Zoom H1n

I think I’m far enough along to do a review.

I took delivery of a Zoom H1n sound recorder and shot a voice test. Fair warning I have a dead quiet recording space (a guy before me played drums and soundproofed the tiny third bedroom).

Nobody is going to accept my lip smacks and tongue noises anytime soon, but it sounds exactly like me and the recording passes ACX technical conformance after Audiobook Mastering … I didn’t need Noise Reduction.


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I intentionally shot the test free-standing—not connected to anything else. In one swoop, I eliminated all the computer problems people have with home USB microphones.

I didn’t even use a microphone stand. I plunked a fluffy towel on the desk and put the recorder on a roll of paper towels (or any other paper product that suits your spacing). I was one Hawaiian Shaka away from the recorder as recommended here…

… and was not using a pop and blast filter or any corrections in the recorder.

The H1n will not run without a memory chip in its side and it doesn’t say that anywhere in the advertising.


"The furry with the syringe on top! " :unamused: :laughing:


Quick. Call me an ambulance.


This is the technical setup in my photo studio. The shoot would be set up just like that on the messy desk in my quiet third bedroom (which doesn’t photograph well).

I locked the ticking Ikea wall clock in the bathroom, turned off the sound mixer with the hummy power supply and the bass cabinet with the noisy control problem. I put a blanket over the whiny internet terminal controller (leaving room for air flow).

That’s it. I waited between traffic lights until most of the cars had gone by, but the H1n is directional, so it’s possible I didn’t have to do that. I shot it just before lunch.

I set the H1n up for 44100, 16bit and turned all the special filters and functions off. No low-cut, no compressor, no limiter, nothing. The recording volume knob was set to half between 7 and 8. I was pleased I could get good volume and still have a little volume boost left if I needed it.

I transferred the work to my Mac over the USB to Micro USB cable I supplied.

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I did convert between stereo and mono in Audacity. Tracks > Mix > Mix Stereo down to Mono. It’s possible to edit and submit in stereo, but it’s a lot of extra work (make sure your stereo image is centered so the headphone listener doesn’t fall over trying to follow you) and ACX would rather you submitted in mono.

I cut out the errors, applied the Audiobook Mastering suite…


…passed ACX Check…


… and had lunch.


Hi Koz,

The H1n looks like a very nice, pocketable, recorder.

I’m looking for something that supports external microphones and am agonising between the H4n Pro and the H5. My heart wants the H5 but my head says that the extra money over the H4n Pro only gets you rotary recording level controls and removable microphone capsules which aren’t a huge incentive for me.

I hate it when you need to make decisions. The quality of the Zoom pre-amps led me to not consider the lower-quality Tascam DR-nnX models.

ATB, Neil

H4n Pro and the H5.

Google using external microphones with the Zoom products. I have an original Zoom H4 and it’s a bad idea to consider using external microphones with it because of poor performance. However, they all seem to get along with their own microphones just fine.

I’m looking for something that supports external microphones

Because your heart says you need one, or you have actual physical reasons for needing a different microphone? Remember, they’re not mixers and you can’t assign Left, Right or Mix. If you produce a single voice track with an external microphpone, it is required to do post production to get it down to a mono recording, and that’s on top of any mastering you need.


The “N” versions are said to be better in this respect, though you do need to use microphones that are sensitive enough to kick out a reasonably strong signal as the H4n pre-amps don’t have a massive amount of clean gain.

The H4n CAN give you a mono mix if you need that (the option is buried somewhere in the menu system, so you’ll probably need to refer to the manual to find it).

The H4n CAN give you a mono mix

I stand corrected.

I wonder about the desirability of doing that since the volume will go down as the noise level goes up. Let’s see: volume decreases by 6dB and the noise goes up by the square root of the doobly-doo.

My H4 is starting to develop sound problems which is another reason to pop for the new recorder. Perfectly understandable since it’s old enough to need supplemental oxygen and a walker to get around.

Further notes on the H1n. The negative reviews are correct. It is very light and feels like something you would get as a prize in a cereal box. It will record every single handling sound because of it’s light construction. All true.

I understand the early H1 had terrifically bad battery life, but the problem was fixed in this version. About 10 hours on a fresh set of alkalines. We will see. You can get a wall power supply for it and in that case, your restriction will be the memory chip—and that depends on the format you choose. All the instructions will commit to is “larger files” when the format quality goes up.

I chose the maximum 32GB memory chip. I have 64GB chips for a video camera, but the recorder rejects them.

The worst problem with the recorder so far is the memory chip. It is required for operation and it doesn’t come with one. So take delivery of the recorder, plug in the supplied batteries and then get in the car and go find a chip. Sammy’s Camera about two miles away had them, but I can imagine if you live in West Harpersfield, New York, you could be driving a long while before you found one. Anderson’s Beer and Wine is not a likely candidate.

It does warn about the chip. Once when you try to run the recorder without one and then again in the optional download instruction manual on page 12, section 3, Note 3. Yes, I am writing to Sweetwater about that.

I switched from the default file naming ZOOM0001.WAV to YYMMDD-HHMMSS, but then switched back since the files themselves have time and date stamps and it’s handy to have one-two-three in the filenames when searching.

By far the most desirable thing is the ability to walk into a quiet room with the Zoom and a roll of paper towels and start recording.

Hard to beat that.


Hi Koz, steve

Indeed the earlier H4n did have noise issues but the H4n Pro uses the same pre-amps as the H5/H6 which are quieter at < -120dB.

In the end I did go for the H5 which has a Multi-file recording mode which puts the L/R mic in one file and the external Mic 1 and Mic 2 into separate files.

The maximum input gains are 52dB for the L/R mic and 55dB for the Mic 1 and Mic 2 inputs. I have a R0de NT1 (Sens -29dBV re 1V/Pa) and AKG D5 (Sens -52dBV re 1V/Pa).

When assessing these devices you have to adjust your expectations based on what you paid for them. The H1 is a budget device and while the H5 isn’t cheap it exhibits a level of performance that is useful with better-than-budget microphones. They both give you recording on-the-go ability and with good ambient conditions can produce acceptable results.

ATB, Neil