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Introduction.. 2

Orientation.. 3

32-Bit Float Explained, and First Start 6

Inaccessible Arming Function.. 9

Exploring the Menus. 11

The Inaccessible File List 28

The Mixer 35

Setting Markers in a Recording.. 41

The Input Jack. 43

Using the H4 Essential as an Audio Interface.. 43

The H4 Essential Control App.. 44

Conclusion.. 47




This is a lengthy review which is segmented by chapter. If you’re listening on a podcast player or some other player that supports chapter marks, you can bring up the list and skip to the section of interest.


Hi! I’m Jonathan Mosen. Welcome to this review of the Zoom H4 Essential Recorder.

I should begin by saying that Zoom has provided me with this unit, so I can do this podcast for you. But they have not heard this review before publication, and they haven’t given me any guidance about what I should say. This is not a paid advertisement. These are my thoughts on the recorder.

We’re starting this review in the living room at Mosen Towers. And this time, I’m actually recording on all tracks of the Zoom H4 Essential.

Into inputs 1 and 2, we have 2 Samson Q2U mics. These are low-cost but in my view, very nice-sounding microphones that I use in the field for podcast interviews. If you’ve heard things that I’ve done, for example, at last year’s NFB convention, when we were sitting down, I was using these microphones.

I am also recording on the built-in microphone of the H4 Essential just so we can switch between tracks later, when I’m demonstrating this recorder. But you’re hearing just the 2 microphones right now.

The holder of the other microphone is the world famous Bonnie Mosen.

Hello, Bonnie!

Bonnie: Good afternoon!

Jonathan: What do you think of all these Zoom recorders?

Bonnie: I’m not sure how you keep them straight. It’s kind of like, you know, big, little, and small. There’s a Zoom recorder for every occasion and every taste.

Jonathan: And I think that’s right, actually. I mean, there will be some people who might want 2, maybe all 3 of these. But I think if people had to choose one and you’re not necessarily going to be recording a huge number of sources at once, then I think the H4 Essential hits the sweet spot.

And I say that because it’s small. Nowhere near as small as the H1 Essential, but of course, it does more. You can plug professional microphones into this using the XLR input. You can plug instruments or other sources in using the same jacks because they are also TRS jacks, so they’re combo jacks, and you’ve got a lot of capability in a small recorder that I could fit in a pocket. Now, they might not fit in everybody’s pockets. I tend to wear business type clothes, and the pockets are reasonably deep. It might be a bit of a struggle to fit them into a jeans pocket but you might be able to do it, depending on the size of the pocket. But this is small enough that you wouldn’t think twice about taking it with you.

It’s also very light, and it only takes 2 AA batteries, as opposed to the 4 required by the H6 Essential. And I think that’s particularly significant because often, people travel with battery chargers that have 4 slots. So yeah, that means that you can have one set of batteries on charge while you have another set in your Zoom H4 Essential.

So Bonnie, the accessibility of these is really quite amazing. You’ve heard them talking. We’ve been able to set them up completely free of any sighted assistance. And that’s great for blind people who are content creators, but also journalists as well. I mean, this would have been an amazing thing when you were in journalism school.

Bonnie: Yeah. And it’s good to see that mainstream companies are actually taking accessibility on board because in reality, it benefits everybody.

Jonathan: Yeah, it does. And I’ve been struck by how many people, because these have come up talking when you switch them on, have become aware of accessibility, and how cool they think it is. So it’s a great awareness-raising thing.


What I’ll do now is just orientate people to this recorder.

You can tell which way is up because of the XY microphone. This is a very famous Zoom looking microphone. This is the same thing that detaches from the H6 Essential. It also is built into the H1 Essential. And at the top, you will find this microphone, an XY pattern built in to the H4 Essential.

Now, this one does not detach. Don’t try that at home. It is definitely fixed.

Below that, on the top surface of the unit, you have the display.

At the top, on its own, just below the display is the mixer button. This allows you to adjust the volume of playback from different sources and how loud it is in your headphones. It does not affect recording unless you want it to, but you can go ahead and set your recording to post mixer if you want. There’s probably no need to do that. These recorders are all 32-bit float in the Essential series, and that means that you can take care of any level adjustments that you need to in post-production. But monitoring comfortably is important. And if you need to make adjustments, you can do so by going in here. I will demonstrate that later.

Underneath the mixer button, we have the transport controls. And the centerpiece of the transport controls is the record button. So that’s where we’ll start as a point of reference. It’s quite large and round and it has a little indentation in its center. You can’t miss the record button. It feels different from every other button on the device.

To the left of the record button is stop, and to the right of the record button is play.

In the bottom row of these transport controls, you have a back and forward on either side of the record button, and that performs various functions.

Finally, you have 3 rectangular buttons at the bottom of the top surface. The left one is to arm and disarm track 1. The center button is to arm and disarm the built-in microphone. Or if you’ve got a line-in connected to it, it will toggle that. And the right button is to arm and disarm track 2.

On the front of the unit, you’ve got 2 combo jacks that take XLR plugs. So I’ve got two Samson Q2Us plugged in at the moment. But they will also take TRS plugs, and they are 6.3 millimeter plugs.

On the left-hand side of the unit, at the very top, we have a line-in jack. You might also be able to connect some sort of lavalier microphone to it. But predominantly, I think it’s designed for line-in, and that is a 3.5 millimeter jack.

There’s another 3.5 millimeter jack immediately below that, and that is the headphone jack. And you know which one is the headphone jack because right below that is the volume control for the headphone. It’s a knob that has a distinct start and stop. You can also use this jack as a line out if you wish to, but there’s no separate line out, I guess due to space constraints.

Below the volume control, you’ll find a little hinge, and this is for the SD slot. I quite like the way that this works. You unhinge it at the top, and it will expose the micro SD slot. This only goes in one way. When you insert it the correct way, you’ll feel it give a little bit as you insert it further. And then it springs back, and then you hinge the door closed. It’ll close with a satisfying click.

On the right-hand side of the unit, at the very top is the power control, which is the same as all the power controls for the Essential series except that on the H6, it slides the other way because it’s aligned horizontally. It’s aligned vertically on the H4 Essential so you would press it down towards the front of the unit to turn the unit on and off. You hold it for a couple of seconds, you get one sound when it’s powering on, and another sound when it’s powering off. If you slide that control forward away from the unit, then it will click into place and this will lock it.

You might want to do that for a couple of reasons. When you’re traveling, you don’t inadvertently want to record or do anything bizarre by having it switched on in a backpack or in a suitcase. And also, you can lock it when you’re recording if you wish to make sure that nothing inadvertent happens and you don’t lose that great recording.

If you go down from the top right of the unit past the power slider switch, you will find a kind of a smoother rubber surface. This is a stopper that protects the socket for the optional bluetooth adapter. This is not provided with the unit. I do have one, and we’ll show you the Zoom H4 Essential app shortly. It does give you accessible control over the unit from your iPhone, should you want that. It’s not so important now that there are so many voice prompts in these units, but it can be useful if you are some distance away from the recorder.

For example, if you are recording something that’s going on at the front of a room, (you’ve got permission to record, maybe) you may be some distance from the recorder, and you want to control when you start recording, for instance. That’s absolutely possible if you have the bluetooth adapter.

Slightly below, but a little bit towards the top of the unit is the USB-C port. This USB-C port does several things. It will connect to your computer or your smartphone and act as a drive, so it’s very easy to copy files that you’ve recorded off this. And in fact, that’s what I’ve done. That’s why you’re hearing this. I’ve copied these files into Reaper because I’ve made a few stumbles along the way [laughs], and I’ve done some editing with this because the files are now in Reaper.

You can also use this as an audio interface. It does include the loopback functionality as well. You can use the audio interface with your computer or your smartphone.

Below that slot, you have the controls to navigate the menu. There is a knob that just spins and spins. And this one (and maybe it’s just my unit), is a bit firmer to click than the H6 Essential. It requires a little bit more deliberate action, and I quite like that. This scroll wheel navigates you through menus.

Below that scroll wheel, you have the button for Enter, and you will execute on your menu choices.

And underneath, we have the battery compartment and a way of attaching to a tripod. And that is the H4 Essential. Any final thoughts, Bonnie, before I take this down to the studio?

Bonnie: No. I was just thinking as you were going over that last part that this would have been a very great thing to have in recording class lectures.

Jonathan: I guess so. If you had got permission from the lecturer to put that recorder at the front, then you would have been able to use the Bluetooth facility to press record, and you’d get a good recording.

With the H6 Essential, there will be some optional modules coming like the shotgun mics and things, but you could buy an XLR shotgun mic for the H4 Essential as well, so that’s a very good point.

