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In a series of events, I recently found myself with a need to purchase a new microphone to record a voice over. I have a Blue Yeti USB microphone that I have been using for years at home, but I needed this mic while traveling.
Call this an impulse buy because I did not do my research before the purchase. I did a quick Internet search for what options I might find, but I wasn’t sure what was available. And I was facing a deadline.
On recommendation, I went down to a local music store and purchased the one and only portable microphone/recorder available. I vaguely recognized the brand from my hasty Internet, handed over way too much money, and left with a gem.
This post is an overview of my first impressions of using the Zoom H1N for voice over recordings.
How is the Sound Quality?
The microphone is always my primary concern when buying recording equipment. The H1N has two stereo XY microphones at the top of the device, and for a recorder of its size, it has impressive sound quality. I did a test recording and was frankly surprised at how good the audio sounded. It was as clear as day and picked up details well from a distance.
There is an adjustable gain control dial on the front of the recorder as well a few functions to limit distortion, such as low cut and audio level control. Added bonus, it records in a few different formats including mp3 and 16-bit and 24-bit wav, which I also find to be an impressive feature of this recorder.
My post-purchase research revealed that this recorder and its predecessor (Zoom H1 model) are commonly used musicians, content creators and filmmakers.
I did play around with the mic for music purposes with some friends and it picked up the vocals quite well in 16-bit. I usually have my microphones about a half-arm distance from me, but we were a bit closer while we were messing about with it. For the most part, the audio remained clear, but it will distort if you’re too close to the microphones.
How Easy is it to Use the Zoom H1N?
The design is quite straightforward. Most of the buttons are on the front and there is a large(ish) LCD screen to easily see what functions you are setting. Spend a few minutes reading through the manual and messing around with the buttons, and you can be a competent user of this recorder in an hour or so. In fact, you could probably learn it without the manual.
This is the feature I enjoy as much as the sound quality. As someone who is often changing locations, it is essential to have equipment that travels well. My Blue Yeti mic was portable, but I did warp the screws on the side of the stand when I squeezed it into my backpack one too many times.
The Zoom H1N is roughly the length of an iPhone X, slightly less weight and about half of the width. So, while my Yeti isn’t leaving my collection, I’ll be taking the H1N with me when I travel.
How Durable is the Recorder?
The H1N does look a bit “cheap” at first glance. The casing is plastic and I imagine it would break easily if dropped. While stationary activity wouldn’t call for too much concern, I would keep a spare if I were doing filmmaking or interviews and moving around a lot with it. I don’t move my microphone when I’m actually recording, but I transport it often, so I can see it being damaged eventually in transit.
Is this Recorder Good for Voice Over Work?
So far, I like this recorder and I think it is great for doing voice overs. It is simple, easy to use and captures high-quality audio.
The H1N does require an SD card and it only has 32B of storage, although you can directly plug the recorder into your computer as a USB mic. This option works fine for me and then I just store the files on my laptop.
If you are doing voice overs, interviews or anything that requires you to change locations (often), invest in an SD card. And batteries. The recorder runs on batteries when it isn’t in USB mode.
How Much Does it Cost?
This recorder can be purchased for about USD 120, which is quite affordable in the world of microphones and recorders.
For anyone getting into voice recording, this might seem expensive; however, the better quality your equipment is, the less editing you’ll need to do on the audio. Also the audio will just sound better. When I first started doing voice overs, I tried using my computer’s internal microphone and I learned that there is really only so much editing that can be done to try and “fix” audio. So, spend about a hundred dollars on a microphone or spend a lot of time trying to edit a recording with poor sound quality for it to sound “ok” at best?
I choose to make the investment into the equipment.
Due to my current location and the import taxes that come with being here, I paid quite a markup (a few hundred dollars-kind of markup); I promised myself that with the price I paid, I will never lose this recorder. Ever. Even if I upgrade mics, I will keep this one for the rest of my life.
I also bought the accessory kit that accompanied this recorder primarily for the stand and the case. I use a stand when I record because I want my audio to sound uniform rather than like I’m running around. I do not have a steady hand, so a stand is essential.
And as I mentioned previously, the durability is a concern for this device, so I wanted a case minimize any damage I may do to my H1N.
The accessory kit also includes a windscreen (the standard foamy cap looking one) and a mic clip adapter. The entire pack is about USD 25, and the accessories look the price. The stand and mic clip adapter look a bit flimsy, but they seem all right.
The stand and mic clip adapter do screw into the back of the recorder which raises some concerns regarding durability. I can see this becoming stripped after some time.
Overall, I like the H1N and I would make this purchase again. The durability does call for some concern, so don’t go throwing your recorder anytime soon. Despite this drawback, this recorder has many positives for doing voice recordings.
The two main advantages for me are that the two stereo XY microphones capture great sound quality and the H1N is portable. Those two aspects alone are a strong case for owning this recorder. The device also possesses useful features that are easy to learn and use. And unless you find yourself in a place with high import taxes, the price is reasonable for a recording device.
Whether you are just getting into voice recordings or have been doing them for a while, the Zoom H1N can be a smart investment if you are mobile in your voice work.