A few weeks ago, we here at PAL did a feature on portable recorders. We had a few from various brands such as Sony and Line 6, but one of the best bang for your buck recorders was undoubtedly the H2N by Zoom. At only $200, the H2N packed plenty of features inside a package no bigger than a standard condenser mic. Well, for those of you who were on the fence about which pocketable product was right for you, maybe a rebate will help you make up your mind?
From April 1st until June 30th, PAL will be introducing a special deal on two of the most popular portable recorders on the market, the previously mentioned H2N Handy Recorder as well as its bigger more capable brother, the H4N Handy Recorder. Those that pickup the H2N will be eligible for a $20 mail-in rebate while those leaning more towards the H4N will be able to take advantage of a $30 rebate. Still not sure which one is right for you? Read on as we compare the two side by side and give you a better idea of what both can bring to the table.
Simply put, the H2N is about $100 cheaper than the H4N ($179.99 and $269.99 respectively, after rebate). If there had to be a winner, well, clearly, less means more in this case, but if we’re speaking in terms of what you get for the price, read on because the choice isn’t as clear cut as the cheaper option.
The Audio Quality
First of all, don’t think that the H2N is a slouch by any means because of its smaller price tag. The recorder actually features the same quality sound as the H4N, a superb 24-bit/96kHz and MP3 up to 320kbps, meaning CD quality on the go, although you can adjust as you want. Both use WAV and MP3 formats, so not much difference there either. So why bother getting the H4N, right? It’s all about options and versatility, but more on that in a second. When it comes to pure audio quality, it’s essentially a tie.
Although they are both portable recorders, these aren’t actually made for the pocket. Unless you either wear baggy pants or cargo shorts, a backpack or gig bag is a much better home for the two. Coming in at 1.38 x 2.87 × 6.15 inches (HWD), the H4N is certainly the bigger of the two, but not by much, although it definitely feels a bit heftier than the H2N. Either way, both are still exceptionally compact for the amount of features thrown in.
Comparatively, the mechanical design of the H4N trumps the H2N easily simply for the fact that most of the body of the H4N is used for buttons and connections for extra features such as XLR mic inputs, as well as others, and while the H2N certainly has its fair share of connections, most of the body is the mic itself, and with a display taking up the rest of the front end, that leaves enough room for only three buttons which you’ll have to use to do everything. Although all it takes is some getting used to, the H4N’s design feels a lot more thought out and user friendly than the H2N’s comparatively light button scheme. The lack of more buttons on the H2N is definitely not a game killer, but between the two, the H4N wins simply because it’s easier to use from the start.
Here is where things get interesting and you begin to see where that extra $100 will take you. Although both feature great mics, outstanding audio quality and musician friendly applications such as a tuner and metronome, the H4N easily trumps the H2N in terms of on the go manipulation and customization. Features such as Auto Record Level works great on the H4N in keeping gain in control throughout your recording, making sure there is never an overload in signal which will keep your project free of noise and feedback. Although both recorders do have manual gain control, using the automatic feature means one less thing to worry about.
There are also two XLR mic connections on the H4N compared to the H2N’s one, and those indie film makers looking for a comparatively cheap way to record outstanding sound can make great use of the H4N’s up to four mics (two built in, two via XLR) and DSLR video options, meaning connect it to a DSLR capable camera (as are most nowadays) and you have yourself a very capable movie camera! You can also use widely available video editing programs such Final Cut or Plural Eyes to easily sync the audio with the film. Although the H2N can also be used to this affect with a little creativity, the H4N just does it seamlessly and therefore, better. The winner here is easily the H4N.
Those looking for a slew of extras without having to spend more will be pleased to know that both come with an SD card, audio editing software as well as a USB cable and AC adaptor, although the H4N does come with a few other extras such as its own case, a windscreen and a mic clip (you can purchase an extra accessories package at about $40 for the H2N that comes with a case, tripod stand, windscreen, mic clip as well a USB AC adaptor and remote control). If you’re just comparing with what comes shipped with the box, the H4N buyers will be receiving a bit more for their pricier purchase.
The Right Choice Depends on the Person
Alright, so now that you know a little more about the differences, the right choice definitely depends on what you want out of a portable recorder. As far as recording goes, they both get the job done exceptionally well with superb audio quality and sound control, with not much difference except for a few extra effects on the H4N. Essentially, If you’re looking for a great portable record for under $200 that gets the main job done and gets it done very well, the H2N is definitely a great choice, but if you’re the kind that needs it all with as many options as possible, at less than $300 you’re likely not to find a deal as great as the H4N. Either way, both the H2N and H4N Handy Recorder’s are great buys, and considering those looking to purchase either one between April 1st and June 30th will receive a main-in rebate, now is as good a time as any!
For more information on the rebate, hit this link!