ZOOM H2 - Test Report

A test report by Dr. Thorsten Dresing and Thorsten Pehl (Sept. 13th, 2007 - UPDATE: Since September 2011 the new Zoom H2n is available). The ZOOM H2 has been announced for a long time and eagerly awaited since then. For an MSRP of 236 Euros, it was expected to unify many functions in a single, palm-sized device and to be an MP3/Wave recorder extremely easy to handle. But would it finally satisfy all the high expectations? The device arrived at our place on September 13th, 2007, and our test report presents the Zoom H2 in detail for you.

1. Look and Feel

We must confess: Zoom H2 is not really a beauty. Case and buttons are made from common plastics, and do not give a high-value impression altogether. Nevertheless, compared with Zoom H4, we can recognize an improvement. The recorder is quite handy and slightly bigger than a packet of cigarettes. The mic capsules are protected by a plastic grid. There is a backlit display and all essential data are good readable. But you need good eyes to read additional indications like recording mode or level. Battery case and memory card lid properly snap as proper in as the smartish tripod stand.

2. Package content

The package content nearly fulfills all desires. An USB cable for data transfers to the computer, a pair of earbuds and a carry strap are mandatory. Additionally, the little but really effectively usable tripod stand cought our eyes, as well as the 512 MB SD card, an AC adapter, and a mic clip adapter (e.g. for guitars or similar) Only a small carry case is missing. And there is also no built-in speaker.

3. Power supply, data transfer and capacity

Simply use an USB cable for data transfer to the computer. In this way, you can use Zoom H2 also as an USB mic for recordings directly to the computer. The USB cable simultaneously works as a power supply in this case. Windows XP, Vista and Mac OS.X 10.2 or greater are supported here. When recording in MP3 format with 128 kbps, the provided 512 MB SD card enables nearly 9 hours recording time. The memory is expandable to 4 GB and thus enables a memory capacity for 68 hours. Having enough extra memory cards in your pocket, there are no bounderies set for you. But the batteries (2 AAs) are already flat after four hours. Happily, the Zoom H2 comes with an AC adapter.

4. Usage

Compared with ZOOM H4, the H2 is clearly easier to use, as unnecessary features are omitted. On the front side, you set the mic recording angle to 90, 120 or 360 degrees - 2/4 channel modes, and the recording level. You alter the mic gain level with a switch located on the side. After pushing the record button, there is the possibility to adjust the recording level. Pushing a button during recording, you can adjust it, and a little red blinking LED warns against overdrives. Further sets, like automatic recording level or data format, are menu-driven.

5. Recording quality and test recordings

Having received a first device for testing purposes, we've been very curious about it. We conntected Zoom H2 to the AC adapter, plugged some headphones in, attached the stand and turned it on. What we were able to listen to, took a bit our breath away (please compare for the first test recording taped five minutes after having received the device). The recording you can listen in with the headphones at any time, gives a very clear impression, has a sophisticated, spacious reproduction, and is nearly noiseless on medium mic gain level. You can hold the device in your hand without any problems (!), it is nearly impact resistent. The wind protection takes a bit of the quality but enables location recordings. The device enables superior recordings of one-on-one interviews, small group and large group recordings as well as conferences, podcasts or lectures (probably concerts as well). Plainly spoken, Zoom H2 makes an external mic redundant unless you want to attach to a collar (lavalier mic). At the EXT MIC IN, you can usually plug in all common 1/8" condenser mini stereo mics. Powered plug-ins are also supported.

6. Conclusion

A background noise is normally usual for a price range up to 300 Euros. According to our opinion, Zoom H2 sets new standards in this respect. There is no such comparable good recording quality in this price class, although achieved without external mic! This is broadcast recording quality, pleasing journalists as well as researchers and musicians. Indeed, previous front-runner Olympus DS-30 is obviously smaller and has the better workmanship, but drops back due to a hearable worse recording quality. That's why our opinion is clear:  Anybody who has no problem with a simple plastic shell and the (still handy) size of the device, gets here by far the best recording quality you can get for a MSRP of 236 Euros.

Technical information

You can also use the device as an USB MIC, as the USB interface comes with an audio interface function. 3 mic capsules for room-encompassing „mid/side recordings“ are built in. Thanks to the new ZOOM DSP-technology, 90°, 120°, and 360° recordings in (broadcast) Wav 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz and MP3 up to 320kbps VBR data format are possible with H-2. It records audio on changeable SD-cards up to 4 GB. The time stamping function also exists for recordings in broadcast WAV-format. You can find an in-depth audio-podcast with further information about the differences between H4 and H2 here.