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Servant of the Lord

Good sound recorder? Anyone have a Zoom H1?

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I'm looking for a decent quality sound recorder. Currently, I'm considering the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder - does anyone have one of these, and can you give your opinion on it? Does it do a good job recording sounds? Does it do a good job cutting out background noise?

 

Primary usage: Recording sound effects in nature (bird chirps, walking on grass/gravel/dirt/concrete) and at home (clanking pots and pans, walking up and down stairs, etc...), with reasonable fidelity so I can build up a sound-effect library to use in my games (I'm a hobbyist indie developer/programmer trying to go commercial with my games - I'm not a musician or sound composer). I'll probably modify them a little in something like Audacity.

 

Possible secondary use: Recording my voice for you-tube videos for commercial trailers of my game, and for discussing game development issues. Because I want to use it for commercial trailers of my game, it needs to be good enough that it doesn't distort my voice or make my voice sound scratchier than it normally is.

 

I don't intend to ever use this to record live music, so that's not important to me (and why I am considering the Zoom H1 instead of the Zoom H2n).

 

My budget is about $100, and no more than $125. Is there other recorders in this price range that you would recommend over the Zoom H1?

 

Also, about wind-screens, what is the difference between something like this and something like this? Which one nullifies the sound of wind better while still letting in things like bird noises and other sounds?

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I have an old Edirol R-09 (not the HR model). All in all, it was solid although I've heard the new model made quite a few substancial improvements to the design plus they had a custom wind shield which doesn't fit my older model. I've never used the Zoom personally but I've heard good things about it.

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I own a Zoom H4-N, which is kind of close to the Zoom H1, and I've used it to capture nature sounds as well.

 

Quality is very good, but you since you mention background noise... it had better be really quiet. I have many samples of bird songs that contain an airplane or lumberjacks in the distance that I didn't notice at all when doing the recording, yet they're very clearly heard in the recording.

 

The H4-N is rather sensible to wind, too. Operating outdoors without the foam thingie that you can put over the microphones is entirely impossible, the slightest sigh of wind will be heard. With the foam thingie, it is kind of OK as long as no moderately strong wind blows.

 

Startup times are a possible issue. The device needs batteries (does not work with accumulators), which are expensive, and can drain batteries quickly when left in operative mode. Batteries last "forever" if you only turn the device on for a recording, but it takes upwards of 20 seconds to boot up. Which, in the case of bird songs, usually means "nice try, thank you for visiting, come again".

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I did some recording with the h1.
It does a decent job. If you are recording quiet sounds the noise can be a problem, so always try to get as close to the source as possible. Also don't hold it in your hand while recording.
As a wind stopper, we used... a sock. biggrin.png Edited by Madhed
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@Samoth: One Amazon update mentioned that because of a firmware update (downloaded from Zoom's website), the startup times were noticeably better - the firmware update lists it as one of the fixes. Even so, I don't expect to do alot of spontaneous captures, but to go out already planning to do some capturing and have it already booted up, so boot time isn't too much of a deal breaker (unless it's more than a minute).
The firmware update also allows it to be used as a PC audio recording device by USB, which would be useful for voice-overs for youtube videos.

You mentioned the battery costs - The Zoom H1 Amazon.com product page says it takes a single AA battery, and the Zoom H1 website says, "Yes, the H1 can use [NiMH rechargable batteries]. However, it cannot recharge batteries [using the AC adapter]. Use a commercially-available charger to recharge batteries for use with the H1."
I already have some NiMH batteries and a recharger for other battery hogs, so that shouldn't be a problem either.

Wind will probably be an issue. I get some really still days, but at other times the wind is incredibly strong, so I'll have to wait for the right days to record I guess.

One complaint about the Zoom H1 seems to be the recorder's shell/casing, which is plastic and "feels" weak to reviewers. Is there some way I could strengthen the case?

It does a decent job. If you are recording quiet sounds the noise can be a problem, so always try to get as close to the source as possible. Also don't hold it in your hand while recording.
 
