Samson Zoom H4n Review

Updated April 30, 2014
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Samson Zoom H4n
Bottom Line

The Samson Zoom H4n is the digital audio recorder of choice among many pro users, yet it's simple enough to operate that novices can make excellent quality recordings. Reviewers find its superior sound quality and multichannel features make it perfect for recording live music, layering compositions, conducting interviews and more.

Performance

Pro-quality recordings without the need for a studio. The Samson Zoom H4n's rotating stereo mics are a big draw among users who want to make quick high-quality audio recordings on the fly, but they're particularly powerful when paired with additional external microphones plugged into the recorder's dual quarter-inch and XLR-compatible inputs. Additionally, the H4n's four-track layering capabilities, albeit more limited than dedicated multitrack music-recording devices, give it greater flexibility than most recorders of its kind. The only downside is that some users report distortion issues when recording with a direct line-in from an external sound source without using an additional mixer or a special cable to equalize the signal.

Pros
  • Pro-quality audio
  • Multichannel recording
  • Four-track overdubbing
Cons
  • Bulky design
  • Awkward microphone-input jack
  • Limited battery life reported

Ease of use

No-fuss field recordings are a breeze. With a streamlined interface that's easy to figure out, the Samson Zoom H4n makes it possible to capture top-notch recording on the go without a lot of fuss. But for those with a deeper knowledge of audio recording -- or the patience to pore over the manuals -- there's a lot of depth to explore among its expansive features. That said, less experienced users could find delving into the multitrack recording and mixing end of the H4n's abilities using the included Cubase software to be a bit daunting at first. Capacity-wise, you can get a lot of recording time using the included 2 GB SD memory card, and throwing a larger (up to 32 GB) card into the recorder expands that substantially.

Value

Power, quality and functionality for the price. Compared to the sleeker Sony PCM-M10 (Est. $250), the less pocket-friendly H4n may seem like a bulky brute, but it makes up for it in added functionality and high-end recording quality. That makes the steep price tag easier to swallow, experts and users say.

Our Sources

1. SoundOnSound.com

Zoom H4N, Matt Houghton, June 2009

Matt Houghton calls the Zoom H4n "a classy upgrade to an already impressive product," citing improvements over the original Zoom H4. One caveat, he notes, is that the H4n doesn't have simultaneous four-track multitrack recording capabilities, despite being able to record with four sources between the dual internal mics and two external inputs.

2. DV Magazine

The Great Portable Digital Audio Recorder Comparison, Rob Sandall, June 17, 2011

Rob Sandall names the Zoom H4n a top pick out of a range of Roland, Zoom, Tascam and Olympus digital recorders tested in this roundup. "We got one of the best sounds of the test out of the Zoom H4n," says Sandall, who lauds its "exceptional, glossy-quality sound."

3. CNET

Zoom H4n, Donald Bell, April 13, 2009

CNET's Donald Bell tests the Zoom H4n and calls it "a mobile recording dynamo with features that outperform competitors that cost twice as much." Here the voice recorder earns a score of 4.5 stars out of 5. The review is a bit dated, but the information is still relevant.

4. BHPhotoVideo.com

Zoom H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder, Contributors to BHPhotoVideo.com, As of April 2014

Nearly 900 users contribute to the Zoom H4n's rating of 4.6 stars out of 5 at BHPhotoVideo.com. Most owners report excellent results using the voice recorder in a variety of recording situations. Recurring complaints include limited battery life, and even lost recordings as a result.

5. Amazon.com

Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2014

The Zoom H4n receives overwhelming positive reviews at Amazon.com, earning an overall score of 4.4 stars out of 5 following almost 400 owner reviews. Users praise its sound quality, sturdy build and high-tech extras, though some grouse over its bulky design.