Zoom H4n Samples


Rio Karma's bigger and different brother

Partly an effort to get some good samples out there, partly to attract the blog some real traffic, I give you ten recordings taken with my brand new Zoom H4n.  And lest I start to sound like a commercial, let me warn you that these samples will do little to enhance Zoom’s reputation.  The naysayers will not be disproved, for my recordings are crude and unprofessional.

But they’re also wonderful.

note: I normalized some of the files, though others are a bit quiet, so you might have to turn up your speakers.  Proceed with caution.

Sample 1

I am eating cookies; note the salivary detail.  We are already off to a good start.

Sample 2

Taken in Hub mall.  The surround imaging is excellent.  It really feels as though the cart-pushers are pushing carts while I sit and drink coffee and watch them.

Sample 3

In the humanities building, strange drones come and go, especially in stairwells and near doorways.  Matt’s surprised reaction is at a drone that suddenly disappeared (you, dear listener, will be less surprised now that I have warned you).  Please note that most of the noise you hear in this clip is not microphone-preamplifier hiss, but rather the ambient sound of the building’s ventilation system.

Sample 4

The sound of a bar sink, at varying levels of pressure.  Try listening with headphones for a fun approximation of water-torture.

Sample 5

Here’s me, enjoying my new recorder very much.  The background noise is from my speakers.

Sample 6

Rutherford Library at about 7:30 in the evening.  I had to boost the gain on this one a bit, since the room was so quiet (as a good library should be!)

Sample 7

This sample contains a simple rendition of beneaththecastle favourite “Desafinado”, played on a ukulele.  For the listener’s sake, I will not divulge such information as preamplifier gain settings or recording distance.  You do not need to know these things.

Sample 8

This sample begins outside the Chemistry Building, where the listener should note an interesting ambient tone, and the participants’ conjecture as to its origin.  Then, gravel footsteps, clear as a bell, lead our protagonists to the Business Building, where a spontaneous Tetsu Inoue jam occurs, until our protagonists enter the building, encounter a wonderful new ambience, and proceed to the nearest vending machine, only to be disappointed.

Sample 9

This horrible sample is of the urinal on the 14th floor of the Tory Building.  Again, the background noise here is not preamplifier hiss.  The urinal stands next to a large heating vent, which was running as I recorded.  At the end Matt spits into the sink.

Sample 10

The last (and lengthiest) recording in this post is of Churchill Station.  The recording begins as a train arrives, giving the listener another interesting surround image.  Passengers disembark, the train leaves (but not before emitting some weird cool buzzing noise), and another train arrives with its own cool buzzing noise.  Some old men talk together, and then I get up to covertly record two ladies conversing in a language which I admit I do not recognize at all.  Finally I ride the escalator up to the ground floor, as laughing children descend the stairs beside me.

Please, dear readers, I would love nothing more than to hear your opinions of these recordings!  And for those of you arriving from other recording blogs, don’t forget to comment on the noise levels and preamplifier quality.   And for those of you concerned about hand movement, you had best listen to this.

That’s all for now, but watch this space for more recording fun in the future!

Update: external mic samples here.


21 Responses to Zoom H4n Samples

  1. vikingbeard says:

    Wow, that’s great recordings!!! Much more helpful than the other samples I’ve heard. And btw sounds amazing, I’m gonna buy this one because of you haha

  2. Aja says:

    Hey thanks for your comments! I felt as though the samples already out there (excluding those on the Surround 2011 blog) weren’t representative of the kind of recording for which I was primarily interested in the H4n — namely, the capture of everyday sounds. Hearing a broadcaster’s voice is okay, but I wanted to know how well the H4n would record something like gravel footsteps, or the ventilation noise of an old building (turns out it does both quite well!). Hand movement is a bit of a problem, but if you’re careful to keep a tight a grip it can be avoided.

    I’ll post additional samples as I learn more about the H4n’s more esoteric features. If you have any more questions I’d be glad to answer them.

  3. GJ says:

    Hey, thanks for doing this. I’m close to getting the H4n for indie films, shorts, and sketches, but I was concerned about the pronounced hiss on Neil Ewers’s samples on Brad’s site.

    Have you gotten that kind of obvious hiss at all? Have you tried external mics via the XLRs?


  4. Aja says:

    The internal mics don’t seem to have as much hiss as Ewers’ files suggest — the new samples on brad linder’s sound more accurate to me. I haven’t used any external mics yet. The only dynamic mic I have is an SM57, which is kinda hissy no matter what I use, but I will try it in the future.

  5. Jamee says:

    So, you pretty much own a tricorder now.

