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Gadget-Check: Zoom H1 Stereo Mike

My attention can be easily attracted, when it comes to interesting gadgets. In
this case, the japanese company Zoom has to offer an interesting tool that acts
as mobile dictaphone, microphone and can also be used as home microphone
attached to the computer. Time to get me one of these while price is reduced.

So what do we get here?

1 Microphone
1 Battery
1 MicroSD card (with Steinberg Wavelab LE on it!)
1 Quick start guide

Complete package although a MiniUSB cable would have completed the package in total!

Let’s have a look at the device itself:

No surprises here the X/Y mike concept allows a ways smaller housing for the device and with some addons (like a wind protection foam) it wouldn’t look ridiculous as the Tascam stereo mike which is similar build but the mikes arranged away so that they form a Y. The front is dominated by a display and a big record button. Easy to handle as I think. The backside of the device is equipped with three selection switches. An autolevel switch that corrects the volume constantly during recording and thus should avoid peaks. A low cut switch that should eliminate low-frequency background noises like wind pops or mike pops and last but not least a switch that lets you select if you wish to record in uncompressed WAV audio or in compressed MP3 audio. Although this device isn’t very expensive and probably wouldn’t be a real competitor to real good high-quality Sennheiser microphones, I’d recommend recording to WAV as today’s audio tools allow compression to MP3 afterwards. Oh and the pod screw hole is just darling as you can mount it on a tripod and record like a semi-pro. There’s an addon for DSLR cameras where you can attach a lightning shoe with a screw to the mike and clip it to the camera! Wooo!

For dictaphone sessions, MP3 might be a more handy function though I don’t know for sure, if markers (positions in the audio file to jump to) are supported here as well. The quality for WAV can range up to 96kHz/24Bit! Way to go! On the MP3 side you can range from 48 to 320 kbit/s (CBR) – so even on the tiniest microSD card you should be able to record some looooooooong audio sessions without worry.

Speaking of that. Should there be any problem with the card itself, then the device allows recording to the internal memory. Each record can take up to 35 seconds. But I haven’t figured out how to transfer these records to a computer or the card then. So although you might be able to record to the internal storage, you’ll better pop in a microSD card then. Speaking of these: I popped in a microSDHC card with 32GB and it allows you to record almost 15½ hours of 96/24 WAV audio! That’s longer than the average rcording time stamina of one AA cell which is determined to be 10 hours according to the specification sheet.

So now to the side elements:

The left side has a line out/headphone jack for monitoring purposes and a volume switch. the big plastic flap protects the microSDHC slot.

The right side shows the miniUSB connector, the power switch which also acts as a hold button if moved to the right, a Delete button, the navigation buttons (last file / F Rewind – Play / Pause / Set mark – next file / F Forward), the input level (believe me, you’ll need them!) and a line in jack to attach an external mike or audio source. The external connector has been just used and I figured out, that an attached iPad needs to be volumed down two clicks from it’s volume maximum and the mike’s input level set to 15 at max! (of of 100 that is!). Then you can record audio from your iPad as well! So all in all you’re on the right side to get your mike known well when trying to record without surprises. You’ll have to fiddle around with the settings to find each individual best settings. For common near-person communications, the input level for example is well-set at 75. For extremely quiet environments, you might do well with max setting. The peak meter helps you find the best spot. Sweet that is!

Looking at the bottom opposite to the mike head, you’ll find holes for the internal speaker. It is said to be for monitoring reference but the little quacker doesn’t bring much volume out so in a noisy environment, you’ll probably hear nothing. Best to use for dictaphone usage at office/school.

Okay, so much for the basic functions. As I have fiddled around with the recording, I also noticed, that internal recordings (to the mike’s storage) are instantly copied to the card as soon as you insert one! – So they’re not lost and can be copied over at will! Great to know. However it is only one soundbit MP3 with 35 seconds sized 410KB. So it’ll be a real emergency record then. No flaw though as memory cards are so cheap nowadays: a 2GB card roughly costs 5CHF, so hey, why save money on that anyway. have one small card in reserve and one big for your big recording projects and you’re always good to go!

Now to the add on kit:

The pack itself contains a small tripod for table recording if you need to, an USB cable (surprise, surprise that it isn’t enclosed in the basic pack then…!!), a carrying case (seems a good investition for me), an AC power adaptor (seems as if the mike can be operated using USB power instead of the included battery. If it would charge up an inserted accu cell, that would be cream on top of the cake! (But how’s the mike to know if it’s on conventional battery or a rechargable accu….). Additionally you get a mic stand clip with a screw to attach the H1 to it, and a windscreen (yes, you’ll probably need it outside! No joke!). So investing another 30 CHF, you’ll have everything to do some semi-professional audio recording no matter where you are. I like that.

