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Zoom H1 Review: The Extra-Mobile Digital Recorder

Zoom’s H1 Handy Recorder is the smallest (and cheapest – $100/£80) in the well respected Zoom recorder family. Whilst Zoom has beefed…

Zoom's H1 Handy Recorder is the smallest (and cheapest – $100/£80) in the well respected Zoom recorder family. Whilst Zoom has beefed up their newer models over the recent years with many more features, this comes at a cost – their size. But, the H1 literally fits in your pocket. It's no bigger than many modern smartphones, in fact.

Of course, size isn't everything, so is it a worthwhile bit of gear to add to your podcasting arsenal?

Who Would Use The Zoom H1?

Zoom H1 Digital Recorder for podcastingThe H1 is a versatile recorder used by musicians, journalists, filmmakers, podcasters, and basically anyone who needs to record audio on a regular basis. In podcasting, its size and portability make it ideal for on-the-go recordings, so if you do a lot of face to face interviews or location recordings (at events or conferences) then it could be a great asset.

You'll often see Zoom H1s attached to video cameras as a replacement for the default sound offered by these devices. They can mount directly onto things like DSLR cameras, mic stands, and tripods via the small threaded hole on the back of the recorder.

The ‘auto-gain' setting (which prevents overload and distortion) is a handy tool to have if you're in an area with unpredictable noise levels, but try to set your input level manually whenever possible. This will give you a more consistent sound and make it much easier for you in the editing stages.

Where Would You Use The Zoom H1?

Though it is every bit as handy to have one around your home studio, the H1's functions are best utilised playing the ‘studio in your pocket' role. It only takes a single AA battery to power the recorder (which can give up up to 10 hours operating time) and you can take it anywhere you need to.

The Zoom H1 on a HandleThere's a great low cut filter switch on the recorder that you can turn on to help minimise unwanted sounds with low frequencies. Most commonly, this might be plosives (someone popping the mic), but if you're recording outside this can come in really handy for dealing with wind noise. Try not to rely on this alone though. Like any mic, wind distortion will still be picked up by anything more than a gentle breeze, so use sheltering techniques, or a foam/furry windjammer to further protect your recordings against this.

I like the external buttons on the recorder which allow you to alter a lot of settings without having to go into a digital menu. If you're on the move or in a hurry this can be really convenient. It also means the H1 is a lot less intimidating to work with for the first time if you're new to audio recording.

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You can also play back and listen to your recording directly from the H1 itself which means you can immediately check it after you're done.

What Kind Of Recording Setup Suits The Zoom H1?

IMG_0914You have two main options here. You can use the built in microphones (an X & Y stereo pair) which, on their own, are of a really good quality. The H1 also has an input (3.5mm) which allows you to introduce an external mic. If you have the budget for external mics, we're a big fan of lavalier mics for face to face interviews and the H1 is a great affordable option for building this setup.

You can hold the H1 in your hand, mount it on a stand or tripod, or even attach a microphone handle and hold it that way. It's a very versatile recorder.

As always, I recommend using a pair of earbuds to monitor your recording during a conversation or interview. That way you can recognise potential issues immediately (the recorder can be susceptible to mobile phone interference, for example) and correct them.

How Much Does It Cost?

To buy a new Zoom H1 you're looking at around $100 or £80. That's more than enough to get you started on its own, but throw in another $50/£45 and you can get yourself a splitter and two lavalier mics to create a really good face to face interview kit.

What Does It Come With?

As standard, a 2GB MicroSD card, one AA battery, and the Steinberg WaveLab LE audio software. It's worthwhile looking for the optional extras bundle, though, where you'll get a windjammer, AC adapter (USB type), USB cable, adjustable tripod stand, padded shell case, and mic clip adapter.

Zoom H1 Sound Sample

The sample below was recorded directly into the Zoom H1's built in microphones.

This sample was recorded with two ATR3350s through a Belkin five way splitter.

The Summary

The Zoom H1 is affordable, portable, and versatile. If you're on a tight budget and looking for a quality digital recorder then there really is no better option, for me.

If you want to use XLR microphones to record then you'll want to check out something like the H1's bigger cousin, the H5. If you're more intent on keeping your kit to a small, minimalist size however, go for the H1. You can still throw in a couple of lav mics to give you more flexibility, without weighing yourself down in gear. Finally, if you're interested in our thoughts on other digital recorders, check out our Best Digital Recorders article.

Interested in reading our other podcasting mic and equipment reviews? Check out our full podcast equipment guide. And please do suggest any piece of kit you’d like us to review in the future.

Discussion:

5 Comments

  1. Brandon on 21st December 2016 at 3:27 am

    Hi and thank you very much for this review. I’m actually in school learning about recording sound, and the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder was one of our required class materials due to an field reporting assignment we had. But I was curious and wanted to ask you guys because it seems like you know your stuff, but I was looking into starting my own podcast where it would be myself and my brother hosting, but we would always have a rotating third guest. My question is if you think I would be able to effectively record 3 people if I were to use one Zoom H1 for myself and my brother, and another Zoom H1 for the guest?

  2. Brandon on 21st December 2016 at 3:29 am

    I actually just left a reply/question and realized I also forgot to ask another follow up question: I also have two Blue Snowball USB Mics, and wanted your opinion on if I’d be better off using the two Blue Snowball Mics as opposed to using the Zoom H1? Thanks and hope to hear from you soon! -Brandon

    • Matthew McLean on 21st December 2016 at 10:23 am

      Hi Brandon. If you already have 2 Zoom H1s then they’d be fine for podcasting with, but I wouldn’t buy a second one purely to add a third person to your recording. You might be able to get both Snowballs working at the same time by following these instructions https://www.thepodcasthost.com/equipment/microphones/can-you-record-with-2-usb-microphones/ though it might not work on your computer because they’re both the same kind of mic. You could use an additional laptop/computer if you had one, and sync the recordings in post-production. There are other equipment solutions out there but it all depends on your budget.

  3. Eileen Doyon on 1st April 2017 at 7:58 pm

    is it easy to post to all social media sites

  4. Pamlea on 23rd December 2018 at 11:31 am

    Can you tell me, when using the H1n recorder what is the maximum distance from the people being recorded should the recorder be for a good quality recording? Also, how do you download the recording to an Apple device (MacBook Air, etc.) where there is no card slot?

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Written by:

Matthew McLean

Matthew is an audio drama writer and producer who enjoys talking about podcasts. He makes the tea at The Podcast Host, and is a loyal servant of adopted house rabbits.

March 3rd 2016