And especially because it’s 32-bit float, it means that you can turn it up if it’s faint. You can make all those adjustments afterwards and not be too concerned about…

Bonnie: And then, you could upload it to your computer so you could keep those class lectures.

I’m not sure what people are doing these days. I used a standard APH HandyCassette player to record, and then I took notes when I went back to my dorm room in Braille. And then when I started having graduate classes that were several hours long, I used the Braille ’N Speak. So it’d be interesting to see what people are using now and how this could be a case for taking notes.

Jonathan: So having gone through the device, let’s set it up from scratch again, and we’ll go to the studio for that.

Thank you for joining me for this bit, Bonnie.

Bonnie: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

32-Bit Float Explained, and First Start

I’m in the studio now with the H4 Essential connected, and I’ve reset it.

So we have a new micro SD card inserted into the recorder, ready to go. You can use up to 1 terabyte of micro SD storage if you want to go that far. Even at 32-bit float with all tracks recording, even at 96 kilohertz, that is quite a lot of storage.

Before I switch this unit on, I want to talk about the benefits of 32-bit float, and what it actually means. Later, we’re going to talk about the sampling rate. That’s how many samples of the audio the recorder will take every second.

The other factor that influences the quality of the audio that we record is bit depth. The higher the bit depth, the better the dynamic range you can capture without distorting the audio. We often call this clipping.

So sometimes, if you yell into a recorder, your levels aren’t set correctly, something happens that’s really loud, and you’re making, say, a 16-bit recording, you will hear that distortion. And once the distortion is in the recording, you can try and mask it. There are tools that try and deal with it. But it’s really hard to get rid of clipping in recordings once it’s in there.

And the good news just keeps on coming because not only is 32-bit float great for recording very loud sounds, it’s also good for recording soft sounds because you can turn up those soft sounds without introducing a whole bunch of noise from the recorder, or from the recording itself. That’s why the Zoom Essential Series can afford to have no input level at all, because you can adjust the dynamic range after you make the recording and have it as loud or as soft as you want. It’s an absolutely brilliant feature from an accessibility perspective, and it’s just a great convenience feature for all content creators and 32-bit floaters here in all of these accessible recorders. That is a big deal.

I’m going to power the unit on now. We’ll go through setup.

What is really impressive about all of these recorders is that they come up talking. There’s no special key sequence to know, nothing to remember. By default, the recorder is accessible. We’ll power it on.

Female voice: Guide sound, off.

Jonathan: Guide sound’s off by default, so we’ll scroll the wheel to turn them on.

Guide sound: English and beep.

Jonathan: You also have another option.

Guide sound: Beep only.

Jonathan: But we’ll go back, …

Guide sound: English and beep.

Jonathan: and press enter.

Guide sound: Language: English.

Jonathan: That’s fine, but we’ll review the languages available.

Guide sound: French.








Jonathan: And if you want to install other accessibility languages, they are available from the Zoom website, and there is information about how to install them.

Unfortunately, though, this is the first instance of encountering an issue with all of the documentation for the Essentials series, which is that they’re in a PDF format. And whenever they refer to pressing a button on the device, there’s a graphic, and there’s no alt text for that graphic. So it is somewhat sad, given all the good work with these recorders, and a little bit ironic that even in the accessibility guide, it’s not accessible because it doesn’t tell you in an accessible way what to press to install additional accessibility options.

Guide sound: Date format: year, month, day.

Jonathan: I’m happy with that, but I’m going to go down to see what other options there are.

Guide sound: Month, day, year.

Jonathan: That’s the US format.

Guide sound: Day, month, year.

Jonathan: That’s the UK, Australia, New Zealand format.

Guide sound: Back.

Year, month, day.

Jonathan: I’m going to keep that, because that’s actually the file naming convention I use for audio files.

Guide sound: Set date time. Year.

Jonathan: As a bit of a veteran of these Essential series recorders by now, I know that the year is defaulting to 2024, so I’ll scroll down.

Guide sound: Month, year, month.

Jonathan: Oops! It’s a little bit fiddly. There we go. We go to month.

Guide sound: Month. 1.

Jonathan: I’ll set that to 3.

Guide sound: Day.

Jonathan: And now, we’ll set the day.

Guide sound: 1.


Jonathan: And we’ll press enter.

Guide sound: 0.

Jonathan: It uses 24-hour format, and I’m recording this on Sunday evening, so it’s quicker if i go backwards.

Guide sound: 23.

Jonathan: That’s correct. I’ll press enter.

And now, we’ll go down, …

Guide sound: Minute.

Jonathan: and set the minute.

Guide sound: 1.

Jonathan: It is quite responsive.

I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Okay.

Jonathan: And we’ll execute that.

Guide sound: Battery type: alkaline.


Jonathan: That’s the battery type I have, but we also can choose…

Guide sound: Lithium.




Jonathan: I’ll set it to that.

Guide sound: Done.

Jonathan: And we’re done with our setup.

One thing I will do immediately to make sure that levels are consistent is I’m going to go into accessibility settings and set the volume of the voice guidance to loud.

I’ve done that, and we’ll review that as we go through the settings. But that will just make this demo a little easier, and avoid any snafus with varying levels.

Inaccessible Arming Function

I’m at the recording standby screen now. And if I press record, any of the tracks that are armed will be recorded. Of course if you don’t have anything connected to any of the tracks that are armed, you’ll just get a blank file, and that wastes battery, and it also wastes storage.

It’s pretty simple to delete those tracks of course from the sd card, when you have the device in storage mode. Trouble is, it is not accessible at the moment determining which tracks are armed and which ones are not. If, for example, I press the track 1 button, …

[short beep]

I get a beep. If i press it again, …

[short beep]

I get another beep. It’s exactly the same beep, and there’s no indication as to whether i’ve armed or disarmed the track.

If you’ve got something connected to the input, then it’s easy to tell because if you’re wearing headphones, you’ll be able to hear the output. If i press the center button of those 3 rectangular buttons at the bottom of the unit, for example, to arm the built-in microphone, you’ll hear it.

[short beep]

And you can now hear the microphone coming back through the headphone socket, which is connected to my mixer for this demonstration. I’ll press it again. It’s disarmed, and you hear exactly the same beep.

I’m hoping that this will be fixed in a future firmware version, so that at least we get one kind of beep when it is armed, and one kind of beep when it’s not.

There’s already precedence for this. If I turn the volume up, …

[2 short high-pitched beeps heard twice]

you hear a high-pitched beep. And if I turn the volume down, …

[a series of lower-pitched beeps]

you hear a low-pitched beep. So I’m hoping that a similar thing will be implemented to give us much greater clarity about which tracks are armed and which are not.

Remember that you don’t have to be wearing headphones. There is a built-in speaker in this unit, and I’ll show you that later in this review. And that means that you can hear the voice prompts over the built-in speaker and get recording quickly.

But you may not get the recording you want if you don’t have the tracks armed that you think you have. So this is a significant defect in the current version of the firmware.

So press record, and away you go. Press stop when you’ve finished. You can also press record again when you’ve finished.

This is also something to be aware of because some people tend to press record several times, just to make sure that they really are recording. [laughs] If you do that on this recorder, you’re not going to get the results you would like, because pressing record is actually a toggle. You press it once, and you’re recording. And you press it again, and you have stopped recording.

It’s pretty easy to tell. If I press record now, …

Guide sound: No rec track.

Jonathan: Alright, thank you for that. Let me arm the microphone track.

[1 short beep]

If I press record now, you hear one beep and we are recording. And if I press it again, after a small pause, you hear a double beep and we’ve stopped recording.

And to prove that, I will just play that very short recording back. I’ll press the play button. You can hear me fumbling around the recorder.


You hear one beep, and we are recording. And if I press it again, you hear one…

Alright, I pressed stop.

Guide sound: Battery level: high. Rec standby.

Jonathan: And I don’t know why this is the case, but Essential recorders do seem to loop on playback, and I’ve not found a way to stop that from happening so be mindful. The record button is a toggle.

Let’s have a quick listen to what the speaker on the H4 Essential sounds like. I think it’s quite good for what it is. I have no difficulty hearing the voice prompts, even in quite loud situations.

Guide sound: Input settings.

Output settings.

Rec settings.

SD card.


System settings.

File list.

Input settings.

Jonathan: And now we’re back around, which is timely for our next section.

Exploring the Menus

Now, we’re going to take a look at the extensive menu system in the Zoom H4 Essential which is accessible. When you’re in the standby screen, you’re all ready to navigate these menus. And you do so by turning the scroll wheel on the right-hand side of the device. If you want to execute a choice or go deeper into a menu, you can press the enter key. If you want to return quickly to the standby screen, usually, you can press the stop button to do that.

