Zoom H1 Review

Well I wanted to do a cool little Zoom H1 Portable Audio Recorder video review, but looks like bhphotovideo.com beat me to it. I'll just post theirs instead since they touched on a lot of what I wanted to talk about. One of the things they point out is the use of the LAV microphone. Everyone's been talking about using this method since this unit is so small and portable, you can save some big bucks from buying a wireless mic kit. They even found a way to jamb this thing into a Microphone Shock Mount.

click image for Zoom H1 kit

I'll still do my own little video review, but i'll talk about some things I don't like about it. My intent was not to use the built in microphones on the Zoom H1, but if you're planning to, get the foam windscreen which is part of a separate Zoom Kit (above). It's nice that the Zoom H1 leaves everything out to control many functions like WAV or MP3 settings, but these buttons are completely exposed. Using it as a body pack, I fear these buttons will be easily pressed. They should have placed these switches under a cover like the Rode VideoMic. There is a 'Hold' feature, but that only works to disable the playback buttons, not the other feature buttons.

The unit is also mainly plastic. It's nice because it shaves some weight, but feels real fragile. Not something I'd throw in my bag without a hard case, or at least the case shown in the Zoom H1 kit above. Even the microphone covers are chrome plated plastic. DSLR's as of now have terrible audio compared to the Samson recorders. For the audio quality of the Samson Zoom H1, the features this little gadget has, and the low low price point of $99 bucks + Free Shipping, it's a must have item for any DSLR shooter. The only thing we need to narrow down now is what's the best 'bang for the buck' LAV mic to use. My search continues for the cheapest and best LAV mic to use.....

click image

40 thoughts on “Zoom H1 Review

  1. I've used the h1 fairly extensively - love the size & portability: it can hang round your neck - very handy when you dont know when you're going to use it. The buttons on the back definitely do get switched when you're not watching. The build quality isn't great (both the plastic guards for the mics have broken off on mine). The real problem I've found though is using it with an external lavier mic (in this case the audio technica ATR 3350). In my experience the hiss in this case really is a problem and definitely not of a professional level.

  2. peter

    It's a great product that produces great quality sound. The quality of the housing is not very sturdy and the batteries on my H1 seem to loose power even in de off position.

  3. B. Wilkin

    Great product except........very flimsy build in particular the lid to the battery compartment, very small thin plastic tabs holding it in place broke on the 1st battery change. Plastic is cheap, make the casing thicker Zoom!

  4. raviraj

    Hey, here are a few questions about the Zoom H1.(which i intend to use strictly for Audio for Video -short films etc. )

    1. Do you need to attach an external Mic to the Zoom H1 or does its built in mic work well?

    2. What is the distance upto which it can record decent/acceptable quality audio for Video?how Directional the Zoom H1 is? I mean does it pick up everything in and around a particular radius? or can it be directed / pointed to pick up from a certain angle?(and how) .

    3. Can it work as a direct input mic to the camcoders ? i.e. record directly into the camcoder ..



  5. I've had this recorder for a few days, made a review/unboxing video as well.


    I like the sound quality, and the battery life is very good... The only thing I don't like is the body quality. Since it is made of plastic, it doesn't feel that durable - I haven't dropped it to test the durability though - and it is a bit noisy when you tap on it or scrape it against your clothes.

  6. Hi, I have had the H1 for two weeks now. My main use is sound recordings for music needs.
    I really like the H1 and I really like the price.
    What could be better:
    - battery lifetime. The device only uses 1x AA battery and I'm already using my 4th battery. So, take at least one spare battery along.
    - on the display it shows the recording dato while you playback, I would rather see the file nr. You have to jump to the next song and back to see what file nr. your listning to
    - I had some problems with the volume buttons, but after a restart they work fine again.

  7. GN

    I just bought the Zoom H1. As long as I am not holding it in my hands, the recorded audio is surprisingly good.

    BUT! I think the quality of this device itself is too bad. Yes it cost me only 120US$ (in Norway) but the power slide button loosened after only 1 hour use. I put it back, but I am afraid that it could happen again (outdoors when it’s difficult to find that small plastic part) and a missing on-button is a showstopper for any good sound when filming with the 7D. 🙁
    I am going back to the shop with mine now, but I think this is an engineering problem, and maybe others have the same experience?

