Info: New Samson Zoom H-4 field recorder

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samson_h4.jpgGizmodo blogs about the new Samson Zoom H-4 field recorder, which seems extremely promising. At only $300, it is about $100 less expensive than either the Edirol R-09 (which is what I have) or the Microtrack 24/96 (which is very popular). The interface for the Samson looks absolutely fantastic and it has two XLR balanced inputs, which none of its competitors have.

The mike placement of the Samson is a spitting image of the Sony PCM-D1, which costs about $2000. The X-Y configuration is designed to give you a better sound field by reducing the possibility of the stereo mics being out of phase with each other.

Samson's product home page is here and they also have a copy of the manual online, which gives some of its specs. After the jump is a comparison of the Samson H4 against the Edirol R-09. The main defect that I can see is the lack of a time/date stamp on the files. This makes it much harder to use as a field recorder -- or as the audio component of a dual-system video recorder.

I'm thinking of picking one up as it seems very promising. No one has it in stock yet though. There are also only a few reviews online, but check the video review on

Comparison table between the Zoom H4, Edirol R-09, and MicroTrack 24/96

The following table compares the current breed of digital field recorders against each other. People will have differing needs. For some, real phantom power and XLR jacks will be important -- thus the Zoom H4 will seem ideal. For me, time/date stamping of my recordings is essential, so I'm stuck with the Edirol R-09 for now. Others will prefer the compact-flash format of the MicroTrack 24/96. All I'm glad for is that the sub-$500 field recorder market is starting to really heat up.

You'll have to scroll down a bit to see the chart, this appears to be a bug...

Camera Name
Samson Zoom H4 Edirol R-09 by Roland MicroTrack 24/96
Date of Release
Standard Microphone

Built-in stereo condensor microphone

Built-in stereo condensor microphone

Plug-in stereo condensor microphone
Other inputs

External balanced mic input (XLR/phone combo jack)

Phantom power 48v/24v/off switchable

External line-in (phone)

External mic (plug-in power 2V capable; stereo minijack)

External line-in

External balanced TRS mic

(phantom power 30V [nonstandard]

and plug-in power 5V capable)

External line-in (balanced TRS)



Headphone (3.5mm) and Line-out (3.5mm)

Headphone (3.5mm)

Optical (3.5mm)

Headphone (3.5mm)

Dual RCA line-outs

Recording Tracks
2 (stereo)
Built-in Speaker
A/D Digitizer
24-bit / 96 mhz

24-bit / 48 mhz

24-bit / 96 mhz
Recording Modes

16 or 24 bit WAV

44.1/48/96 mhz sampling

48-320 MP3 @

44.1kHz sampling

16 or 24 bit WAV @

44.1/48mhz sampling

64/96/128/160/192/256/320 MP3 @

44.1/48kHz sampling

16 or 24 bit WAV

44.1/48/88.2/96 mhz sampling

96-320 MP3 @

32/44.1/48mhz sampling

Recording media

SD memory card (2 gig max)

SD memory card (2 gig max) or

SDHC memory card (32 gb max) w/ firmware v1.1

Compact flash card (MicroDrive compatible)

- 4G card limit

- 2G recording file limit

Time/date stamping


Yes *

* Internal clock on R-09 resets if

not used in several days


type and life

2 x AA (alkaline or NiMH)

~ 4 hrs recording

2 x AA (alkaline or NiMH)

~ 4 hrs recording for alkalines

Proprietary Lion battery

(not user-replaceable)

4~5 hrs recording

(3 w/ phantom power)
Case Construction




Dimensions and weight

70 (W) x 152.7 (D) x 35 (H) mm.

190 g

62.6 (W) x 102 (D) x 29.1 (H) mm.

145 g w/ memory card + batteries

61 (W) x 109.5 (D) x 28.5 (H) mm.

147 g w/ memory card + batteries

Street price

$300 (USA)

¥37800 (Japan)

$400 (USA)

¥38500 (Japan)

$400 (USA)

Note: Copyright © 2006 by Karen Nakamura. Using the text or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place.

See other tips on mic placement here:


Thanks for posting this. (I've linked to it on Savage Minds.)

It actually does seem to be in stock at a number of places, I had trouble finding it at first but found that Froogle, Amazon, and Pricegrabber gave a lot more results if I searched for "Zoom H4 field recorder" rather than "Samson Zoom H-4 field recorder." I think I'll wait a bit though and see if some more reviews come out.

Thank you Karen this is so cool ... Now I just need to find a proper use ...

Your chart indicates the Microtrack does not timestamp files, but I own one and vouch that it does. Thanks for making this comparison table!

Although the MSRP for the Zoom H-4 is $500, it seems to be available for US$300 or $299 almost everywhere. So I'd treat US$300 as the "list" price and see if you can't get a good deal somewhere. For example, B&H has it for $299 with free shipping.

Samson notes that a future firmware update might support 4GB+ SD-HC cards on the H-4..... See here:

I found a post verifying the lack of a date/time stamp on the H-4:
There is no stamp/date function on the H4. Perhaps this will be added with a future firmware update. But as of now, all recorded files have the same date 16 Sep 2005 in their info.


Also see:

Apparently there is no onboard clock chip on the H-4 so I personally think it's unlikely that this will be added through a firmware upgrade. I'd love it if a H-5 came out with that feature, though.

Sean - Are you sure the Microtrack is time/date stamping your files? I don't see any indication in the user manual that there is a built-in clock. Furthermore, a very comprehensive review on CoreSound also indicates that there is no time/date stamp on the 24/96: "The MicroTrack 24/96 and R-1 do not time/date stamp their audio files." (

When you copy the files over to your PC, your PC will time/date stamp the files with the current time/date. Maybe that's what you're seeing?

Dear Karen,
Our organization (Prevention Research Center) has purchased a number of H4's in January for carrying out ethnographic interviews. So far they have worked very well indeed. The built-in mics have excellent sound quality, and the machine is very simple to operate for live recording (I can't imagine using it as a four track recorder, though). I particularly like the fact that they use AA batteries and can also be operated via DC power. Although the operating system takes some getting used to and the screen resolution is not so hot, we have had good results with these recorders. (And yes, it's true that there is no time or date stamp: I get around this by including the date of the interview when I rename my sound files). Just make sure to invest in a 2 GB card, and maybe a case for the thing, as the H4 is made of plastic.
Warm Regards,

Michael -

Thanks for the user report! I'm very excited about the Samson Zoom H2, which I just recently blogged about. It has the time/date stamp and a more compact form factor -- and a lower price, $199.


Hi Karen,
I will be very interested to hear your impressions of the H2 once you get ahold of one. If the sound quality is as good as the H4 and the interface less cluttered/counter-intuitive, it will be a great recorder.

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on October 14, 2006 9:00 AM.

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