ZOOM H4n Stand-Out Features
The H4n is really easy to use. After loading two AA batteries, I was able to immediately get a recording going. I had glanced through the manual, and did fiddle with the menu options here and there, but I was able to very quickly connect what the manual was showing with using the device. To record you simply press the red record button which will cause the button to flash, then press again to begin recording. To stop recording you press the Stop button. You can immediately play back your recording and listen to it by the small mono speaker on the back of the H4n. This proved to be helpful after recording for checking levels, and making sure I had “Gotten the take”. There are many more options available via the front panel buttons and jog dial accessible menus. The front panel Track buttons are used to select the folder your recording will be saved into, the file name, the speed of play back and the recording format quality depending on which recording mode is activated. I used this last function a lot and found it very convenient to quickly change from 96/24 high quality .wav format to 128bit .mp3 format depending on what I was recording. Onboard direct mp3 recording and encoding is a very practical means to capturing high quality recordings in a small amount of drive space. One thing – when using the front panel button to set the recording quality and format I tended to forget to lock in my setting by pressing the side panel jog/dial button. The on screen status display doesn’t change to show which format you’re recording in until a recording has begun. Little things like that proved to be irksome when making settings using the side menu and jog/button. On the cylindrical mic barrels you will see 90° and 120° marks. The mic barrels turn and snap into position on those marks to give you normal or wide angle stereo recording options.
The mics are housed on a sturdy metal chassis. I’m very pleased with the recording quality of the onboard mics. When coupled with out-board mics the H4n becomes a formidable recording solution. My comparison mics are MXL 603s condensers, and Studio Projects Sp3s $200- $400 mic pairs. The H4n compared very well. The H4n does pick-up handling noise. Placement is key as with any other recording situation. For the recording tests (below) I stuck with the 90° configuration though the unit has a Mid/Side recording feature as well which requires a figure 8 polar pattern external mic. The H4n did well with a range of sounds from thunderstorms, voice, acoustic guitar, drums, and amped guitar. The Auto-Level feature (an input menu option) was useful for letting the device set the recording level based on the source. With this feature on once in record armed mode (flashing red record button) the levels are adjusted automatically based on the volume of the source sound. Auto-Level will also adjust the recording levels on the fly as the unit records to maintain optimum levels. The H4n also has a Auto-Record setting which uses the sound source volume to trigger recording start/stop.