So I will scroll down to the first menu option.

Guide sound: Input settings.

Jonathan: And we’ll have a look by pressing enter.

Guide sound: Microphone.

Jonathan: You’ll find a choice for each of the inputs. So if i scroll down, …

Guide sound: Input 1.

Input 2.



Jonathan: We’ll go into the microphone because this is a slightly different set of parameters from the other inputs, because this pertains to the built-in microphone of the H4 Essential.

Guide sound: Low cut.

Jonathan: The low cut option will reduce certain low frequency sounds. This can affect wind noise, traffic noise, unacceptable hum sounds, things that you don’t really want in your recording. You can apply these post-production, which is what i would typically do. But i guess one of the advantages of switching this on here is that if you are monitoring over headphones, it may be a bit more pleasant, rather than having all those sounds coming through your headphones as you record. So the choice is yours.

I’ll press enter, and we’ll have a look at the options.

Guide sound: Off.

80 hertz.

160 hertz.

240 hertz.



Jonathan: We know it’s off because focus is given to the currently selected menu item when you go into this menu, and off is what I want.

I’ll just press enter to accept that.

Guide sound: Low cut.

Jonathan: The next menu choice in the input microphone option is…

Guide sound: Mono mix.

Jonathan: By default, the built-in microphone of the Zoom H4 Essential will record in stereo, a kind of a 3D stereo, because of the XY pattern of the microphone. If you want to, perhaps for spoken word recording, you can put the microphone into mono.

I’m going to pick up the recorder, but not hold it too close, because at the moment, I haven’t put any kind of pop screen on here.

And as we heard with the H6 Essential recording, these microphones are really sensitive to plosives and general wind sound, so you’ve got to get a filter for this. I’ve got the good old classic Zoom Furry windscreen, which seems to fit pretty much everything, but it would be good to see some more custom fitting accessories for the different members of the Essential Series family.

So we’ll go in here, …

Guide sound: Off.

Jonathan: And we’ll switch it on.

Guide sound: On. Mono mix.

Jonathan: Now, when I enable the microphone, it is in mono. And I can just move around. You’re hearing no effect at all. It is just a single source.

If, however, I go up, …

Guide sound: Low cut.

Mono mix, on.

Off. Mono mix.

Jonathan: And now, mono mix is off and I’ve just switched my own microphone off, so you can hear that as I move around, we’re back in stereo. And there’s quite a wide stereo pattern here. I’ll just arm the microphone.

And the next option is, …

Guide sound: Plug-in power.

Jonathan: The reason why there’s a plug-in power option here, when we thought we were looking at the built-in microphone, is that these settings also affect the 3.5mm input jack. If you’re using certain types of condenser microphones that connect to the 3.5mm jack, they may require plug-in power. And that’ll be at 48 volts, which is the standard.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: And that’s what we have for these series of inputs.

Guide sound: Microphone.

Jonathan: We’ll take a look at one of the other inputs, because the settings are not quite identical to the microphone one we just saw.

Guide sound: Input 1.

Jonathan: We’ll go in there.

Guide sound: Low cut.

Jonathan: We have that same option – the low cut option.

Guide sound: Phantom.

Jonathan: But this time, we also have…

Guide sound: Stereo link.

Jonathan: Let’s see what’s in here.

Guide sound: Off.

Stereo link.

Jonathan: If you choose stereo link, inputs 1 and 2 will be linked together.

So the most common use case for this would be that you would have a trs cable with a left and a right channel, or you might have 2 separate trs cables – one for left, and one for right going to some sort of other device. It could be a mixer. For example, when doing some testing I have successfully connected the H4 Essential to my Allen & Heath ZED-22FX mixer, and that means that I have all the power at my disposal of my mixer and can send it all to the H4 Essential. Pretty cool!

You may have certain microphones that would utilize this as well. I have one microphone with which I record in the field that has stereo, and it has 2 XLR cables at one end. You can use it for this as well.

When you enable stereo link, you’ll get 1 stereo file as opposed to 2 separate tracks. so if you don’t want to enable stereo link but you do want to record something in stereo, that’s still absolutely possible. You can just handle it manually. you can take track 1 into Reaper or your digital audio workstation of choice, pan it all the way to the left, and do the same with track 2 – pan it all the way to the right and you’ll get the same effect. This just makes it a bit easier because you’ve got everything in one file.

Once you have stereo link enabled, you can press either of the track buttons track 1 or track 2, and it will arm both of them because they’re linked.

There is a 3rd option here under stereo link. So we’ve got off, and we’ve got stereo link. And then, we have…

Guide sound: MS Matrix.

Jonathan: I’m going to enable this now.

Guide sound: Stereo link.

Jonathan: And we’re popped out of the menu, and we’re back on to stereo link. So what have we done there? Well, we’ve only gone and enabled mid side format, which is a way of controlling the stereo width of your image after it’s recorded. So you can take this back into a compatible recorder, and adjust things to your heart’s content.

The odd track (so in other words, track 1 on this one because there are only two tracks where you can do this) becomes the middle of the image, and the even track (in this case, track 2) becomes the side of the image.

On the H6 Essential, you can do this with 4 tracks. Here, you can do it with the two. So the mid mic is capturing sounds to the front and center, the side mic captures sounds to your left and to your right. Therefore, by adjusting that volume of the side mic, you are going to get a wider stereo image. Or a narrow one, depending on what you do.

Now that we have selected this option, if we go down, …

Guide sound: Side level.

Jonathan: We’ve got a new option called side level, which allows you to adjust the stereo image at record time. So you’re hearing in your headphones what you hope to produce. But you’re not locked in. You can adjust this post-production.

So i’ll press enter.

Guide sound: 0.

Jonathan: And if i go up, …

Guide sound: 1.


Jonathan: Now, we’ve got a raw image. If i go down, …

Guide sound: 5.

Minus 10.


Jonathan: And now, it’s down to mute. I’ll just take it back to 0.

Guide sound: Minus 23.

Jonathan: As you can hear, it is pretty responsive, as you scroll through this. So we’re at 0 now.

I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Side level.

Jonathan: And I’m going to just back up a little bit and turn all this off.

Guide sound: Stereo link.


Stereo link. MS matrix.



Jonathan: And switch stereo linking off. It’s fun to play, but you got to make sure you reverse your step. Otherwise, you may get results that you are not expecting. So stereo link is now definitely off.

And those are the configuration choices that we have for the 2 combo inputs.

I’ll go back out of the input screen, …

Guide sound: Battery level: high. Rec standby.

Jonathan: and scroll down.

Guide sound: Output settings.

Jonathan: Now, we’re looking at output settings. The output settings will expand when you’re playing a file. But these are what we have when you’re just looking at it from the standby screen.

Guide sound: Volume control.

Jonathan: You can set the volume control to a fixed level for line out purposes, or you can have it controled by the wheel.

Guide sound: Knob.



Jonathan: If we go into fixed, …

Guide sound: Fixed.

Jonathan: Now, we’ve enabled the fixed mode. So if I turn the volume down, …

[a series of short beeps]

I can turn it all the way down, and nothing happens. We hear that beep, and the volume of the beep doesn’t change. So, …

Guide sound: Fixed level.

Jonathan: we’ve got a new option now called fixed level.

Guide sound: 40.

Jonathan: It’s defaulting to 40, which is the max. And if I go down, …

Guide sound: 39.

Jonathan: it’s getting quieter. And if I turn it all the way down, now I can’t hear the voice guidance at all. So be careful with this because if you press enter at this point, you won’t be able to hear anything. [laughs] Your voice prompts will be gone.

Guide sound: 4.

Jonathan: I’ll leave it at that, and press enter.

Guide sound: Fixed level.

Jonathan: And I do want control of my volume through the knob, …

Guide sound: Volume control.

Jonathan: so we’ll go in there.

Guide sound: Fixed.


Jonathan: and choose knob.

Guide sound: Volume control.

Jonathan: Now, …

[a series of short beeps getting quieter]

we have control back of the volume through the knob. Why would you want this? There are times when it can be handy to have a fixed volume for when you’re using the H4 Essential’s jack as a line output device. There is no dedicated line out jack in the H4 Essential, so this definitely has its uses.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: That’s all we have for now in the output settings.

Guide sound: Battery level: high. Rec standby.

Rec settings.

Jonathan: This is the recording settings. It says rec settings.

Guide sound: Sample rate.

Jonathan: There is only one bit depth available in the H4 Essential (as is the case with all the Essential series), and that is 32-bit float. When we go in here, …

Guide sound: 48 kilohertz.

Jonathan: That is the default that it ships with from the factory, and that will be adequate for most purposes.

