Choice for audio recorders

John Kroll is the news impact editor at The Plain Dealer ( in Cleveland, Ohio, and he was kind enough to allow me to share his opinion about the Zoom H2 recorder, which I’ve been dying to try out (but I have no money for these right now).

Zoom H2 audio recorder

“The H2s are working fine for us. We compared them to the new Edirols, and the sound quality seemed roughly equal, but the H2s are half the price, come with more useful equipment (handle, mini-tripod, etc.) and were much easier for our more technophobic reporters to master. For most uses, we’re going to use the built-in mikes rather than externals (cost saving, among other things), and we’re hoping to shift most of our in-house recording to a modest studio we’ve set up with real podcasting mikes, using the H2s only for stuff outside the office.

“My only concern about the H2s would be the limited battery life. We’re considering rechargeables, but our photo/video folks say their experience is that rechargeables die too fast in electronics, so they’ve gone back to alkaline. Our budget manager winces at that.

“For us, this is an upgrade from the Olympus WS-100s we’d bought in bulk over the last two years — which are quite good considering we paid as little as $40 per, but had too many drawbacks when we became more ambitious with our audio.”

Source: Personal e-mail from John Kroll, Jan. 23, 2008. Quoted with his permission.

Review: Of the Zoom H2, at O’Reilly Digital Media, authored by a musician (he likes it).

Buy: From Amazon – Zoom H2 (Disclaimer: I will get a cut if you buy one using this link!)

I have to agree with the Cleveland photojournalists about alkaline batteries — you want to have spares in your pocket. A rechargeable battery is a bad thing for a journalist. It won’t be charged up when you need it the most.

Update (Jan. 26): There’s a good discussion about these recorders going on at Wired Journalists.

28 Comments on “Choice for audio recorders

  1. Hi mindy:
    there is a new audio recorder in the block, made by the legendary brand of audio gear, Tascam. It´s the DR-1, with same price as the zoom h2: $299.

  2. We can get the H2 for $199 in the U.S. (Amazon) … any reviews of the DR-1 yet?

  3. mindy-
    I replied to your e-mail regarding this post. don’t know if you got it. awaiting your response.

  4. Hi Mindy:

    I have an H2 as well as the Edirol R-09 but really like my Marantz PMD620. I think they all function and sound about the same. The H2 definitely has the price advantage though.

    We use an external mike whenever possible because unless you’re in a quiet room you’re going to get a lot of ambient sound using just the built-in mike. I recommend a Heil PR-20.

    I completely disagree about rechargeable batteries. I get much better battery life from rechargeables (I use Energizer 2500 mAh AA’s. I bought about 12 of them and keep them charged every night. I bought these 2 years ago and have never bought batteries since. It goes without saying that you should have spares on hand.

    I’ve got about 200 days of travel doing online journalism last year alone to rely on!

    Keep up the good work and go Gators! I graduated in ’80 BSBR (at the time).

  5. Pingback: AgWired » Blog Archives » Another Farm Podcaster Recorder

  6. I use the zoom H2 for interviews in the field, for recording street musicians, and for recording public meetings. I also use it to record my radio show–I take an 1/8 line out from the board, sset levels, and go. It’s great–it can record from the front and/or the back (in stereo), can record in many flavors of .wav or .mp3, as well as to time-stamped broadcast wav file, which is helpful for syncing with video. There is also an AGC, or automatic gain control feature to help prevent clipping, which is the bane of audio production. highly recommended.
    As for the rechargeable thing, well, get a battery charger for your car, and keep a bunch of charged batteries in your bag.

  7. We bought the H2 for our editorial staff some weeks ago, and I love it to pieces. Before getting the H2, we used old-fashioned Minidisc recorders with Beta 58 or shotgun microphones, which was always a pain in the butt to transfer to our workstations.

    As far as batteries are concerned, we use Eneloops (with one or two backup sets always with the reporter), and haven’t had any troubles yet.

  8. Got to say I heartily disagree with the battery recommendation, simply from an environmental perspective. Have some backup rechargeables on hand, as Chuck said.

  9. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » Teach audio in your newsroom or classroom (here’s how)

  10. Thanks for linking to the review. I’ve been looking for a new portable recorder to take in the field. The H2 is high on my list now.

    I have to agree with previous posters about the battery issue, though. Low battery life may have been true a couple of years ago, but I take an Olympus Camedia out with me to get extra still shots and I only use rechargeables (from B&H, “Power 2000 Digital”). I’ve never had a problem; I just charge overnight and take spares. Cuts down tremendously on costs!

