Zoom’s latest recorder the Zoom H1 Handy costs $99; it’s now shipping!

Samson's Zoom H1 Handy digital audio recorderSamson said they were going to ship the Zoom Handy H1 July 30, but they’re shipping the product as of today. the Zoom H1 Handy is available at Amazon (affiliate link). Based on the product specs (I have not yet seen it), my answer to the question, “What recorder should I buy?” will change. I’ll be saying, Get the Zoom Handy H1, people. Why? CD-stereo quality (and higher) recorder, recording in WAV format, will be available for 99 bucks. And it has one-button recording. Sweet. Very, very sweet.

I got off the fone a little while ago with a spokesperson for Samson’s Zoom line of products, confirming very important items about this recorder. The news is good, people. True one touch recording (press the button and the recording begins). And a zippier start-up time to power the unit on.

Why is this good news? A little background…..

That was then, this is now

Last month, when people would ask me, “What recorder should I buy?” I’d tell them about the Samson Zoom H2 Handy—Samson’s previous lowest-cost portable digital audio recorder.

But I’d also tell them about two of the most significant downsides to the Zoom H2—it takes 30 seconds for the unit to power on, and it has press-twice-to-start-recording. 30 seconds is an eternity, if you’re trying to quickly grab a recording of a conversation in progress. What’s so bad about press twice to start the recording? You press the button the first time to preview the recording audio level, and then press a second time to actually begin recording.

Let me tell you about the recording that got away, while I pressed once, saw the blinking red light, and commenced the conversation. Later (too late), I realized I should have pressed the button again, until the light went solid. It was the gathering after my Dad’s memorial service (which I produced). Fatigued? I was beyond fatigued. Took the recorder out, pressed only once. Ouch. The story I missed was very significant—my uncle telling all the cousins (every. single. one.) of the events surrounding the death of our grandparents. This was stuff I had the wrong idea about for nearly 20 years. Was this important? You bet.

That one missed story convinced me that press-once-to-record is an essential feature for a portable recorder.  Press-twice-to-record is a bad user interface. The more complex, the greater the chances for error. I’ve even recommended a more expensive recorder. (“It costs a hundred bucks more? Well, how much is that one story from my uncle worth to me? Is that story alone worth a hundred bucks? Yes.”)

Now—the Zoom H1 Handy portable digital recorder addresses both issues!

Snappier power-up.

And with that bright red button, press-once-to-record.

All for a hundred bucks.

I can’t give you an exact time for powering up. What I can tell you is that based on a conversation that the Samson spokesperson had with one of their engineers, the startup time is snappier than the Zoom H2. It stands to figure: They put all the functions onto buttons and switches on the outside of the unit. No menu. Which means no having to boot up an internal brain that works that menu. So it powers on more quickly.

When I know the exact time, I’ll update this post. (

But as of today, there is only one model of the Zoom H1 Handy in the United States. The rest are on their way here in time for release to the public in 10 days’ time.

Looks as though the spokesperson didn’t know the good news—that the units have arrived and are now shipping.)

The Zoom Handy H1: Just the essentials

What else does the Zoom H1 Handy portable digital recorder have?

A Built in microphones in X-Y pattern captures high quality stereo recording. You can also plug in an external mic into a port that looks like a stereo mini port. Or line-in recording from another audio device or mixing board.

Stereo recording? What formats? WAV format (uncompressed audio—which is one of my must-haves) Oh yeah, and MP3. (Don’t use that one). CD-Stereo quality is 16-bit 44.1 kHz. The Zoom Handy H1 will also record in higher quality—24-bit 96 kHz. The higher quality is great for live music recordings, but you’ll do just fine capturing spoken word at music recordings at 16-bit 44.1 kHz.

There’s a tiny speaker on the “bottom” end of the unit to preview recordings. The sound quality of a small speaker will be tinny, but it will tell you whether you got the recording. Extremely helpful.

Battery power: A single AA battery powers the unit. Included, so you can get started right away. (An accessory kit—$25—includes a power adapter)

How does the Zoom Handy H1 store the digital audio recordings? It uses a micro SDHC Card—the same kind of tiny memory cards that you use in your cell phones. Included with the unit is a 2GB card—which will record 3 hours of conversation. Get a larger card, or get multiple cards. (and don’t lose them!)

A USB 2 port allows for a speedy transfer of the recording from the unit to your computer.



The Fourth Time’s the Charm

Zoom has an advantage in producing their fourth recorder—they’ve gotten to learn what are the most important features, and refine the design of the recorder. (Zoom of Japan is the company that makes the unit; Samson in the United States is the exclusive distributor of the Zoom family of digital recorders) Zoom’s first recorder was the Zoom Handy H4, which was followed by the Zoom H2 (I have the Zoom H2; I bought it.). Then Zoom upgraded and re-introduced the H4 as the H4N. And now comes the Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder.