  8. Lucidus

    Followup to my last post - looks like I was a bit hasty.
    The H1 preamp noise level is actually quite good for the built in mikes (still problematic with low level external mikes). My previous comment was based on looking at the output from the headphone/line out jack. The actual recording on the H1 memory card shows much lower hiss, so I was seeing the output amp. noise, which is much higher than the input amp noise when the output level is set high. The output amp noise is actually not too bad with the H1 output volume set to 20 or lower and using the H1 as an external mike and preamp is quite feasible with this output setting.
    As for the 2 mikes, I now see that Bo was talking about having one mike on a separate H1 strapped to a subject, sorry for misunderstanding.
    I am quite impressed with what the H1 can do for the price.

  9. Lucidus

    Re. BoReidler's comment.
    Why two H1's for two mono mikes? You can use one H1 with a stereo to mono splitting cable and connect both mono mikes. I have done that and it works. The only problem is that the H1 preamp does not have low enough noise level for satisfactory use with my Shure SM58's, an external mike preamp is needed. If you have higher output mikes, then perhaps you can go directly to the H1.
    Anyone else able to comment on the H1 preamp noise level? Even with the built in mikes, hiss noise is fairly high on mine. As I would probably use external mikes with a good preamp this is not a big problem for me.

  10. Postscript to my previous comments - upgraded to the Rode Lav mic - much much better. It is powered by the H1. In fact the H1 can push 1.5v out of its 3.5mm input slot. This is enough to power the Rode and the AT without battery support.
    So, rather than purchasing the H4n and a Lav the best situation is x2 H1's, still cheaper than x1 H4n, and a Rode Lav mic. One H1 for the camera/boom and the other H1 with Lav on the key talent. Very good value given that the H1 is not only very good quality but "simple" to use.

  11. Emm

    Post author

    Yes the audio compression may be better than the in camera mic, but the further the microphones can be moved from the operator the better. If the microphones are on top of the camera, it will pick up handling noise from the operator. This is the reason people also use shotgun mics. The pickup of sound is further from the camera.

  12. Sam

    I just found your site, all the info is so helpful here. I'm thinking of Getting the H1 zoom for my DSLR and want to mount it on the top of the camera. The B&H reviewer suggested a shock mount for the camera. Any suggestions?

  13. Bo Reidler

    I just bought the H1 with an Audio Technica AT9903 Mono mini electret condenser Lapel Microphone. The AT records in mono but at this stage it's not an issue. The handling noise of the H1 leaves a lot to be desired considering that outdoors shooting will increase this possibility. The mics are very good though, no question there and the ease of operation is a positive. But definitely something to handle with care! I took this option over a H4n and a Rodes lav mic setup - over 300AUD more.

  14. Florence

    If you'd have to choose between the H1 and the H2, price not playing a matter, which one would you choose? I am doubting about which one would be better for (street)interviews and music recording. I've noticed that you can't choose your gain L/M/H, is this something that the H1 misses or not?

  15. Emm

    Post author

    Yeah not sure what you'll need from the accessory package. If you plan on using the Internal Mics, the Redhead is something you'll need.

  16. Hd

    It would seem to me that gaffer's tape would make a perfect cover for the switches... that way it isn't in the way for most of the world who doesn't use it that way.

    I'm curious about the mono issue... I do most of my recording in mono from mono mics, and I don't want to have to buy or make funky cables that send the mono mic signal to both L and R. Please share what you've discovered about lack of mono.

  17. Chad

    I see on the H1 website they show it mounted to the hot shoe on the DSLR, but nothing comes with the H1 that allows it to mount to the hot shoe. I bought the accessory kit thinking it would be included but it wasn't. Has anyone seen an adapter for the H1 so that it will mount to the hot shoe? Thanks!

  18. Luis

    I'm a little confused now too Jason. lol. Well from my understanding, you plug in the H1 because you need reference to sync audio and video in post instead of using a slate. At least that's what I thought I learned from Philip Bloom. I didn't know you could do the other way. Maybe it's just easier to sync if you plug it in. I dont know.

  19. Jason

    wait this is confusing me now...

