SD card in ZOOM H4 - poor signal level on recording

I am asking this question on behalf of a friend. He has owned a Zoom H4 for a year or two but has never managed to get a good, clean recording from it. Over the last couple of weeks I have been working with him through all the settings in his machine and comparing them to the settings in mine (which works just fine). We eventually found that all the settings were the same; and were left totally baffled. I have just received an e-mail from him in which he states that he has solved the problem. He replaced the factory-fitted SD card (an inX 512MB) with a SanDisk Ultra II 2GB. Why should the make and size of the storage card make a difference to the quality of the sound recording?

All ideas welcome.


I can think of some wacky ideas.

– The smaller card automatically triggers compressed recording to maintain long recording times.

– What happens if he puts the smaller card back? Did he clean off the card connections with the larger card and now that they’re clean, anything will work (error correction producing damaged data).

– The smaller card is broken.


For recording in a high quality format, the SD card needs to work fast to keep up with the data, otherwise bits of data will be dropped and it will sound like distortion (push it further and the “gaps” become obvious. I had this problem with my Zoom H2 - the sound quality when recording in WAV format 48 kHz was horrible, at 44.1 kHz it was much better but occasional clicks, and at 320 kbps MP3 it was fine. I sent the SD card back and got it changed and that fixed it.

SD cards do come in different speeds. This is reflected in the price: the high-speed types (used for video cameras) cost about 3x the price of a bog standard SD card with the same capacity.

So the old card which had poor quality recording, (e.g. low bit-rate artifacts or skipping), may have been slow rather than defective.

My thanks to Koz, Steve and Trebor for your responses. I did some Googling for myself and found several references to problems associated with cheap SD cards. Seems like it’s the old story: “you gets what you pays for”. That’s why I’m stocking up with Sandisk cards for my new Nikon D300s camera. I don’t want to lose any images or videos. Now, I must check what make of card is in my Zoom H4!!!

Glad to hear that it was just the card and nothing else.

Of course, if all else had failed, I would have mentioned the possibility of a factory dud.

I own a Zoom H1 and am very happy with it, but, at one time, there were reports (true) of the H1 draining the batteries of power when the unit was POWERED DOWN!!!

Glad I didn’t pick one up then!