The three previous units have helped Zoom to whittle down to just the essentials: Just stereo recording (previous models offered more options for 4-track recording). That speaker to preview the recording. Simplified interface for one button recording so you only need to press once to record. And power from a single AA battery. This is a case where less is more, and the previous models have allowed Zoom to refine the design. Throw in the smaller storage card design, and it looks like a recorder that packs in a lot in a small space.

So now, when people ask me, “What kind of recorder should I buy?” I’ll tell them the Zoom Handy H1 Portable Digital Recorder.

UPDATE: Here’s a post (w/ lotsa photos) where I unbox the Zoom Handy H1 recorder.


I have not yet personally tried out the Zoom Handy H1 Portable Digital Recorder. I will soon.

I have a Zoom H2, which I bought. No one has paid me to write about this product. I have included an affiliate link so that your purchase helps to fund my ongoing research into the tools and techniques of capturing family stories in digital audio formats.]

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 20, 2010 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
4 CommentsPermalink

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Hi, Susan,

I just called the mail-order place today—still no Zoom H1s in Canada. I ordered mine August 30th. I guess they’re all going to the U.S.

We traveled all summer—40 days in the Canadian Maritime provinces and then five days in Pennsylvania for the first-ever get-together of me and my six cousins on my father’s side. It was to bury the ashes of the parents of four of them.

I did bring the Zoom H2 and absolutely LOVE the four-channel opportunities with the built-in mics. I used it (along with the Sound Devices) at my Dad’s memorial service in June ‘09.

But, you are correct, it is too complex a device for many applications. The H1 looks to be just the ticket. I can’t wait to get mine and make an updated report.

Your Mom sounds delightful—glad she got what she did.



Richard L. Hess  on 09/29  at  04:46 PM

Richard, mine arrived Friday. Ordered via amazon, shipped from some location in Los Angeles, arrived next day. (!!)

I took a whole bunch of photos of the unboxing, and have done a few test recordings.

I haven’t transferred to the computer yet because it’s been That Kind of Week, made more That-ish by my main computer going all haywire (but it is All Backed Up!), so it’ll be a bit before I make my report here.

But so far, on the usability quick-bootup, and one button recording, it’s saweeeeet.

No breakable parts (the door of the H2 for the SD card busted—2 tiny nubs to act as hinge. plastic. breakable. gah) The H1’s card door has the flexible I bar (that’s an I with serifs) that is flexible and allows cover to swing around. So THAT’s cool.

Susan A. Kitchens  on 09/30  at  11:14 AM

Yes, the door on the H2 at the church broke off also—we’ve been recording services every week for a year and a half on it and uploading the sermons to the website. http://www.trinityaurora.ca

I found out my H1 shipped today. More later. Sorry about your computer. I just brought up a new Dell Vostro Win7 laptop for a friend and put a new hard drive in my older laptop. Bought a new Win7 laptop this summer when the old one broke in the middle of the Canadian Maritime adventure.

Richard L. Hess  on 09/30  at  05:01 PM

Hi, Susan,

My 17-year-old son used the H1 for Worship Band rehearsal and it sounded pretty good. More testing in a while. I did use the low-cut filter as the mics seem to have a really good low end, which, being directional, means they will be sensitive to wind and air-handling noise.

For oral histories I would suggest the low-cut switched on.

So far, the only complaint about the interface is that it’s too easy to change the recording specs as there is no double punch required and if you hit the << or >> button by accident before recording, you might find yourself recording at a different sample rate and/or bit depth.

As with anything Zoom, it’s plastic-y but heck, it’s also $100. A heck of a lot of quality and convenience for the price. Also, as with the H2 and H4, this offers industry leading performance for the price.

Local dollar stores offer little table-top tripods for $1-2 and one might not be a bad accessory to have, although keeping the mics closer to the table actually may work better—you want to avoid reflections off the table into the mics.

I put an 8 GB micro SD card into it and that extends the boot time to about ten seconds—not bad. I normally record at 44,100 samples per second (CD rate) and 24 bits which means that the recordings are one GB per bour—so this holds 8 hours of recording.

This is a definite improvement for oral history recording in the hands of a novice over the H2, although I really like the four-channel capability of the H2 to separate out the interviewer and interviewee, but that requires post production which most people aren’t into.

I did also order the accessory kit which includes the mini tripod and, most importantly, the windscreen. I would strongly suggest the windscreen if there is any air moving based on what I’ve heard so far. This is one of the costs of the extended low frequency response shown on the website.

Richard L. Hess  on 10/02  at  11:13 AM

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