If I scroll down, …

Guide sound: 96 kilohertz.

Jonathan: While the 96 kilohertz option has some advantages in the sense that it’s very high sampling so you’ll get high fidelity (I guess for music, or really important things like that), there are some disadvantages. There are certain things that don’t work at 96 kilohertz, and we’ll have a look at those as we move through.

96 kilohertz files at 32-bit float are going to take a lot of space, particularly if you’re recording a bunch of tracks. But you’ve got the storage to do it, potentially. Even with a 512 gig card, you’ve got plenty of room for storage, particularly when you’re not going to store things on the sd card long-term, I wouldn’t think. The idea would be to record in the field, get the files off the sd card, and put them into your digital audio workstation.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: There’s the back option, but there’s one more.

Guide sound: 44.1 kilohertz.

Jonathan: 44.1 kilohertz is the standard used for CDs, and it’s been around a long time.

Most people recommend that if you’re doing spoken word recording, it’s best these days to go up to 48 kilohertz, and that is the default.

Guide sound: 48 kilohertz.

Sample rate.

Jonathan: Scrolling down on the recording settings menu, …

Guide sound: Pre-rec.

Jonathan: Pre-rec is off by default.

The scenario is this. You’re sitting there, waiting for something to happen. Maybe you’re a journalist and you’re waiting for a news conference to begin that you want to record. And somebody walks up and says, “Good afternoon, everybody.”, and you think, “I gotta hit record.”

When you’ve got pre-record enabled, the last 2 seconds is buffered for you so that if you press record as soon as that person says good afternoon everybody, you’re going to get the full thing (as long as you do it within 2 seconds) because it’s keeping it in a buffer for you.

If you were to go up to 96 kilohertz, then you only get the last 1 second. But it’s 2 seconds with 44.1 kilohertz and 48 kilohertz.

I tend to leave this off because I’m just not sure how much battery it’s consuming, kind of being in that buffer mode. And it’s not something that I need very often for my use case. It could be really important for yours though, but it is off by default.

Guide sound: Rec source.

Jonathan: Where are you recording from. I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Pre-mixer.



Jonathan: We’re going to go on a tour of the mixer in the H4 Essential shortly.

The default is to record pre-mixer. That means that the recorder will just record what it gets, and you can adjust things later. That’s the glory of 32-bit float.

There are use cases for a mixer. Mostly, in my view, for playback. But if you want to record from the mix, you can do that as well. And that’s when you would set post mixer.

If that’s a bit confusing, hopefully it’ll become a bit clearer when we have a look at the mixer very shortly.

Now, we’re on back so we’ll go back.

Guide sound: Rec start tone.

Jonathan: If you want to, you can have a tone play at the start of your recording. That will actually be inserted in the recording. And for many of us who’ve used zoom recorders for a while, this has been a handy audible clue that you are actually recording.

If you’re wearing headphones now, you get a beep when you start record, and a double beep when you stop recording That comes through your headphones. And that’s actually an accessibility feature. So you may not need this anymore. But if you want to use it, it could be useful for synchronization.

Go in here…

Guide sound: Off.

Jonathan: And…

Guide sound: Minus 40 DBFS

Jonathan: As we scroll down, we’re seeing a series of choices relating to how loud this tone will be. It gets louder as we move down.

Guide sound: Minus 20 DBFS.

Minus 12 DBFS.

Minus 6 DBFS.


Jonathan: I’ll set it to minus 12. That’s loud enough.

Guide sound: Minus 12 DBFS.

Jonathan: I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Rec start tone.

Jonathan: Now, I’ll return to the standby screen by pressing stop.

Guide sound: Battery level: medium. Rec standby.

Jonathan: I’ve been using these batteries a while.

Now, I’m going to enable a track.

[1 short beep]

The microphone is enabled.

And I’ll press record.

[1 loud, longer beep]

Whoa! Hear that?

Now, when I play it back, … So I’ll press stop.

[2 short beeps]

Now, I’m going to press play.


[1 loud, longer beep]

Whoa! Hear that?

Now, when I play it back, … So I’ll press stop.

[1 loud, longer beep]

Whoa! Hear that?

okay. Once again, the playback is looping. I don’t want that tone anymore. I don’t need to have that sort of thing in the recording anymore, so we’ll go back.

And the cool thing is that the H4 Essential does remember the last menu I was in. So if I press enter, …

Guide sound: Rec settings.

Jonathan: Okay. I push it again.

Guide sound: Sample rate.

Jonathan: There we go.

Guide sound: Pre rec.

Rec source.

Rec start tone.

Jonathan: And we’ll turn that off.

Guide sound: Minus 12 DBFS.



Jonathan: Now, that’s disabled.

The next option on the recording menu, …

Guide sound: Metadata.

Jonathan: allows you to insert metadata into a file.

There’s probably no value in doing this. The manual seems to suggest that there are some compatibility issues with some applications when you insert metadata in wave files. And really, the titles of the files are self-explanatory, with the date format that you’ve specified in setup and which you can change anytime.

The options in here are to turn metadata on (in other words, to write it) or to leave it off.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: That’s the recording menu.

Guide sound: Battery level: medium.

SD card.

Jonathan: Let’s take a look at this menu.

Guide sound: Format.

Jonathan: Formatting an sd card is a good idea. Zoom recommends that when you put an SD card into the H4 Essential, you format it. Obviously, this will erase everything on the SD card. It doesn’t take very long at all to format it, and it ensures that the SD card is optimally configured for your recorder.

Guide sound: Quick test.

Jonathan: We can give it a quick test. We’ll try this.

Guide sound: Quick test. Cancel.

Jonathan: Now, you may think that it’s already doing it. It is not. You have to scroll down, …

Guide sound: Execute.

Jonathan: and here’s one of those choices that you see sometimes in this user interface where there’s a cancel and an execute button, I guess because it’s thinking do you really want to do this? Well yes, we want to do this. We want to see what happens.

Guide sound: Enter key. Cancel.

Jonathan: And so it’s now telling me that if i press the enter key, I will cancel the test.

I don’t know what this test consists of, or how long it will take. Actually, this is the first time I’ve tried this. But presumably, it is writing some data to the SD card, which I presume it erases after the test, and the purpose of this is to make sure that the recorder can write fast enough to the SD card that you’ve inserted.

Guide sound: Pass. Enter key: close.

Jonathan: Wow! We passed the test.

[applause sound effect]

So now, we’ll press enter, and that gives you some confidence that the SD card you’re working with is okay.

Guide sound: Full test.

Jonathan: You can also perform a full test, which takes longer.

Guide sound: Empty trash.

Jonathan: There are various places in the user interface where you can trash a file. When you do this, it puts the files in a special folder called trash. And once those files are there, they’re not accessible from the recorder.

But all isn’t completely lost because if you put the H4 Essential into storage mode, you will be able to browse with your device of choice, and you will see that trash folder, and the files are there.

If you empty trash, that’s irrevocable. I’ll just do that.

Guide sound: Empty trash. Cancel.


Jonathan: This is another example of this kind of menu.

Guide sound: Done.

Jonathan: And the trash is now emptied, and it’s gone back to the empty trash option.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: That’s the SD card menu.

Guide sound: Battery level: medium.


Jonathan: Now we’re onto USB, and we’ll explore what the options are here by pressing enter.

Guide sound: File transfer.

Jonathan: If we put the recorder into file transfer mode, it will appear as a drive on your computer or your smartphone. I have used this by connecting it to my PC.

I’ve got an optical drive. Yes, I still rip CD-ROMs and DVDs from time to time. So in my case, it comes up as drive E, which is kind of appropriate because it’s drive E for Essential.

Every project that you have is given its own folder. So when you go into the folder, you will have a recording for each track. Stems, if you will.

The recorder also makes a stereo mix of all of the files, and it’s tidy because they all belong in one folder with the days in the format that you’ve specified.

This is a good way of working because the actual recorder itself only shows you one name per project, even though there may be the stereo file plus 4 other individual tracks.

If you had to browse all of those with the recorder, it’d be a bit messy. So good structural thinking here on Zoom’s part.

I have also tested this by connecting it to my iPhone. I have an iPhone 15, so I can just use the cable that came with my iPhone to connect from the USB-C port of the phone to the USB-C port of the Zoom H4 Essential. And at that point, I’m able to use the Files app to browse the recorder. I can then copy that material into whatever recorder I’m using on my iPhone.

So the storage mode is very useful. It just works.

I haven’t tried it on a Mac. I presume it is working there okay.

Guide sound: Audio interface.

Jonathan: You can use the H4 Essential as an audio interface. And there are some options here.

Guide sound: Channel.

Jonathan: If we go into channels, …

Guide sound: Stereo mix.

