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Re: OT: portable audio recorders --H2 review

Here's my early review of the H2.

Since then I've had some fantastic results with 
it for recording acoustic instruments.
(to be released on CD)
(recording at 24 bit it doesn't matter if the levels turn out
  low...and no noise problem at all).
The new H1 does *look* very good, but I'd wouldn't recommend
it having not checked it.
The Zoom H2 just happens to produce excellent results with it's
internal mics (and not if used in any other way).

ok, here's the review

1) As a sketchbook recorder.
I recorded myself improvising quite sparsely on a ukelele...easy to do and 
sounded good. The on-board mics are very good, rumored to be the same 
capsules as used on the H4.  More noise than a studio recording, but not 
enough to worry about.
2) Ambient recordings with quiet birdsong worked well too. Again there's 
probably a bit more noise there than you'd want if you were going to do 
this professionally, but still listenable. The 4 channel mode for 
recording is good for this too, would be a quick way to grab some surround 
sound ambiance.
2b) using the rear facing mics to record produces "hole in the middle" 
stereo...totally pointless.
3) Recording direct from the mixing desk....disaster. The so called line 
in input is specified at -10dB, and there's no headroom whatsoever, in 
fact I've sent it a full scale signal at -10dB and it just pushes it into 
distortion.  While you'd expect the on-board volume control to deal with 
this, it does nothing of the sort. The volume control, and also the 
on-board limiter/compressor work only in the digital domain. Result is 
that while the meters are showing you a clean and safe signal level your 
recording can still be a mush of fuzz. 
I'm going to work around this by soldering some resistors into a lead (to 
make a 20dB pad) and by never using the "record volume" below 100. 
Zoom really lose points for this, -10dB may be a standard for *nominal* 
input, but to provide it with
no headroom whatsover is just stupid. (it won't work with *any* available 
source without an attenuator)
4) Setting up your band around the H4 and recording in 4 channel mode. 
Tried this in a small room, and the separation isn't enough to make it 
worth the effort.  This would work a lot better if the rear mics were 90 
degrees apart rather than 120 degrees. As there's now only 75 degrees 
between front and rear mics on either side it means that instruments 
directly to either side of the H2 get an extra boost.
If your band is very loud then it's possible you won't be able to get an 
undistorted recording.
5) USB mic, fine.
6) Duplex audio interface. On pc, you can download "Asio4All" which makes 
the H2 into a low latency interface. 
   Asio drivers available from Zoom.
   Unfortunately the input is permanently routed to the output of the 
zoom, rendering this feature
   more or less useless.
7) Tuner.. yep that works.
8) Works with 8GB sd card (recommended cards on zoom site).
9) Metronome. Works. time sigs 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 & 6/8. 
Range of sounds...cowbell's quite nice.
10) On-board limiter, or auto vol control doesn't work to prevent 
distortion. (see 3)

Works with 2 ordinary AA batteries, which is a big plus.
(easy to change).

Comes with a little stand (which just lets in stand upright on a flat 
surface without adjustment) and also a kind of handle thing which can be 
used to mount it on a mic clip or shock mount. 
Won't fix straight onto a mic stand, but would be worth getting one of 
those little camera stands which will fit straight onto the recorder.
The camera style mounting thread at the bottom of the unit looks like it's 
plastic (hence worries by other reviewers) but the "tongue test" says it's 
made of metal and thus suitably robust(full points to Zoom for this)

It's "USB2 compatible"....which apparently means USB 1.
So file transfer is not that fast unless you just have/buy a card reader. 
It's much faster than transferring from MD tho' :-)

It's bigger in than the Edirol R-09

Plastic construction, feels sturdy enough.
Door for the SD card could break quite easily while open (but H2 wouldn't 
then stop working).

I found it very easy to use, but for the menu-phobic it might be 

It's disappointing that 4-ch recording is only possible with the on-board 
mics, would have been useful for gigs to record both feed from the desk 
and a bit of live sound from the on-board mic for atmosphere. 

Rear facing mic would be more useful with 90 degree spacing rather than 
120. Would still be handy to record with rear facing mics while viewing 
the levels. For 4-ch recording it would be much better to have 4 equally 
spaced mics ( I may hack the H2 to change the angles).

So, the major downside is that there's no analog volume control before the 
A/D converters in line mode, and only a 3 position level switch for the 
mic. If the volume is set below 100 ( some websites say 95) then the level 
meters won't show if your sound is distorting.  It's possible that the 
A/Ds are working at 24bit all the time, in which case, using the upper 
range of volume control from 100 to 127 is useful if your recording at 16 
With a 24bit recording there's no point at all in using the vol control. 
In any case, the recording quality of the unit is hardly going to make 24 
bit recording worthwhile.

At the price, no other downsides.