PreSonus Firebox or the new portable Zoom H4n

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Greenone, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. Greenone macrumors 6502

    Sep 19, 2005
    Well actually, I already have the Presonus Firebox (along with a Rode NT-1A condenser mic and a pair of Senheisser (sp?) headphones...however I've never opened the audio interface and mic out of their boxes cause I just haven't had time until now. BUT my laptop is well-worn - and I can't afford a new one but the laptop's overheating pretty quickly these days and might even have a fan problem. I was about to open up that equipment and start using it anyway (taking my chances that the laptop wouldn't overheat too badly) when I found out about this Zoom H4n, which is a completely portable device:;txt

    The H2 was and still is a huge success. The H4 was more pro w/ many extra options and improvements but it had a few minor complaints about it. The reviews of the H4n are really good so far and the improvements show the company has really listened.

    So... I'm no pro. I play the classical guitar and old time/clawhammer banjo as well as piano and sing but all for fun - just a hobby. I got the recording equipment initially for the following reasons:

    1. I wanted something better quality than just using the built-in mic on my Mac G4 Powerbook.
    2. I wanted to record myself in order to more quickly learn how I need to improve as an amateur musician.
    3. I wanted to make "good enough" recordings to make a c.d. of my kids' favorite songs that I sing for them and play for them...sort of like an audio scrapbook if you will for this music-loving family (my kids are still very young).
    4. I want to be able to digitalize old records and tapes in as high-quality a way as possible for best preservation.
    5. I want to have more than one pre-amp so that I can occasionally record with friends and family when we jam out together for might be nice someday for sentimental reasons.

    I was wondering if I should sell my presonus firebox and buy the new Zoom H4n ($350.00). I'd lose some money but at least wouldn't have to pay the whole $350.00. In fact the Zoom H4n's built-in stereo condenser mics (which you can move/adjust) are supposedly such high-quality that honestly...I could just sell my new Rode mic as well and then maybe I'd be a lot closer to paying for the Zoom. The prices on it won't be going down anytime soon as these are very fresh on the market.

    Thoughts? Am I missing something that I'd be losing if I got rid of the Presonus?

    Thank you!!

    p.s. another point I wanted to make - besides not having to deal with the laptop - is that a portable recorder can be used anywhere I want which is of course a HUGE bonus.
  2. Greenone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 19, 2005
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    So you are asking if you should use a four channel recorder in place of a computer? It depends on what you want. You give up flexibility in mic placement and limit yourself to only four tracks but then you gain ease of use and don't have to mess with a computer while you play. One thing that for me would be a deal breaker is midi. Then you have to upload the files onto the computer if you want to edit.

    People always say what matters the most are the parts of your system that are close to the source. First and most important is the musician himself, next is the space between him and the mic, then the mic and then the preamp. All in that order. Seems like you'd be giving up control over the placement of the mic.
  4. Greenone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 19, 2005
    Thank you SO much for writing, Chris! I've been dying to get feedback/suggestions as I'm in a hurry (I have an out-of-town friend staying for a couple of weeks who is a musician w/ lots of experience w/ digital equipment however he's gone for about 24 hours before coming back and I can't get his advice about this...and before he leaves for good I'd like him to show me how to use whatever equipment it is that I end up using and a lot of time will be wasted on waiting and shipping)!

    Now being pretty stupid about this stuff, I may have misunderstood what you wrote/asked but I'll give it a shot: I'm not saying I'd use it in place of a computer per se, but for some purposes I wouldn't always need the computer with me at the time of recording - if I'm understanding all of its specs correctly. Did you happen to read about its capabilities in that last link I provided via Amazon (or any of the links are fairly informative anyway)? Although the Zoom H4n has editing capabilities built-in for up to some number of multiple tracks, etc., I would use the laptop when able, I'm guessing. Again, my laptop's having overheating issues so it might not always work well for me to use it in the standard way (e.g. musician to mic, mic to audio interface/preamp, preamp to computer) but if it's not overheating I probably will. Apparently the Zoom functions as a recorder for both musicians and for things like interviews, but it also has built-in an audio interface w/ preamps as well as phantom power. So you can use it w/ 2 AA batteries only, saving onto an SD card, or use the a/c and plug it into a wall, or you can plug it into your computer for power and record straight into the computer.

    While it has two stereo condenser mics built-in (which can be moved around and twisted in various directions) it also allows for two external mics to be added as well (as well as midi and instruments that have pick-ups, etc.), allowing for recording of up to 4 instruments/voices at one time, if I'm remembering correctly. It also has a mount or hole (forget the term) on the bottom so you can attach it to a mic stand or tripod (?). So you can choose to use it as a mic in and of itself (also comes w/ wind shield) or you can stabilize it somewhere then hook up your own mic and stand as far from the unit as you need to.

