The Zoom H2 Handy Recorder has been shipping for a few days now. This unit is a followup to Zoom’s H4 Handy Recorder. It’s smaller, lighter, seems to have a sturdier plastic case, can record 4 channels at once (instead of 2), and costs about $100 less.
First off, let me say that I do not own a Zoom H2 at this point, and after reading the initial reviews, I’m probably not going to buy one. But for a reporter/podcaster/musician on a budget, the H2 looks like a great step up from low-end minidisc recorders. This $199 flash-based recorder actually costs less than most of the minidisc recorders on the market today (although it’s not cheaper than whatever used model you might want to pick up from eBay), but seems to pack most of the best features of a minidisc, and then some.
- Record in 16-bit or 24 bit at 44.1, 48, or 96kHz
- Record in WAV or MP3
- Time Stamp and Track Marker functions in BWF format (Broadcast Wave Format)
- Record in stereo or 4-way mode with the built-in 4 mic capsules
- Ships with a 512MB SD card (the Zoom H4 includes only a 128MB card), and supports cards up to 4GB (The H4 can only handle 2GB)
- Low-cut filter to help reduce wind noise
- USB 2.0 connectivity for transferring files to your computer
- Acts as a USB audio input for your computer, allowing you to record audio on your computer from the internal mic, an external mic, or the line input
The menu system and controls are reportedly a huge improvement over the H4. The convoluted system of button presses in order to configure pretty much anything on the H4 have been replaced with an interface that is simple and intuitive.
Sounds great, right? Well, sort of. I’ll wait to hear more recordings before passing final judgment, but so far, one user has made a sample recording and posted it online. There’s a noticeable hiss in this recording, which sounds comparable to the hiss I usually get with minidisc recorders. This recording was made using the built-in microphone. Using the internal mics on the H4, I don’t get this hiss.
From this sample recording, it doesn’t sound to me like the H2 has the same electronic pulsing noise you get from the H4 when running on battery power. But there was a relatively easy fix for that.
I would love to hear some samples recorded using external microphones. But I’m not optimistic that the hiss will go away. If anything, I would expect it to be louder due to the cheap preamps included in a $199 device. While the Zoom H4 uses combination XLR/quarter inch inputs, the H2 uses 1/8th inch inputs. I’m not happy with the preamps on the H4, but unless the H2 sounds amazing with external mics, I’ll probably just keep my minidisc recorder for situations when I can’t use the internal mic on my H4.
That said, it would be nice to be able to record direct to WAV or MP3. So perhaps I’ll crack and pick one of these up at some point, although right now I’m leaning toward the Fostex FR2-LE, which is larger, sturdier, has more input options, and reportedly has a great set of preamps.
If small size is your thing though, the H2 is pretty tiny. Here are some photos from a user who placed it next to the H4 and an iPod Nano.
The Zoom H2 is distributed in the US by Samson, who has been kind enough to post the entire instruction manual online in PDF format.
- Transom reviews the Zoom H2
- More Zoom H2 reviews roll in: some users have better results than others
- Videos of the Zoom H2 in action
- Zoom H4 review
- Samson announces the Zoom H2
- A few Zoom H4 complaints
- 5 gadgets for producing radio or podcasts on the cheap
- Building an external battery pack for the Zoom H4 or other electronic devices