Retiring the Recorder – Zoom H1


I have been using the Zoom H1 since 2010 and it has performed remarkably until it took a terrible tumble rendering it unusable. This is not so much a review as much as it is a tribute, recommendation, or mods to others considering or using the Zoom H1.

zoom-h1-front
The Handy Dandy Zoom H1

The Good

First, I got the Zoom H1 because of its versatility. If I can only take one microphone on a shoot, the H1 can substitute as a handheld, shotgun, or wireless microphone in a pinch. It is about the same size as a handheld microphone and the domey shape around the microphone capsules makes it almost resemble a handheld microphone especially if you add a foam muff. Although it does not quite have the same reach as a traditional shotgun, it can be easily mounted on top of the camera or on a boom with its 1/4″-20 thread. Plug in your choice of lavaliere and you can record audio remotely almost like a wireless microphone albeit requires syncing in post. It does all these jobs reasonably well with little floor noise while being powered by a single AA battery.

make-shift-boomMake shift boom mic with a H1 and a lavaliere mic on
an impromptu shoot in the rural town of Sarteneja, Belize.

The Bad

On the negative side, one nuisance is that it requires you to set the date each time you changed the battery. They should have had a second button cell battery to store data or an option to turn off the date altogether. Another nuisance is the MicroSD card cover that kept falling off which eventually led to the demise of my H1. My recommendation is to shove a large card in there and tape that cover shut. There is no internal memory so you must have a card but you do not need to take it out each time to transfer the files. There is an outdated, but understandable at the time, Mini USB port for file transfer.

The Mods

In addition to taping shut the cover, there are a few other mods I made to make the recorder more usable for my purposes. First, I added a furry wind muff to the microphone capsules. I tried the big redhead wind muffs but I found it to be too obtrusive especially if you’re trying to hide the microphone. Instead, I used wind muffs designed for lavaliere microphones. It took some careful squishing to slip it over to mic capsules without break it off but it can fit. The second mod was added a belt clip for using it as a wireless body pack. I took the clip off a dollar store measuring tape, a set screw and a rubber washer. You may have to widen the hole with a file depending on the size or the clip you find. I was fortunate enough to find a clip the same width as a hotshoe so I can easily mount it on top of the camera or on accessories.

zoom-h1-wind-muff zoom-h1-clip-mod
Fuzzy on the front and clippy on the back.

The Demise

Sadly, it is too late to tell my younger self to tape up the card cover. I eventually left the cover off seeing that the card seemingly sits securely in the slot. One day I set the recorder on top of a banner taped to an outdoor platform. The banner fell down and along with it came the recorder. Whatever mechanism holding the card in place failed. As a result, I lost my MicroSD card and from that day forth, any cards inserted will eject itself.

zoom-h1-side
The Naked MicroSD Slot

The Sucessor

While the H1 is certainly showing its age, it still stands strong amongst the competition. Some videographers are turning the the tascam DR-10C or Juicedlink little DARling as a body pack but they are mono. I frequently plug in a stereo lavaliere which allows me the flexibility of splitting the channels for recording multiple people or a group of panelists at a table. I am intrigued by the Olympus DM-901 and Tascam DR-22WL for their Wi-Fi feature but neither allows live remote monitoring which defeats the purpose of having Wi-Fi in the first place. There is strong possibility that my H1 replacement will be another H1.

houston-briefing
Zoom H1 between two panelist with stereo lavaliere spread out.

Got a suggestion for my next recorder or a mod? I want to hear it. Please share by using the comments below.

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