Zoom H1 - Close to Perfect
I was one of the lucky ones. I pre-ordered the new Zoom H1 on July 20, 2010, about a month before the item was released, so I was fairly high on the list when it was finally released. I also own the Zoom H4n, so I know that Zoom is certainly able to pack lots of high quality audio into a very compact package. I was looking for a high quality recorder in a smaller package than the H4n, so the H1 looked like the perfect solution. I am not disappointed; and considering its size and the price, I don't think there is a better compact recorder on the market at this time. I give the H1 4.5 stars because it does have some drawbacks; however none of them is a showstopper.
When I received my H1, the first thing I noticed was that it had a little bit of a chintzy build quality. When I installed the battery, the battery cover door fits a little loose. This can be problematic during recording at loud volumes or while handling the H1 because the rattling battery cover door can make its way into your recordings. I solved this problem by applying a small piece of adhesive backed foam to the battery door cover. The threaded tripod holder hole is all plastic. I was hoping for a threaded metal insert to prevent stripping of the threads. Just be careful when screwing anything into this 1/4 - 20 hole to avoid cross-threading, and you should be fine Also, don’t tighten anything in this hole too tight.
My H1 weighs in at a mere 2.3 ounces (without battery), which is great because the unit is supposed to be small and lightweight. My first impression of a cheap build quality was reinforced by its very light weight; however, I'm not taking any points off for the light weight. If anything, it may even be a plus.
The Zoom H1 ships with a 2 GB micro SB card. This gives you a respectable 3 hours and 10 minutes recording time in the WAV mode; and a whopping 35 hours of record time in the MP3 mode. Congratulations to Zoom for not shipping the H1 with a token 64 MB card (or smaller) forcing users to purchase a new higher capacity micro SB card for any serious recording. I popped in a Kingston 4 GB micro SD card that I had lying around and I now have more recording capacity than I will likely ever need from this unit.
The sound quality of the H1 is excellent, and it rivals the sound quality of my H4n. So far I have only recorded voice, but it is my intent to record some of my Hammond B-3 playing to see how the stereo mics handle the spatial effects of my Leslie speaker. The input seems a little weak, but it is better than having over-driven microphones. With the auto audio level on, this unit should handle very high sound pressure levels (SPL) making it an excellent choice to take to your next band rehearsal for some practice recordings. With the auto level switch turned off, I find that an input level of 75 to 80 works best for voice. The input can be adjusted from 1- 100 so my ideal input level of 75 to 80 seemed a bit high given the overall scale, but again, not a showstopper. I have every reason to believe that this unit will handle high SPLs without distorting, but a little time with my B-3, and later the band, will be the true test.
The one thing that I really like about this unit is that it is very easy to use. Most of the functions are available with switches or buttons on the side or the back of the unit. There is no need to plow through multiple menu levels like I must do with my Zoom H4n. This makes the H1 ideal for spur of the moment recordings, like that song at your band rehearsal that you just can't seem to master. With the H1, you can take that song home with you and practice it a thousand times until you get it just right. The placement of the single record button on the front of the unit is perfect. This button will start and stop your recordings and there are no other buttons in the area that you can accidentally hit which make this unit ideal for impromptu recordings. This simplicity makes the H1 ideal unit for a news reporter. The screen on the H1 shows exactly the amount of information you will need.
The H1 plugs right into a USB port and I had no problems with my 64 bit Windows 7 computer recognizing the H1 and quickly giving me access to my recorded files just like it were a flash drive. It is so quick and easy to use with the USB drive, that I will rarely need to remove the micro SD card. One little quirk is that the Zoom H1 must be powered down for the computer to recognize it. This is a minor annoyance, but I wish that Zoom had allowed the H1 to be connected to USB port while powered on. There may be a technical reason for designing the H1 this way, but as I said, this is only a minor factor.
I have not tried any external microphone with this unit because I do not have any microphones with a 3.5 mm phone jack. However, the built-in microphones on the H1 are excellent and I doubt if there are many microphones with the smaller phone jack that are as good as the built-in H1 microphones. I do have an XLR – 3.5 mm phone jack adapter so I may try one of my XLR plug microphones through this unit someday.
I have no qualms with the fact that the Zoom H1 produces only WAV and MP3 files. I have an Olympus recorder that records in WMA files, which is nice, but some audio editing programs (i.e. Audacity for one) do not work with WMA files because they have not paid a fortune to Microsoft for licensing agreements. If the Zoom H1 produced WMA files, I'm sure the price of the H1 would be $200 instead of $99.
In short, the Zoom H1 is as close to a perfect recording device that I can imagine. Your needs may be different than mine, but for the price, the features, the recording quality, the size, and the simplicity of use, this is an ideal little unit, and perfect for my needs. Zoom has certainly hit a home-run with this unit and I can fully understand why Zoom is having a difficult time meeting the demand.
I ordered the H1 from Sweetwater and received the usual superb service - very much like the Zoom H1.