    As for the issue of 4 tracks, I wouldn't need more than that for my purposes (instrument + me singing and then a couple of more instruments played by friends on a rare occasion - or friends singing or whatever). I don't even thing the Firebox offered much more than that as far as acoustic instruments/singing goes. Although w/ software and using the computer, I could add as many extra tracks as I needed later, right?

    You wrote: "One thing that for me would be a deal breaker is midi. Then you have to upload the files onto the computer if you want to edit." Well, hmmm...trying to understand this. I know the Zoom gives editing options built-in but to what extent I'm not sure. But remember - you can just hook the unit into a computer and record straight into the computer that way - the way I would with the audio interface. It can be used in several ways. Does that make sense? So unless I"m missing something here, I'd get a lot more versatility than I would with the Firebox cause it could be used as a regular old recorder (like the kind we used to use w/ tapes) and can be taken anywhere and fits basically in the palm of one's hand (and can be hooked up into our TV's satellite box as well, I read), or can be used for music to be edited or downloaded later, or to go straight in at the time.

    Did I miss anything as far as the points/questions you brought up? Sorry to be so detailed and verbose!!! :eek: Just want to make sure I'm being clear as well as understanding everything!
  5. Greenone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 19, 2005
    I know there's still the issue of not getting firewire with the portable device. Just 2.0. Is that a big deal if I'll only be recording 4 things at once and then maybe adding more during editing using software but no more than perhaps (at most - if ever) another 6 or 8 more instruments?

    Also - in case people don't have interest in going to the links I provided, here are specs taken off of Amazon, although pics are obviously missing so it's worded a little oddly. FYI, if you go directly to amazon, note - some dumb a** gave the product low ratings because some store claimed to have it available even though they don't have it in stock yet):

    Built-in X/Y stereo mics record at either 90° or 120°
    Four channel simultaneous recording using built-in and external mics
    Digitally controlled, high-quality mic preamp for improved audio quality
    Large 1.9-Inch LCD screen and improved user interface for easy operation
    24bit/96kHz Linear PCM recording for pristine recording
    MP3 recording for increased recording time
    Built-in reference speaker to check recordings
    Shock resistant rubberized body for improved chassis protection
    Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) compatible time stamp and track marker
    Records on SD/SDHC media of up to 32GB for maximum recording time
    Auto-record and pre-record feature so you never miss a moment
    Variable speed playback capability for “phrase training”
    Stamina mode enables 10 hours of continuous battery life
    Onboard mid-side matrix decoder for additional miking possibilities
    Built-in mounting joint for tripod and mic stand mounting
    USB 2.0 port for faster file transfer
    XLR inputs with phantom power allow recording with any mic
    Supports plug-in power type external mics
    Hi-Z Inputs for recording guitar and bass
    Studio effects onboard, including guitar and bass amp modeling
    USB audio interface capability
    Low-cut filter to reduce noise
    Normalizing and file splitting functions
    Mono mix function
    Onboard tuner and metronome
    Includes 1 GB SD card, wind screen, mic clip adapter, AC adapter, USB cable, protective case and Cubase LE recording software
    Optional remote control (RC4) available

    Written by the manufacturer:

    World-class recording for everyone.
    Representing the next level of professional recording performance, the H4n delivers superior audio quality and dramatically improves the user experience. Zoom’s most sophisticated handheld recorder to date will amaze, no matter the application.

    Unique X/Y mic design captures perfect stereo images
    The H4n’s onboard X/Y stereo condenser mics are arranged with the right and left mics on the same axis. This design ensures that the mics are always equidistant from the sound source for perfect localization with no phase shifting. Frequency response remains uniform throughout your recording. The result is great stereo recording with natural depth and accurate imaging every time.

    The mics also adjust for variable recording patterns at either 90° or 120°. Our unique design lets you rotate each mic capsule from 90° (standard) to 120° (wide-angle) stereo for the ultimate versatility in any recording situation.

    Why four channels are better than two.
    Everyone knows that proper miking is essential to making a great recording. The H4n is the only handheld recorder that allows you to record on four channels simultaneously by using its onboard mics with either external mics or direct inputs. You can then use its built-in mixer to blend the channels for perfectly balanced recordings. Now your recordings can be richer than ever before.

