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if you had to choose between these 2 mobile recording units, which would you pick?

M-Audio Microtrack


Zoom H4

The H4 has alot of great features...like REALLY great features, one being the use of SD memory which is so cheap these days. M-Audio is a well trusted manufacturer though so I dunno.

The H4 is about 50 bucks cheaper.

The purpose is mainly for doing interviews and secretly recording conversations with Ollie at work ;) (shhhh...don't tell him)

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the zoom has failed miserably at all bench testing for field recording. Avoid at all costs.

Microtrack has had marginal success, but a lot of "growing pains".

In terms of an all-in-one box in the "entry" price/features range, the Edirol R9 has had a lot more positive feedback than either of those units:


Like Brad said, check the Taperssection forums for details but I think you'll find they support what I've just said.

EDIT TO ADD: The above info is more in reference to recording music where fidelity (sound qual) and battery life are paramount issues. If all you're interested in is recording conversations, you may be able to make a different choice, but c'mon if you're going to get an H4, might as well get something a bit better and be able to use it for a ton of great shit!

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I'd agree with Blane, in my Research for like products, I found the edirol R-09 to be the superior machine however, I went out and bought an Archos 504


It's more of a media player than a recorder but is definatley capable of recording, especially considering it comes with hard drives from 40gig up to a whopping 160gig. I also have a "helmet" cam that came with it to record video and audio direct to the player.

Here's where to get them for the best price as this guy is the National distributer and capabale of deals as opposed to bestbuy:


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how does the zoom fail though? I'm not looking for a solution for recording high quality music in any way. If I was to do that, I would definitely buy the best.

Steve's Music was out of both, but I asked them to order me a Zoom. I can go with something else, but as I said, I like the SD memory. It has all the inputs I would need too.

If you guys can convince me, I'll go with something else. I would have thought the m-audio would be the best on all counts, but it's missing the xlr option.

I'm sure I saw a stack of Edirol R9's there from what I can remember. I dont' think Steve will mind if I go with something else. These zooms appear to be a hot item.

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how does the zoom fail though? I'm not looking for a solution for recording high quality music in any way. If I was to do that, I would definitely buy the best.

I found


which has some details on it.

See also


I would have thought the m-audio would be the best on all counts, but it's missing the xlr option.

Were you planning on using (or upgrading to, later) XLR mics?



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how does the zoom fail though?

Basically, it doesnt' do anything worth 300 bucks. Might as well add a microphone to your I-pod in terms of quality (no joke).

From Brad's link:

Yes this deck will function in at least OK manner as portable audio deck ONLY with external preamp. Mic input VERY noisy, at least with power supply noises when running on internal batteries.

Also, H4 is quite awkward to operate as a deck, being very much like Sony MD that forgets user set record quality settings with every ON/OFF cycle. Also awkward is no stereo ganged-together REC level adjust, so each channel needs menu steps for each that takes total of 20-30 seconds time, or so it seems.

Most are having severe overload clipping distortions using the deck, and found the cause to be REC level adjust has 127 steps for setting record level for good VU level. BUT out of the 127 steps, ONLY #100 - #127 range works to control level. Adjusting REC level below #100 will lower VU levels, but 1st INPUT STAGE IS THEN CLIP DISTORTING!!! On/Off cycle defaults REC level to #100 adjustment setting on both channels in STEREO mode.

So far no one I know has mentioned this deck's limited REC adjustment range while recording from analog inputs.


In summary, suggest forgoing all the interesting H4 musician features. Instead get R-09 with built-in piece of mind refinements that's far easier to use with lower costing PA-3SX preamp (no dual 1/4" molded plug cost) with stereo mini plug output. Also get the Viewcase for R-09 for outdoor OLED viewing

I will pay for return shipping on the H4 as thank you for opportunity to know this 'piece of work' by Samson.

There's more awful truth about this deck, but I think Samson needs go back to engineering with this one. Not likely at this point as H4 model seems to have been around for going on 2 years with Samson saying everything is fine in their opinion.

Seriously, if you want to use CHEAP recording for voice, get a T- 8xx or 9xx series I-River mp3 player with microphone. It'll be fine for recording. IF you want flexibility, ease of use, all in one performance, and quality build, scrap the Zoom and go with the Edirol or something else. The M Audio is Ok, but as soon as you want ot start doing anything beyond the ordinary, you'll have to start buying/building new parts, down loading new firmware, etc.

IMO, if you can spend an extra few bucks and get something that has proven to work at a whole range of levels (ie. concerts, extended recording times, low-level recording situations).

You make the call!

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LOL, ask ten people their thoughts on recording gear and you'll get a hundred different opinions. :D

we have the M-Audio Microtracker 24/96 and have used it to record many shows. its a good little machine. its biggest problem is that it's finicky (although, to their credit, M-Audio has made several firmware updates based directly on feedback from the taping community). the biggest problem with the H4 is that it does not conveniently allow for external mics (rendering it useless for taping concerts).

ah, i miss tapers section. endless discussions like this prompted by someone simply pulling out a cable from their bag. "hey man, i see u have audio magic's, you checked out the oade mod on the new grace? s'wicked." :D

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the biggest problem with the H4 is that it does not conveniently allow for external mics

I don't understand. What are the XLR-1/4-inch input jacks with phantom power for?

