • Low cut filter with 10 presets for reducing background sound
  • Auto recording mode starts up a recording when there's sound above a certain threshold and pauses when it gets quiet
  • Support for SDHC cards up to 4GB (Previously you could only use SD cards up to 2GB)
  • Convert WAV files to MP3 directly on the unit to save space
  • Divide large files
  • Normalize files to bring up the volume on the recorder (Depending on the card you're using, this could reportedly take almost as long as recording a new track, so you might be better off waiting until you get to a PC to do this).
  • You can now turn off the input signal when using the USB interface mode. In other words, you don't have to hear the mic or line input sound all the time
I downloaded and installed the update, and so far I'm pretty impressed. I would have preferred a true mono recording option in the stereo mode, even if that sounds like a bit of a contradiction. Once you become comfortable recording in mono using the 4-track mode, it's not that hard to do. But since you don't get a battery meter or remaining record time display in 4-track mode, it would be nice if you could do make true mono recordings in the 2-track mode.

You can download the supplemental Zoom H4 manual (PDF link) and see in-depth descriptions of all the new features if you want to read up a bit before messing with your recorder's firmware.

The software update does nothing to solve the electric pulsing noise problem when you're running on battery power, so the best solution is still to build your own battery pack. And of course, the Zoom H4 still has a few hardware issues like noisy preamps when using external mics and loud handling noise when using the internal mics.

But this update is still pretty sweet. It certainly makes up for the last disappointing firmware upgrade.

Update: A couple of people have contacted me to let me know they were having problems installing the firmware. So here are three things to make sure you're doing:
  1. Make sure you check to see what version of the Zoom firmware you're currently using and download the corresponding update file.
  2. When Zoom says put the update file in the root directory of your SD card, this does not mean the Sys folder. Instead, the file should not go in any folder at all.
  3. Make sure your Zoom is plugged in when performing the update.

44 comments:

DTang said...

Brad, you are the man!! I was totally ambivalent about my zoom h4 until I happened on your site. I immediately made a trip to Radio Shack and did the rc battery upgrade. I even got a $5 pencil soldering iron from Harbor Freight and soldered the leads to the little plug (plastic sleeve unscrews to show two metal tabs to solder the wires to.) Recording 20hr at a stretch without a plug is awesome! Now with this update, I am totally over the initial remorse I had over the hi freq beeps.

Regarding external mics, I use a rode videomic (shotgun) with a trs to xlr adapter (6 foot cord to avoid handling noise) and record mono on 4 track mode. I almost always have to use hi gain setting to get decent levels, but rarely wall out for interviews or voice over. pre-amps are weak as you say. Maybe if I have time later I might try sticking my FMR RNC compressor in between to see if that is a fix, since it has a little gain adjustment and is pretty clean. Thanks again for your blog!

Brad Linder said...

Wow, glad I could help! I never expected fan mail when I started writing about my life and times with the Zoom H4. :)

Even though I just placed a pre-order for the new Sony PCM-D50, I'm definitely keeping my H4 around as a backup. It's served me well, and it does have those XLR jacks, even if they're a bit quiet and a bit noisy.

Eric said...

Brad, thank you for the upgrade. I really have enjoyed my little H4, and these changes help. I work at a recording studio and use the device for field recording. So I've one question remaining... is there any chance for a date stamp upgrade for recorded files? This would be a very important upgrade for my field. Thanks.

Eric

Brad Linder said...

Hi Eric,

I haven't heard anything about such an update, but it seems like something that could totally be implemented via a software upgrade. You might want to try contacting Zoom directly to see if they have any plans to implement a time stamp feature.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
My H4 has internal mics of uneven sensitivity - unequal gain - as (apparently) most H4s do! Is there ANY way to adjust their individual gain in stereo mode? I can't find one - do you think Zoom will ever do a firmware upgrade that fixes this? Surely they should if they're building the units using cheap, badly matched mics.

Brad Linder said...