    Or, to get a great recording of a live performance, use the H4n’s onboard mics to get a room mix while simultaneously recording a stereo mix from the mixing board for a live recording that is easily one of the best you’ve ever heard.

    And for media and filmmakers, the H4n makes it easy to record “high definition” audio at 24-bit/48kHz with booms, handhelds or lavaliers while gathering atmospheric audio with the onboard mics. The H4n also supports Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) so your recorded files carry time stamp information. You can even set markers (cue points) during recording or playback.

    For even more versatility, the H4n also features a Mid-Side stereo decoder that allows you to utilize this classic microphone setup. The H4n converts the mid and side channels into a conventional stereo (L/R) signal for even more versatility… and it’s only found on the H4n.

    It’s all in the preamp…
    The H4n’s new mics and four channel recording ability, in combination with our new, digitally controlled, high-quality preamplifier renders audio so precise, you’ll sound like you recorded in a world-class studio. And this new preamp means you can make recording level adjustments on the fly. Of course, an automatic level setting function is also built-in to optimize your levels as quickly as the situation requires.

    High resolution, 24-bit/96kHz linear PCM recording
    Choose up to 24-bit/96-kHz linear PCM WAV files for audio resolution that surpasses DVD quality. Or, when maximum recording time with smaller file sizes is desired, select a variety of MP3 formats from 320 kbps down to 48 kpbs to produce smaller files suitable for web or e-mail distribution.

    Secure your digital memories on SD and SDHC cards
    The H4n uses compact SD or high-capacity SDHC memory cards of up to 32GB for over 15 hours of recording time at 24-bit/96kHz. Or, using MP3 format at 128 kpbs, get over 550 hours of recording time on one card!

    Please check our confirmed list of approved SD and SDHC cards before purchasing.

    It’s about the music.
    For musicians and songwriters, the H4n is also a user-friendly, multi-track studio (MTR) that records at CD quality, 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution. Plug in your guitar or bass and use the H4n’s classic amp models to inspire your creativity and find tone perfection during your recording sessions.

    The MTR mode allows simultaneous 2-track recording and 4-track playback. With this feature, you can sketch songs by overdubbing vocals and instruments with ease. Level and panning can be adjusted individually for each track on the built-in mixer, and you can even do a mixdown right on the H4n. Perfect for pre-production sessions with the band.

    The H4n offers a choice of 50 studio-quality DSP effects including compressor, chorus, delay, and reverb. These onboard studio effects, along with its tuner and metronome make the H4n very musician friendly.

    The H4n’s phrase trainer capability makes learning new songs easy with an adjustable playback feature that changes the speed from 50 to 150 percent, while maintaining pitch. Or use its center cancel feature to suppress audio that is recorded with center imaging. And because the H4n lets you alter pitch without changing playback speed, you can choose source material, suppress the center audio and use it as a backing track while recording a vocal or guitar track.

    And it’s a USB audio interface!
    The H4n also functions as a USB audio interface, letting you record directly to either a Mac or PC. Use your favorite recording software or the bundled Cubase LE 4 from Steinberg, so you can start to produce and edit your recording right out of the box.

    Everyone likes surprises… just not while you’re recording.
    You can set your H4n to automatically record whenever sound above a designated level is detected. This ensures that you capture everything of importance while minimizing blank sections such as when recording a conference or lecture. The H4n can also be set to continuously record the most recent two seconds of audio in memory. Now, you’ll never miss the beginning of anything you want to record, even if it begins suddenly.

    Brains and a body, too.
    The H4n has a new rubberized, shock resistant chassis that improves durability while reducing handling noise. A large, 1.9 inch LCD screen with backlit graphic display shows all the tracking information at a glance and makes it easy to navigate the functions of the unit. The H4n even has a built-in reference speaker to let you check recordings without earphones.

    Faster file transfer
    The H4n is now a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed device, meaning that files can be transferred to your computer at the highest rate available. Then use recording software for editing, create your own original CDs, post your recordings on your myspace page or send out your recordings by e-mail… the possibilities are endless.

    Stamina mode extends battery life to 11 hours
    For situations where you require maximized, continuous recording operation you can select stamina mode that effectively doubles battery life, letting you record continuously for approximately 11 hours in 16-bit/44.1kHz linear PCM format.

    Fully loaded.
    A 1 GB SD card, windscreen, mic clip adapter, AC adapter, USB cable, protective case and Cubase LE recording software are included with your H4n. The windscreen is especially helpful to reduce wind noise. The mic clip adapter works perfectly when attaching the unit to a standard mic stand, or you can use the built-in tripod mount with a standard camera tripod.

