Zoom H2

Anyone who is a regular on this blog may have noticed that the last few posts of the term pointed to new mp3s of pupils playing. The reason for this sudden increase in recording activity was that I received as a gift a Zoom H2 Handy Recorder. It is handy not least because it fits in the inside pocket of a suit jacket!

Previous recordings had been done on a mini disc recorder and, while the recording quality was very high, so too was the faff factor:

  • record item(s) – which had to stay on the recorder until I got home, as there was no USB interface
  • transfer recording(s) in real time into a wave editing program at home
  • take the opportunity while there to cut out any extra run-in/run-out time, add fade-outs etc.
  • convert the wav files to mp3 in iTunes – ensuring that I had set (in Preferences) the importing to mp3 and not AAC (Advanced Audio Coding – Apple’s own format) which was not, at that time, WordPress compatible.
  • post to the blog

Now, I don’t see it as my job to advertise the Zoom H2 on behalf of its makers, but I would like to flag up some benefits for the educational user:

  • as soon as a recording is finished, simply plug into speakers and press play – no need to rake around looking for it – far less, return home and reformat. Pupils like to hear their work as soon as possible and this couldn’t be easier
  • the recording quality is very high
  • there are many choices* to allow one to offset quality of recording (sampling, bit-rate etc.) against practical factors (file size, upload time etc.)
  • you can record straight to mp3 to save converting later
  • where you’ve recorded to wav and then realise that you’re going to need more space on the 512 Mb SD card (provided) before you are going to have access to a computer, you can convert from wav to mp3 on the H2
  • the H2 can be powered by mains (adaptor included) or battery – more suitable when restricted access to power points prevents the ideal placement of the H2 – a low battery warning appears to save you losing a great performance – I pushed this to the limit recently and was able to make many more recordings after the initial warning had appeared – although this would probably not be the behaviour of a professional journalist
  • you can store recordings in one of eight folders – which helps to avoid confusion when pupils in different schools are recording the same item
  • once connected to a computer, you can turn off and save battery power as the H2 is then power through the USB connection
  • the H2, once connected to a computer, functions like any other external drive – this allows you, for example, to change the file names from STE 000; STE 001 etc. to something more meaningful like Mhairi – Wedding Song. These names, once applied, will then appear on the H2
  • when connected by USB the H2, where preferred, can act as an external mic and record to programs such as Audacity – this may be an easier way to keep an eye on levels
  • recording level is initially set by choosing one of 3 mic gain settings – and thereafter by adjusting the level numerically, while keeping an eye on the level indicators
  • where it turns out that the performance was not as loud as testing suggested, you can amplify after recording – on the H2 or later
  • long performances/discussions/interviews can be split into sections (which them become separate files) on the H2
  • there are 3 recording modes (90 degrees for a solo player/speaker; 180 degrees for a linear ensemble/panel of speakers; surround – ideal for small, circular ensemble/class discussion etc.
  • using the line-in function, you can record listen again programmes
  • additional features include: guitar/bass tuner; metronome; tripod (to allow the H2 to stand on a stool, desk etc); mic stand attachment; headphones; foam protector (to reduce wind noise when recording out of doors); small canvas carrying bag (to prevent scratches on the display)
  • software updates can be downloaded to the SD card and will be taken on board the next time it is inserted

There are many more features I’ve yet to explore and there are also many rival products which come in a good deal cheaper than the H2 but, if I didn’t know better, I’d say this had been designed with the educational user in mind.

* range of recording qualities

  • wav44.1kHz/16bit
  • wav44.1kHz/24bit
  • wav48kHz/16bit
  • wav48kHz/24bit
  • wav96kHz/16bit
  • wav96kHz/24bit
  • mp3 48k; 56k; 80k; 96k; 112k; 128k; 160k; 192k; 224k; 256k; 320k;
  • mp3 VBR (variable bit rate – where the sampling rate varies according to what is being played – presumably a narrower range of frequencies – including spoken word and silences – would require less information to be processed – thereby reducing file size)

14 thoughts on “Zoom H2”

  1. YOu could be right about the Zoom H2 in education: John Harris of Seven Things has been doing podcast work with Sanderson’s Wynd Primary, and is using a Zoom H2 for that.

    And by the way, I noticed the other day that Audacity 1.3.4 (beta) has a “What U Hear” input option, which makes it very easy to record anything you’re listening to on the PC wihout any need for a separate recorder. Don’t know if earlier versions offered that…

  2. Thanks for the comment, David. What kind of podcasting has John been doing? I looked at the site, but couldn’t see any obvious links.

    The version I have of Audacity (1.2.6) doesn’t appear to have a “what u hear” input option. I looked briefly at the download of 1.3.4 – more mirrors than Snow White. Vista tends to throw up so many alarms that it makes one over-security-conscious. Have you downloaded it? With success?

  3. I have a question. Can you listen to what you’re recording WHILE you are recording it?


  4. Hi Paul,

    Yes, you can monitor the input through headphones – using speakers would obviously cause a feedback loop.

  5. I’ve just been scanning through the manual for one of these over lunch today. I wanted to know what other potential educational benefits the H2 might offer. Here are a couple:

    Automatic start/stop triggered by adjustable sound levels
    – This might enable no-fuss recording of a teacher’s whole-class activities, perhaps making it easier to provide recordings to children unable to be in school.

    Ability to capture a recording of the period *immediately before* the recording is started
    – Perhaps helpful for school concerts/performances with unpredictable starts!

    Video recording
    – It could provide a high-quality sound track for school video recordings, where the camera mic is often too far away from the subject, without the need for trailing wires or the acquisition of wireless mics.

    And that’s to say nothing of the metronome, or the tuner…

  6. Hi
    I’m just wondering, is it possible to record separate tracks and put them together as one finished song or are these multi-tracks actually one track?

  7. I bought the Zoom h4 over the Summer holiday – it’s a great bit of kit, that does multi-track recording and can dump it all to a PC where you can play with it using the Cubase software included with the device.

  8. I may seem like a complete idiot but I just can’t seem to download and save files from the H2. The instruction booklet is hopeless on this. Whatever should happen doesn’t seem to be happening. I can burn a disc straight from the card but nothing is saved and there seems to be no facility for doing this.

  9. Hi Linda

    What I usually do is to use the USB cable to link the H2 to the computer and then save the files from there. Often I rename them before saving as the numbering system doesn’t help to tell files apart.

    If the files need any editing e.g. cutting out run-in and run-out time, amplification of quiet performances I open them in Audacity (free download from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) and then export the finished mp3 from there.

    I suppose a 3rd way would be to take out the memory card, slot it into your computer and then save from there.

    I hope this has been some help.

  10. On the H2 does it save the files as a standard wav mp3 whatever that require no further conversion process prior to editing n your DAW/audacity etc.

    with older zoom units you had to run special zoom software on the files so that they could be read as an mp3/wav as they were proprietry.

    I use an older mac (OSX 10.3.9) with ableton live music editing software and dont want to have to mess about converting proprietry files, just want to drag and drop a wav or mp3 into my folders so i can work on them. bets wishes….Paul

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