I don't see why this couldn't be adjusted via a firmware upgrade. But the problem is that each individual unit is likely to have slight differences, so it wouldn't be a one sized fits all fix. Rather, the best you could hope for would be the ability to adjust the gain on the left and right channels individually.

Anonymous said...

Hello again,
Thanks for responding to my comment about uneven internal mics. Yes, I totally agree that the best that could be hoped for is a firmware upgrade that would allow the independant setting of levels for the left and right channels in stereo mode. But why, then, won't Zoom impliment such an update - it would surely be very easy for them to do and yet they say they have no plans to do so. It is so infuriating to have to independantly normalise the two channels using software after every recording to get a true stereo image - it hardly makes the device user friendly!
It seems to me that, with the H4, Zoom have thought of everything and then built it out of the cheapest, lowest quality components possible and thus rendered the device next to useless - badly matching internal mics and preamps that make the use of external mics pointless are really not ideal on a sound recording device! What a shame.

Dave said...

Hi Brad, thanks for all the info, its very helpful. I recon I'm on the brink of buying an H4...

Re. the battery pack eliminating the beep issue, do you recon a 'Powermonkey' external charger would do the trick? See below:

http://www.earthtechproducts.com/p2588.html

Cheers, Dave

Dave said...

oh yeah, and another thing i've been wondering, does the H4 make a decent portable MP3 player? The specs from Zoom say it fhas this functionality as well as all the other features...

Cheers again! :-)

Brad Linder said...

I'm not sure about the Power Monkey. It might not pump out enough juice for the H4.

As for a portable MP3 player, yeah, it'll play them. But I wouldn't really recommend using it this way. It's kind of big and bulky compared with other MP3 players, and the play/pause/ff/rew buttons are pretty finicky.

Dave said...

Thanks Brad. Shame about the powermonkey, that would have been a good solution. I guess I shouldn't be writing off my iRiver H120 just yet then...

BTW, does the version 2.0 firmware fix the ringing noise when using phantom power, battery and an external mic?

Brad Linder said...

Nope. My understanding is that it's a hardware issue, not a software one. So I don't know that it will ever be fixed on this model. The problem doesn't exist in the newer Zoom H2.

While I was starting to get used to carrying a battery pack around with me, I ultimately decided that I didn't want to put up with the noise you get from the preamps when using an external mic. So I upgraded to a Sony PCM-D50 and relegated my H4 to backup duties. It's still a great recorder for the price, but I'd only really recommend it for people who plan to use the internal mics all the time.

Dave said...

doh. if it wasnt for that the H4 would be perfect for me. I'm guessing the noise isnt there through USB power either, but the attraction of having XLRs on a device like the H4 is total portability without the need for any extras (apart from a mic in this case!)

Anonymous said...

Great Blog Brad Linder! its i recently updated the firmware on my H4 and you provided a nice summary of what I ended up with.

I've had the H4 for 2 months now and am happy with it. I use it for recording song ideas and practicing guitar and vocals. For my purposes its fine. I only use the built-in mics and I've never notice the pulsing sound during battery use and my mics seem to be pretty evenly matched in terms of gain so I have no complaints there. I think for those people that are complaining about the unit they are probably expecting too much out of a gizmo thats intended to be a low cost multipurpose tool NOT a studio quality piece of recording gear. For me, the H4 is convenient and portable and a great way to get song ideas recorded. If i want more professional sounding recordings i'll by pro equipment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the update. Large font necessary for us old folks. We just got the unit a couple months ago and have some success using. Can you lead me to a simple explanation of the 4 track ability of the H4.

I am using the recorder to make im my opinion simple recordings of acustic guitar with vocals. I am not clear on the 4 track ability and what it means.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to the H4 and very impressed so far but ... The font size is a problem for 'oldies'. I downloaded V2.10 (for V1 or 1.10) and put it in the root dir of the SD card, but nothing I do induces the Zoom to start up with the Version Up? option. I have pressed every button I can find, starting with the Menu button, but nothing - I just get the standard top screen! I can't find any suggestions on the Net so I guess I'll just have to stick with V1.10 and wear glasses!