Jonathan: It can be stereo, which is the default, …

Guide sound: Multi-track.

Jonathan: or you can use it as a multi-track device if you install the appropriate ASIO driver available on Zoom’s website.

Guide sound: Stereo mix.

Jonathan: You don’t seem to be able to choose back here, so I will make the choice and I’ll choose stereo mix for now.

Guide sound: Mode.

Jonathan: If we go into mode, …

Guide sound: Audio interface with rec.

Audio interface only.

Jonathan: If you choose audio interface with rec, it means that you’re able to use the H4 Essential as an audio interface and record at the same time.

This has many benefits. For example, if you were connecting this to your iPhone and you were broadcasting live (thanks to the high quality of the H4 Essential), you could also make a recording of what you are doing.

It could also be that you’re recording an important podcast interview, and you’re recording on your computer, and you consider that to be the primary source. But just in case the computer goes down (maybe there’s a power outage or something like that), you can make a second recording from the H4 Essential.

Guide sound: Power.

Jonathan: Power is the next option.

Guide sound: USB.


Jonathan: If we choose USB, then when you connect the H4 Essential as an audio interface, it’ll try and draw power from the bus of the device that it’s connected to. Thus, saving you batteries. If you’re connecting to a desktop computer or a laptop computer connected to power, then you’d want to do this because the batteries can stay fresh and unused while you use this for as long as you want as an audio interface.

You may find some unacceptable battery drainage issues (if it works at all), if you were to try and do this with your smartphone which is running from batteries.

Again, there is no way of going back.

Guide sound: Battery.


Jonathan: So I’m going to choose USB.

Guide sound: Connect.

Jonathan: And now, if we choose Connect, we will turn the H4 Essential into an audio interface. I’m not quite ready to do that, but we will come back to this.

Before we leave the USB port, it does one more thing, and it’s an important thing. And that is that you can connect this to an external power source. You can plug it into the wall with the right kind of adapter. But when you’re on the go and you want to do a long recording session, you may want to bring a power bank with you such as those from Anker and Mophie and many other manufacturers, where you’ve got plenty of juice and it will last you a very long time.

So that’s a very handy feature of the USB-C port.

Guide sound: Cancel.

Audio interface.


Battery level: medium.

System settings.

Jonathan: Now, we’re on to system settings.

Guide sound: Language.

Jonathan: We reviewed the languages when we set the H4 Essential up.

Guide sound: Date time.

Jonathan: There are 2 choices here.

Guide sound: Set date time.

Jonathan: If you need to change it for some reason. I presume it doesn’t respond to daylight saving so if your clock changes, you may need to change the date and time for that reason.

Guide sound: Date format.

Jonathan: And if you want, you can change the date format.

Guide sound: Back.

Display. Brightness.

Jonathan: This is where you might be able to get a little bit of extra battery saving. Since this thing is talking, you may be able to turn the display down since it’s no use to us if we’re totally blind.

I’ll go in here.

Guide sound: Medium.

Jonathan: And we’ll go down…

Guide sound: Bright.



Jonathan: to dark, and press enter.

Guide sound: Display. Brightness.


Jonathan: When we go into power, …

Guide sound: Battery type.

Jonathan: You’ll remember that we set this up at startup as well. If you use a different kind of battery, then you can change the battery type here. And this serves to give you a better estimate, I think, as to how much time is remaining.

Guide sound: Power saving.

Jonathan: Let’s look at what the options are.

Guide sound: 1 minute.

Jonathan: That’s what it’s defaulting to at the moment. So it will go into a standby mode after 1 minute of inactivity.

Guide sound: 3 minute.

5 minute.



Jonathan: And you can switch it off altogether. I actually would prefer to switch it off.

Guide sound: Power saving.

Jonathan And we have one more option like this.

Guide sound: Auto power off.

Jonathan: If I press enter, …

Guide sound: 10 hours.

Jonathan: It will auto power off after 10 hours of you not touching the device.

Guide sound: Back.


10 minutes.

60 minute.

10 hours.



10 minutes.

Jonathan: I mean if I haven’t touched it for 60 minutes, I reckon I’m probably not really working with it.

So I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Auto power off.

Jonathan: Important things to note.

Even if you enable this, it’s not going to auto power itself off when it’s recording, when it’s formatting the SD card, when it’s doing anything critical. So it’s not like if you enable this feature even and set it to 10 minutes for it to power off after any inactivity, that it’s going to upset anything important that you’re doing. If you’re recording, it’s not going to automatically power off.

At least, that’s what they tell me.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: I’ll go back.

Guide sound: Bluetooth.

Jonathan: We’ll come back to Bluetooth when we have a look at the H4 Essential app.

Guide sound: Accessibility.

Jonathan: All righty. Let’s go into this one.

Guide sound: Guide sound.

Jonathan: We configured this at the beginning. You’ve got English, beep and off, and you can install other files, if you want, for other languages.

Guide sound: Volume.

Jonathan: We can set the volume to…

Guide sound: Loud.



Jonathan: I’ve got it to loud right now.

Guide sound: Volume.


Jonathan: What does it say here?

Guide sound: Version: 1.00.

Jonathan: And if I go down, …

Guide sound: Install.

Jonathan: This is where we would install an accessibility update, if one exists. One doesn’t yet for this recorder, to the best of my knowledge.

Guide sound: Back.


Jonathan: And that’s the accessibility settings.

One additional feature that I know many people would appreciate would be the ability to speed up the voice prompts. So perhaps that’ll be something that gets added in a future revision of the firmware.

Guide sound: Firmware.

Jonathan: If we go into firmware, …

Guide sound: System version: 1.02.

Firmware update.

Jonathan: And this is where we would initiate a firmware update. But at the moment, there is no firmware update for the H4 Essential that I’m aware of.

Guide sound: Factory reset.

Jonathan: That will get everything back to its defaults if things get a bit confusing, and you just want to start from a clean point of reference.

Guide sound: Help.

Jonathan: If you press enter on the help option, a QR code will appear. You can scan that QR code with your phone, and you’ll be able to get the latest help from Zoom.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: And those are the configuration options on the recorder.

The Inaccessible File List

Now, we’re going to take a look at another option on the menu.

Guide sound: File list.

Jonathan: And unfortunately, at this time, this is not accessible.

If I press enter, …

Guide sound: File list.

Jonathan: Now, we’re in the file list. And if I scroll the wheel, …

[4 short beeps]

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: I think I have 4 files. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: And I think if I use my back as a point of reference, and then I go up…

[1 short beep]

Now, I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: And I’m now playing whatever that file is.

Guide sound: Play view.

Trash. Back.

Jonathan: Just be mindful before you hit trash that you really know what it is that you’re trashing, obviously.

I’ll press enter on play view. And now, I should be able to press play and it will play the file that currently is selected.


This is a test recording to make sure that the SD card is working.

That is the first file that I recorded on the H4 Essential for the purpose that I said – just making sure the SD card was working correctly.

So for now, we’ve got the voice guidance saying back.

If you scroll up, then you will go through your recordings in chronological order. That also means of course that if you’re on the back button and you scroll down, you’ll get to the last thing that you recorded.

So it’s not perfect, but it’s kind of a workaround of old.

I am confident that these file names can be made to speak because remember, you don’t have any words in these filenames. So even if the TTS that they’re using is just recorded prompts, they’ve got all the numbers in there and I’m sure that they could make this speak.

And I hope very much that they will because they’ve done such a superb job overall that this just lets the side down a bit, and they’re clearly very excited about this accessibility and committed to it. So I’m quietly confident, for no other reason than I just believe they want to do the right thing.

I’ve taken myself back into the main file list screen, and I’m back at the back as a point of reference.

[2 short beeps]

I’m on the second file I recorded, and I’m pretty confident that that is the introduction to this demo.

We can now choose…

Guide sound: Play view.



Jonathan: I’ll go into play view. There we go.

Guide sound: File list.

AB repeat.

Jonathan: Ooh! New choices because we’re in the play view now, so there are certain options available now, pertinent to playing the file. One of which is AB repeat. And if you go in here, you can specify a start point and an end point, and it will loop for you.

Guide sound: Output settings.

Jonathan: If we go into output settings, now, that has changed as well.

Guide sound: Volume control.

Audio normalization.

Jonathan: If we choose audio normalization, this will try and make sure that everything sounds at a good volume when you’re playing it back. So it’s not adjusting the file in any way, but it’s just trying to make it more comfortable for you to listen to.

So I’ll go in here, …

Guide sound: Off.



Jonathan: And that’s all we have.

Guide sound: Playback speed.

Jonathan: You can adjust the playback speed, and we’ll give this a listen.

