The Zoom H4n has been one of the top portable audio recorders for filmmakers and YouTubers for good reason: It’s professional, flexible and still relatively affordable. In 2016, Zoom finally released its successor, the Zoom H4n Pro, which got quite a bit of praise from experts. But is the praise justified? And is the Zoom H4n Pro also a good choice for YouTubers, aspiring filmmakers and podcasters?
As an avid Zoom H4n user, I’m reviewing the new “Pro” version in in this article and will tell you if it’s worth taking out your wallet.
- Great sound quality for the price
- Easy to use
- Bonus Software Steinberg Cubase LE and Wavelab LE
- Can’t handle line level signals
- Booting takes up to 20 seconds
Zoom H4n Pro Features
- Four-channel audio recording: The Zoom H4n Pro records up to 4 tracks at the same time with up to 24-bit/96 kHz.
- Stereo XY microphones: The angles of the unidirectional microphones can be easily changed from 90 degrees (for tightly focused sound) to 120 degrees (for a wider stereo image).
- Inputs: The H4n Pro possesses 2 inputs for XLR or ¼" balanced/unbalanced phone cables, plus a ⅛” mic jack for external audio sources like a lavalier mic.
- Outputs: The ⅛" stereo line/phone out can be used for headphone monitoring or for connecting the Zoom to a camera with an external mic input.
- Onboard effects: The Zoom H4n Pro offers a variety of onboard effects, including reverb, delay, compression, limiter, low-cut filter and more. Included are also a metronome and tuner as well as several amps and effects for guitars and basses. You are also able to loop playback and change the speed and pitch of the audio
- Records on SD and SDHC up to 32 GB (not included).
- Battery life: 6-10 h.
- Bonus software: Download license for Steinberg Cubase LE and WaveLab LE.
- Accessories: The Zoom H4n Pro is also available with different accessory packages. This one comes with a windbuster, an AC adapter, a 16 GB SD card and a USB cable. Here are some alternatives: With lavalier mics, with table tripod, charger, shock mount and audio cables, with remote control, case, windbuster and SD card.
Looking at the specs, they seem quite impressive. But how well do these specs serve the average YouTuber, filmmaker and other creatives?
The Zoom H4n Pro is one of the bigger audio recorders in this price segment. Its clunkiness might seem like a big disadvantage at first, but in reality the H4n Pro is still very portable and only weighs 10.6 ounces (300 grams).
When you hold it, you will notice that the material and shape helps you to carry it for a long time. The heaviest components are the 2 AA batteries that are required to run it. According to Zoom, the batteries should last you 6-10 hours of continuous recording.
Since I never record so much material at once, mine always lasts shorter, though. Most digital audio recorders need AA batteries, but if you’re not a fan of the whole buying batteries business, check out the TASCAM DR-100mkII as it comes with a rechargeable battery.
Ease of Use
If you’ve never used an audio recorder before, the Zoom H4n Pro might seem a little intimidating with all of its functions. However, using it is surprisingly intuitive. If you’re recording with the built-in microphone it doesn’t take more than the push of a few buttons to get the sound rolling.
One thing that can get a little annoying about the Zoom H4n Pro is the time it takes to boot. It can take up to 20 seconds, which is a lot when you’re on the go or in a shooting situation.
Another thing that makes the Zoom H4n Pro a little harder to work with is that it uses buttons to control gain instead of a wheel like the more advanced audio recorders.
How to Use the Zoom H4n Pro
You can use the Zoom H4nPro in various ways:
- You can use it handheld, although this is not recommended since it will pick up handling sounds.
- You can simply place it somewhere close to the sound you want to pick up.
- You can mount it on a tripod, which will give you more control over the direction of the mics.
- You can even mount it on top of your camera (if your camera allows that).
Four-Channel Recording & Inputs
The ability to record on four channels simultaneously is more than enough for most creatives. When I shoot videos, I only use two channels since I’m recording with the built-in X/Y mics. If I wanted to (and I probably will at some point), I could add a lavalier mic or a shotgun mic. If I ever need more than four channels I will need to hire an extra sound person anyway just to cope with all the cables and sound mixing.
The ⅛" stereo line makes it really easy for you to connect your Zoom H4n Pro to your DSLR or other camera - as long as this camera has an external mic input.
