Overview of the Zoom H2n

Overview of the Zoom H2n by filmmaker Michael Head

Much more goes into making a successful than an excellent camera and good lighting (although don’t forget the importance of good lighting). Audiences are more likely to forgive weak visuals than poor audio. Consequently, filmmakers must ensure to capture quality audio in their films.

In other words, fixing bad audio in post is expensive.

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 to the number of video tracks (hint: the audio tracks are in purple – there are 15 audio tracks in the pic, with more below that).

Like the Gravity pic? Here’s Star Trek Into Darkness! @bad_robot knows how to rock a @MediaComposer. #timelinetuesday pic.twitter.com/8cD3eBn42O

— Matt Feury (@MattFeury) April 22, 2014

In the coming weeks, we will 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 significant investment.

What makes Zoom H2n so effective?


Overview of the Zoom H2n

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

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

The Zoom H2n records 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 higher sample rates increase memory consumption.

The arrangement of the built-in microphones is 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 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.

A single 3.5mm input port allows for external microphone input, and I will discuss external microphones in the coming weeks. However, in my experience, the information only allows work when recording X/Y stereo sounds, not multi-channel surround. Naturally, 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 standard 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 an excellent investment for budding filmmakers looking to improve the audio quality of their films. Stay tuned next week for some info about how to use that 3.5mm input.

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