Why speaking of semi-professional recording when it has so much to offer? Well, first recordings using the ike in USB mode as computer mike, the results were great. No hissing, humming or other interferences that drag down the recording quality. Sweet. But I am not that professional to make an objective verdict for pros. So you’ll have to test it for yourself if possible. But the product homepage has also set up a sound quality curve and a recording characteristics table as a short reference. Maybe that can help you for some basic verdict if this is the right product for you.

And speaking of up-to-date-compatibility: Should there be any problem with the mike’s internal software, the manufacturer delivers firmware updates. They’re easily downloadable and the update process is easy to handle: Just put the firmware ont a blank microSD card and switch on the mike. The process is however well-described in the short reference card, which is packed with the mike and comes in 6 major languages.

So for those, who want to know what the total recording times are, I’ve done some research on the ‘net and found the following specifications. Since I haven’t validated them, you’re using this reference chart at your own risk if you plan longterm recordings at the limit and find yourself with truncated recordings.

Here is a short reference about the recording time:

REC Format micro SD/SDHC Card Capacity
2GB 4GB 8GB 16GB 32GB
MP3 48kbps 97h 05m 194h 10m 388h 21m 776h 43m 1553h 26m
56kbps 83h 13m 166h 26m 332h 52m 665h 45m 1331h 31m
64kbps 72h 49m 145h 38m 291h 16m 582h 23m 1165h 05m
80kbps 58h 15m 116h 30m 233h 01m 466h 02m 932h 04m
96kbps 48h 32m 97h 05m 194h 10m 388h 21m 776h 43m
112kbps 41h 36m 83h 13m 166h 26m 332h 52m 665h 45m
128kbps 36h 42m 72h 49m 145h 38m 291h 16m 582h 32m
160kbps 29h 07m 58h 15m 116h 30m 233h 01m 466h 02m
192kbps 24h 16m 48h 32m 97h 05m 194h 10m 388h 21m
224kbps 20h 48m 41h 36m 83h 13m 166h 26m 332h 52m
256kbps 18h 12m 36h 24m 72h 49m 145h 38m 291h 16m
320kbps 14h 33m 29h 07m 58h 15m 118h 30m 233h 01m
WAV 44.1kHz / 16Bit 3h 10m 6h 19m 12h 38m 25h 07m 50h 13m
44.1kHz / 24Bit 2h 06m 4h 12m 8h 23m 16h 45m 33h 29m
48kHz / 16Bit 2h 23m 5h 46m 11h 33m 23h 05m 46h 08m
48kHz / 24Bit 1h 55m 3h 51m 7h 42m 15h 23m 30h 45m
96kHz / 16Bit 1h 27m 2h 53m 5h 46m 11h 32m 23h 04m
96kHz / 24Bit 0h 57m 1h 55m 3h 51m 7h 42m 15h 22m

As the FAT32 file system is limited to a 2GB file size, you might use the 2GB column as total recording time per recording session. To record down one whole battery, you’ll be able to set the mike to MP3 320kbit/s

Also take note, that the recording times were calculated using the standard byte formula, whereas 32GB = 33554432 KB (based on the formula 32*1024*1024. Memory card manufacturers however may use the formula 32*1000*1000 = 32000000 KB which results in slightly less capacity. Please pay attention to the mike’s display upon remaining recording time when recording. Also take note that the display maxes out at 99:59:59!

Although the mike has a failover scenario so that corrupt files die to battery rundown are repaired, you’d better not try to take it there.

The estimated runtime on 1 AA cell is 10 hrs (MP3) and 9.5 hrs (WAV). As the device needs some time to write the file to the memory card, you’ll better subtract 30 mins to 1hr and you’re fine.

The device hapticas are, well, frankly said, cheap plastic but hey, that saves weight and doesn’t impact much with the inner values of the device.

The device comes in three colors: Black, White, Silver

The MSRP is 159.99 US$ but the street prices vary between 120 and 99.99 US$ – so do a good price check. The addition kit has an MSRP of 39.99 US$ but street prices range from 32 and 24.99 US$.

The final verdict:

This product is somehow awesome. If you imagine 10 years back, how bulky good dictaphones were without such high capacity and record time, this little fracker has real good power and potential. As a gadget freak, I like such things well. Although an aluminum alloy would have given it a more classy touch (and probably some better stability against outer shock) the housing is still well-crafted and leaves no room for big criticism. Hey, you can’t have a Ferrari at the price of a Toyota. Well done, Zoom!

Criteria Rating Weight
Performance: ★★★★★ 30%
Price: ★★★★★ 20%
Quality: ★★★★☆ 10%
Reliability: ★★★★★ 25%
Configuration: ★★★★★ 15%
Overall: ★★★★★ 100%
4.9 out of 5 – Outrageous!
Product homepage: http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/h1/

Update April 12th, 2019:

Product has been discontinued, so the link led to nowhere. Removed Link.


April 12, 2013 Netspark - 1593 posts - Member since: May 9th, 2011 No Comments »

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