Zoom H review: Zoom H

Zoom may skimp when it comes to recording software, but a surprising amount of accessories come bundled with the H2, including a microphone windscreen, a tabletop stand, a microphone mount, earbuds, an RCA line-input cable, an AC adapter, and a 512MB SD card. By contrast, Sony's microphone windscreen for the PCM-D50 runs an extra $50.

Zoom H2
The Zoom H2 has front and rear microphones, which can be used simultaneously to create surround-sound recordings.

Performance
We're happy to see that the Zoom H2 is capable of a wide range of recording resolutions, including 48Kbps to 320Kbps MP3 and 44kHz, 48kHz, or 96kHz WAV recordings at 16 bits or 24 bits. Unfortunately, whether it's the fault of the Zoom H2's microphone quality or its built-in preamp, most of the recordings we made at various settings couldn't hold up to the detail and stereo imaging we got from the competition. The automatic gain control feature, which made recording on the Edirol R-09 dead-simple, required some unintuitive finessing to achieve a clean recording on the H2.

Our biggest pet peeve with the Zoom H2, however, is the 27 seconds it takes to start up. Maybe our short attention spans have got the better of us, but when it comes to quickly capturing an interview or a performance, 27 seconds can really kill the spontaneity.

The Zoom H2 supports SDHC storage cards as large as 16GB, although it can make continuous recordings only in 2GB chunks. Depending on how you have the Zoom H2 set up, a continuous 2GB recording translates to 23 hours of 192Kbps MP3, or 3 hours of 16-bit/44kHz WAV. Powered by a pair of AA batteries, Zoom rates the H2 at four hours of continuous operation. Like most portable audio recorders, however, expect that the H2's battery performance will vary depending on the recording resolution you've selected.

Final thoughts
Despite our disappointment with the Zoom H2's cheap construction and microphone fidelity, at $199 the H2 is an excellent value and an ideal choice for general-purpose recording. If you're looking for a durable mobile recorder with knock-out sound quality, however, you'll need to spend some extra money on the competition.

What you'll pay

    Pricing is currently unavailable.

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