Test report Zoom H4n - Successor of the Zoom H4

On the dot of the new year and therefore punctual for Highlight Events of the music industry of CES and NAMM 2009, Zoom publishes the official successor of the famous Zoom H4 (which also means that the Zoom H2 is still up to date). Since 19 March 2009 the first devices are for sale also in Germany. The street price currently is at EUR 349 incl. VAT.

The new Zoom H4n – successor of the Zoom H4

The first product photos already left a good impression and let us hope that the Zoom H4n has been improved on a few important features compared to the Zoom H4. It looks less like a stun gun or laser gun but still I wonder what the reactions at the airport will be like :-). There is a lot more to see on the display, the keys seem easier to grip and are, by far, not as wobbly as the predecessor's. The cover of the H4n now is also considerably more valuable and rubberised. All in all, better material has been used.

Today we received some of the first devices and immediately unpacked one to test it. Read hereafter what our impressions were, in comparison to the Zoom H2, Olympus LS-10 and the previous Zoom H4. We also produced two test recordings.

The H4n obviously is bigger and heavier than the H2, but therefore is comfortable to hold. The cover is sturdy, rubberised and seems valuable. We like the arrangement of keys and, of course, the two connections for external mikes (twice XLR and jack) which also allow to attach condenser microphones. For this purpose, there is no cheaper device (except for the previous H4).

The microphone tops of the built-in mikes seem unsteady at first sight. But this is because they are rotatable in themselves so you can adjust them from 90 to 120 degrees. The H4n produces a deep but slightly muffled sound, similar to the H2 – the LS-10 sounds more clearly. In this regard, the grading of LS-10 and H4n differ. Some prefer the clear and precise LS-10, others rather go for the muffled H4n.

The modified operation concept is truly remarkable. It all starts with a significantly bigger display compared to H2 and LS-10. Moreover, the keys are well thought out and the menu is easier to control. Recordings are produced either in MP3 format (48-320 kbps) or uncompressed WAV format. There is a clever feature: AutoRec and PreRec which starts recording 2 seconds before. This way you won't lose half a sentence if you forget to press the „record“ button in time.

Quite interesting for musicians: The H4n is able to record four different channels simultaneously, with the help of the built-in and external XLR or jack microphones/devices (digitally controlled microphone booster is built in and additionally allows real phantom power). The limiter is useful but imperfect, as a pumping is still audible when confronted with huge dynamics. The recorder is equipped with SD cards of up to 32GB storage, 1GB is included in delivery.

Furthermore, the Zoom H4n has a built-in loudspeaker which is only suitable for sound checks but not for acoustic irradiation. By a special adjustment, the Stamina ON mode, a very long battery life of 10 hours while recording is possible. Hopes are raised: The H4n allows to alter the playback speed without having to accept a change in pitch. You may also transpose without altered speed. The transposition succeeds only at a semi-tone; above or below this heavy artefacts are produced.

There are two other negative aspects. Firstly, the Zoom H4n is quite sensitive when it comes to wind noise (it would be best if you used a windbreak for outdoor recordings). Secondly, when recording with the internal mike, you will be able to hear when someone has pressed a button on the recorder.

There is an English printed version of the operating instructions at the moment. Zoom also offers a German manual for download in PDF.

More information on the Zoom website.


On the face of it, the H2 and the H4n yield similar results. The mikes of the H4n are more valuable in comparison to the H2. Luckily, Zoom paid attention to simple operating and improved this for the H4n. For several reasons the H4n is perfectly designed for musicians: various microphone and recording connections, alterable playback speed, internal effects and more than 50 guitar and bass booster modelling.

We recommend

If you wish for XLR connections, the H4n will come to you at a very good price-performance. The Olympus LS-10 is more elegant and a bit cheaper but without XLR connections. Users with higher expectations should have a closer look at the Tascam DR-100.



And last but not least:


We make our living by selling recorders. Therefore, we are of course not thoroughly unbiased.

Nevertheless, our concern is to display the products as transparent as possible and therefore provide justified information which is far from just being an advertising promise and is more than just technical data. If you would like to support our work, we are looking forward to your purchase in our online shop.