Thanks for the tip. Why not hold it in your hand? How would you suggest using it? Edited by Servant of the Lord
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Why not hold it in your hand? How would you suggest using it?

I had some problems where the H1 would record a lot of low frequency rumble when moving, even though I tried to hold my hand perfectly still. In hindsight that may have been the "sock contraption" scraping against the microphone cage though.

I'll see if I can upload the recorded sounds to dropbox or something.

EDIT: Unfortunately I don't seem to have the raw sources on this computer. Most samples are edited in some way. Ambience and waterfall have layered noise.

 

EDIT2: I'm not sure if I am supposed to upload these. unsure.png

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Don't bother uploading anything, your information is valuable enough as-is.

 

I plan on grabbing one of these (which folds into this), which might help reduce hand-shaking (if not, I'll need a desk stand anyway, and these are cheap enough).

If it still provides too shaky sound, I'll try putting the tripod on the ground and recording - though that'd be annoying. dry.png

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Hello,

I've owned a Zoom H2 for about four years and it's a very solid tool.

My girlfriend just got the updated version, the H2n, to record ambiences and foley for her animations. It's really amazing what you get for the money nowadays. It has 5 microphones that you can set up as M/S, XY and surround, and it has lots of handy things like adjusting the stereo width, decent-sounding compressors, enough mic-gain and pretty low noise, so even recordings with very little mic-gain become usable once you crank them up a bit.

It doesn't come with a power adapter, but you can buy one separately or just use standard AA batteries instead, which can last almost a day, should need be.

So I've never used the H1, but I expect it to be a good tool as well - I'd just visit a local store and compare it with a few others in the price range.
Or get an H2 or H2n used, despite their plastic casing they're pretty sturdy. I've dropped mine a good dozen times and it's missing its card lid and has quite a few dings and dongs, still sounds like it did on day one.

Cheers,
Moritz Edited by Moritz P.G. Katz
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One more thing regarding accessories:

The question which windscreen you use is mostly an aesthetic one in this case. Whatever you slip over the microphone(s) will muffle the sound somehow - I've even used one of my thick socks when I was out recording and forgot my windscreen - worked out just as well. Just had one foot considerably colder than the other one. ;)

Stands and holders can be very useful, the H2 has quite a bit of handling noise due to the plastic casing, but it came with a cheapo tripod and a holder that you can put in a microphone stand - they both do their jobs.

Note that the H2n ships with neither windscreen nor stands or holders. Again, don't know about the H1. Might be worth looking into!

Edit: Stupid editor, putting HTML code everywhere... Edited by Moritz P.G. Katz
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after firmware update the startup times were noticeably better [...] connect directly by USB

That's a good tip, thank you. This will also remove the need for the Zoom driver then, I guess (which does not cause problems for me, but fewer drivers are always better).
 

H1 can use [NiMH rechargable batteries]

My user's manual says differently, but note that I have a different device (H4-N) too, could be different. They might have changed that since I bought it, too. Or maybe the manual is wrong, who knows. I've admittedly not tried.

 

With two AAs, my device allows you being in the bird park for an afternoon (recording not too much alltogether -- few seconds here, few seconds there, alltogether maybe 30-45 mins). Seems to me like recording and being in standby eats almost the same amount of battery (which I find stunning!). Since batteries aren't precisely cheap, I thought that I'd mention, to avoid a nasty surprise.

But if it actually works with NiMH rechargeables, even the better. No problem then, as you said :-)
 

recorder's shell/casing, which is plastic and "feels" weak to reviewers

 

My H4-N feels like a brick. Yes, it's mostly made of plastic, but it still feels like a brick. No worries there. And it looks like a taser...
 

Why not hold it in your hand? How would you suggest using it?

 

If you have a bit of tremor (like basically everyone has, to some extent), you can sometimes actually hear that in the recording! The same goes for moving the device and pressing buttons on the device.

