Update (4/19/2009): CNET now has a full review of the Zoom H4n.
I know it's a little out of my realm of expertise, but I have a bit of a fixation with high-end portable audio recorders. Maybe it's a leftover from my glory days playing in garage bands, but the elusive dream of having one pocket-size gadget for making awesome live recordings still gets my blood racing.
My current mobile recording faves, the Edirol R-09HR and Sony PCM-D50, do an outstanding job capturing pristine, high-resolution audio--but they're not cheap, and there are some things they just can't do. If you're on a budget, Zoom's tried and true H2 and H4 mobile recorders have been a staple for many cash-strapped musicians, podcasters, and journalists. Unfortunately, despite Zoom's low price and extensive features, its H2 and H4 recorders haven't been given much of an update since they appeared on the scene in 2006.
Well, it looks like 2009 may be Zoom's comeback year, as it has announced plans to reveal its new H4n recorder at CES 2009. The Zoom H4n takes many of the features included on the original Zoom H4 (stereo mics, XLR/TRS mic inputs, variable-recording patterns, and a slew of recording formats and resolutions), but the design has been overhauled with a larger screen, improved button arrangement, a shock-absorbing rubberized body, and an all-metal microphone design.
The Zoom H4n records to SD and SDHC Flash media (up to 32GB) and captures audio resolutions up to 24 bit at 96KHz. Unlike the competition, the Zoom H4n includes many musician-friendly features, such as 50 virtual guitar-amp model effects, track markers, playback speed control, and studio effects.
The single coolest feature on the H4n (in my skewed opinion) is the ability to simultaneously record up to four channels by combining the internal microphones and external inputs. This is a feature I wanted dearly on the original Zoom H2, allowing you to capture the live sound of a performance and the clean sound from a mixing board as four independent tracks all in one shot. Brilliant!
No word on pricing or availability, but Zoom has historically kept its portable recorders in the $200 to $300 range. (Update: Pricing on the Zoom H4n is expected to be $500 MSRP, with an expected street price around $349.)