I didn't have enough mics to make simultaneous recordings as I did with the previous tests. But each recording includes a bit of my voice, some ambient room sounds, and a short section of guitar. I can't promise that the mic placement was perfect for the guitar - as a radio journalist I'm better versed in micing people than musical instruments.
Zoom H4n with RE50 dynamic mic using the XLR input
Zoom H4n with RE50 dynamic mic using mini input
Zoom H4n with AKG Perception mic using 48v phantom power and XLR input
Zoom H4 with RE50 dynamic mic using XLR input
Zoom H4 with AKG Perception mic using 48v phantom power and XLR input
Sony PCM-D50 with RE50 dynamic mic and mini input
To my ear, the XLR inputs on both the original Zoom H4 and the Zoom H4n have far too much hiss to be used with a dynamic microphone like the RE50. On both devices, the original recording was very quiet (although the Zoom H4n recording was a bit louder), and when I boosted the volume using CoolEdit, the hiss become quite noticable.
But the Zoom H4n also has a 1/8th inch input. When using this input with the RE50 microphone, the recording level was much higher, and the hiss much less noticable. In my opinion, the Sony PCM-D50 still works better with the RE50. But it also costs $100 to $150 more. If you're on a tight budget, the Zoom H4n might be all you need. Plus it offers added features like XLR inputs and phantom power for condenser mics.
The AKG Perception microphone sounded reasonably good with both of the Zoom recorders. You'd need a preamp to use that mic with the Sony PCM-D50.
What it comes down to is that all three are decent recorders. But you'll have to pick the right one for your needs and your budget. The Zoom H4 is available from Amazon for as little as $227, while the Zoom H4n costs $346. The Sony PCM-D50 goes for about $469.
In the next few days I'll share my thoughts on the Zoom H4n hardware to roundup this review.