H1 Zoom Recorder Review - ownordisown

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The H1 Zoom Handy Recorder is a portable digital recorder that fits in your pocket and is ideal for those occasions you want high quality recordings in offsite locations, perhaps an interview or concert. It is also great for using in your studio when you are producing videos since you may be far from your camera mic in certain situations. It can be found on-line for $99

Please see our video review on Youtube to the right. The initial audio was taken with the camera microphone but later footage was taken using the H1 Zoom so you can get a feel for the difference.

You can also purchase an accessory kit for $25.

Closer Look

The recorder features an X/Y Mic design that captures perfect stereo and can record in WAV (max 96k/24 bit) or MP3 format (max 320 kbps). These can be changed using a switch on the back and the quality within each format changed by pressing the fast forward or rewind button. Deciding on what quality may be dictated by the size of the micro SD card you are using and the length of audio you plan on recording. As you can see with the included 2GB card that is included you can record as long as 34 hrs and 43 mins to as short as 57 mins. We did a test to see if we can discern a difference between MP3 at 320 kbps and WAV at 16 bit/ 44.1 kHz in our Youtube video or here (WAV) (MP3).

Also on the back of the recorder you can change Lo Cut on/off (this is supposed to suppress ambient noise) and an Auto level switch (to automatically adjust input level). There is also a tripod mount which can be used to transform the H1 Zoom into a desktop microphone.

Taking a look at the front you have a large record button which not only is used for recording but as a confirm button for when deleting files or formatting the memory card.
The screen, which is quite reflective, shows the input volume on the left with both left/right signal strengths, a battery level indicator, the recording format/quality and the amount of recording time available.
On one side you have the line out/head phone jack and volume controls and on the other side you have the USB/power port, power/hold switch, delete button, play back / mark controls, input level button and line / microphone in.

The hold switch is very useful to prevent unwanted button presses when the recorder is in your pocket. You can add track marks to your recording by pressing the play/pause button (note this can only be set in WAV format). If a file has marks you can press the forward and rewind buttons during playback to jump to mark positions. Although you can use the X/Y mic you can also plug in an external mic such as a clip on mic should you have the recorder in your pocket.

Recording is very simple -  pressing the record button once to start and again to stop and there is an LED flashing light showing that it is picking up an audio source.
On the bottom there is a single speaker which serves useful for impromtu playback needs altough using some ear buds or headphones provides a much better indicator for assessing recording volumes and better playback.

The recorder takes a single AA battery which is claimed to be good for 10 hours of recording. Alhough this was not exactly timed a number of hours was spent recording many videos and the battery is still at a full level.

The tests we performed on the recorder included MP3 at 320 kbps versus WAV at 48k / 16 bit as these are the best MP3 and lowest WAV options - results here (WAV) (MP3) and a comparison of how the recorder faired with wind noise using a fan that was blowing, on lowest setting, about 3 feet from the microphone. We did a test using the wind condenser accessory, the X/Y mic on the Zoom H1 and using an external clip on Sony mic. We also tried flipping Lo Cut on and off to see if there was any difference. These results can be heard here (condenser), (X/Y Mic) and (external mic). Apologies if some audio is cut off due to our web page file restriction but it should give you an insight. 
Firstly, we could not discern any major difference in audio quality between the high quality MP3 and low quality WAV and this nets an extra 10 hours 50 mins of memory card space using the MP3. This was using external clip on mic, so perhaps using the X/Y mic may make a difference or even if music was being recorded.
As for the wind noise test the wind condensor accessory did a good job of cutting out the wind noise when compared to the X/Y mic alone. Using the Lo Cut switch made no difference at all. Switching to an external mic was even better and that would be our suggestion if you are recording your own voice. Doing an interview we would use the condensor.
We didn't do a test on the automatic input option, we left it to manual and adjusted according to the reaction of the input volume bars on the front screen. We aimed for a mid-way reading which would allow for spikes and troughs. This option may be useful when the input volume varies, perhaps doing an interview out doors.


The H1 Zoom is supposed to come with some free bundled software: Steinburg Cubase LE and Wavelab LE. Unfortunately we were not able to get it to work. You are asked to install some key manager software but the link that takes you to the download page is invalid. This is disappointing if this is one reason why you bought it in the first place. It even says on the Zoom H1 webpage that the software is free to use.


The accessory pack that you can buy is quite useful and not bad value for money at $25. You get a wind condenser to help reduce mic wind noise, a lanyard to hang the recorder from your neck, a carrying case, a tripod (one height only), USB cable for syncing the recorder to your computer, USB power adapter and a mic clip.


We really liked the H1 Zoom Handy Recorder. It will be our go to recording device going forward. The unit is just the right size to fit in the hand comfortably (nice rubbery feel too) and yet still very pocketable (it's 5.25" long and 1.25" wide). The screen shows lots of useful information and adjusting input volume is a breeze. It is nice that you can use an external mic and headphones as well as use the inbuilt mic and speaker.
We also liked the hold button to prevent inadvertent button presses.

The audio quality was very good, even in MP3 format. The accessory bundle sweatens the deal.

What we didn't like was the fact that the supposed free software wasn't available. If you are a serious audio recorder that may be a deal breaker for you but for the average user like myself it was more of an irritation.

Ease of use: 9/10                                 
Quality: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10


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