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Zoom H4n Pro review

The Zoom H4n Pro digital voice recorder captures high-fidelity audio for music and film, so naturally it excels at capturing simple audio during lectures and interviews too.

Zoom H4n Pro review
(Image: © Zoom)

For

  • Excellent audio capture quality
  • Pro-level recording
  • Perfect for recording live music...
  • ...and B-roll audio for films

Against

  • Too much tech for some

Zoom specializes in making devices that record high-fidelity audio for music and film, and the Zoom H4n is no exception. It's one of the best digital voice recorders for a wealth of features, including pre-record and voice activation, so it excels at capturing simple audio during lectures and interviews. 

That said, the H4n Pro's best features are those designed for musicians and amateur film producers. With an XY crossed unidirectional microphone design, recorded sound has excellent stereo depth and doesn’t sacrifice definition. This makes it ideal for capturing live performances, and for field recording use for films.

Zoom H4n Pro review: overview

While the Zoom H6 is a superb digital audio recorder for creative professionals, it’s also very expensive. The Zoom H4n Pro is a more affordable version of the H6, though it's still pricey compared to other digital voice recorders. That's because the H4n Pro is capable of recording high-fidelity audio to a superb standard of quality. 

The main differences between Zoom's two pro-level field recorders are that the H6 has more XLR inputs, more recordable tracks and removable microphones. That said, both record audio at the same high sampling frequencies and bit rate, so you aren't missing out on much with the H4n Pro, and you'll save money too.

Zoom H4n Pro review: spec and price

The Zoom H4n Pro has a RRP of $249.99, but you regularly find it on sale for less at retailers including Amazon, Sweetwater,  BH Photo Video and Best Buy.  The spec for the record is as follows:

  • Number of simultaneous recording tracks: 2 (STEREO mode), 4 (4CH mode), 2 (MTR mode)
  • Recording time 4 GB (SDHC): Approx. 380 minutes (WAV 44.1 kHz / 16-bit stereo track); 68 hours (MP3 44.1 kHz / 128 kbps stereo track)
  • Maximum file size of simultaneous recording: 2GB
  • Effects modules: 2 STEREO / 4CH Mode: LO CUT, COMP/LIMITER
    MTR Mode: PRE AMP module, EFX module
  • Tuners: 5
  • Metronome sound sources: 5
  • Recording media: SD card (16 MB – 2 GB), SDHC card (4 GB – 32 GB)
  • Inputs: XLR (balanced input) / standard phone (unbalanced input) combo jack
  • Microphones: two (one built-in, one external)

Zoom H4n Pro review: features

In our opinion, the best feature on the Zoom H4n Pro is four-track recording. With the four tracks you can layer and mix audio to create a stereo landscape. You simply can't achieve this with single-track voice recorders. The XLR/TRS inputs can be used to add extra microphones and instruments, as well as to connect the H4n Pro directly to mixing consoles. That also makes it ideal for recording live performances. 

Elsewhere, the Zoom H4n Pro features a built-in metronome (five sound sources) and a tuner, which suggests that Zoom has designed this to be an all-in-one device for musicians looking to keep their instruments in tune and their playing in time, before recording their music. The tuners are: chromatic, guitar, bass, Open A/D/E/G, DADGAD.

You can also connect the H4n Pro to video cameras to record audio for film, making it an excellent tool for podcasters and amateur filmmakers who need high-quality audio to match their videos. It's also a good tool for Foley artists who recreate sound effects for film. Why? Because it’s portable enough to carry anywhere to capture B-roll sound.

Zoom H4n Pro review: the digital voice recorder photographed at an angle to show the digital display and control buttons

(Image credit: Zoom)

Zoom H4n Pro review: performance

The H4n Pro uses WAV and MP3 playback formats. You can convert the WAV files to MP3s, which compresses the audio and slims down the file size. This is important because the H4n only comes with a small 2GB of storage – recording an hour of a live performance can result in a WAV file large enough to completely fill that space. An SDHC slot enables you to add up to 32GB of additional storage.

The Zoom H4n Pro performed well during our testing period, and even though it looks a little complex when you first pull it out of the box, it's fairly easy to use. Take time to read through the instructions and play around with some of the features and presets before recording anything.

Zoom's record features high performance, low-noise mic preamps with recording resolutions up to 24-bit/96 kHz. A -120 dBu EIN noise floor captures audio at lower volumes so that you don't miss anything.

Should I buy the Zoom H4n Pro?

The Zoom H4n Pro is an excellent recording device for creative professionals who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on the premium Zoom H6. It isn’t as fancy or as versatile, but it still captures high-fidelity field recordings. We also like the 2-input/2-output USB audio interface for PC and Mac, so you can record directly to your laptop, and the pre-record function, enabling you to capture two seconds of audio before you hit record.

There's a lot of tech on offer here, so unless you're confident you'll be using it to its fullest extent, or close enough, you may be interested in a less pro-level digital voice recorder. At the very low-budget end of the scale is the Olympus VN-541PC, and a step-up from that is the Tascam DR-05