Note: The Zoom H1 has been discontinued, so we have updated this review to discuss the new and improved replacement, the Zoom H1n.
This may come as a surprise to you, but when you’re producing content, audio is usually the number one determining factor of your overall quality. Unless you’re recording on a toaster, most people can overlook flaws in video quality, but bad audio can be very distracting.
Typically on cheaper projects like YouTube videos or student films, you want something that is versatile and relatively cheap. That’s the niche that the Zoom H1n fills perfectly.
Retailing around $99, the Zoom H1n is a portable device that excels at capturing audio in the field. It’s lightweight, has tons of non-filler, useful features, and has dozens of different uses.
A big reason why you might want to consider investing in this device over similar devices like the Rode Videomic Go is the affordable price and the ability to take your sound recordings away from the camera. We think it is a very safe purchase that has a place in every content creator’s kit.
Let’s get into the specs and then talk about why.
Features and Specifications
- 1.25” monochrome LCD display and one-touch button controls. Audio Gain Dial.
- Distortion-free recording up to 120 dB.
- Built-in stereo condenser microphones pointed 90˚ to cover the widest area.
- MicroSD Card slot and Micros USB port for data transfer and use as an audio interface.
- Line in and out for external microphones and audio playback.
- 2xAAA Batteries providing up to 10 hours of recording.
- Overdubbing feature allows you to record and add sounds to existing recordings.
- Tone generator.
- Playback speed control
- Limiter, voice emphasize filter, low cut and Stereo Bounce.
- Self-timer, Auto-Record, Pre-record.
Here’s a video that showcases the performance of the Zoom H1n with a bunch of different sound effects. We think it’s pretty impressive.
What’s New From The H1 – Zoom H1 Vs H1n
- Tone Generator – This welcome addition makes it much easier to calibrate your device and adjust in-camera audio levels.
- Timer functions – You might found this to be useful while streamlining recording processes in live events, or in multitasking situations.
- Playback speed controls – Very useful for transcribing audio or trying to listen to a clip faster. Of course you could always do this on a PC, but now you can do it in the field too.
- The OverDub function – We found this to be VERY useful. It allowed me to add verbal notes after the fact on clips we forgot to slate. My editor was very grateful.
- The LCD Screen – The LCD is much easier to read this time around, with the background being white rather than orange. This also makes the whole product look more modern.
- Gain Knob – Self explanatory. Excellent addition.
- Additional Plastic Casing – The additional plastic frame surrounding the microphones doesn’t seem like much, but it goes a long way in protecting the microphones from getting brushed up against. It’s a smart design!
What We Loved
The first thing that caught our attention was the size of the device. The H1n is very small, and these photos don’t really do it justice. It’s about the size of a candy bar and will fit in any pocket. You could bring this thing anywhere without even realizing it.
The 90 degree pointed microphones give excellent stereo sound for the price, and do a very good job at capturing room tone. The audio is crisp, clear, and is good enough to pass as “professional” on YouTube.
What’s even better is that you can attach any lapel microphone to the zoom and record directly to the device. Lavalier microphones usually feature a wireless transmitter and receiver, bringing a whole bunch of problems into the equation like wireless interference.
These transmitters are often very expensive as well, with professional grade ones costing $600+. The Zoom H1n’s tiny size means you can just stick it in the pocket of your subject, lav them up and hit record!
We loved the thread on the back, and it made it very easy to attach to the top of our DSLR’s hot shoe to be used like a traditional shotgun.
Plugging into your computer allows you to use the H1n as a USB microphone/interface and microsd card reader. This is huge, as when I was getting started as a content creator, I had to spend over $100 bucks getting those two pieces of equipment alone. Purchasing the H1n instead would have saved me a lot of time and money.
What We Didn’t Love As Much
While we love this product, there are a few drawbacks we did find in our analysis.
The plastic construction is lightweight, but feels a little delicate. We didn’t have an issues with it ourselves, but we can assume that it wouldn’t fare too well when dropped from a significant height.
The mics are not very directional. This can be a strength for many – if you are looking to pick up ambient noise or room tone this is an excellent choice. However, trying to record vocals in a busy area can result in your dialogue being muffled by the background noises.
If you’d like your external recorder to have XLR ports, you’ll need to invest a little more for a better recorder like the H4n. However, if you’re a beginner like the people this product is geared towards, you likely don’t have an XLR microphone anyways.
Finally, there is definitely a bit of handling noise if you move the device while it is in your hand. This is easily counteracted by some caution, or by attaching the device to your DSLR.
All in all, we think these few drawbacks are far from dealbreakers, and when you factor in the cost and versatility, the Zoom H1n is still definitely worth a purchase.