    I thought you just take the video from what you shoot and sync it to the h1 audio you record in post? I dont get why you need to plug the h1 into the camera?..I thought that was the whole point of getting an H1 or a recorder? not to plug into the camera?

    is it just for timing purposes? cant you just do that in post? Sorry..really confused..

  20. Emm

    Post author

    Hmm..trick question. Haha. If you're shooting 24fps, Plural eyes might be easier if it's synced through the cable. If your doing 30fps, then the on camera microphone should be able to pick up enough volume to sync in post without a line feed.

  21. Luis

    Thank you Emm. I was not going to use the camera audio. I was gonna use the audio recorded on the H1, throw out the audio on the camera and sync H1 audio with plural eyes in FCP. But I need the cable to connect the H1 to the camera so that I can sync it in post don't I? With what I want to do, does it matter which cable I get? Regular cable or pinknoise cable? Do I need a cable to sync it? Thanks again.

  22. Emm

    Post author

    It might sound a bit better? Not sure, I just go straight to the Recorder and sync in post. I don't bother with the camera audio. The Zoom H1 makes that process much more simpler too with its size and limited menu and options.

  23. Mike

    Thanks Emm!!!!! So what's one of the many solutions? You mentioned those cables does not kill AGC but is there Any difference with them? Thanks again.

  24. Emm

    Post author

    The pinknoise cable still wouldn't disable AGC, neither will a Rode Videomic connected directly to it. Even though these shotgun microphones aren't used to maximize the sound pickup, the Rode does help eliminate handling noise since the pickup is pointing away from the camera. The Zoom has excellent audio microphones, but if placed too closely to the camera, it will pickup the handling noise from the camera operator.

  25. Mike

    Thank you very much!!!! I heard about the pinknoise DSLR cable. Is there a difference with just a basic male to male stereo plug? I heard the audio on the H4n being used as shotgun mic plugged directly on the camera with the pinknoise cable and it sounded pretty good. Do I have just low standards I guess? I have a 7D, should I get a Rode videomic, H4n and pinknoise cable to get decent sound? How come I see people with their Rode Videomic plugged in directly to their cameras? Wouldn't the AGC ruin the audio quality? Sorry for so many questions. I really do appreciate your response. Thank you.

  26. Emm

    Post author

    You wouldn't get decent sound that way, but I guess you can. You'll just need a basic male to male stereo plug. Connect from Lineout on Zoom H1 to stereo Line in on camera.

  27. Mike

    Mine is coming in on friday. Do you know of any cable to plug the H1 straight to my DSLR? I really need a fast reply pls. I'm shooting a wedding in 3 days. Does anybody know? I appreciate it very much. Thank you.

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  29. Ryan

    Just picked up the H1 from local music store and started using it with the $24 wired Audio-Technica ATR-35S Lav. Sound quality is on point for a cheaper lav. Went with the wired to avoid hissing and static... Amazing what you can get for $124.. Great product..

  30. jason

    That stand for the H1 kit is a serious piece of junk. You can find em on eBay for $0.99. Mine broke immediately. I wouldn't pay $25 for that stuff.

  31. elbee

    I've found the stereo mic to be very sensitive to wind. Moving the unit even slowly will introduce wind noise into the recording so a windscreen is a definite must have. I've also noticed the body picks up handling noise a lot more than I'd like, as it is even sensitive to light wind which the mics will pick up. However, the stereo mic recording is very rounded and rich sounding. I'm impressed with the built-in mic.

    Unfortunately, the mic preamp for the 1/8" mini jack is only average. It might be good, but like you, I'm still trying out different models of lavs. I have tried the Giant Squid omni, and it has sounded the best as it also records on both channels. Doesn't appear the Z1 can record mono, so lavs like the ATR35s are not as suitable (only records to the left channel).

    Overall, I'm impressed with the build quality of the plastic — its smooth and feels high-grade. It's also so lightweight like it was meant to go with DSLRs.

    I'm not liking the 1/4-20 screw mount, as it is in plastic, and doesn't mount well with three of the swivel mounts I own.

    A welcome feature is that Auto Levels do not work the same as the Zoom H4n where it doesn't "recover" after peaks. Auto levels on the H1 work like you'd expect, it gently raises gain during quiet passages and reduces gain at loud sounds.

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