    Thanks for all the helpful info!

  11. An update on The Plain Dealer’s experience with the Zoom H2:

    We’re getting solid recordings in the field. In relatively quiet environments, even when the sound levels are low we can boost them in editing without too much background noise. And they’re far outperforming our Olympus WS-100s at recording speeches, even when we just hold them up and point them at the stage.

    We have found that the rear mics aren’t as sensitive as the front mics; when we record an across-the-table conversation, we can’t simply put the recorder halfway in between, but have to cheat toward the subject (because the reporter feels safest having the display point at him/her).

    Our older reporters have some problems with the small display. And there are a few minor controls issues that can trip people up before they get used to them — even something as simple as clicking twice to start recording, not just once.

    But I’ve just listened to the first batch of recordings from a class that’s gone through our new syllabus, and all but a couple could be easily edited into post-worthy shape.

    We liked the Edirol quality, and would have tested the Marantz if we’d been able to find one in stock when we were doing our tryout. But at $199, we can afford a lot more H2s. And now that we’ve got our training in shape, we’ve got a lot of journalists very eager to grab one and go.

  12. I was just wondering how people found handling noise our how they have dealt with it in field recordings?

    I know the Zoom 4 has a lot of handling noise and others have recommended the Edirol 09 above Zoom.

    Is the bonus of additional internal mics enough to recommend the Zoom H2 over Edirol 09?

    Just weighing up options before a purchase at the moment. I’m recording interviews in various locations and sound for video also.

  13. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » The reporter’s audio gear list

  14. Mindy,
    I’m a student at the University of Oregon and 200 dollars for a recorder pretty much ruins my day. Any chance I could square away a recording setup for less than 100 dollars?

  15. You can buy an Olympus WS model for about $70, but you’ll need an external mic too. The built-in mic is not good enough. You can get certain Nady mics for as little as $15. Then you will also need a cable with a mini jack ($9) or an adapter ($3). So you can put a kit together for about $100.

  16. I know $200 can be tough for a student, but if you put it in perspective $200 is a bargain for a recording device of its quality.

    When I started out in the 1960’s I used a Uher Report 4000. Since then I have owned a Nagra, a couple of Teac decks, some Sony’s and a Revox or two. Without exception these machines cost at least ten times the price of the H2. And a dollar was a little harder to come by. At any given time my recording equipment generally exceeded the value of my car. Every microphone I ever bought cost more than the H2.

    The H2 is the only recorder I have now and I love it.

  17. Is anyone using the Zoom H4 recorder or do you hae a better suggestion? I want to be able to connect a mic if I want.

    ALso, I recently did some recording over Skype with Call Recorder. I recorded video of myself in Florida and my a professor in Lubin, Poland. See the link:

    Here is a recording I did also over Skype with Call Recorder. I was in Florida and interview someone in Rome talking on their cell phone about his visit with the Pope! Tell me what you think of the quality! See here –


  18. Hello,

    I’m a BBC Radio producer and have tested most of the products mentioned and even recorded BBC documentaries on the Edirol.

    The best little machine though is the Marantz … it oozes quality. I’m not a big fan of the H2 but its adequate for most things.

    The audio for this sideshow was recorded on the Marantz


  19. @Benjamin – Hey, I like the multimedia on your site!

    The Marantz yields excellent quality, I’m told, but it’s large, heavy, and VERY expensive, yes?

  20. Thanks Mindy,

    for some reason my responses seem to disappear into the ether … there is a new very small Marantz which is excellent quality and has a great inbuilt microphone.

    Your blog is a great resource and I have added it to our links


  21. @Benjamin – Sorry about that. It’s because your domain is a .info. Most sites at .info are spam, so I have an automatic-spam-alert on them.

  22. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » A few words about digital audio recorders

  23. I’m an old fashioned print journalist, based in London. And I’m looking to buy a portable hand-held digi-recorder with internal mikes that won’t let me down in ANY circumstances, particularly for covering seminars and conferences. And I mean not only the speakers and presenters at the front, but also any contributions from the floor.

    My old Olympus digi-recorder has struggled on occasion in such circumstances. A couple of speeches at a recent event I covered, when I listened back after to transcribe them, were so badly captured that they were practically useless. Yet at the event, I had placed myself close to the presenters’ lectern, and close to the PA speakers.

    So I’m looking for something new, and was thinking of the Zoom H2

    But I would welcome any recommendations based on journalists’ experiences with any machines?

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