As far as just using an iPod, I probably would if there was a seriously easy way to pull it off. The Zoom just seems like an easy portable solution that's been designed for what I would want to use it for. An iPod is for listening and not setting up an easy recording.

Zoom's got inputs, takes SD card, built-in mics (if needed), and headphone monitoring. As an aside it also has multitrack capabilities and is an audio interface to a computer if needed. It's hard to knock down those basic features.

Keep it coming. I'm getting something, so I'm ready for all the info you guys got.

I don't have the time to read the links yet ;)

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im just talking out of my ass here, but my understanding is that the H4 was primarily designed to use the internal mics, at the expense of external rigging. the 48vPP will work, but will drain the 2 AA batteries so fast that you wouldnt want to use that. the built-in pre-amp (which would be used when phantom powering) is not supposed to be that great (clipping) so you'd probably want to use an external pre-amp to power your mics, but the actual xlr-1/4" jack is a bit wonky and has needed after market mods (it wiggles loose after a bit). moreover, it will only take a 2G card, and if you want true 24-bit, you wont get a very long recording at all.

in short, its not a bad machine, but like everyting out there, it has its problems. the trick is determining your usage and figuring out which of the machines best suits your needs (ie., wont fail you). the pre-amp probs and the limitation of recording time would be my biggest concerns.

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Hey, if you're set on buying the Zoom, then go ahead. I honestly haven't tried it myself and am going based upon the feedback i've read on it.

However, I"d say that having done a TON of research on portable recorders (leading up to my purchase of a modded Marantz PMD660) I've got a pretty good idea of the popular opinion of some of these units, based both on peoples' real experiences with them and bench testing by website reviewers.

There are so many options now (look at this: Sweetwater Product Listing ), but in the sub-500 USD category, I'd say the main contenders are:

- M-Audio 24/48

- Zoom H4

- Edirol R09

- Marantz PMD 660

If I had to rank them in terms of USER FEEDBACK that I'd read, I'd say they rank like this:

1. Edirol R09

2. Marantz PMD 660 (Oade modded versions ranking higher)

3. M-Audio 24/48

4. Zoom H4

Both the R09 and the H4 use SD memory. The 660 and the M-Audio use CF cards (the same cards used in the D70, making them dual-purpose, keep that in mind).

All I can say is that I've read glowing praise for the R09 and know that it's being widely used. I've had great experiences with my 660, though it's probably more money than you want to pay. I've heard mixed reviews of the Microtracker (exactly the stuff phishtaper mentioned). I think some people had fewer troubles with bugginess on the MT than others, but it strikes me as a bit of a mixed bag. And the majority of the feedback on teh Zoom I've read has been of disappointment.

That's all I can offer, I'm sure you'll find any of the 4 useable, it's just a question of what level of use you'll be able to get out of each.

EDIT: I'd suggest reading the user reviews on the sweetwater site linked above. Some good info.

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great info, blane. yeah, its like buying a car. loads of possibilities. nothing out there is absolutely perfect. and you cant get everything you want and need on a single car for the money you've got to spend.

sometimes your choice is most informed by exactly how you want to use it. stealth? need to go small, therefore probably no external PP or pre-amp. weekend at a festival? power becomes a huge issue. so, whats great for me may be not-so perfect for your recording uses. im of the opinion that there is generally no one perfect device, or obvious choice in most recording technologies. and most serious tapers have a whole slew of gear and we use various recorders, mics, pre-amps, AD converters, etc according to the show.

lots of research involved - which, arguably is half the fun :D

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Blane, thanks for that added info. I'm going to check that device out for sure. And you know what? I'm just going to follow the pecking order of your top 4 list. I'll see if they carry the edirol. However, come to think of it, I don't like the M-audio because of the media it's tied to. I fuckin' hate compact flash these days. Mainly because of the price.

Still though, I haven't really read anything bad about the Zoom H4. I've only read good things like this.

I plan on getting at least 1 lapel mic. As well, I am looking for portable mixers too for added capabilities. Apparently there is a battery powered beringer out there. Any suggestions on that?

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ok, I just found some really shitty reviews, but they're clearly from tapers that would be using it for more that I would be.

The Edirol isn't much more cost-wize, and it's much sexier looking. The fuckin' zoom is the ugliest piece of electronics I've seen since radio shack gettoblasters.

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To me this settled it in terms of the H4,

reading sonicstudios write this in their review:

This is not a complete review of the Zoom H4 as initial testing was done to verify analog input noise/frequency performance. Noise/frequency response measurements were so poor, I stopped more thorough testing and canceled doing a full review. This deck was NOT going to be suitable for most recordists requiring adequate audio quality.
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