Zoom H2n Handy Recorder Review


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Zoom Handy H2n Review

Portable Handheld Recorder for Podcasts and Musicians

The Zoom Handy Recorder is a very reasonable digital audio handheld musician’s recording device but can also be used in the home for people who want to record their own podcasts to a high quality level – or you can even record pristine audio in the outdoors if you want to record your own audio when outside – even reporters will love this portable recording device.

It’s great for portable recording and is billed as a ground-breaking digital portable recorder?  But does it live up to the manufacturer hype?  I’ve recently got my hands on a Zoom H2n Recorder and have been using it for podcasts on some of my other websites, so thought what better time to do my own personal Zoom H2n review.  Scroll down below this Zoom H2n photo for the full review.

The Zoom Handy Personal Recorder

Zoom Handy H2N Review – Personal Recorder

Zoom H2n Review and First Impressions of the Handheld Recorder

It looks the business and feels really good in the hand.  Getting to grips with the controls and the data that you seen on the LCD display is a little bit trickier though.  There’s lots functionality here packed into a very small digital handheld recording device – but then the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder is designed to give you great quality audio recording for broadcasting, journalism, podcasting, and musical performance – so there’s bound be quite a lot to get accustomed to if you are going to get the best from it.  But that’s exactly what I tried to do and here’s how I got on.

Recording Podcasts with the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder

The Zoom H2n should be more than capable of being a great digital recorder for podcasts, but is it going to stack up and develop into some of the best equipment for recording podcasts?  I run a regular podcast on another website and so was keen to get started on whether the Zoom H2n would deliver on the hype.

I’ve also got the Handy Recorder’s desktop tripod which comes as part of the Zoom H2n Accessory Pack so mounted the Zoom H2n onto the Tripod and was ready to go.

Podcasting with the Zoom Handy

Podcasting with the Zoom Handy is easy – especially with the tripod

Podcasting with the Zoom Handy H2n

Considering that this is such a small handheld podcasting recorder I was really impressed.  The five mics can all have their sensitivity adjusted through low, medium, to high so you can control the noise really well.  Due to the amount of mics that come on the Handy H2n podcast recorder you can record in stereo to the front of it and also record in stereo to the rear.

This kind of functionality is very cool.  For example if you were interviewing someone during your podcast then the Zoom Handy recorder can be set in the middle of you and your subject – with both voices being recorded clearly and directly with a minimum fuss.  A little bit further down my Zoom Handy H2n Digital Recorder review I go into more detail on how this works.

For my purposes though I was simply recording my own thoughts and musing into a podcast.  On a second test run I got rid of the tripod and actually used the Zoom H2n as a USB microphone by simply plugging it into my laptop and recording straight onto the PC.

Steinberg WaveLab LE7 Audio Editing Software Comes Free

Once the audio was in my PC I was then able to edit it can get rid of all the mistakes, add some music as intro and outro tracks, and get the podcast polished up and mastered using Steinberg WaveLab LE 7 – which is bundled as free software when you buy the Zoom Handy H2n.  This is great because it means if you want a beginner’s handheld recorder then you will have everything you need to get started straight from the off.

Wavelab Software

You can use the free Steinberg WaveLab software

If not using the Zoom Handy as a USB microphone, then the most common scenario of getting audio files and recordings into your PC is to connect up via the high-speed USB 2.0 interface and cable.  This comes with the Zoom Handy at no additional cost and is how you would transfer audio data to your computer if you’ve been using the product on the road.

The next test was to see how the Zoom Handy Recorder would perform when recording outside.  Digital recording outside of the home comes with its own unique challenges, especially when it comes to background noise and wind interference with audio – this is due to the pretty advanced feature where you can narrow or widen your audio recording range, which I will go on to explain further on down.

Zoom Handy Fits in the Hand

The Zoom Recorder fits snugly into your hand for ease of use

We had him out in the shopping mall car park showing off the compass features of the watch, and I was able to record all his answers into the Zoom Handy H2n Audio Recorder by literally narrowing in the audio capture to him, whilst cutting out any external interference from passing customers and people.

If at any point I wanted to quickly review back how the recording had gone, all I had to do was quickly play back and listen as there’s a small reference speaker in the Zoom Handy.  It uses a 1/8-inch stereo output which I was able to plug my headphones into for a quick check.  I can easily see how this could be one of the best recording device for reporters.

Filter Out Background Noise and Narrow Into Your Audio Target

Because the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder has five different studio quality microphones, plus four recording modes (Mid-Side (MS) stereo, 90° X/Y stereo, 2-channel and 4-channel surround sound) it’s possible to capture your target audio really easily.

The four recording modes let you narrow down to capture a single speaker, and each setting for the recording modes can be adjusted on the LCD display – so I was able to set how much each of the microphones would pick up.  Check out the diagram below.

