The Zoom H1 Portable Audio Recorder. (#NewMediaScholar Review)

What is it?

The Zoom H1 is a portable digital audio recorder. Sort of a twenty-first century version of a tape recorder, or even a micro cassette recorder. Basically, it’s a great tool to get audio into your computer. If you’re planning on incorporating audio components into your scholarship or teaching practices, you’ll likely find it worth it to pick one up. (Zoom’s official product page.)


Uses for a New Media Scholar?

  • Getting sound into your computer for any sort of audio text or voiceover. The sound quality will be much better than what’s included on any laptop, webcam, or cheap computer mic.
  • Performing interviews, either in a relatively quiet room, or out in the field.
  • Recording conference presentations.
  • Recording oral feedback on student texts.
  • Recording class lectures for absent students, for review, or for documentation.
  • Use as an external microphone for video camera to vastly improve the quality of sound.


  • Micro SDHC Cards. These cards are tiny, durable, and can store dozens of hours of audio. They’re also becoming ubiquitous. Almost any laptop you purchase will come standard with a slot for SD/SDHC cards.
  • Input for external microphone. If you ever decide that you want to experiment with external or lavalier microphones, the 1/8 inch microphone jack will be absolutely essential.
  • USB 2.0 for file transfer. If you decide that moving your files around on the SD cards isn’t really your game, or on the off chance that you’re working on a computer without an SD card reader, you can plug the recorder directly into the USB port on your computer, and you can move the files around between the recorder and your computer just like you would on a thumb drive.
  • Battery life: 10 hours/AA. That is a long time for any audio recorder, especially one that maintains its light weight with a single AA battery.
  • Accessory Package. Although the accessory package isn’t included, Zoom does offer one at a reasonable price. The included windscreen is essential unless you are only going to be recording indoors. And the carrying case is built especially for the H1, and as a bonus, it holds the included USB cord perfectly inside the case.
  • USB Interface (version 2.0). If you pick up version 2.0 of the H1, you should be able to use it as a USB microphone interface. You will be able to record sound directly into an audio editing program such as Audacity, Logic Pro, or Audition. Not only will you get the benefits of a microphone far superior to that of your computers, using the H1 as a direct interface allows you to skip the transferring of files altogether.
  • Extremely Portable.   The H1 is really light. Given that it uses only a single battery, and that it’s made from plastic, is pretty much the smallest and lightest portable recorder you can find.
  • Hardware buttons. Another aspect of the H1 which gets many people excited is that most of the controls you will ever want to use are hardware buttons. Using buttons instead of software menus allows you to make adjustments quickly and simply. Not to mention the fact that you can make these adjustments in the middle of one of your recordings.
  • Tripod Mount. A threaded tripod mount is becoming pretty standard on most digital audio recorders, but at this size and price point, it’s still a real bonus.



  • Probably the biggest drawback, noted by the most people, is the build quality of the H1. It’s made almost entirely of plastic. While this keeps the price low and the weight light, some folks don’t feel like the trade-offs are worth it. It’s important to note, however, that because the unit is so light, the plastic housing offers plenty of protection against cracking or other damage.  I do, however, agree that the SD card cover is poorly built, and is likely the only part on the unit likely to be damaged.
  • I can’t stress enough how perfect I think the H1 is for scholars and teachers getting their feet wet in the world of digital media. And even with all its simplicity, the H1 has enough options (low-cut filter, auto-volume, etc.) for anyone to become really skilled at basic audio recording. However, unlike its more expensive competitors like the H4n, it doesn’t accommodate higher-end microphones with XLR connectivity or multitrack recording.




Support New Media Scholar. Order your H1 from Amazon via this link: Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder


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