It's usually no biggie if you concentrate and are cautious, but preferrably one would put the device on a tripod (standard camera tripod winding is on the bottom) or on a hard, stable surface (beam of wood, table, bird observation stand).
 

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H1 can use [NiMH rechargable batteries]

My user's manual says differently, but note that I have a different device (H4-N) too, could be different. They might have changed that since I bought it, too. Or maybe the manual is wrong, who knows. I've admittedly not tried.

 

Odd. I think this is the official FAQ:

 

H1 FAQ - Can the H1 use nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries?
Answer: Yes, the H1 can use them. However, it cannot recharge batteries. Use a commercially-available charger to recharge batteries for use with the H1.

H4n FAQ - Can I use nickel-hydride (Ni-MH) rechargeable batteries in the H4n?

Answer: Yes. However, please note that the H4n does not have a function for charging the batteries.

You should therefore use a commercially available charger designed for the batteries you are using.

Also, to ensure that remaining battery capacity is indicated correctly by the H4n, set the "BATTERY TYPE" option in the "SYSTEM" menu to "Ni-NH".

For details, see page 128 of the Operation Manual.
 

 
If your manual says otherwise, you obviously taking a risk. It may be the same product, but an earlier version of that product. I'd check what page 128 in your manual says. If it's unrelated to NiMH batteries, then this FAQ might be for a later version.
 

Why not hold it in your hand? How would you suggest using it?

If you have a bit of tremor (like basically everyone has, to some extent), you can sometimes actually hear that in the recording! The same goes for moving the device and pressing buttons on the device.

It's usually no biggie if you concentrate and are cautious, but preferrably one would put the device on a tripod (standard camera tripod winding is on the bottom) or on a hard, stable surface (beam of wood, table, bird observation stand).


Thanks for that. I'm not sure exactly how I'll alleviate the shaking, and the tripod I'm getting is only about 4 inches - probably won't work in tall grass. But I'll see what can be done.

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One more thing regarding accessories:

The question which windscreen you use is mostly an aesthetic one in this case.
Whatever you slip over the microphone(s) will muffle the sound somehow
Oh, okay, good to know. I was getting confused by those 'dead kitten' windshields and didn't know the difference.
 
Stands and holders can be very useful, the H2 has quite a bit of handling noise due to the plastic casing, but it came with a cheapo tripod and a holder that you can put in a microphone stand - they both do their jobs.

Note that the H2n ships with neither windscreen nor stands or holders. Again, don't know about the H1. Might be worth looking into!
The H1 doesn't come with any of that, but has a $20 accessory kit that does have: Windscreen, Micro USB charger/adapter, a hardcase, and a tripod.
So I've never used the H1, but I expect it to be a good tool as well - I'd just visit a local store and compare it with a few others in the price range.
Or get an H2 or H2n used, despite their plastic casing they're pretty sturdy. I've dropped mine a good dozen times and it's missing its card lid and has quite a few dings and dongs, still sounds like it did on day one.
Good ideas, I'll see if I can find H1's in my area to feel in-person, and I'll check ebay and Amazon used prices for the H2n as well.
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Looks like you've already made up your mind and have gotten good information from everyone - But I just wanted to say that I have the Zoom H4. It's a little more expensive but I got a good deal on eBay for this one, used. The interface is awkward and clunky, eventually you'll get used to it, but that's the worst thing about it. It's a bit noisy to hold because the plastic isn't as solid as you would think, but I have the accessory stand and just use it on a mic stand if I record any ambiance. But you can definitely hear it in your recording when you're handling it. Never really used it for voice but it's solid as hell for everything else. Built in mics are great, phantom power is a huge plus if you want to throw a shotgun mic into it at a later time.

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The H4-N is rather sensible to wind, too. Operating outdoors without the foam thingie that you can put over the microphones is entirely impossible, the slightest sigh of wind will be heard. With the foam thingie, it is kind of OK as long as no moderately strong wind blows.

 

google 'red head windshield h4n' or something like that.

 

Bought two of these a while back, really exceptional accessory. The guy was really nice too.

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