Best Portable Multitrack Recorder for Musicians | Zoom H4n Pro

best portable multitrack recorder for musicians - zoom h4n pro

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Zoom H4n Pro Handy Recorder

9

Sound Quality

9.0/10

Build Quality

9.0/10

Design

8.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Support

9.0/10

Pros

  • High-quality preamp
  • +24V/+48V phantom power
  • 140 dB SPL
  • Built-in effects
  • Built-in speaker

Cons

  • Navigation isn't the easiest
  • Booting times are slow

Would you believe me if I told you that you could fit an entire recording studio in the palm of your hands? When I found out about the Zoom H4n Pro Handy Recorder, I was amazed by its versatility.

This field recorder is deceiving (in the best of ways) because it’s so much more than that. It doubles as an audio interface and triples as a fully functional mobile studio. I guarantee that the Zoom H4n Pro will give you much more freedom than your typical audio interface and more versatility than any other field recorder.

Some major improvements on the Zoom H4n Pro

The upgraded 2016 Zoom H4n Pro Handy Recorder has benefited from a couple of improvements from the previous model. It now features locking XLR inputs, higher SPL (up to 140 dB), the same preamp as the Zoom H5/H6 (better signal-to-noise-ratio), integrated effects and amp modelling.

Zoom H4n Pro 4-Track Portable Recorder, Stereo Microphones, 2 XLR/ ¼“ Combo Inputs, Guitar Inputs, Battery Powered, for Stereo/Multitrack Recording of Music, Audio for Video, and Podcasting

For a portable device, locking XLR inputs are a must to avoid any disconnecting cables during recording and higher SPL means you can record louder sounds (live concerts) for examples without any distortion.

Having higher-quality preamps with better signal-to-noise ratio essentially results in more headroom.

All electronic devices produce some level of noise, but the lower that ratio is, the more clarity you can obtain from quieter sounds (more flexibility while mixing/mastering).

However, not all electronic devices have a full suite of amp models and effects which is why the H4n Pro is truly unique.

You’ll have a variety of guitar, bass and vocal signal processors to choose from and the ability to create your own (more on this later).

The H4n Pro doubles as an audio interface

Being a minimalist, I appreciate the idea of having one device serve multiple purposes as this allows me to do more with less clutter. As advertised, the H4n Pro can also be used as a 2-in/2-out USB audio interface.

Zoom includes a fully licensed version of Cubase LE 9.5/Wavelab LE 9.5 which will actually save you an expense if you don’t already own a DAW.

This device is truly an all-in-one solution, especially for beginners and/or students wishing to get the most value.

That being said, I don’t believe the H4n actually replaces a dedicated audio interface.

I personally still use this device as my main interface without any issues (at the time of writing), but you may eventually want to consider a Thunderbolt audio interface.

In essence, the H4n Pro functions as a BASIC audio interface which is what most of us need.

Recording studio in the palm of your hand

Have you ever heard of a field recorder that included a full suite of amp models and effects? The Zoom H4n Pro includes 50 presets of complete guitar, bass and vocal signal chains along with 10 user-assignable slots for your own custom creations.

You can use this powerful feature to practice anywhere, to record straight into your DAW or you can even create entire projects using Multi-Track Mode (MTR).

Editing on the H4n has its limitations, but will allow you to capture the essence of an idea for further manipulation on your computer.

The H4n’s interface isn’t the easiest to navigate, so it will take some getting used to, but you will realize that it has everything you could possibly need including a chromatic tuner and a metronome.

The amp modelling module includes emulation of Fender amps, Marshall amps, Hi-Watt amps, Ampeg amps and more ranging from clean to high-gain.

All the effects you could possibly need are included as well such as compression/limiting, low-cut filtering, modulation, reverb/delay and emulation of classic stompboxes such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer.

Is the Zoom H4n Pro worth the price?

If you wanted to use the H4n Pro outdoors, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you were planning on using an external microphone. The integrated microphones are much too sensitive for field recording (even with a windscreen).

Zoom H4n Pro 4-Track Portable Recorder, Stereo Microphones, 2 XLR/ ¼“ Combo Inputs, Guitar Inputs, Battery Powered, for Stereo/Multitrack Recording of Music, Audio for Video, and Podcasting

However, it’s excellent for… Concerts, rehearsals and as an all-in-one solution for your home recording studio.

Pros

  • Doubles as a USB audio interface
  • Mobile recording studio (MTR Mode)
  • A suite of amp models and effects
  • Locking XLR connectors
  • Excellent preamp with a noise floor of -120 dBu EIN
  • Comes with Cubase LE 9.5/Wavelab LE 9.5

Cons

  • Does not support line inputs (Mixer/DJ)
  • Booting could be faster
  • Navigation is difficult

Make the most of your H4n Pro

As impressive as the Zoom H4n Pro is, certain aspects of its conception are far from perfect, but this is a compromise for versatility. You may actually feel overwhelmed with the number of features loaded onto this device and there is definitely a learning curve.

I personally found that tracking guitar/bass using the amp models did not produce much as much feedback as using a software amp modeller, but I feel like it would not hurt to purchase a DI box as well for line inputs.

This extra piece of hardware will actually solve the H4n Pro’s inability to support line-level inputs from mixers/DJs.

As far as value goes, you can’t go wrong with the H4n Pro especially if you are trying to get started with very little capital.

As long as you’ve got a computer, the included Cubase LE 9.5 will give you an excellent DAW to work with as well as a basic audio interface.