Guide sound: 100%.

Jonathan: So that’s normal speed.

Guide sound: 125%.


Jonathan: I’m sure we can hear a difference now, so I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Playback speed.

Jonathan: And I think we need to go back.

And if I press play now, that should take effect.

[recording, being played on faster speed]

Welcome to this review of the zoom H4 Essential recorder. I’m Jonathan Mosen, and I’m starting this review in our living room here at Mosen Towers. This time, because I like to mix it up a bit, we’re recording with 2 Heil PR40. No, we’re not.


That’s a bit you didn’t hear.

So that’s a little bit glitchy, I think, but that’s what it sounds like when you speed it up to 150%.

Guide sound: Input settings.

Output settings.

Volume control.


Jonathan: Now what’s happened is that I’ve been taken out of where I want to be.

Guide sound: Battery level: medium. Rec standby.

Jonathan: So I need to…

Guide sound: Input setting.

Output setting.

Rec setting.

SD card.


System settings.

File list.

Jonathan: Go back into the file list, …

Guide sound: File list.


Jonathan: Okay. When you go back into the file list, it does seem to remember the last file that you were on. In this case, my demo file which is the second one that I recorded on this SD card.

Guide sound: Back.

Play view.

Jonathan: Go into play view, … Takes a bit.

Guide sound: AB repeat.

Output settings.

Volume control.

Audio normalization.

Playback speed.

Jonathan: I want to set that back.

Guide sound: 150.


Jonathan: It does go down as well as up, and it goes all the way up to 200%.

I don’t think it’s of the quality that we expect in podcast players or talking book players. But if you quickly want to proof a file, you’ve got it there.

Guide sound: Back.

Jonathan: So those are the choices that you have in output settings when you have playback view enabled.

Now, the next thing, …

Guide sound: Export.

Jonathan: is that we can export this file.

There may be some older applications that don’t support 32-bit float, and that’s the only thing that this recorder records in. But it does allow you to export to some other bit depths. It does not have any other codecs on board.

So let’s say that you recorded something amazing and you want to share it, you want to do so by compressing it to an mp3 or an m4a file, one of those lossy formats. You can’t do this on the recorder itself. You would still need to get the file off the recorder using storage mode, and have some sort of utility on your computer or smartphone do that for you.

So what have we got?

Guide sound: Export. Bit depth.

Jonathan: We can change the bit depth.

Guide sound: 24 bit.

32-bit float.

16 bit.

24 bit.

Jonathan: And those are the choices.

Guide sound: 32-bit float.

Jonathan: We can’t escape out of this, so I have to choose one.

Guide sound: 24 bit.

Guide sound: Track.

Jonathan: Next, what tracks do you want to export?

Guide sound: 2 mix.

Jonathan: If you choose this option, it’ll export the stereo version of the file. As I was explaining earlier, the H4 Essential records stems. In other words, a wave file per track. Unless, you’ve grouped the 2 tracks in stereo, and it also creates a stereo mix. So you can export the stereo version, …

Guide sound: All.

Jonathan: Or all tracks.

Guide sound: Range.

Jonathan: Now, you can choose the range.

Guide sound: AB.


Jonathan: You can use the AB repeat function to specify a range in the file to export, if you just want a clip, Or you can export everything.

Guide sound: Normalize.

Jonathan: The process of normalization is about finding the loudest part of a file, and Setting the volume of the file to a specific value based on that loudest point. I haven’t been able to find out from the user guide what value this normalizes to when you enable it. But if you do enable it, it will go through a normalization process on the recorder Which may take some time. And eventually, you’ll get a normalized file. That could be significant, given that you have recorded in 32-bit float. Your only options here for normalization are to enable or to disable.

And once you’ve got all that set up, …

Guide sound: Export.

Jonathan: Then you press the magic export button, and it goes away and works its magic.

Guide sound: Cancel.

Jonathan: And you can choose cancel, Which is what we will do now.

Guide sound: Trash.

Jonathan: And if you want, you can trash your file.

Guide sound: File list.

Jonathan: This takes us back into the file list.

I’m going to press the stop button.

Guide sound: Low battery.

Jonathan: Oh boy!

Guide sound: Rec standby.

Jonathan: We’re getting through the battery.

Now, I’m going to press play.


Welcome to this review of…

If I hold down the skip forward button and Release, that’s moved me through the file. When you hold down the button, You don’t hear any sound like it’s fast-forwarding, But it is.

If you press the left button to skip back, it is like a CD player, It will skip back to the beginning of the current track.

So if I press it twice, there we go. And that’s taken me to the previous file.

I’ll push skip forward, and that takes me to the next file. So it is pretty easy.

Despite the fact that the file list doesn’t talk, you can quite easily skip around the files and know which ones you are dealing with. While I didn’t mention this in my H6 Essential review, this does apply to that recorder as well.

If you have recorded on multiple tracks, you can actually enable and disable tracks as you play to hear different things.

For example, Bonnie is on track 1 of this recording, and I am on track 2. There is another track as well, and I’ll come back to that a little bit later. But if I press play somewhere in this file, and I’m going to press the track 2 button, you can hear me, but you can only hear me because it’s coming very faintly out of Bonnie’s mic. So if I mute Bonnie’s mic by pressing the track 1 button, now we’re hearing nothing at all. So I’ll press track 2 again, and I’m back. Bonnie’s track, …

And I guess this is one way of finding out which tracks are armed. If you have a recording like this as a point of reference, I’m not clear whether it remembers the armed status for each file or not.

So if you’re recording on multiple tracks, it’s great to be able to audition each track and mute and unmute each one at will.

And this takes me on to the next section of the demonstration.

The Mixer

We’re now going to take a look at the mixer in the Zoom H4 Essential. There are no recording level controls on the Essential series at all because Zoom is saying this is 32-bit float. You don’t have to worry about your levels as you record. You can adjust them in playback.

But obviously, if you’re monitoring over headphones, it is important that you get good volume. It could be as simple as getting a balance between multiple sources. It could be that you’re recording with a source that’s very very quiet. And you know you can fix that in post-production, but you still need to be able to hear it okay as you actually do the recording.

And this is where the mixer comes in. You might like to think of these as virtual faders, and it’s a very accessible process. Congratulations to Zoom for getting this so right.

To invoke the mixer, we can press the mixer button at the very top of the front of the recorder. It’s just below the display.

Guide sound: Microphone.

Jonathan: And if you press it again, …

Guide sound: Low battery. Rec standby.

Jonathan: We’re popped back into standby. And that’s a good thing because I actually need to enable the microphone, so I can do what I need to do.

[1 short beep]

We can hear that that’s on now. I’ll push the button.

Guide sound: Low battery. Rec standby.

Microphone. Input.

Microphone. 0.

Jonathan: And it’s set to 0. We can go all the way up.

Guide sound: 2.

Jonathan: I didn’t want to say anything when it was that loud. And we can go all the way down by scrolling the wheel.

Guide sound: Minus 16.


Jonathan: The microphone is now muted in the mixer, but it is not disarmed. If you were to make a recording at this point, you could still record from that built-in microphone without hearing it. And if you were listening most attentively to the introduction of this demonstration, you will have heard me say that I was recording on all of the tracks. Yet we haven’t, at this point, heard the built-in microphone. So what’s up with that?

Well, the reason is that I muted this in the mixer. And both the H4 Essential and H6 Essential remember your settings for the mixer on a file-by-file basis. So when I’m playing back the recording that I did with Bonnie in our living room, it is not playing back the built-in microphone track, even though a built-in microphone track exists. And we’ll come back to that in a moment. But I’m just going to wind this back up.





Jonathan: There you go. That’s 0, and we can hear it. I’m just going to disarm the microphone now, and I can press Enter. That has set the mix at 0.

Guide sound: Input 1.

Jonathan: If I try to press Enter to go in here, I actually can’t, and this is a feature to me because this does allow me to see which tracks are armed at the moment, and which ones are not. I have been complaining about the fact that I can’t tell by pushing the button, but it does seem that at least on the H4 Essential, I can tell by going into the mixer. And if I press enter to try and invoke a track and I can’t, it’s because it’s not armed.

So if I press the button now to arm track 1, …

[1 short beep]

now I’ll try and go in, …

Guide sound: 0.

Jonathan: and it works, …

Guide sound: Minus 2.

Jonathan: and I have control.

I’ll just press enter, …

[1 short beep]

disarm input 1, …

Guide sound: Input 1.

Jonathan: and when I press enter, nothing happens.

Guide sound: Input 2.

Jonathan: I go down to input 2, and nothing happens there either.

Guide sound: Microphone.

Jonathan: And now we’re back to microphone, so I’ll press the button to get out of the mixer.

