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Standalone audio recorders are useful in all sorts of situations. Whether you need to record a business meeting, take a few notes on the go, or hum some chords for your speed-metal band’s newest hit-in-the-making, an audio recording beats written notes, hands down. And if you frequently find yourself capturing video on an iPhone or other pocket cam, you can greatly improve the audio quality of a home movie by capturing external audio and syncing it to your video with editing software.
But in order to pull of any of that, you need a device that you’ll actually carry with you. Samson’s Zoom H1 is a highly portable audio recorder that easily fits in the palm of your hand. It’s constructed of plastic but doesn’t feel cheap—just light (it’s less than 3 ounces). The H1 lets you choose between MP3 and WAV audio at selectable bit rates so you can find a balance between audio quality and your available storage. Higher bit rates will give better quality, of course, at the expense of larger file sizes and diminished recording capacity.
The H1 allows easy drag-and-drop transfers of your files to your Mac.
The H1 ships with a 2GB microSD card for storage, which gives you anywhere from a whopping 93 hours down to 58 measly minutes of recording capacity, depending on bit rate and file format. If you need more storage, simply swap in another card. The H1 accepts microSD cards all the way up to 32GB. The screen prominently displays your remaining time, and the interface is so simple that you’ll be recording in seconds. The big red button on the front starts and stops the recording, and buttons on the sides control playback, track marking, volume, and other functions. You can listen in the field via a built-in speaker, so you can check recording quality without having to carry headphones. A single AA battery is all it takes to capture up to 10 hours of audio.
Unfortunately, no add-ons are included with the H1. The “optional” Accessory Pack ($25) includes an AC adapter, case, tripod, and windscreen. The screen is essential for tempering ambient noise indoors and out. Without it, recording outside is virtually pointless.
When you’re ready to move your recordings to your Mac, connect the Zoom H1 via USB cable, and it’ll appear as a volume in the Finder. Drag and drop your files to their destination, or import them into your audio software for further editing. It really is that simple.
The bottom line. The H1 makes a great companion to a video camera, as well as a standalone recorder for capturing lectures, band practice, or your interviews. Just make sure you budget for the Accessory Pack.
Samson Zoom H1 Handy Recorder
USB 2.0 port
Small and extremely portable. Easy-to-use interface. Takes one standard AA battery. Can record in either WAV or MP3. Standard tripod mount.
Optional Accessory Pack is almost mandatory.