The following video will give you an impression of the sound quality of the Zoom H4n Pro:
The Zoom H4n Pro delivers great sound quality, and it does indeed deliver better quality than its predecessor. The reason is because it uses higher quality pre-amps - these are the same pre-amps that are built into the more professional models H5 and H6. Thanks to the upgraded hardware, its noise floor is much lower.
Up to 140db
The Zoom H4n Pro is able to record up to 140db. That is metal concert volume. This is probably not a feature that will matter too much to most YouTubers and filmmakers. If you’re a musician, however, and would like to record band practice or if there is another reason why you’re filming in loud places a lot, the Zoom H4n Pro is probably one of the best budget audio recorders to choose for this task.
No Line-Level Input
One thing to keep in mind is that the Zoom H4n Pro cannot handle line-level signals (+4dBu). There’s a 99% chance that this is not relevant to you - especially if you’re a YouTuber, podcaster or filmmaker. If you want to plug your audio recorder into your TV or the headphone jack of your PC (for whatever reason), you might wanna choose a different model H5? .
The Zoom H4n Pro comes with copies of Steinberg’s Cubase LE and Wavelab LE. Both are great for editing audio. In fact, I use Cubase to edit all the voice overs I do in my videos. Please be aware that Cubase LE and Wavelab LE are lite editions, which means that they’re limited in their functionality.
How Good is the Zoom H4n Pro for YouTubers and Filmmakers?
Not every YouTuber needs a portable audio recorder but if you want to be flexible with your sound and want to guarantee maximum quality, buying an audio recorder like the Zoom H4n Pro is a good idea.
The Zoom H4n Pro offers all that flexibility and quality for a good price.
- Thanks to the built-in mics, you don’t need to buy an additional external mic.
- The quality of the built-in mic is great for all YouTube purposes.
- You can mount on top of your camera and connect it (as long as your camera allows that).
- If you want to add an additional mic, the H4n Pro will allow you to do that. You can use professional shot gun mics, dynamic mics, lavalier mics and more.
- It is also a great tool to record voice overs for your videos and films.
- This is a great tool for podcasts as well.
Zoom H4n Pro vs. Zoom H4n Comparison
Are you already a proud owner of the Zoom H4n? Then you might want to find out if an upgrade to the Pro model is worth it. Let’s take a look at what improvements the Zoom H4n Pro has to offer.
Zoom H4n Pro Improvements
- Better sound quality and lower noise floor thanks to upgraded pre-amp.
- Able to record up to 140db (concert level!).
- XLR connections are locked for extra safe handling.
- Its shape and surface material are optimized to give you a better grip.
- The backlight color has changed to a more pleasant light blue, which makes the screen easier to read.
Now, is it worth buying the new model if you already have the original one? Honestly, I’d say no. If you have the money and improving your sound quality is very important to you, it makes more sense to look at the H5 or H6, which cost a little more but also have better mics (and more functionality). If you don’t have much of a budget, I’d recommend you keep using your Zoom H4n and save your money for some additional high-quality mics or other audio equipment.
Alternatives to the Zoom H4n Pro
Zoom H4n Pro vs. Zoom H5
If you can afford to pay a little extra, it makes sense to look at the Zoom H5. Although it looks quite different from the H4n Pro, its hardware and functionality are pretty similar. There is one big difference, though: The H5 has higher-quality preamps, which directly affect the sound quality.
On the downside, you are not able to change the angle of the built-in microphone. This means the stereo sound will not be as wide with the Zoom H5. However, this is not going to be relevant for most YouTube recordings (you want to have a narrow pick-up most of the time).
Besides that, the Zoom H5 is easier to use, has a more convenient design and picks up less handling noise. You can find out more about the Zoom H5 on Amazon.
The Zoom H4n Pro is a great portable audio recorder for YouTubers and other creatives. It offers flexibility and great sound quality for many purposes. Thanks to its low noise floor, it also sounds cleaner than the Zoom H4n.
Compared to more professional models, the H4n can feel a little clunky in its handling. Also, the long booting time can be annoying.
All in all, though, this is a great choice. If you don’t have a lot of special requirements for an audio recorder, this might be the only one you’ll ever need.