Guide sound: Low battery. Rec standby.

Jonathan: Now, let’s press play on this recording.

I’ll go back into the mixer.

Guide sound: Microphone.

Jonathan: I think I’m on input 2.

Guide sound: Input 2. 0.

Jonathan: I’m up a bit, so…

Guide sound: Minus 8.

Minus 24.

Minus 28.

Jonathan: So that’s turning me down. I’m making a few stumbles there, and I think I’m going to start the demo thing again.

Guide sound: Mute.

Jonathan: Now, my track is muted completely, but we can hear me faintly through Bonnie’s microphone.

I’ll press enter.

Guide sound: Input 1.

Jonathan: This is Bonnie’s track.

Guide sound: 0.

Jonathan: I can turn it up, …

Guide sound: 10.

Jonathan: and you can hear her fumbling the mic a bit.

Guide sound: 6.

Jonathan: I will turn Bonnie’s track all the way down now, …

Guide sound: Minus…


Jonathan: So both my track and Bonnie’s track are muted.

I’ll press enter.

Jonathan: Next, …

Guide sound: Microphone.

Jonathan: we get to the microphone track which I muted when i was recording, because I didn’t want to hear the H4 Essential’s built-in microphone doing its thing. But I wanted to show you how well it records in stereo.

A couple of things to note before I wind this up.

It is a reasonably warm early autumn day in New Zealand, and I deliberately left the heat pump on blowing cool air, so it’s kind of blowing a pretty noisy fan in the room. The highly directional samson Q2Use don’t really pick that up very much, and that’s one of the great things about those microphones. The omnidirectional microphone built into the recorder serves a different purpose, and it’s designed to capture environment so it’s really going to capture that.

I’m going to press the enter key.

Guide sound: Mute.

Jonathan: And now, wind up the microphone channel.

Guide sound: Minus…

Jonathan: I’ll start again, actually. Let me just, …

There we go. Yep, starting again. And you can hear me fumbling the recorder. gives me a chance to play it.

[recording on Zoom H4 Essential’s stereo microphones]

Welcome to this review of the Zoom H4 Essential recorder. I’m Jonathan Mosen, and I’m starting this review in our living room here at Mosen towers.

This time, because I like to mix it up a bit, we’re recording with 2 Heil PR40 … No, we’re not.

[laughs] So what you’re hearing there is the built-in microphone, and Bonnie and I were on a 2-seater couch. There’s a little kind of a bit of space between each seat that you can rest things on, and the recorder was on there between us.

Guide sound: Minus…

room here at Mosen towers. This time, because I like to mix it up a bit, we’re recording with 2 Heil PR40… No, we’re not.

I’ll start again, actually. Let me just, …

Okay. So I see what I’ve done now. I’ve started a new recording, actually. So I’m going to stop that. That’s why it never seems to go anywhere.

Guide sound: Low battery. Rec standby.

Jonathan: And why don’t I just skip forward, actually?

[1 short beep]


Hi! I’m Jonathan Mosen. Welcome to this review of the Zoom H4 Essential.

I’ve pressed pause.

So what’s happened there? What’s happened is that, as I say, this is a very clever setup. And the mixer remembers your settings for each file. So now that I’ve gone into a new file, it means that it has gone back to the settings that I had when I recorded the file. My mic and Bonnie’s mic are at 0 in the mixer, and the built-in microphone is muted. It’s all the way turned down.

So if I go into the mixer now…

Guide sound: Microphone.

Jonathan: And press Enter, …

Guide sound: Mute.

Jonathan: I will turn it up.

Guide sound: Minus…

Minus 22.

Jonathan: Now, it’s back to 0. I’ll go down.

Guide sound: Input 1,. 0.

Jonathan: And I’ll turn Bonnie’s mic all the way down and mute it.

Guide sound: Mute. Input 2.

Jonathan: This is my mic.

Guide sound: 0.

Jonathan: It’s also now at 0, but I’ll mute it.

Guide sound: Mute.

Jonathan: Now I’ll press Play, and we’ll hear the Zoom built-in recorder.


I should begin by saying that Zoom has provided me with this unit so I can do this podcast for you, but they have not heard this review before publication, and they haven’t given me any guidance about what I should say. This is not a paid advertisement.

I just want to let you hear what Bonnie sounds like.


Jonathan: The holder of the other microphone is the world-famous Bonnie Mosen. Hello, Bonnie.

Bonnie: Good afternoon.

Jonathan: What do you think of all these Zoom recorders?

Bonnie: I’m not sure how you keep them straight. It’s kind of like, you know, big, little, and small. There’s a Zoom recorder for every occasion and every taste.

Jonathan: And I think that’s right.

I’ll pause that.

Guide sound: Input 1.

Jonathan: I’m going to do something a bit different now.

Guide sound: Mute.

Jonathan: I’m going to turn Input 1 back up.

Guide sound: Minus…

Jonathan: Alright.

Guide sound: Input 2.

Jonathan: I can probably…

Guide sound: Mute.

Jonathan: scroll through a bit quicker than I am.

Guide sound: Minus…

Jonathan: There we go, I’m getting better at it now.

Now, we have all of the tracks at 0. So when I press play now, …


I mean, there will be some people who might want to maybe all 3 of these. But I think if people have to choose, …

That’s quite an interesting effect, actually, because you’re getting the directionality of the Samson Q2U mics, but you’re also getting some room ambience and stereo effect. You might want to play with this to get the effect just right. you might want to turn the Zoom built-in mic down a little bit.

But now that everything’s back at 0, we can just push the track buttons. So I mute track 1, mute track 2, there’s the Zoom mic on its own, mute that, push track 2, track 1, and we’ll enable the microphone again.

That is the mixer in the Essential series, or at least the H4 Essential and the H6 Essential. This is a much more extensive demonstration of the mixer than I gave in my H6 Essential review because I’m trying to mix it up a little bit. But the same techniques apply to the H6 Essential, except that you have even more tracks to play with.

The accessibility of this is 100%. They have done a brilliant job. And having this degree of flexibility over the mix on a portable recorder like this is just fantastic. I don’t care if I sound gushy about that. It really is very well done.

Setting Markers in a Recording

Next, let’s take a quick look at setting markers in a file. This can be a way of getting back to specific points in the file. And I believe, this data will be imported when you import the file in Reaper, if you go into the item properties and tell it to import the metadata associated with the item. I think these markers are stored in the actual wave file.

To demonstrate this, I’m going to just back out, …

Guide sound: Low battery. Rec standby.

Jonathan: And I’m going to enable the microphone.

And as a result, I’ll mute my own microphone. So you’re hearing me through the H4 Essential.

I’m going to press the record button.

Hello! Hello on the H4 Essential. We’re doing another test recording for the purposes of showing the mark feature.

To use this, we’re going to scroll.

Guide sound: Trash.

Output settings.


Jonathan: There is the mark button. Now, focus stays on this mark button for as long as you need it to until you change it. That means that every time you push enter, …

Guide sound: Mark.

Jonathan: Hello mark 1. We’ll call this one Groucho.

Now, I’m going to just talk for a little while longer, and I will press mark again.

Guide sound: Mark.

Jonathan: We have a second mark. And now, we’ve got 2 marks, and we’re going to call this one Harpo. Tremendous!

I’m just trying to remember what the third mark was called. [laughs]

I’ll push the button again.

Guide sound: Mark.

Jonathan: We have mark 3. Was it Chico marx? I think I have to check that.

And now, I will press stop. Or actually, I’ll just press C.

I’m some distance from the mic, and I can hear those plosives coming in right now.

I’ll push stop.

[2 short beeps]

Now, we will press play and I will just skip forward quickly between each mark.

Hello, hello!

Hello, Mark 1.

We have a second mark.

Now we have mark 3. Was it Chico marx?

I must admit, I got a bit of help. I asked the Soup Drinker just now who the Marx brothers were. Apparently, there’s a 4th Marx brother as well.

So there you go. Anyway, that is how you set markers in the Zoom H4 Essential.

The Input Jack

I want to talk a bit about the input jack.

I don’t have anything to demonstrate with this. I used to have some lavalier microphones that might have worked with this jack, but they’ve long since been lost because I’ve been using microphones with XLR connectors for a very long time now.

I also did manage to find a cable that has a couple of RCAs at one end and a 3.5 at the other. And when I found this, I thought this might be a good way for me to connect the recorder to the Sonos port and give you a quick demonstration of something that way. But it doesn’t work. The Sonos port is sending a fixed line out signal at a pretty standard level, I believe. But when I tried to connect the cable, the voice just keeps saying input overload and there’s nothing really that I can do about that. So I’m not really in a position to demonstrate the input jack.

