Overview of the Zoom H2n

Overview of the Zoom H2n by filmmaker Michael Head

There is much more that goes into making a successful then and an awesome camera and good lighting (although don’t forget the importance of good lighting). Audiences are more likely to forgive weak visuals then poor audio. As a consequence, filmmakers need to be sure to capture quality audio in their films.

In other words, it’s really expensive to fix bad audio in post.

Matt Feury posted a picture on Twitter of the editing timeline for Star Trek: Into Darkness, and do you know what stood out to me at first sight? The number of audio tracks compared ot the number of video tracks (hint: the audio tracks are in purple – there are 15 audio tracks in the pic, with more below that).

In the weeks to come, we are going to share additional tips on audio capturing for filmmaking, including several levels of microphones and audio recorders. To get us started, let’s look at my first audio recorder, the Zoom H2n.

Zoom makes a wide range of microphones and recorders for filmmakers, ranging from the iQ5 microphone for the iPhone to the H6, the newest (and most expensive) recorder in their lineup. But the Zoom H2n is a great starting point for filmmakers and is a great investment.

What makes the Zoom H2n so effective?

Zoom_H2n

Overview of the Zoom H2n

The Zoom H2n runs on standard Double A batteries, and it has a very long active recording time of approximately 20 hours from a single set of batteries. It records to standard SD/SDHC memory cards, and even smaller cards will net you very long record times.

I personally keep an 8 GB card in my Zoom H2n, and the time remaining indicator lists well over 10 hours of recording time!

The Zoom H2n records to high quality 16 or 24-bit PCM (Pulse-code modulation) WAV files and MP3 audio files up to 320 kbps. It will record sampling frequencies between 44.1 and 96 kHz, but of course higher sample rates increase memory consumption.

The arrangement of the built in microphones is very unique – the Zoom H2n uses five built in microphones to record either X/Y stereo to two channel tracks or two and four channel surround audio with a two channels recording directly in front of the microphone and a channel each for the left and the right side of the recorder.

This surround capability is uncommon in such a low price recorder, but is somewhat limited when you want the recorder to be as close as possible to the speaking talent.

There is a single 3.5mm input port that allows for an external microphone input, and I will discuss external microphones in coming weeks. However, in my experience the input only allows works when recording X/Y stereo sounds, not multi-channel surround. Natrually, there is a built in speaker for playback and a 3.5mm output line for monitoring.

Zoom H2n – The Good Stuff
- Inexpensive and small, convenient size
- Stereo and Surround recording modes
- Multiple formats (MP3 and PCM/WAV) with multiple sample rates
- 3.5mm input for external microphones
- 3.5mm output for monitoring
- Easy to read audio meters
- Records to common SD/SDHC Cards

Zoom H2n – The Not So Good
- No XLR inputs
- Line in only (to my knowledge) records stereo, not surround

Final Thoughts on the Zoom H2n
The Zoom H2n was my first audio recorder, and while I admit that I have a soft spot for it, it is simply a quality audio recorder that has held up for years and I still use it frequently. It is a great investment for budding filmmakers looking to improve their audio quality for their films. Stay tuned next week for some info about how to use that 3.5mm input.

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Michael Head is a filmmaker and full-time geek living the the Dallas-Fort Worth Metromess. Follow him at @michaeldhead. Check in every Tuesday for Micheal’s “tech-Tuesday” articles. Check out his website at michaeldhead.wordpress.com.

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