  6. Aja says:

    yeah pretty much. today I scanned the sewer grate in front of my house; no signs of life :(

  7. nick says:

    Help! I have the h4n and in most respects love it – fantastic results in stereo a mtr mode when I only use a mic. But big problem when I plug in a my Takemine guitar using mains power supply. The noise is too loud to work with. If I touch any metal part of the etc whole set-up(cable, mic jack etc) the humming disappears. The earthing sound problem I think – what can I do do eliminate this noise? Is any one else having the same problem. I would hate to send it back because it’s really good fun to work with. So waiting for your suggestions

  8. Aja says:

    it does sound like an earthing problem. Does it go away when you unplug the mains power supply? I had a similar problem with my MK-319 mic — whenever I plug it into the Zoom h4n using the AC adaptor I get a humming noise. But when I use battery power the noise goes away.

    Your problem might be the wiring in your guitar, though. A loose ground wire can cause that problem; you might need to re-solder it. But I’m no guitar-tech, and certainly no electrician.

  9. Laurent says:

    Hi, just found you blog by chance and it’s really nice.
    I was hesitating to get a H4n as well, but now, I think I will go for it. Thanks for sharing slices of ur life..

    From Belgium…

  10. Aja says:

    Thanks, Laurent. It’s been several months since I bought this tool and I still don’t regret purchasing it. It’s remarkable how closely the H4n captures what I’m actually hearing as I record. Sometimes it even picks up sounds I couldn’t hear until I hit playback. Walking around with headphones in and the monitor on is a startling and wonderful experience.

    Oh, and case you didn’t see, clicking on the “Field Recording” section at the right side of the blog will take you to a list of all the recordings I’ve posted (all of them were made with the H4n).

  11. Diego says:

    Thanks for the great recordings. I am going to buy the H4n but wanted to hear some samples before taking the plunge. Your samples helped me tremendously in deciding to purchase it.

    Great, clean recordings. That language sounds like some asian language, weird, you are correct, I’ve never heard anything like it either.


  12. Aja says:

    Hi Diego, thanks for the feedback.

    Just so you know, all of the audio-recordings on this site are made with the H4n. Click on ‘H4n’ in the cloud tag to hear them all :)

  13. Chris K says:

    How did you go about directionality? I’m guessing the mics are more omnidirectional (basing totally off of your amazing samples) but did you hold it in any particular manner for each go? Thanks much!

  14. Aja says:

    you can set each mic at 90 or 120 degrees—the former captures more sound in front of the device, while the latter gives you more of full-environment recording. But either way they’re condenser mics, so yes, they are more omnidirectional—you’re going to get a lot of ambient noise regardless. I don’t recall specific settings, but if the sample is of something directly in front of me (like the ukulele or the bar sink) I used the 90 degree setting, and for recordings like Churchill station, 120 degrees. The real trick to it (which I was/am still learning) is holding the recorder at the correct distance. Too close and you get a congested feeling (too many low-mids). If I’m micing something close, 90 degrees at about 15 inches is a pretty safe bet. But you will pick up ambient noise. If you hold the thing directly in front of you, you’ll get—more or less—what you hear with your own ears.

  15. Matt says:

    Cool! Thanks for the recordings!

    I just read about hiss on a different blog but it doesn’t seem audible in your samples. I want to use the h4n mainly for guitar and for ambient sounds. Your recordings sound awesome! You can just close your eyes and imagine you’re at the scene! I’ve already encountered so many cool sounds, I can’t wait to record them. Cheers!

  16. Lee says:

    That language is Cantonese

  17. wolfling says:

    Very interesting samples! I enjoyed listening to them.

    The language of the ladies at the train station is Cantonese (Hong Kong/GuangZhou Chinese).

  18. wolfling says:

    Oops, someone already said that. :) Having stayed in Hong Kong for extended periods of time, I always love hearing old ladies shout at each other in Cantonese. Usually when they are loud, they are just being cheerful.

    Nick, have you tried using a DI or a transformer between your guitar and the h4n? Often in cases like these, lifting or unlifting the ground will make the problem disappear.

  19. […] Listen to these ambient tracks from a Zoom H4n user that demonstrate the quality of the built in mic…. Good fun. […]

  20. Bret says:

    Hi, Awesome Samples! You inspired me to use the H4n for ‘other’ recordings too! Thanks.

    I wanted to ask what Mic Level you set your H4n to for the respective recordings or was it all one setting if so what?

    Finally did you use the xlr inputs with an ex. Mic?

    Good Luck and Thanks in Advance.

  21. Aja says:

    I don’t recall the exact gain settings, but I generally set the gain so that the average input volume is between -6 to -12 dB. So it would’ve been different for every recording, depending on how loud the source is.

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