Zoom H4n for 4-channel podcast-recording

Zoom H4nI used to record my podcasts directly into my computer with Audacity. That worked great for me until I did something stupid: running too many CPU-intensive apps while recording.

I decided to buy an external recorder, not just for the reliability, but also for new features.

After a lot of research, I settled on the Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder for the following reasons.

  • The H4n has a better stereo separation so you can hear left and right better when recording with it.
  • The H4n has XLR inputs and a built-in preamp.
  • The H4n records in four channels.

Of these features, the most important to me was the four-channel recording. I use this to separate our voices from the sounds (music, voicemail, sound clips, etc.). This separation makes it much easier to edit things later, if I need to.

For example, if I mess up my timing on the outro, I can simply reposition the background music because it’s separate from the vocal track. Or I can also run dynamic compression on my vocal track without it messing up my fades on the music.

I highly recommend the Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder and will be recording remotely with it at BlogWorld NYC this year.


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This is a post from the “daily podcasting photo” series. Learn more about the series, including how you can sponsor a day, at Daniel J. Lewis’s personal blog.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his wife, Jenny, live near Cincinnati with their son, "Noodle Boy."

25 comments on Zoom H4n for 4-channel podcast-recording

  1. Rich says:

    Look forward to meeting you at Blogworld NYC Daniel. I use the H2 and I really love using it to record my show.

    1. Thanks, Rich! Are you coming to the podcasting 101 sessions?

      1. Rich says:

        I will be there all 3 days. So I will most likely be all over the place 

  2. Steven says:

    So you can plug an xlr mic, like the PR40 directly into these recorders?

    1. Yup! But you’d need to raise the input volume if plugging a mic directly into it.

  3. I can’t praise the Zoom H4n enough either and have also used this for recording interviews for my podcasts in the field with excellent results: http://www.plantadvice.co.uk/garden-advice/podcasts/the-2011-chelsea-flower-show/1

    1. That’s great! Do you use it’s built-in mics with a windscreen, or do you use extra mics?

  4. I used an H2 for a few years (now relegated to outdoor recording) and have upgraded recently to the H2n and love it, especially the larger brighter display.  The Accessory pack is a must (but the H2n probably should have come with those things anyway).  Has anyone (with H2n or H4n) noticed the “heartbeat” sound while plugged into AC power?  I saw this on a forum (about the H4) and I do hear it on the H2n – have to really turn things up to hear it and it disappears on battery power – but it doesn’t appear to get on the recordings.

    1. I haven’t noticed that before. How high do you have to raise the volume? How fast are the beats? It could be a power source issue.

      1. I notice it now at normal volume only because I’m now keyed into it, but turn up your master volume on your mixer and if it exists in your setup you’ll hear it.  The beats are very similar to an actual heartbeat, and I’ve seen it mentioned in other forums.  The pitch is on the higher end.  In a way it sort of reminds me of that sound in the movie “Contact”.  It’s definitely a power source issue.

        1. I’d love to get a copy of this to compare.

  5. I did over 46 interviews one week for SunNFun Radio. The editors had much praise of the recording quality. You can listen to the interviews  at my blog ExpertAviator.com.

    One question. The manual states you cannot charge batteries using the H4n.  Is this not correct?

    1. That’s not how I read it, I guess. In the settings on the H4n, I can select the battery type as Ni-MH and it’s supposed to charge them while plugged into AC.

      1. Darrell Hale says:

        As of today, from the Zoom website at

        http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/support/faq/h4n.php

        Q: Can I use nickel-hydride (Ni-MH) rechargeable batteries in the H4n?

        A: Yes. However, please note that the H4n does not have a function for charging the batteries. You should therefore use a commercially available charger designed for the batteries you are using. Also, to ensure that remaining battery capacity is indicated correctly by the H4n, set the “BATTERY TYPE” option in the “SYSTEM” menu to “Ni-NH”.

        For details, see page 128 of the Operation Manual.

        1. Ah! That totally explains it. Thank you for the clarification. Now I know why my batteries are never fully charged.

  6. Tonya Mork says:

    Daniel,

    How are you splitting the music, clips, & voicemails from the voice audio? Are you running everything into your mixer and the to the Zoom? I have the X1204USB mixer and am looking at the Zoom or Roland R05. I like how you can separate out tricks with the Zoom, it sure how you’re doing it.

    Thank you,
    Tonya

    1. Hi, Tonya!

      The Behringer X1204USB offers an “Alt” output. Your channels will go there when you mute them. So I run the Alt 3-4 line from my mixer into my Zoom H4n, as well as the XLR main outputs (1-2) to the H4n’s XLR inputs. So my music is “muted” and playing through 3-4, while my voices are unmuted and playing through 1-2/main.

  7. Dan Franks says:

    Hey Daniel, I bought this on your recommendation and love it! The only thing I’ve noticed is my recordings come out nasally. Like treble too high and no bass. I was previously going through my Xenyx 802 mixer into the recorder, and was able to mess with the levels so this was not a problem, but there was a hum that I was able to eliminate by going straight into the H4N.

    Is there some settings I can adjust within the recorder itself? Right now I have been recording on Stereo mode, default settings.

    Thanks!

      1. Dan Franks says:

        ATR 2100.

        1. Do you get the same effect going through the mixer?

          I found that the ATR2100-USB doesn’t connect well with the H4n. It introduces too much hiss.

          Sent from Mailbox for iPad

          1. Mike says:

            Hey Daniel, awesome input here. I considered this recorder, however went with the Xenyx 802 and UCA202 interface going into my laptop (PC). I am using the ATR2100 as well and cannot get rid of the ambient noise when recording- the noise removal does not work for when I’m speaking. I’m not sure if it’s the settings, the mic, the mixer or a combination of a few issues. I was wondering if you can lend some insight or if just going with the recorder would be better. I use Audacity, too. Thanks!

          2. It depends on the noise. Can you post a recording with some of your regular voice, and then “silence” that illustrates the noise?

  8. diegojoker says:

    Hi Daniel! Whats your opinion about Tascam dr-40? it seems to be similar to this zoom and much cheaper.

    1. Great question!

      Unfortunately, I don’t have much hands-on experience with the DR-40. But I remember the Tascam recorders feeling cheaper. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it has a better preamp for connecting mics directly into the recorder.

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