Of course, there will be other podcasts on the Essential series, so they may be able to demonstrate the utility of this line in jack for you.

Using the H4 Essential as an Audio Interface

Now, let’s touch briefly on the Zoom H4 Essential as an audio interface.

I did do some practical demonstrations of this with the H6 Essential, if you would like to hear that demo. But I can summarize what’s going on for me.

You have (as we heard when we went through the options) 2 modes, broadly speaking, for using the Zoom H4 Essential as an audio interface. You can use it as a stereo device, or a multi-channel device. You have to install an ASIO driver in Windows for multi-channel support.

And unfortunately for me, I’m having the same issue with the H4 Essential that I was with the H6 Essential. That is that it is playing fine. But when I choose any of the 4 inputs, and they are exposed to Reaper and I see them there, I just get silence when I record.

I’ve done quite a bit of troubleshooting with this. And at the moment, I just haven’t found anything that will allow me to record in this way.

Now, it may be something unique to me. And as I said in the H6 Essential review, I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I’m just saying it doesn’t work for me.

If, however, I connect as a stereo audio interface to my PC, that does work. And that gives you the additional option (when you are connected as a stereo USB interface and you go into output settings) of enabling loopback. This means that if you get your balance right, you can have your computer and you recorded at the same time on the device that the H4 Essential is connected to.

So this isn’t working on the recorder. It’s working on the app on your PC or your smartphone (because it works on your smartphone, too) that you are using. So this would allow you to record screen reader demos.

But the downside is that you don’t have your speech on one track and you on another track, which is great for balance and equalization and that kind of thing. So if you want to do that, I think it’s still better to have a cable of some kind running from the H4 Essential to the iPhone or the PC you want to record from. Because then, they’ll be on separate tracks. But it is a kind of a quick and dirty solution, and that may appeal to some people.

Upon further experimentation, which I’ve had some time to do since I produced the H6 Essential review, I found that I can connect the H4 Essential and the H6 Essential in multi-channel mode to my iPhone. When I do this, I can bring up Ferrite, which is a very good multi-track recording application and see all 4 tracks there. So when you connect it in stereo, Ferrite tells you ready to record in stereo. And when you connect, say, the H4 Essential, Ferrite will say ready to record 4 channels. So that does actually work with the iPhone as well, and that is pretty impressive.

So those are my findings with respect to using the device as an audio interface.

The H4 Essential Control App

Next, we’ll take a look at the H4 Essential control app for iOS. This allows you to control your H4 Essential if you have the optional Bluetooth adapter.

I have removed the little rubber stopper that hides the Bluetooth port. It’s quite large, actually. It’s the largest port on the device.

I’m going to plug the Zoom BT adapter into it, and it very firmly clicks into place.

Having done that, we can go to the Bluetooth options and set this up. To do that, we’ve got to go into…

Guide sound: SD card.


System settings.


Date Time.





Jonathan: Let’s press Enter.

Guide sound: H4 Essential Control.

Jonathan: There’s a second option as well.

Guide sound: Time code.

Jonathan: This is for syncing, normally in the movie industry, so that’s something I don’t know a lot about other than you can put these time codes in the files, and synchronize them using Bluetooth to make sure that if you’re using a different audio recorder from what you’re recording video on, they all sync up.

Guide sound: Back.

H4 Essential Control

Jonathan: But that’s what we want, so we’ll press Enter on H4 Essential Control.

And that appears to be that. We’re now in the H4 Essential Control mode. and I don’t have any speech at this point, so it sounds like a good time to go over to the iPhone. We will ask the device to open H4 Essential Control.

VoiceOver: Alert: H4 Essential Control would like to use Bluetooth. H4 Essential Control uses Bluetooth to connect and control your H4 Essential.

Don’t allow, button.

Allow, button.

Jonathan: We won’t go anywhere if we don’t allow, so we’ll double tap.

VoiceOver: H4 Essential Control, H4E-95518B5250EA.

Jonathan: And it found it right there.

I should say, of course, that if you download H4 Essential Control from the App Store, H4 Essential is all one word.

And there’s an equivalent app for the H6 Essential, which you will have heard about if you listened to that review.

VoiceOver: Connecting.

Jonathan: So it’s kind of cool that you don’t have to go into Bluetooth settings on your phone and set this up that way. It’s all done from within the app. And I have to say, Bluetooth has become a lot easier to use in recent years.

And I have to say, We’ve got the prompt from the recorder, it seems happy, and we’ve got the connection. So I’ll go to the top of the screen on the iPhone.

VoiceOver: Zoom. Stop, image. A white rectangle with a blue border.

0 seconds. SD card: 99 hours, 59 minutes.

Jonathan: I’m sure I can waffle on and fill that easily.

Guide sound: Battery level: 2/4.

Jonathan: Right, we’re at 50% battery. So this is giving me a bit more information than the speech does. It’s just saying battery low. And here on the iPhone, it’s telling me that I have 2 out of 4 bars of battery, which doesn’t sound quite so critical to me.

VoiceOver: 240304_065129.

Jonathan: Here are my files, and I can just flick through all of these files. So this is one accessible way to get at the files while they’re on your recorder.

VoiceOver: 48 kilohertz.


Input 1.

Input 2.

File list, button.

Input setting, button.

Output setting, button.

Hold, button.

Jonathan: So this is quite interesting. You can actually activate the hold function.

If I double tap, …

And now that I’m there, the only thing on the screen is the hold button. All the controls have gone.

So if I double tap that, and I imagine, I hope, the user interface comes back.

It does, indeed.

We can control the mixer from here. So if I double tap that, if I go to the top of the screen now…

VoiceOver: Zoom.

Jonathan: and move right, …

VoiceOver: Stop.

SD card.

battery level: 2.


Microphone, button.

Microphone fader: plus or minus 0, adjustable.

Jonathan: And if I flick up and down, …

VoiceOver: Plus 2.

Plus 4.

Plus 6.

Jonathan: I’m now turning the microphone up.

VoiceOver: Microphone, button.

Input 1, button.

Input 2, button.

Jonathan: And we can, I think, expose all of those controls if things are connected to the input.

You can also play, record, perform a range of functions, and configure some settings from here. So it’s quite powerful.

The Zoom H4 Essential control app. It’s available free from the App Store.

I think there’s an Android app as well. I’m not able to tell you how accessible or otherwise that is.

But as you can see, this one’s in reasonable shape.


We’ve now wandered through a lot of features in the H4 Essential. So some final thoughts from me.

It is remarkable to think that Zoom estimates they spend about 25% of their development time on the Essential series on the accessibility features. What we have now is truly groundbreaking, and I congratulate Zoom for this.

I also think that this particular recorder may well be the Goldilocks recorder for many people. It’s not too big, and it’s not too small.

It’s got quite a lot of capabilities without being too expensive. It comes in at $199.

For that, you get a recorder capable of 32-bit float recording, which is a dream for many blind content creators. You don’t have to worry about setting wrong levels when you’re recording something and irrevocably breaking what you’ve recorded.

You’ve got 2 inputs here.

You’ve got a microphone built in that really does need some sort of windscreen on it before you use it. Even if you take this thing around and wave it a little bit, you’ll get some wind noise that blows right in the microphone. So it is quite sensitive, but it does a nice stereo recording with the XY pattern. So definitely get something for it to cover the microphone up, and you should be in very good shape. That’s great for field recording without having to worry about cables.

You’ve got a lot of flexibility in all this accessibility.

There are 3 things that I would highlight that I think would make this even better.

The first is some clear audible indication of when a track is armed, and when a track is not.

The second would be making the file list accessible, which I do believe is absolutely doable.

And I hope both of those things come in a future firmware revision.

The third is Zoom has done so much amazing work making these recorders largely accessible, and yet the documentation is not. Hopefully, the documentation team, wherever they are, can learn about how to make accessible manuals because once they have acquired that skill, and if there’s some sort of directive that comes from Zoom management that says, in future, all documents must be accessible. Once you’ve acquired the skill, you just build it in from the get-go. You make sure that the documents are well-tagged PDF files. You make sure that the documents are fully accessible by including alt text every time a graphic appears. It may require a little bit of training to understand how it’s done. But once you have the skill, Zoom can be best in class.

Imagine how compelling a case they can make. If they say, not only have we got these (hopefully soon), perfectly accessible recorders, we also are the best in the business at writing accessible manuals.

I think they can do it. I hope they can do it because at the moment, at this early stage in the cycle, the jury’s still out in terms of how responsive they will be to implementing some of these suggestions that the blind community is feeding back.

I have high confidence. I know how pleased they are by the reception that they’ve already received from the blind community.

Zoom H4 Essential, $199. It’s a great little recorder.