Digital Audio Recorders: Zoom H4N Pro;

The H4n Pro is an update to the very popular H4n which was a very popular recorder. The primary update to the H4n Pro is the improved preamps resulting the overall recording quality. Additionally, the H4n Pro has a better screen, and the XLR microphone inputs are locking.

This is a recorder that is attractive because:

  1. It is inexpensive
  2. It has XLR inputs
  3. It records 4-channel audio (sort of, it combines the two xlr inputs with the built in stereo microphones which have very little stereo separation
  4. It is super easy to use
  5. The improved preamps give this recorder the same recording capabilities as the H5.

Ergonomically the H4n Pro is smartly organized, and it is super easy to use. This recorder has no digital inputs and no line input which limits its potential somewhat. Zoom claims that the recording time is 6 hours but I was only able to replicate 4-6 hours using phantom power. This is still really good recording time on batteries.

For oral history, I like the fact that you can simultaneously record two interviewees using the external XLR inputs and use the onboard microphones to record the interviewer. For many machines you have to use either/or the onboard or external microphones. This one does record using both external and onboard inputs simultaneously fairly well. Although you can adjust the microphone recordin area of the onboard mics from 90 degrees to 120 degrees, the mics do not physically adjust, so it is difficult to point the machine at two audio sources, limiting the capability for the onboard mics for oral history.

The H4n Pro has improved microphone preamps that are on par with the Zoom H5. As far as I can tell, the main difference between the Zoom H5 and the Zoom H4n Pro is the swappable microphones on the H5. Additionally, the H4n Pro lacks individual gain knobs for each channel, whereas the Zoom H5 has nice knobs that you can turn to adjust gain for each recording channel.

The H4n Pro and the H5 are very similar and the overall quality is very much the same. You get more for your money with the H5, so I lean toward the H5, but the H4n Pro will give you the same recording quality for a bit less money, and the H4n Pro is a bit more portable when compared to the H5, but I am not sure the difference is enough to recommend the H4n Pro. Check out my review of the H5 to hear sample recordings of that recorder. For a useful overview of features on the H4n Pro check out Zoom’s website:  https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/field-recording/zoom-h4n-pro-handy-recorder.

Quick Summary:

Memory: SD/SDHC up to 32gb
Sample rate /Bitdepth: up to 24/96 .wav
Channels: Stereo and 4-channel (2 xlr microphones + the onboard stereo x/y microphones) Microphone Input type: External: XLR Internal:  Uni-Directional Stereo Condenser (X/Y configuration)
Phantom Power: yes
Interface: USB2
Cost: $ 219

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