Zoom H1 Handy Recorder Reviewed

Most filmmakers say 60% of a film is the music and audio quality. Without realizing it, viewers notice inconsistency in sound more than anything else. Zoom has released three handy recorders in its H series. The Zoom H1 is the smallest of the series but still is a nice little recording device. Since so many people are now shooting with small HD cameras or HDSLRs, this is a great tool to have to increase the quality of your sound. For such a small unit it really can do some impressive recording and will definitely get the job done. Whether you are recording an interview or live music the H1 would be a great tool.

Out of the Box

When you purchase the H1 it is all ready to go, open the box put in the microSD card and start recording. Its as simple as that, plus while you are recording you have the option to cut the low frequencies, control the gain from auto to manual, and decide to record in MP3 or WAV formats. All of these controls are located conveniently on the backside of the H1. It has a sturdy cage on top of the unit to protect the phased microphones as well. On this device, Zoom has also put an 1/8" line-in for microphones or instruments to be inputted, which is not as great as an XLR input but will still get the job done. On the left side of the unit there is another 1/8" jack for headphones and your manual audio level controls. Once the H1 is turned on you are ready to record, but unlike the H4n with the many menu options, the H1 is a one button recording machine. All of your audio files are saved into folders and each recording is saved to a different file. This makes it easy to switch from a WAV format recording to an Mp3 recording.


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Great Things Come in Small Packages

The Zoom H1 is about the size of a Snickers Bar (sadly, it's not eatable, of course), but don't be fooled by its size. The Zoom H1 is a power-packed little recording unit that you can take with you anywhere. It is not as solid as the H4n, but for about half the price it is a great buy. With Zoom's H series they are using phased directional microphones to capture more information and a clear stereo sound.

The Audio is Everything

On the Zoom H1, audio files are saved to a microSD card; this is not the most ideal flash recording card but is still effective in capturing information. Since most card readers and computers don't come with a microSD reader there is an SD adapter included. You can also plug the H1 into your computer with the USB 2.0 slot. The H1 can be powered via bus power in the USB 2.0 slot as well. One of the other main features is the ability to switch from Mp3 to WAV formats, which will give you opposing bit rates as well as different formats to manipulate. Both files are compatible with different programs and will operate better in some applications.

It is quite convenient to check back and listen to your recording to see how it sounds with a speaker located at the bottom of the H1. You can also listen to the playback with headphones. The AA battery will provide you with juice for up to 10 hours of recording time. Zoom also sells an AC adapter that allows you to record even longer.

When holding the H1 handy recorder in a quiet room, I found that the audiometers seemed to flutter quite a bit and really reacted to the movement of my hand. One of my favorite features about the device is the tripod mount on the back. This is perfect for attaching to the hot shoe on your HDSLR or onto a tripod. Mounting the unit gives you more control over the direction of your microphones plus reduces noise that would come from hand-held recording.


The bigger brother, Zoom's H4n, is not too different from the H1. The body is made of a thicker plastic and its size and weight is double that of the H1. But the cost is also twice as much. The H4n has two XLR inputs on the bottom of the unit, which is a huge selling point for anyone doing recordings from of a soundboard or at a live event. However, for how lightweight and portable it is, the zoom H1 is a great piece of equipment to add to your audio gear bag.

Tech Specs

Recording Media: microSD/SDHC card
Recording Bit Rate: WAV – 16 and 24 bit, MP3 – 48-320kbps
Included with Handy Recorder: AA Battery, 2GB microSD card
Connections: 3.5mm Mic/Line input, 3.5mm Headphone/Line output, USB 2.0 port


  • Lightweight build
  • Phased X&Y directional microphones
  • Large recording time


  • No XLR inputs
  • MicroSD Card


With its small build the H1 is a perfect out-of-the-box unit for daily recording and small projects. If you are looking to record live events, office meetings, or family occasions, buy this unit today and enjoy the portability and convenience of the Zoom H1.

Zoom Corporation.
4-4-3 Kanda-surugadai, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0062, Japan

Tyler Faires is a northern California filmmaker pursuing a career in international cinematography.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.


  1. I picked up one of these a few months ago to use for sync audio with a point and shoot digital camera. It feels really light if not flimsy, but that works when used on a hand-held tripod like a small Joby.

    You absolutely must get a windscreen for it. You won’t get any good sound with it if you don’t. Also, don’t get a foam one, get a fuzzy. Unfortunately, Rycote has yet to deem it fit to make a fuzzy windscreen for the H1, but Windtech and K-Tek make fuzzies that are inexpensive which will fit.

    The H1 has two settings for levels Auto and Manual. Trust me, forget Auto and stick with Manual. The Auto Levels are way too hot whether you have a windscreen or not. Manual’s the way to go. Also get a pair of ear buds or a small set of headphones if you want to keep your kit small and light. You’ll need the headphones when you use the manual settings to monitor levels.

    In a pinch you can hook up a mic to the mini-jack or with some creative rigging, possibly an XLR mic with an adapter. Be advised, the H1 is very sensitive and just as the reviewer mentioned hand-holding it is not a good idea. There are some cheap ways to mount it and Rycote makes a shock mount for it for just short of $100.

    He was also correct about the micro sd cards. Get one larger in capacity than the 2GB one that comes with the kit and just leave it in there. If you have to take it out in windy conditions and it blows out of your hand, good luck finding it!

    Otherwise, is a pretty simple and useful little device. If you’re a ham-fisted, rough-on-the gear type the H1’s too delicate for the likes of you. You’ll be better off with an H2 or Hn4.

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