Review: Zoom H2 Recorder
According to the manufacturer, the Zoom H2 ‘begins with a simple idea: provide brilliant stereo recording in an easy-to-use, ultra-portable device’, and goes on to claim that ‘everyone can record pristine audio in an infinite variety of applications’. With a street price of around £147 is all this possible?
The first thing I couldn’t help but notice about the Zoom H2 is that it comes with a full range of useful accessories. From a small desktop stand to an AC adaptor, everything is in the box to get you started recording in virtually any situation as quickly as possible. Operation is simple, although I would still recommend reading through the instruction manual to get the most out of the unit, press the red record button once to enter standby mode, a red LED blinks, and again to start recording, the LED stays on. To stop recording press the red button one more time. It’s that simple!
The microphone is made out of plastic, with a wire mesh screen protecting the microphone capsules, and seems to be suitably robust. Having no tape or motors significantly reduces noise, and increases durability. Recordings are saved on the supplied 512MB SD card, which allows for 48 minutes recording at 16bit/ 44.1kHz WAV, and much longer if MP3 files are selected. The four microphone capsules allow for 90°, 120°, and 360° surround recording. Recordings can be played back instantly using the phones/line-out socket (earbuds are supplied), or uploaded to a computer via USB, and the supplied USB cable.
The recorder has some useful built-in features, such as a limiter, compressor, and Automatic Gain Control, which can be set up easily, or simply left turned off.
The features of the H2 I particularly like are:
- The Low-Mid-High Mic Gain switch, making record level selection quick and simple (further adjustment can be made with the keypad);
- The fact that the H2 can record different file types, including the most common WAV, at 44.1KHz, and MP3;
- The record features, such as the Low-Cut filter – useful for avoiding the proximity effect (the increase in bass when speaking or singing close to the mic);
- While recording, the Mic Active LED will blink if the record level is set too high (very useful if you are playing in a band and are unable to monitor the record levels on the screen);
- It’s virtually impossible to accidentally record over a recording you have already made (recordings must be deleted by going through the menu first).
The sound quality is not going to compete with a large diaphragm studio condenser, but, in fairness, that is not what the H2 was designed for in the first place. Although the sound quality is good enough – the H2’s big brother, the Zoom H4, is noticeably better – where the H2 scores the highest is in versatility. Here are just some of the applications that spring to mind:
- A memo pad for recording ideas (spoken or musical);
- A practice tool for improving instrumental skills (record yourself playing and be surprised at how what you thought you heard differs from what you hear when played back – recordings can be brutally honest);
- An easy and inexpensive way for teachers to make recordings of their students;
- Language teachers can easily make listening tests.
I’ve even seen the H2 used as a substitute for the built-in microphones on video cameras, where the sound is recorded on the Zoom close to the sound source, and recombined with the images in image editing software.
One criticism I have read in other reviews concerns the screen size. Yes it is small, but so is the microphone itself. Anyone with reasonable eyesight shouldn’t have any difficulty seeing the screen.
Zoom seem to have put a lot of thought into this microphone. Even the desktop stand has soft rubber feet attached to it to, arguably, help dampen unwanted vibrations entering the microphone when recording, and avoid scratching any surfaces it’s placed on.
Before buying a H2 I was a little sceptical about the amount of use I would get out of it, but since owning one those fears have been allayed. For anyone needing quick and easy, good quality, sound recordings, at a reasonable price, the Zoom H2 seems to offer the solution.
(I would like to affirm to the reader that I have no connection with the Zoom company, and have received no payment or benefits from any source for writing this review. It is a true customer/user review.)