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Old January 18th, 2007, 12:13 AM   #1
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Zoom H4 Mobile

Hi guys,

So, I've been looking into the forum for some info on the Zoom H4 Mobile and all I could find was one or 2 people saying it's good. Could anyone here elaborate on that? I'm on the pre-production phase of a feature and my "sound guys" said I should get such a gizmo...and this one looks like the best "quality/price" option. I can't find it here in Spain so another doubt that I have is: does it have universal AC supply? can I plug it anywhere? Of course I'll be using it on the field with batteries, but indoors I plan to plug into an outlet.
How about quality wise? Is it good. I'm going to use it with an oktawa and a rode ntg 2.
Does anyone know which would be the least expensive place to buy it? Bh sells them for 300$ plus shipping to spain (30$).
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Old January 18th, 2007, 12:49 AM   #2
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Hi,
I just recently purchased a Zoom H4 over other similar recorders for a couple of reasons which may or may not matter to you. First XLR ins. I don't know exactly why I feel this is important, but having XLR and 1/4 inch input seems like a good idea to me so I don't have to use any weird adaptors or wires. Second it has lots of strange effects when used in 4-track mode. While this may not be useful to you I enjoy the creative possibilities (musical or otherwise).
As far as power supply, it doesn't actually come with one, but it requires 9V DC, 300mA, which you can get from Zoom or B&H but it only seems to be for the USA, although I imagine you could find something to work with little trouble. For what I do using batteries works great, I just have a lot of rechargable ones that I rotate through as needed, though they seem to last quite a while.
Sound quality seems to be just fine to me, feel free to visit my freesound page to find samples I recorded both with the on-board stereo mics as well as the Rode NTG2 oddly enough.
My other thoughts are these:
-The onboard mics are extremely sensitive to wind noise even with the supplied windscreen.
-The metronome just about deafened me the first time, so turn the volume down before you try it.
-The menu button has a weird feel and if you have fat fingers it might be hard to access the input menu.
-Adusting parameters such as input level is painfully slow.
-There is a new version of the firmware for it, but it is unavailable at the moment for some reason.
-I managed to crash it once, I have no idea how.
-It took me a while to figure out how to make it record in 4-track mode (it seems like it is, but really isn't)

So I really won't say one way or the other that you should/shouldn't get it, because your application might be different than mine, but feel free to ask any questions.
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Old January 18th, 2007, 02:28 AM   #3
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Thanks a bunch, Tim. I visited your website and found out some quality examples there (specially the step sounds). Was it all recorded with the zoom h4 and the rode mic?

I'm not at all planning to use it's onboard mic. I'm always going to use it with external ones (the ones I mentioned before)
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Old January 18th, 2007, 05:37 AM   #4
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You should be able to pick up a transformer with a compatible DC connector at a local electronics store that will plug into the mains and convert your local AC power, whatever it is, to 9VDC@300ma. Such things are very commonplace - here in North America stores like the Radio Shack chain carry a number of different types selling for just a few $$. .

What role will this play in shooting your feature? Why are the sound guys suggsting you buy this versus other recorders or recording in-camera? While I don't have one myself, I understand the Zoom is reputed to be a good product. That doesn't mean it's necessarily the best option for all possible uses, hence the starting point is pinning down just what is it that you need to accomplish with a recorder that leads you to consider it?
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Old January 18th, 2007, 09:04 AM   #5
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I just bought one. My sound guys will actually use it with my mics to capture other sounds other than the dialogs (footsteps, birds, doors, etc). I'm more than aware it's not the best, but I'm on a very tight budget. The dialogs will be recorded directly into the Canon A1, but through a laptop with a bunch of audio applications. Don't ask me, I suck at sound...when I talk to my sound guys it's like they speak a different language.
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Old January 18th, 2007, 09:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rafael Lopes
I just bought one. My sound guys will actually use it with my mics to capture other sounds other than the dialogs (footsteps, birds, doors, etc). I'm more than aware it's not the best, but I'm on a very tight budget. The dialogs will be recorded directly into the Canon A1, but through a laptop with a bunch of audio applications. Don't ask me, I suck at sound...when I talk to my sound guys it's like they speak a different language.
I have a Zoom H4, Edirol R-09, PSC ProMix3 field mixer, and now a Edirol R-4 4 Channel field recorder.

Each device has their own specialties and uses.

The R-09 is very easy to operate and is small enought to plug in a lav mic (R-09 only has 1/8 mic and line ports) and place in someones pocket.

The H4 is quite a bit larger (too large to place on a person) and is used for more remote setup and recording via the balanced XLR/ 1/4 inputs to take feed from soundboard or dual mic setup.

Both the H4 and R-09 have built in mics, but I prefer the sound of external mics myself, as I have more control over micing configurations.

For large sound setups (Stage performances that require a one time setup and breakdown of equiptment) I have been using my field mixer and taking 3 sound sources and sending one mix to my recorder and one to my camera via wireless.

However the new addition of the R-4 allows me to take 4 feeds, control mix, and record to a hard drive, and send a wireless signal to my camera for backup sync audio. So I may be losing the mixer and use the smaller units for stealth recording only and field recording of sound effects.

So it just goes to show you that there are many uses for using different sound setups, and no one perfect setup for all recording situations.
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Old January 18th, 2007, 12:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rafael Lopes
I just bought one. My sound guys will actually use it with my mics to capture other sounds other than the dialogs (footsteps, birds, doors, etc). I'm more than aware it's not the best, but I'm on a very tight budget. The dialogs will be recorded directly into the Canon A1,...
Wild (non-sync) sound effects are a great use for an H4 - I think you'll be pleased with it. You'll need some SD flash memory cards, too.

