Quality Audio with the Zoom H4n
Unlike other portable recorders in this price range (roughly $300), the H4n has “pro” features that most shooters/ audio techs need. It has two XLR inputs, can record four channels of audio, you can fully adjust bit rate, kHz, and sample rate, and has on- board level controls. Because of the XLR inputs you can run mics straight into the H4n, but it also works really well in conjunction with a mixer. The menu is easy to navigate, and the menu options are in an order that makes sense. For as complex as this device is, it is extremely simple to operate.
Even though most operators would choose to run mics through the XLR inputs, the device can pick up great sound with the on-board mics. The on-boards have a XY pattern that makes the H4n a great option for picking up ambient noise and room tone; but, in a controlled environment, they are directional enough to record solid dialogue.
I’ve recorded audio on both the Tascam DR-100 (tascam.com), and now the Zoom H4n. They are pretty comparable as far as features and functions. The Tascam is also about $30 more if you buy direct from manufacturer. The only major (really it’s a minor) difference is in the battery life. The H4n will run pretty much all day on a pair of fresh double-A’s; where as the Tascam will drain a pair pretty quickly (*note: the Tascam advises to NOT use rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries; the H$n runs great on them). But, it more or less comes down to personal preference. Personally, I find the H4n easier to navigate and troubleshoot.
Any way you look at it, the Zoom H4n is a solid solution to audio problems. Whether shooting on DSLRs, or just recording external audio, the unit will perform to professional standards. With pro features, great battery life, and at a $300 price tag, the H4n is one of the best investments you can make into your audio kit.