Sunday, 4 November 2018

Zoom H1 versus H1n

Recording sound quality is upmost important for music. I used to consider the plugged in sound feed, direct from a pickup, the highest quality sound you could get from a guitar. But many years ago I bought a Zoom H1 stereo condenser microphone/recorder, and it blew my mind. The sound is *so* much better! It makes sense, you are capturing all the other subtle nuances that a pickup misses. I had already gone to dual pickups in the guitar, one that captures the soundboard as well under the saddle, which is great, but a quality microphone; that is hearing like your ears do; so much better!

The Zoom H1 has done me well for a long time, and I have an application coming up where I want to use two microphones, to capture an orchestra sound from both sides of the stage. I was going to buy another Zoom H1 but I noticed the new Zoom H1n is available, the upgraded version.

I has a lot more "stuff" like dubbing and playback at different speeds and other things I don't need, about the only feature I thought might be useful for my purpose was the limiter. However, it's only $20 more than the old model, and perhaps the microphones themselves are improved or something, so I bought one.

As a test I put them both in front of me playing guitar, one to the left, one to the right, and recorded both in the same mode being 48kHz 24bit WAV.

I attempted to match the levels at recording time but I didn't get it very close so I adjusted amplitudes in post, I also applied the same graphic EQ to both. I always apply some EQ to drop down the mids and boost the lows and highs a bit. Makes the sound more punchy and less AM radio. Or maybe that is just my tinnitus speaking. I do all this listening through Sennheiser HD280 Pro monitor headphones with a quite flat frequency response, so it should be pretty accurate.

What did I find, what was the difference?

The visual look of the WAV files showed some differences, like the H1n was maybe slightly more sensitive? But listening, no, they sound the same, other than a difference due to the location of the mics; you can tell they weren't in the same place.

...which was part of the reason I didn't have them next to each other - even though they are stereo microphones, if I combine the two files how would that sound? The answer - clearly better than either one! I went with 50% left on the H1n and 50% right on the H1 (100% either side seems excessive). I wasn't sure what putting stereo on an already stereo signal would be like, but I can tell you, I will be doing that from now on. A little bit more work, but it adds another layer of depth to the sound.  Here, check it out:

Zoom H1 demo:

Zoom H1n demo:

Mixed demo:

For interest, that was a sound grab from an arrangement that popped into my head last week, Bob Dylan "It's All Over Now Baby Blue", although I gone with more of the Graham Bonnet 1977 more rock less folk as that's the version I remember, more my era. I will probably talk about that more another time.


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