My H4 came with a tiny brick transformer good only for 120v. (Tim, did you check all the packaging?).

Tim and Steve are right, it only requires 300ma at 9v, which one would hope would be easy to find in Europe.

Some people on other forums are building larger battery packs for it.

Overall, I've been very happy with the H4, recorded quite a bit of acoustic music and an interview.
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Old January 18th, 2007, 12:43 PM   #8
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I see you have purchased one at this point, but to answer your question regarding those sounds, in particular the stepping ones, they were recorded with the NTG2 mic.
And Seth, you are totally right, I do have the power supply and in fact I have used it a few times...it was a long day yesterday, sorry for the mis-information; though I suppose he'll have to find a different power supply anyway.
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Old January 18th, 2007, 02:23 PM   #9
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Let us know what you think about it.


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Old January 18th, 2007, 11:28 PM   #10
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Hey Kalunga, I never thought I would find you here. You helped me when I was choosing a camera (FX1 vs DVX100). I actually have the amazing canon A1 now. Have you been in touch with my uncle lately (Paulo Castro Lopes)?

um abraço
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Old January 20th, 2007, 04:35 AM   #11
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just received mine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rafael Lopes
... this one looks like the best "quality/price" option. I can't find it here in Spain so another doubt that I have is: does it have universal AC supply?
How about quality wise? Is it good. I'm going to use it with an oktawa and a rode ntg 2.
Does anyone know which would be the least expensive place to buy it? Bh sells them for 300$ plus shipping to spain (30$).
Hi Rafael,

I just received my Zoom H4 yesterday, so I have to use it more before giving a comprehensive assessment.
However a couple of questions I can answer straight away.

I have ordered mine from the UK to avoid hassle with the customs, paying EU VAT, etc. that I think would apply in your case, too - living in Spain.
It was slightly more expensive vs the US price (but what isnt in EU anyways?) If you need, I can give you the link in a private email (I am not sure the forum allows non-sponsor vendors to be advertised here...)

It came with a 220V to 9V ACDC adaptor - with the useless UK "three finger" plug - so i can throw it away for being useless elsewhere in Europe, however I keep it as I travel to SE Asia often, where they use this same plug design. Unfortunately the DC transformer is not separated from the plug, they are built together, so I cannot replace only the plug part with a suitable cable and plug.
You can also find an adaptor that converts the UK plug to the 2 point plug.

Otherwise it is not a big deal to find a 9V power supply (HAMA sells tons of such things).

I am confident once I will learn the right settings, the thingy will work fine. I say this because it came with a manual comparable in page count to my V1E manual...:)
So it can do a lot for sure.

First impressions: you have to fiddle with the middle menu button AND the jog dial on the side to execute any kind of function. Feels like an electronic game. It even took me some time to figure how to stop playback...
The jog dial can be adjusted up and down for scrolling, also push when select something. Similar to certain video cam menu button (like my V1E).

I tried to use my NTG2 and actually it worked, but the sound was weak - surely for me not being aware of how to adjust levels - that you can only do through the menu.
Good thing about NTG2 is that you can power with a battery, so you may not need to use phantom power - save power in Zoom H4.

The built in mics are quite sensitive and for me gave good results in the first recording - the device is sensitive to touching though - you can hear scrubbing if you keep in your hand.

One important thing. The card slot design is awkward. I dont have too big fingers, yet I was unable to remove the SD card just using them. I had to use a clamp to remove it. Very stupid design. I may need to buy an eyebrow clamp that ladies use..:) Thats small enough for traveling.

I may post again once figured out how the device works.

Definitely suits my needs - good price-preformance ratio, lightweight (I travel a lot, weight matters!)
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Old January 20th, 2007, 11:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsolt Gordos
...I am confident once I will learn the right settings, the thingy will work fine. I say this because it came with a manual comparable in page count to my V1E manual...:)
Almost too much info in this manual. Most of us doing field work will never touch the 4-channel record capability, that is half the manual. The reason we won't is that 4-ch. allows you to record only one or two channels at a time, it's designed for musicians multi-tracking.
Quote:
...I tried to use my NTG2 and actually it worked, but the sound was weak - surely for me not being aware of how to adjust levels - that you can only do through the menu...
There are two places to adjust levels. First, go to the L/M/H switch on the right side of the H4 - probably this was not correctly set for your NTG2. Then, there is the levels menu to adjust for your content.
Quote:
...The built in mics are quite sensitive and for me gave good results in the first recording - the device is sensitive to touching though - you can hear scrubbing if you keep in your hand...
If you are hand-holding when using the internal mics you really can't adjust anything without it being heard in the recording. A small tabletop tripod is essential for using the internal mics.
Quote:
...One important thing. The card slot design is awkward...
EXTREMELY awkward. I've managed to change cards after some fiddling around, but having an eyebrow clamp (I think stateside we would call that a pair of tweezers) in the kit sounds like a good idea.

Last edited by Seth Bloombaum; January 20th, 2007 at 02:12 PM.
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Old January 20th, 2007, 01:00 PM   #13
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And More Feedback ...

I've had mine for two months and love it. So much flexibility in application. I see the H4 now offered (occasionally) below $300 and with shipping. I've found 2 gig sd cards at $17 that work just fine - even cheaper if bought from Hong Kong. As already mentioned, I don't see a need for the four chanels in my work, others might.

And I do like the mounting system for use on a camera tripod for narration/voice over work. Some have indicated a desire for a mike stand adapter but they can be easily created using a microphone holder which gives you the needed female 27 5/8" thread. Note: camera tripods are cheaper and lighter than mike stands.

I did make up a short, (18") cord and lav which allows slipping into groom's inside jacket pocket and clipping onto lapel. I would love to have as simple a solution for the bride.
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