Sonic LAB: Zoom H1 Handy Recorder

The perfect pocket-sized recorder?   30-Mar-11

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8:33 mins

Zoom H1

The small format digital audio recorder market has really come of age now, with many manufacturers offering variations on the theme.

Zoom were one of the first companies to offer a compact recorder with XLR inputs - the H4, and with the release of the improved H4n version they've pretty much established the de-facto model for the newly-emerged DSLR video market.

It's our preferred model too for when we film at music trade show, as it offers a number of very useful features in a rugged and reliable package.

If there is a downside, it's that for actually mounting it on top of a DSLR camera, it's a little bulky.

To be honest, that's not something I would necessarily recommend anyway, as recording 'double system'  sound would normally entail having the audio recorder operated separately from the camera, but for those that might want to, having a smaller & lighter machine would be of benefit.

Step forward the latest small format recorder from Zoom, the H1.

This truly is a portable unit - it weighs a svelte 60g (w/o battery) and runs for 10 hours on a single AA cell.

It's also a very inexpensive, straightforward 'no-frills' device, with no menus and just a single 'Record' button on the front... so is it up to the job?

We put it through its paces, and compared it to its bigger sibling the H4n...

And it came out pretty darn well.

Check out the video for details - but in summary:-


Very affordable price

Extremely lightweight

Audio quality surprisingly good

Very straightforward - no complex menus and external controls for everything

Decent battery life

Can power via USB

  Confidence monitor speaker


Looks & feels a bit plasticky and cheap

No case

Plastic tripod socket doesn't feel like it's gonna last long

small buttons for adjusting record levels, transport, etc. are very small & fiddly, and almost impossible to see in a dark environment

All in all,  a good little machine at a great price.

Available now at  around £79/$99

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Gear used in the review






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9 Comments... Comments are closed while we transition to Disqus

Derek    Said...

Great review as always. Thanks, guys!

Does this signal the return of the (also fantastic) portable recorder roundup series?

30-Mar-11 06:01 PM

Dave    Said...

Andy, re: how close the recorder stayed in sync with other gear over the course of an hour... have you encountered any particularly drift-y recorders in your travels?

30-Mar-11 08:37 PM

Andy McCreeth    Said...

@Derek - thanks for the comments :-] Unfortunately, much as I'd love to do a comprehensive series, I am the World's slowest reviewer by a huge margin, and lack of time due to all the other things I have to do makes it tricky. Any others you'd particularly like to see, though?

@Dave -funnily enough, the original Zoom H4 was pretty slippy in the synch department! It also had a nasty feature of tagging all the sound files with an identical creation date, making finding the right clips a bit of a challenge. Zoom seem to have addressed these points and more with the H4n, which is a great machine.

Andy Mac

31-Mar-11 05:55 AM

LT    Said...

I think it couldn't be a better review then this one. YOU ARE THE BEST REVIEWER!!!!!!!

WE WANT MORE!!!!!!!!!!

31-Mar-11 09:56 AM

Brian from USA    Said...

Nice to see smaller recorders coming out from more mfrs. I bought Yamaha's Pocketrak 2G a few years back the first week it was available because everything preceding it was too big, lousy battery life, too fussy to use. That 2G cost me $350 but I don't regret spending that because I've been able to use it while other mfrs play catchup with Yamaha and prices have been dropping. This Zoom looks really sweet.

31-Mar-11 04:54 PM

Luke from NYC    Said...

I have owned an original Zoom H4, and also have the H1. The one nagging issue for me is the Auto-Level record on the H1. The H4 and H2 models all have a three position slide switch (L/M/H) that addresses loudness environments. For recording live (amped) band rehearsals, the H1 will peak at a loud level, step down, peak again, for each take. Then you have to fix it on a computer after the fact. The other Zoom models record flawlessly when you set the Auto-Level to "L". I wish Zoom would fix it for the H1.

31-Mar-11 11:01 PM

Andy McCreeth    Said...

@Luke - The answer there is to use manual levels wherever possible. Most of these small format recorders will sound pretty dodgy if you rely on Auto Level, especially with loud and highly dynamic sounds.

For the best dynamic range and a more natural sounding recording, try setting the levels manually, checking the peak indicator to make sure you're not clipping, and then you can compress the audio to taste afterwards.

Andy Mac

01-Apr-11 05:11 AM

Brian from USA    Said...

Andy Mac is spot on about manual levels. Auto leveling **never** sounds good. I never bother to reset levels any more, I've found a "good" setting for my live band applications and leave it there. When I open my files on the computer, I usually find at least 6 dB of headroom for the peaks. Hey, this is digital audio with 90+ dB dynamic range, keeping record levels low and turning it up later works just fine for me.

04-Apr-11 10:39 AM

Dieter_be    Said...

good review, thanks!

but note that recording a guitar sound from an amp is very sensitive to the position of the microphone. the differences in sound between the microphones in this test probably stems as much (or more) from the different positions than the microphones themselves.

03-May-12 10:57 AM

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