Zoom H2

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 Contributed by Mike Rueck.


  • The Zoom H2 is a professional recorder significantly cheaper because it has no playback speaker (i.e. only earphone jack),
  • 4 hr battery life
  • Very compact.
  • The H2 is terrific for a "quick-draw" recorder, and to have as a backup or another pair of ears for the same event.
  • 4 condenser microphones in front and back X-Y crossover patterns. The H2 also takes external microphones, though its ability to power an external condenser microphone is a bit weak. The H2 built-in mics do very well for language documentation.
  • The H2 will record in both MP3 and uncompressed .wav at any of a variety of quality settings (with proportional usage of SD card space of course.) The minimum is CD quality and it can exceed DVD quality quite easily.
  • It is light and handy as any handheld microphone
  • screws onto a camera tripod. If you want you can record an entire conversation in 4 tracks or 2, using both built in mic pairs at once. You could also use it as a mic for recording directly on to a laptop via USB2.


  • inferior sound quality to other comparable recorders
  • editing abilities on the unit are cumbersome
  • not recommended for use as a primary.
  • Some worried that an H2 is too fragile, with its plastic case and (mostly) membrane buttons. The little door over the SD card breaks off easily, but it still works fine.
  • The only problem that has made me hesitate to recommend the H2 to surveyors is the necessity for editing files on the unit.

Editing on the Unit

The H2 does have a way to mark points in a recording while the recording is being done, but not later. As with all flash recorders, there is no pause button. Every time you pause it you actually close that file. When you start again it makes a new file, following a simple numbering system and filling in any numbers that are might be missing in a sequence (because you deleted those files.) The numbering is STE-000, STE-001…..STE-xxx (I don’t remember how many files but it holds many.) It has 9 file folders, so you could keep one for base audio files and use each of the other 8 for e.g. a different village. When you fill an SD card or want it put away for safekeeping you can put in another.

On playback, it starts with the lowest number and works up, moving smoothly from one file to the next. Therefore you can change the order of playback by simply changing the number in the filename. By the way, this can be done on a computer and then copied back into the SD card and put back on the H2 if you prefer. However, if you change the STE- in the first part of a filename to something else, it will still play it but play it last, after all the STE- files. I copied one wav file to my hard drive, shortened it in Audacity, then exported it as an MP3 and copied it back into my H2. It played without hesitating, among the other wav files. So there seems to be some flexibility in re-arranging files on the H2 and a lot if you have a netbook on the trip as well.

I've just succeeded in creating an RTT with interspersed questions using two Zoom H2s. Since the H2 has a "file divide" function, you should be able to create an RTT on a single H2; however, the H2's file renaming capabilities are limited, which makes it awkward to use the divide function as many times as you need to in creating an RTT. However, to conduct RTTs, each tester will need to have an H2, so a typical survey team should have 2 or 3 of them, at least.

See the Zoom H2 RTT Guide for detailed instructions from Mike.

File Sizes

Digital recordings at recommended archival quality (24 bit/48 kHz) take up about 1GB of memory per hour. Since RTT tests usually consist of 5 minutes or less of sound each, even allowing for unused (mistake) tracks, a 1GB memory card should hold at least a dozen different very high sound quality RTTs. Memory cards are pretty inexpensive these days, so I would expect surveyors to have at least 2GB cards. However, even if you have smaller cards, you could just save the original recordings at archival quality on a single 1-2GB card and then make copies at lower quality (such as MP3) on smaller cards for testing purposes.