Brad Linder said...

2 things to try:

1. Make sure your Zoom is plugged in while trying the software upgrade. It will not work otherwise.
2. You need to hold down the Menu key while turning your unit on. This means pressing the bottom 4-way dial on the front of the unit. It's a bit tricky, and I sometimes had to turn the Zoom H4 on and off a couple of times before it would work. But this is the only key you need to hold.

Sean said...

I'm having the same problem as the previous poster. I've got the .bin file loaded to the root of the SD card and the unit is plugged in to AC power but no matter how many times I turn it on while holding the Input Menu button, it just loads straight to the normal screen.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. I wonder if you or anyone here knows how to do duets with this recorder. I would like to record a track, then play it back to my phones while I record a second track next to the first. Ideas?

Anonymous said...

When I plug in power adaptor the H4 will not turn on. It worked previously.Adapter checks out fine on volt meter?
Thanks..

H4Novice said...

I hope there is someone out there who can help me. I have a new H4 that I'm trying to "version up" from 2.1 ->2.2. I have a Mac OSX 10.4.11. When I open the H4SD card window on my Mac I can see that the SYSTEM.BIN file is in there, but the "version up" process does not "Complete". Instead I get an "ERROR" message on my H4. I can't find anything about this "ERROR" message in the manual. Do you know what might be going wrong?

Anonymous said...

I have same problem as H4 Novice. Can anyone help me out? Thanks in advance...

j3rk said...

I use windows and I have the same problem from version 2.1 to 2.2.

j3rk said...

I just got off with support and we got it working. My problem was that I was trying to update off of a high density 8GB card. You should try running the update from a smaller card if you are using a high density one too.

Rar Jungle said...

I had trouble updating too at first, but now I got it to work.
I switched to a smaller size sd card, the one the unit came with, and also became very careful of how I pushed the menu button down. I am not sure if switching the sd card mattered so much, the key perhaps, is not to hold the menu button down too hard. Push it down towards the bottom of the unit, with gentle pressure, just so you feel it click only one time, then hold it in that position while you swith it on.

Fajita said...

Thanks for the tip on pressing the button downward gently - I was definitely forcing it a bit too hard. I've tried to update a number of times and never got it to work until now!

Imrage said...

I had the same problem. Copied the file on the root folder, and then, during the update, instead of COMPLETE!, i get an ERROR.

I was using a 8gb SD card, i switched for a 512mb and it worked. (by the way, insert the card, and then start the zoom once without holding down the menu button). Then, put the h4 off, and start it again for your update.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

How do you update the firmware to 2.2 if you don't have a SD Card reader?

Tristan said...

ZOOM site Down

The firmware is offline and now I cannot connect my zoom to my mac :( Does anyone have the firmware? I'll host it in return to share with others.

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with the Zoom H4 and I'm hoping you might be able to offer some advice as to what i should do about it. Initially, I had purchased a used H4 that was working spendidly until after a few weeks use (for three two hour hour sessions - i use the machine to record my band practises and to archive ideas) i started getting loud digital pops on the mp3s recorded, which increased in frequency till it became unbearable. i returned the unit and ponied uup additional dollars to purchase a brand new H4. after five weeks of recording bliss, using open mics and recording mp3 at 320 kbps, and using the adapter, i suddenly started getting those annoying digital pops again. not nearly as loud or frequently as it was previously, but enough to cause me concern. incidentally, i also dump all that i have recorded onto my harddrive after every jam session and i am using the SD card that came with the machine. Any suggestions or opinions would be appreciated. Thanks! Paul, Calgary, AB CANADA.

Eric said...

