The Zoom H1 Voice Recorder for Interviews & Focus Groups
The Zoom H1 is a small and light, stereo voice recorder great for recording research interviews, focus groups and oral histories.
It can also produce excellent quality audio for podcasts and videos when combined with a shotgun or lavalier microphone.
In this post we look at the features of this very versatile voice recorder from the point of view of making voice recordings for academic research, journalistic work, market research, etc..
The Zoom H1 voice recorder comes with two unidirectional condenser microphones that are set at a 90-degree angle using the X/Y technique. This makes the recorder highly sensitive to sounds all around it and is the main reason why it delivers such good audio quality.
The flip side of course is that because the voice recorder picks up ambient sound so well, it can only be used in quiet environs, unless combined with an external microphone.
Pros: The microphones are highly sensitive.
Cons: When hand-held, the microphones captures handling noise.
Tip: An accessory pack that you can buy along with the voice recorder includes an adapter that can be screwed on as ‘handle’ to the voice recorder. Using this when moving the recorder can reduce handling noise considerably.
The low-cut filter in this voice recorder (easily activated by a switch) prevents wind noise from interfering with your recording, which is great for outdoor recordings. However, this is NOT sufficient for cutting out loud background noise.
When recording at a noisy location (like an interview at a pub) you would need to either place the voice recorder very close to the speaker or use a lavalier microphone (recommended).
If the wind is very high (like at the beach in the video) you would need to use a windscreen to protect the microphone.
A windscreen is included in the accessory pack that you can buy with the recorder.
Pros: Great for reducing wind noise or rumbling of cars driving past etc.
Cons: Doesn’t cut out loud background noise.
Tip: This voice recorder is very sensitive to sounds from all around it, so it’s great for recording interviews and focus groups.
But the high sensitivity also means that the recorder catches unwanted sounds like drumming on tables, books and documents being moved around, and noise from people passing the recorder around.
To remedy this, attach the voice recorder to a tripod and place it with the microphones facing towards the group.
The add-on accessory pack includes a small tripod that is quite handy, but it has plastic feet, so you might need to bolster it with some shock absorbing support like a fat book.
As with all voice recorders, the sound quality is best when the recorder is placed close to the participants. So keep your Zoom H1 as close to the speakers as possible. For larger groups (more than 5-6), consider combining the voice recorder with an external microphone.
The Zoom H1 is the one of the ‘tiniest’ voice recorders in the market (44(W) x 136(D) x 31(H)mm) and light enough to carry in your pocket or purse (2.1 oz without battery, 3 oz with it). Zoom actually calls it the ‘Handy Recorder’.
According to Zoom’s official website, the H1 requires just a single AA battery – either alkaline or rechargeable NiMH (source: www.zoom-na.com).
Zoom also says that battery life when using an alkaline battery is up to 10 hours, even during continuous recording. But users have reported that the battery drains quickly so you should carry spares.
Note: The voice recorder has a known flaw that causes it to drain the battery even while not in use. So remove batteries when not using it.
You also have the option of using an AC adapter that can be plugged into a wall socket. This adapter does not come in the box but is part of the accessory pack if you opt to buy it.
This voice recorder doesn’t come with any built-in memory. It records directly to microSD and microSDHC cards.
The recorder comes with a 2 GB MicroSD card that is expandable to 32 GB. It also has a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port that can be used to transfer data to and from the voice recorder.
Tip: The USB port allows you to use the recorder as a USB mic.
File Formats & Recording Time
WAV and MP3 are the two file formats in which the Zoom H1 records. WAV is an uncompressed format with better audio quality but heavier file size. MP3 is a compressed file format that takes up less storage but has a lower fidelity. The MP3 format is adequate for most recording purposes.
With just the 2 GB MicroSD card that comes with the voice recorder, you can record approximately 34 hours of audio in MP3 format (128 KBPS) and approximately 2 hours of audio in WAV format (24 bit).
The recording time decreases with heavier recording formats.
Note: The maximum file size is 2 GB.
The built-in speaker of the Zoom H1 is located at the back of the voice recorder. The sound quality of this speaker is nothing to write home about but then it’s just meant to be a reference speaker for monophonic monitoring of the recorded signal.
In the Box
The basic pack includes a 2GB microSD card, 1 x AA battery, Steinberg WaveLab LE software.
The accessory pack includes a windscreen, and AC adapter (USB type) and USB cable, Adjustable tripod stand, Padded-shell case, and a Mic clip adapter.
The quality of the most of the items in the pack is not great, but for $25 it’s not a bad deal.
Overall Pros & Cons
- Lightweight and small
- Highly sensitive microphones
- Memory expandable to 32 GB via MicroSD and MicroSDHC card
- User friendly and easy to setup
- Low cut filter
- Very reasonably priced
- Plastic body that is not very sturdy (fragile MicroSD card slot door)
- Requires an external microphone to cut out loud background noise.
- No internal memory
- No ‘skip to next file’ button, only fast forward or rewind.
- Battery drains quickly (even when not in use)
- Quality of accessory pack can be improved
Overall the Zoom H1 voice recorder is an excellent device in this price range.