Friday, December 28, 2007

Gadget review: Zoom H2 digital recorder

Just before Christmas, I picked up the Zoom H2 "Handy Recorder", a nifty little digital recording device that's so useful and versatile, you'll wonder how you ever did without it. My intent was for this to be a household Christmas gift, but I allowed my wife to talk me into just opening it up and putting it right to work. It didn't take much.

The H2 contains four directional microphones; two front and two rear. The front mics are at 90 degree angles to each other while the rear ones are at 120 degrees. This allows the user to select the best microphone arrangement for the situation; front pair for recording a solo performer or back pair to record a band. Alternatively, all mics can be selected to record, say, a band practice with parts of the band on either side of the device, or a conference with speakers seated around a table.

The H2 comes equipped with everything you might need to start using it right away:
  • A screw-on stand for setting it on a flat surface
  • A screw-on mic stand adapter for fixing it to a microphone stand
  • A decent pair of bud-style earphones
  • AC adapter
  • Line-in cord
  • USB cable
  • Foam wind screen
  • Carrying pouch
Sound is recorded directly to either .wav or .mp3 format on an SD card, making transfer to your computer a snap. The sound resolution is also selectable for both formats. In addition to the integrated mics, there's a jack for an external mic and a line-in jack for recording from another audio device.

The day after I got it, my wife and I caught a band at one of the local bars. I sat the H2 on the table and set it to record from the rear mics. I recorded each set as a separate hour-long MP3 file. Recording at 192kbs, I found I had enough space on a 2GB SD card for right around 24 hours of recording. Pretty impressive. Listening to the recording later on, I was very impressed with the sound quality.

One of the things that's vexed me for a while has been how to record MP3 files from my collection of LP records. It was my wife that came up with the brilliant idea of plugging a turntable directly into the line-in jack of the H2 and seeing how that worked out. I wasn't completely sure how it would go with the unamplified signal from the turntable, but no worries...the sound was perfect and faithfully captured by the H2.

There are, of course, other things the H2 can do, such as recording 4.1 channel "surrond sound", capturing audio directly to your computer over the USB interface, and so on, but you'll have to follow the link above to get more info. I haven't gotten a chance yet to try all the cool features. The picture below gives a bit more detail on the bells and whistles (click for full-size view):
Bottom line: If you're a music fan, a musician, a journalist, or just a gadget freak, get one of these. At $200, it's a bargain.

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