Our verdict on Zoom’s H1 Handy Recorder

A customer recently asked me if I knew of a handheld recorder that would produce better quality sound than their mp3 dictaphones, without breaking the bank.

I looked into the Zoom H1 portable digital recorder and was taken aback by the sound quality and features for such a small, affordable gadget. This would be ideal for anyone who wants to record small-scale live music performances, podcasts, interviews or gather location samples music production.

My first impressions out of the box was how tiny it is – only 135mm long and 35mm wide across the body. It’s lightweight too, even with the single AA battery in. Two mic capsules are positioned in an XY pattern and protected by a plastic grid, giving stereo recording. It features external mic in sockets in case you want to use a different microphone and a mini jack headphone output for monitoring. There’s even a tiny built-in speaker which will come in useful if you ever go out on location and realise you’ve left your headphones behind.

The Zoom H1 also has an optional accessory kit for the Zoom H1, which includes a desktop tripod that makes it easier to record in an interview setup, a tough looking case and a windshield to cut out background noise when used outside. Interestingly, video accessory maker Rycote has already produced aWindjammer cover for it, suggesting the H1 is also aimed at professional journalists, news gatherers and videographers.

After setting the date and time, like you do on a new camera or phone, you’re off.

Simple controls

One of the best things about the Zoom H1 is just how easy it is to control. The level controls help you to get a good strong signal, and you simply hit Record – the only button on the top panel – to start. When you want to stop, you press the button again. While you’re recording, you can also add markers by pressing the Play button – this makes long recorded interviews and performances much easier to navigate when editing them later.

All other buttons are on the sides and back, and recessed so nothing gets pressed by accident midway through recording. There’s a ‘Hold’ slide switch too, just to make sure. Buttons on the bottom switch Auto Level and Low Cut Filter on and off, and the transport controls are on the side, along with the Delete button and volume controls.

Recording quality

When it comes to recording, pressing the REW and FWD buttons allows you to select from a huge array of WAV and MP3 record formats, depending on what quality is needed. The display tells you the Zoom H1’s included 2GB memory card gives three hours of 16 bit 44.1k WAV recording (this is CD quality audio – great for situations where quality is important, such as music performances or sample gathering) or an astonishing 34 hours of lower quality 128kbps MP3 (where quality isn’t so much an issue, like interviews which are going to be transcribed later).

When it’s time to transfer the files, you just plug a USB cable between the H1 and a computer (make sure the H1 is turned off first!). The SD card pops up as an external drive, then you can simply drag and drop the files onto your computer or external drive.

The verdict

I’ve been really impressed with the recording quality of the H1, both for all varieties of WAV up to 24-bit 96kHz and for all but the very lowest MP3 rates. It’s quite a shock to hear such results from a tiny, lightweight and deceptively simple device like this. The mics are good enough for interviews, podcasts, sample and atmosphere gathering and the like, and handling noise is well controlled. There really isn’t a more easy to use, quality handheld recorder out there at this price.

To find out more about the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder, call us on 03332 409 306, email audio@Jigsaw24.com or leave us a comment in the box below. You can also keep up with our latest pro audio news and offers by following us on Twitter (@JigsawAudio) or liking our Facebook page.

Rob W
Rob W
Call us: 03332 409 306