Paul,
I'm not sure what you're experiencing, but it sounds as though you may have some kind of incompatibility between your microphone and the zoom unit - perhaps a wrong phantom voltage setting, or a leaky (cheap?) microphone you're plugging in that draws too much current. Have you tried adjusting the settings, or a different microphone? The problem you describe just sounds like a preamp slowly roasting, to me. I have occasionally used external mics on my recorder without incident.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

To start the firmware update, press the menu button in and DOWN towards INPUT and MENU. Then it works fine.

Anonymous said...

I see there's a lot of really good input and info here, so I thought I'd throw this out..

Fast forward to March 2010..

I've got a H4 running v. 2.20

I download the 2.40 upgrade, (For the system version "VER=1.20" or later..)

I Follow the upgrade procedure, I click 'version up?' ok, it says it's 'checking file' them gives me an 'error' and stops dead.

Anyone else experience a similar problem? any known fix?

Hans said...

How the [bleep] do you get the H4 to give a file the right timestamp? I have combed the manual for every mention of the word "time" and no luck. All my files have same 1995 timestamp. I can always rename my files something with the time in it, but it's the principle of the thing. :)

Hans said...

Nevermind on that timestamp question. Just found this:
http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/support/faq/h4.php#01

Anonymous said...

hi, i've had my H4 for a year or so, and suddenly my unit won't interface with my power book g4 , no icon will appear, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, i have two recording sessions on cards and can't burn cd's thank you jerry

Anonymous said...

How do you update the firmware to 2.2 if you don't have a SD Card reader?

Anonymous said...

I have same problem as H4 Novice. Can anyone help me out? Thanks in advance...

Anonymous said...

I'm new to the H4 and very impressed so far but ... The font size is a problem for 'oldies'. I downloaded V2.10 (for V1 or 1.10) and put it in the root dir of the SD card, but nothing I do induces the Zoom to start up with the Version Up? option. I have pressed every button I can find, starting with the Menu button, but nothing - I just get the standard top screen! I can't find any suggestions on the Net so I guess I'll just have to stick with V1.10 and wear glasses!

Anonymous said...

Great Blog Brad Linder! its i recently updated the firmware on my H4 and you provided a nice summary of what I ended up with.

I've had the H4 for 2 months now and am happy with it. I use it for recording song ideas and practicing guitar and vocals. For my purposes its fine. I only use the built-in mics and I've never notice the pulsing sound during battery use and my mics seem to be pretty evenly matched in terms of gain so I have no complaints there. I think for those people that are complaining about the unit they are probably expecting too much out of a gizmo thats intended to be a low cost multipurpose tool NOT a studio quality piece of recording gear. For me, the H4 is convenient and portable and a great way to get song ideas recorded. If i want more professional sounding recordings i'll by pro equipment.

Anonymous said...

Hello again,
Thanks for responding to my comment about uneven internal mics. Yes, I totally agree that the best that could be hoped for is a firmware upgrade that would allow the independant setting of levels for the left and right channels in stereo mode. But why, then, won't Zoom impliment such an update - it would surely be very easy for them to do and yet they say they have no plans to do so. It is so infuriating to have to independantly normalise the two channels using software after every recording to get a true stereo image - it hardly makes the device user friendly!
It seems to me that, with the H4, Zoom have thought of everything and then built it out of the cheapest, lowest quality components possible and thus rendered the device next to useless - badly matching internal mics and preamps that make the use of external mics pointless are really not ideal on a sound recording device! What a shame.

liv said...

Thanks so much anonymous, I spent hours trying everything to make this work! and all I had to do was be gentle. Thanks again

Drastica said...

Hi
I tried to update my Zoom H4. I download the update,  and become a zip call H4_v2.40.zip. To open it, become a folder called "SYSTEM.BIN" and to open it become a zip called "SYSTEM.BIN.cpgz" and then "SYSTEM.BIN" again.
I tried in different MACs and PCs and still the same. Do you know what to do to solve this problem?

wijnful . said...

has anybody found a solution for this?

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