More audio recording musings…. Samson Zoom H4 Handy Recorder

So, I mentioned a few weeks back that I was really starting to look again at audio equipment. I have a planned project that I would really like to capture high quality direct to digital audio for and the old tascam portastudio cassette based system from years ago just won’t suit get what I hope for. (And setting up a stereo mic pattern and the tascam as a mixer and a laptop isn’t really something I WANT to have to go through – field recorder is the goal and it would suit a few other purposes as well.) I wouldn’t mind having multitrack capabilities and for all purposes I’ve looked at the Boss BR-600 the last few weeks and thought I had found a suitable device…. 8 tracks, built in condenser mics to make it easy to setup and capture on the spot. And compactflash based (I was hoping for something nice and quiet like a flash/memory card based recorder.) But, there are some things about the Boss that have discouraged me….

Yes, the $399 price may be one, but I notice that it doesn’t come with an ac adapter (yes you’re ready to record the minute you get it because they give you batteries. They also give you an XLR to 1/4 adapter (already got two due to the old tascam portastudio….. thanks….) But they won’t include an AC adapter. (Sorry, that just strikes me as cheap when you’re considering putting down $400 for something.)

There are other things too, first is that it looks like it may be finicky about compatible compactflash cards (there’s a document up on their site listing compatible cards – looks to be compactflash 1 and high speed typically.) Also, there IS a rub about “being compatible with the world” as the video I saw claims. Yes it can give you audio in WAV format, BUT…. you have to export it from Roland’s proprietary format. AND you have to have enough room on the card to do so…. hmmmm… so if I get a 1GB card that would (in theory) hold around say 100 minutes of cd quality audio…. then I could really only fill HALF of the card before running out of the headroom space to export it to WAV format. That’s a bit annoying. (It is suggested to expect that it will take as long to export the audio to WAV as it did to record it…. ouch.) OK – well, let’s see, the other things that gave me pause…. tracks 5/6 are joined stereo no matter what and so are 7/8 (and if I recall correctly they are dedicated for mastering. (So you need to keep them open for mixing if I understand correctly… of course, yes you can mix and bounce tracks and free up others, but…. it doesn’t sound quite as impressive as “8 track digital recorder” did at first.)

No, I haven’t actually got one to play with, but I’ve been reading the manual – yes I research the daylights out of things that I consider buying. That’s one reason the internet is useful to me. If I’m going to put that much $$ towards something, I want to make as sure as reasonably possible that I want hate the day I saw the product advertised. That much said the Boss BR-600 is not the device that I think I’ll settle on.

I’ve spent a lot of time today reading about the Samson Zoom H4 Handy Recorder. As best as I can tell it’s not out until the first bit of October…. but… it looks like it may fit the bill for me. Stereo condensor mics (in a nice xy pattern.) here’s their product page…. It uses SD (Secure Digital) media up to 2GB currently (possible firmware updates for greater capacity cards – doesn’t seem to have too many picky preferences (no data on “supported cards”). In addition to the field record stereo capture mode, it can act as a 4 track recorder and can either record from the built in stereo mic setup, or one of two combination XLR/quarter inch hookups…. (WITH phantom power…) Supposedly 4 hours battery life recording (I guess from the built in condensors) OFF 2 AA batteries…. (I think I’d plugin to AC for phantom powering an external condenser – just a hunch….)

Anyway, it does all this, records directly to WAV format – the multitrack feature lets you capture 4 tracks (4 mono/or 2 stereo pairs, or 1 stereo pair, 2 mono….) Then you can mix all four tracks to a stereo file that can be reloaded onto another 2 out of four tracks, etc…. there are some built in effects, it doesn’t strike me as impressive as the Boss Br600 effects array (that even had built in drum machine…) But, it does have a tuner/metronome built in too.

The capture quality can go as high as 24bit/96khz, (for the stereo recording mode) You’ll have to settle for 16bit/44.1khz if you multitrack… You can also use it as a usb audio device (or usb mass storage for retrieving your files.) It comes with a limited edition of cubase. Let’s see… it can also capture direct to mp3.

The biggest drawbacks I see are twofold…. I haven’t seen ONE firsthand review of this yet… just promotional information from Samson. I’d LOVE to hear how those built in microphones sound (mic modeling is available too by the way..) The second concern is doing most EVERYTHING through that little display. But… it comes with a tripod adapter (not the tripod, just an adapter…), an AC adapter and sells for $299 (a hundred less than the BR600) For me the direct XLR inputs is a plus, but the true XY stereo configuration is nice as well. The biggest plus as I think about it is the lack of a need for time consuming convert to WAV. I think if I felt I could postpone my project for a year, that there would be an even better device just around the corner next year, but time marches on….

So, has ANYONE got one of these and done a review yet? I haven’t even seen any promotional press first hand reviews as of yet. That’s currently the MAIN thing that has me waiting for it’s actual release.

I didn’t mean to “rip” the br600 like it seems like I did, but the more I look at it the less I see it suiting what I’m hoping to use it for.

I’ll leave this one open for comments (just in case) anyone has had any first hand experience with this one….Samson Zoom H4 Handy Recorder… anyone…??

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