The H4 Handy Recorder was easily one of the most popular field recorders around, and created a standard in the market. Its compact size, on-board stereo mics and additional mic pre’s have influenced a trend for hand-held recording devices, but now it’s time for a second upgrade and to ‘go pro’. However, not all the new features appear to be that ‘professional’ with the H4n Pro.
Upgraded inside out
Externally there aren’t that many differences with the existing H4n. It’s still the same form factor and many of the controls are in the same place. The new ‘Pro’ version sports a clearer LSD screen than the nasty yellow/orange one on the H4n, but it isn’t exactly a modern high-res screen. Other than that the only physical upgrades worth mentioning are the new locking XLR connections, which was a common complaint about the H4n, and a stronger ‘rubberised’ case.
Zoom say that the improvements have predominantly been on the internals of this product. There are many more features on-board, as well as uprated electronics. This includes better quality on-board mics that are said to sound more natural and are capable of handling up to 140 dB SPL. The mic pre’s have an improved noise floor of -120dbu EIN, which is reassuring but doesn’t blow me away. An interesting new consideration, although it isn’t immensely professional, is the ability to use the mini headphone socket to provide DSL cameras with a line-out feed. Whilst this will probably prove useful for many, I can’t help but believe they missed the trick here. Why not also add the ability to mount the H4n Pro on a camera stand, and what about receiving and/or sending time code?
New Features on the H4n Pro
In addition to the physical improvements mentioned above, it appears the software has also undergone some improvements. Possibly most notably is the ability to use the H4n Pro as an audio interface for Mac or PC. I wonder why they didn’t include iOS or Android mobile devices as this is a mobile unit too. Perhaps a firmware update will be released. Zoom have partnered with Steinberg however, to include Cubase LE with each unit.
If using the H4n Pro as a standalone unit though, there are new on-board features for editing and recording drop-ins for musicians. This is also supported with a host of effects and even some guitar amp simulations. Whilst this might be convenient, I can’t take these features seriously and they certainly aren’t ‘pro’. Paring the device with an iPad for example and running an app feels more professional, and at least more up to date than working on a 1.9″ low-res LCD screen.
For more information, check out the H4n Pro product page on Zoom’s website. Priced at 195 GBP, this is more than the existing H4n, which suggests this will be an additional model. It also appears to have made the Zoom H5 less appealing which offers almost the same spec for more money, minus the interchangeable capsules of course. Is this the start of a re-shuffle of Zoom’s hand held recording product line? It’s likely that we’ll also see a ‘Pro’ version of the H2n soon.