    Go remote with the RC4
    An optional remote control (RC4) gives you access to a range of functions including recording start, play, stop, fast forward/reverse, recording level adjustment, and input source switching. It is also useful for preventing any handling noise.

    The H4n is the epitome of sophistication made simple. For anyone who needs professional recording capability with extraordinary versatility, the H4n will give you the ability to capture everything with the clarity and resolution previously found only in the world’s finest recording studios. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make world-class recordings, wherever you are in the world.

    90° (standard) 120° (wide-angle) stereo

    Built-in Microphone Frequency Response

    H4n Handy Recorder Features at a Glance
    The H4n Handy Recorder is the ultimate in professional, portable recording. A large 1.9-inch, backlit display features recording levels, file format, time elapsed, file name, remaining battery life and recording time. Optional features such as low cut filter, compressor/limiter and phantom power are also shown when utilized. LEDs indicate Stereo, 4-Channel or MTR mode.

    Transport controls include one button recording, playback and pause, forward and rewind buttons. You also have greater control over functions such as Folder, File, Speed or Format selection with the Short Cut/Track Select keys. These keys double as track selectors with the Multi-Track Recorder mode.

    On right side of the H4n, the Jog Dial and Menu Key are positioned together for easy navigation. Push the Menu Key to enter the menu and the Jog Dial to navigate through the plentiful features. Use the record level buttons to toggle your levels up or down, and replace your SDHC card by folding down the rubberized door.

    The left side of the H4n contains a jack for the RC4 remote control, Phone/Line Output for monitoring and playback. Playback Volume, USB 2.0 interface, Power On and Hold.

    Use the USB 2.0 Hi-Speed Interface to move your files to a PC or Mac for storage, editing or playback. And you can even use the H4n as a USB interface and record directly to your favorite digital audio software or the supplied Cubase LE software.

    On the back, you’ll find a reference speaker, external mic input for plug-in power type mics and a tripod mount. Remove the battery cover to turn on Stamina Mode. There is also mount for a carry strap. On the bottom of the H4n, you’ll find the combination XLR/Phone inputs and the AC power input is located here as well.

    Our most sophisticated recorder, the H4n is also incredibly easy to navigate and setup for the most diverse recording situations you could ever encounter. Now you can capture every sonic detail with the kind of quality and precision usually found in the world’s finest recording studios.

    Product Description
    The Zoom H4N is more than a handheld recorder - it's a simple way to record high quality audio. It's a full function stereo recorder capable of a wide range of recording rates, from low grade MP3 to 24bit/96K wav files. It also can be used as a portable 4-track recorder AND a USB interface. The built-in microphones & two combo jacks connect your favorite microphones or instruments -- including condensers with 24. With a 2GB SD memory card, the H4 provides up to 380 minutes of recording in 16-bit mode (CD Quality), and 34 hours in MP3 stereo mode. And to move your recordings to a PC or Mac, the H4 includes a USB mass-storage interface. MP3 recording for increased recording time Built-in reference speaker to check recordings Shock resistant speaker body for improved chassis protection Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) compatible time stamp & track marker Records on SD/SDHC media of up to 32GB for maximum recording time Auto-record & pre-record feature so you never miss a moment Variable speed playback capability for phrase training Stamina mode enables 10 hours of continuous battery life Onboard mid-side matrix decoder for additional miking possibilities Built-in mounting joint for tripod & mic stand mounting USB 2.0 port for faster file transfer XLR mic inputs with phantom power allow recording with any mic Supports plug-in power type external mics Hi-Z Inputs for recording guitar & bass amp modeling USB audio interface capability Low-cut filter to reduce noise Normalizing & file splitting functions Mono mix function Onboard tuner & metronome In the box - 1 GB SD card Windscreen Mic clip adapter AC adapter USB cable Protective case Cubase LE recording software
  6. Greenone thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 19, 2005
    Well, FYI, today my local music store got a shipment of these in so my husband's going to stop by and pick one up for me on his way home from work! I called a few days ago to ask that my name be on a list and good thing I did cause they're already backordered! :eek:

    I should get paid by zoom - the way I've gone on and on about it huh? :eek:

    Just can't justify keeping the Firebox (still not opened yet) when the Zoom does all the same stuff and much more, and is smaller, portable/handheld and CAN also be used the same way w/ my laptop (as just an audio interface). It's already getting rave reviews left and right. Still early (review-wise) so i'm a little nervous however the Zoom H4 and H2 have been such huge successes that I doubt I have much to fear.

    Ask away in the future if you have any questions. Or I may be writing in asking how to use it w/ the mac...who knows!

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