Audio Capture with Zoom

You can adjust each mic and eliminate background noise interference

Zoom Portable Recorder Comes with Mid-Side Recording

Zoom say that the H2n is the only portable recorder with 5 mic capsules on-board which is how the portable handheld digital recorder manages the unique recording modes.  Plus it’s the first handheld recorder on the market to offer mid-side stereo recording.

What does this mean in simple terms?  It’s intelligent stuff, because the mid-side recording combines a uni-directional mid mic – which will capture sound directly in front of you – plus a bi-directional side mic – which captures the audio from your left and right.

In addition to that the H2n’s 90° X/Y stereo condenser mics actually offer very good stereo recording.  Admittedly not as good as the highest end digital recorders – but considering this is a handheld at this price it’s a great achievement.  When you put all these microphones together you can manage to take a 360° two or four channel surround sound recording which you can then edit back on free Steinberg WaveLab software ready to be published online.

To find out more about how the Zoom Handy manages to pull this off then check out the official manufacturer video below which show the H2n portable recorder in action.

Video Overview of the Zoom Handy H2n Recorder Mic Functions

How Does the Zoom H2n Handy Perform as a Digital Music Recorder?

This is probably the biggest test of all, and I tried in two different environments.  One as a gig in an auditorium holding around one thousand people, and the other was at a sound studio with a friend’s band.  It was the concert environment in which I was the most concerned about how the Zoom H2n was going to perform.

Recording Gigs with the Zoom Handy H2n Recorder

I was stood around 10 rows back from the front, and the gig was a rock band – so lead singer, bass guitarist, lead guitarist, and drummer.  Because I knew in advance that I wanted to centre in on the stage and try to filter out as much of the crowd as possible I was going to have to set the five mics up right before hand – because there was no way I would be able to do a quick review using the small speaker during the gig itself due to noise levels and my position in the crowd.

When I got home I took the audio off using the USB cable.  I am going to be honest, it wasn’t perfect and I had a lot of crowd noise.  But then I think to myself, every single live album I’ve bought of my favorite rock bands has had crowd noise – it adds to the whole live audio experience.

Using with USB Cable

Easy to connect via USB to either PC or Mac

The audio itself though was of good quality, and the band was very clear.  So now I’ve got my own bootleg – but I am not going to tell you who the band was because I don’t want their lawyers chasing me down!

Using the Zoom Handy H2n in a Music Studio

This is where the Zoom Handy really comes into its own, but as long as you purchase the accessory pack because that includes the compatible tripod.  The band I was in the studio with did an acoustic set with vocals, guitar, and drums.  By using the uni and bi-directional mics I could record each person in on different tracks.

Back at home when it came to doing my editing, the sound was almost crystal.  So for less than two hundred dollars – which is how much the Zoom will cost (see prices lower down the page) – I could give my friend back a really nice memento of his band’s studio session.

User Interface and Controlling the H2n Handheld Recorder

As I mentioned earlier, the controls will get a little bit of getting used to and being ambidextrous could be an advantage to using this portable audio recorder… having said that, the newly designed and improved buttons and user-interface is definitely a step in the right direction when compared to the H2n’s predecessor, the Zoom Handy H2.  If you set the Zoom H2n versus the Zoom H2 then there’s only one winner.

Zoom H2N versus H2 Recorder

Comparing the H2N versus the predecessor – the Zoom H2

The buttons on the Handy H2n are far better placed for ergonomic handling and simpler recording than the H2 device buttons ever were.  In addition to that the 1.8 inch back-lit screen display is loads clearer than the H2 offering crystal clear monitoring – so I was able to navigate all the functions and different options including mic status a lot easier than on the previous model.

Battery Life of the Zoom Handy Recorder

Incredibly the Zoom H2n Digital Recorder only needs two AA batteries in order to be powered.  This should give the Handy Recorder 20 hours of battery life when you are out on the road doing recordings.

Battery on Handy H2n

Changing the batteries on a Zoom Handy recording device

Since using the Zoom Handy H2n Recorder for both my testing and podcasts I’ve would estimate that it’s been in operation mode for approximately 20 hours.  I had to replace the batteries at around the 17 hour mark so the manufacturer estimate isn’t far off.  If you do decide to purchase a Zoom Handheld Audio Recorder then you might want to consider buying some re-chargeable batteries and a charger from Amazon.

Storage and Memory on the Zoom Handy H2n Audio Recorder

The Zoom will accommodate anything up to a 32 GB SDHC memory card which should be ample enough storage for the majority of scenarios – and I had all my podcasts, outside broadcasts, and music tests stored on the one card for the duration of my trial.