Zoom H4n Pro:

The Zoom H4n Pro doesn’t include an SD card. Here’s the one I personally use:

I hope you’ve found this product review helpful. Don’t forget to leave a comment and share this post with your friends and colleagues. If you ever need any assistance, feel free to reach out. Thanks for reading!

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10 Responses

  1. Hi Stefan, thank you very much for this good review. I think the recorder is a very important tool especially in the world of recording, music and entertainment. And based on your review, I feel this product is an innovative product because it is handy and can be carried anywhere. However, to be honest I do not really understand the world related to sound systems or audio. And based on your writing, made me study further.

    Apart from that, I personally also have a YouTube channel and use recording devices via mobile phones, but sometimes the results I get are not so good. Therefore, if I use this product, will the results be better? Do I need to buy additional tools also outside of this, to make the sound produced better?

    Also, my brother alsolikes to perform with his band from cafe to cafe as a guitarist, can he also use this product?

    Sorry for the stupid questions. But, I hope you can explain to me further. Thanks

    1. Hey Kylie!

      The H4n Pro is great for YouTubers as it will allow you to get professional sounding audio wherever you go. This is especially true for videos that take place outside and/or in unpredictable situations. It can even be connected to a video camera!

      That being said, the integrated microphone is also quite sensitive. This can be a good or a bad thing, but when recording outdoors, I usually pair it with my AKG Perception P5S. It’s rather inexpensive, but it will really truly increase the versatility of your portable setup.

      As for your brother, the H4n Pro is great for capturing live recordings. I used to record my gigs all the time when performing back in the day. Bands love this device as it allows two additional microphones to be connected in addition to the built-in microphone. Not bad for such a small portable device!

      Great questions, I hope I provided you with adequate answers!

      – Stefan

  2. Thank you for your post. it is useful for me. My business needs podcast and I need to record my program all the time. I travel a lot and sometimes I have to make recording on the field.

    Here comes your article, which is a mobile and ideal for my situation. I particularly like the build-in features, which are convenient for me.

    I see the price of this equipment is more than $200, which is too high for my budget. Do you have recommendation for one with price below $150?

    It is kind of you sharing this useful information with us. 

    1. Hey Anthony!

      I do have another product to recommend. Zoom does have an affordable alternative, but it isn’t as versatile as the Tascam DR-05X. This one can still function as an audio interface and has 2 inputs just like the H4n Pro. It’s well under 150$, so it might be exactly what you’re looking for!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  3. Thank you for your honest review of the Zoom H4n Pro. I am looking for an all-in-one handheld recording studio and a friend mentioned that I do some research on this product. I love the fact that it offers so much and that it can also be an audio interface.

    I am happy I read your review first because you mention its limitations, especially that the integrated microphones are too sensitive for outdoors, even with a windscreen. I was thinking of recording my nephew’s marching band. I guess I’ll need another external mic. Bummer.

    But I still feel this is what I really need for indoor recording and podcasting. I will be doing some phone interviews in the coming months using my iPhone. Do you know if there is a way to directly plug in my iPhone to the Zoom H4n Pro so that it can record my phone interview on the fly?

    1. Hey Robert!

      As long as the sound source is loud enough (and it’s not too windy), recording outdoors shouldn’t require an additional microphone. It simply becomes a problem when recording quiet sounds like leaves rustling, birds chirping, water streams, etc… In those cases, I’ll connect a dynamic microphone to get maximum isolation.

      As for your interviews, the only way to connect it to an iDevice would be using Apple’s Camera Connection Kit. However, I’ve been hearing that this method doesn’t work with the H4n Pro. 

      If you’re shooting video with your iPhone, I suggest simply recording with both devices independently and then synchronizing the audio during editing. Connecting the H4n Pro to a DSLR camera, however, is fairly simple. This is the combination most interviewers will generally use.

      If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

      – Stefan 

  4. As a song writer, a singer and someone who aspires to become a music producer and a superstar 😉, I feel that I have found something amazing and an all in one solution to get started with for what I love to do. I love the Zoom H4n Pro. The features are lovely and I feel will work really well for me.

    Regards!

    1. Hey MrBiizy!

      Having a multitrack recorder on-the-go really helps in capturing ideas. It’s great because you’ll be able to take those ideas when you get home and refine them even more!

      If you plan on using the H4n Pro for vocals, I recommend pairing it with a dynamic microphone. The built-in microphones are great for capturing entire performances (and even single instruments), but you’ll get “cleaner” results with one of those.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  5. Hi Stefan,

    Excellent review, I found it useful!

    My daughter sings, and she also writes songs, and now she wants to record her music. So I looked on the net, and that’s how I found your website. I also need to do some podcasts for my online business, and I thought I would use it too:).

    I find it a bit expensive, though, but as the proverb says, you get what you pay for:) It must be of high quality. Is there a video of you or someone else demonstrating how to use it?

    I do have another question if you don’t mind. Is it ok for someone who starts podcasting? Like me:)

    Thanks a lot, and I look forward to your answers.

    1. Hey Daniella,

      There are more affordable alternatives. I think the H4n Pro is worth the splurge, but I’m simply a big fan of the virtual amps it includes. The Tascam DR-05X is great for those who require something more basic.

      Both these field recorders are excellent for podcasting! You can take them anywhere if you prefer creating your podcasts on-the-go. They can also be used as an audio interface if you record mostly from home.

      If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

      – Stefan

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