Please note though, that was my own SD card because the H2n only comes pre-packaged with a 2GB SD card – so you should upgrade if you have any ambitions to really getting the best from this portable recorder.

A 32 GB card should give you 50 hours of recording time if you set the device to record at 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV format, but for things like podcasts then recording at 128kbps MP3 format will take you loads further – believe it or not, offering over five hundred hours of stereo recording.

Operating Controls

The different controls and buttons and what functions they serve

What if You Lose Power During Recording with Zoom Handy?

Power loss during recording is an absolute nightmare when it comes to using portable recording devices.  Thankfully the team at Zoom have pre-empted this and obviously listened to customer feedback.

During one of my outdoor recording sessions the batteries did die (around the 17 hour mark) but due to the new data recovery function on the Zoom handheld recorder I didn’t lose any of my work.  This is a rather clever little function and means that the H2n will automatically restore any recorded data the next time the device is switched back on.  Moral of the story is, remember to take some back-up AA alkaline batteries – I didn’t – but was able to get the audio I had recorded back off the unit once I got home.

There’s also an AC Adapter and power cable available for the Zoom H2n, but this will not come with the standard package – you will need to purchase the Zoom Accessory Pack which I’ve written more about towards the end of the article.

Conclusion on my Zoom Handy H2n Review

For bloggers, podcasters, would-be reporters, and music fans alike, the Zoom H2n is a brilliant piece of kit and one of the best products that I have ever reviewed on the Coupon Chili website – and the best thing is it doesn’t break the bank.

Large Pic of Zoom Handy H2n

It could just be the best portable recorder that we’ve reviewed

It’s an affordable and cheap portable handheld recorder that comes with superb battery life, excellent and advanced features, and very clear sound quality.  It’s reasonably easy to use, is small and compact, and the 5 mic functionality that lets you filter and target into your audio is second to none for a portable recorder in this price range.  Should you buy it?  All the purchase details can be seen below.

Buy the Zoom Handy H2n Cheap Online

The Zoom has now been officially released and is being billed as a digital audio handheld musician’s recording device on Amazon.  It would appear that Amazon is the cheapest online retailer of the Zoom Handy H2n at the moment and have even price-slashed it by around $150 US dollars last time that I looked.

You can click now on the Amazon price to the right of the H2n review now and find the best deals, a shorter technical spec, plus all the cheapest buy options.  A full technical spec is below, plus also a link to the additional accessory pack should you choose to purchase it.

Technical Features of the Zoom Handy H2n

No review of the Zoom Handy would be complete without a list of the technical features and functionality so you can read them all in one quick hit, so here goes:

  • Five different built-in mic capsules
  • Provides mid-side stereo and 90° X/Y stereo
  • Offers 2-channel and 4-channel recording modes
  • Will record your audio in WAV format up to 24-bit/96kHz or MP3 up to 320kbps
  • Easy to use and upgraded user interface
  • Data recovery function protects against battery loss for easy later recovery
  • Power will last for 20 hours with two AA alkaline batteries
  • But you could operate instead by using an AC adaptor or USB bus power
  • Screen display is 1.8-inch backlit LCD with 128×64 res
  • Analog-type mic Gain wheel
  • Built-in reference speaker for quick reviewing of audio on the fly
  • High-speed USB 2.0 card reader function
  • 1/8-inch Mic/Line Input and Phones/Line Output stereo phone jacks
  • Will take anything up to a 32GB SDHC memory card

There are also some additional functions which include: Lo-cut filter, compressor/limiter, metronome, variable speed playback, auto gain, pre-rec, auto-rec, tuner, key control, A-B repeat, file dividing, normalize, MP3 post-encode, marker and surround mixer.

Detailed View

Showing the additional functions on the Handy recorder

Buy the Zoom H2n Accessory Pack

If you do decide to buy the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder then you might also want to consider the accessory pack.  It comes with an adjustable desktop tripod stand which you can clip the Zoom recorder into which is perfect for anyone wanting to record their own podcasts or running home studios.  That capability is enhanced with the USB AC adapter and USB cable which can provide easy power to the equipment.


Pimp up your Zoom H2N with these professional accessories

For more professional use in studios there’s a mic clip adapter letting the user mount the Zoom H2n Recorder onto a traditional microphone stand, plus a foam windscreen which will lessen the effects of any wind or breath noise.

You can also use the wired remote that comes in the Zoom H2n Accessory Pack to prevent handling noise – which will result in cleaner sounding recordings.  The wired remote and extension cable will also let you control the recordings – it’s simple to start, stop, and pause plus add marks as you go.

Update to the Zoom Handy H2n Review

Please note that over the coming weeks I will be uploading both MP3 files of all my tests I conducted with the Zoom Handy H2n portable recorder so you can listen for yourself how the recordings went.