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Zoom H4n vs Tascam DR040x

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Re: Zoom H4n vs Tascam DR040x

Postby trvln » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:42 pm

Just reporting back.

I ended up mulling it over a little longer and going with an H4N Pro since supposedly it has higher gain preamps over the older H4N and DR-40 / DR-40x, realizing that I would have to use an unbalanced cable to the 1/8" external mic input near the capsules for recording from line inputs from a mixer for band stuff (or one of a couple of other solutions).

Part of my reason for wanting either an H4N or DR-40 in the first place was for the builtin practice features, including varispeed, looping, and pitch adjustment. But I found out that these are all separate functions that can't be used together. Varispeed can't be used while looping and the other way around, since these are separate playing modes. That makes both of them not very useful for learning from recordings since they can't be used together. And pitch (and all effects) seem to only be usable on inputs during recording, not for playback at all, so an audio file can't be tuned to an instrument unless it is pitched while recording input audio, say from the line out of a laptop or phone. That means that dropping audio files onto the SD card for learning is a no go.

The preamps sound to me to be in the 50db range, not terribly quiet but faily ok for ultra portable recording with sm57's placed close to the source. Same goes for the built in mics and their preamps.

But had I known that the H4N Pro practice features would be useless to me, still having to be stuck in front of my daw for that, I probably would have opted for something else.

I'm wondering here if the DR-40 / DR-40x practice features are also separate functions that can't be used together.
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Re: Zoom H4n vs Tascam DR040x

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jun 29, 2020 11:06 pm

I can't help you with the 'practice features' as #2 son is an orchestral french horn player and his need are significantly different to yours but he has bought the Tascam and tested it on a couple of recordings and he is pretty happy that is (not surprisingly) a significant step up from his iPhone for the purpose.
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Re: Zoom H4n vs Tascam DR040x

Postby trvln » Tue Jun 30, 2020 3:31 am

According to screen figures in the manual for the DR-40x it does look like playback speed and looping can be used simultaneously, which should be a very obvious choice for a company adding such features, which it doesn't appear to have been for Zoom.

Zoom really hosed the H4N Pro on this feature set (and likely all other models with varispeed). I thought that maybe it would be different with the H6, but that doesn't appear to be the case after looking at the manual. Also on the H6 it appears that only internally recorded files can be played back, not any external audio files, where the H4N Pro does playback external audio files. That's bonkers. What is Zoom even doing making these devices? Why would a person need varispeed playback if external audio files can't even be played back? Also, while A/B points can be set for looping during playback, those points can't be adjusted, which would make things difficult for looping a small number of notes during a fast passage. And the loops points vanish when leaving this special looping playback screen. The features are there, but they just aren't available to use together in any useful way.

On a trainer feature set (varispeed and looping) it should also be obvious to add playback pitch adjustment for tuning the file to an instrument, but none of these devices have this. The Tascam models don't have a pitch algo at all, and Zoom's pitch algo is only available on the input during recording. How much sense does it make to have a pitch algo during recording? Not much at all. A trainer feature set should also have means for adjusting or cancelling left, right, and center for aiding in better hearing the part being learned. But this is aside stuff to very basic functionality of simultaneous varispeed and looping that the Zoom devices don't have.

It seems that all the development time for the H4N Pro was spent on adding cheesy built in effects combinations and bad amp simulations. To Zoom's credit here, the parameters of the effects can be edited to a satisfying level, which is surprising, and the onboard effects could possibly be genuinely useful to someone who doesn't already own a guitar effects processor or amp and will be using the device for primarily recording electric guitar. But giving this much depth to onboard effects while skimping on basic functionality just doesn't makes sense. And while the H4N is loaded with effects (that can only be recorded, not used during playback), the H6 doesn't have any effects outside of a software low cut and limiter, which probably aren't so useful since they can't really aid in bringing up the recording levels. Tascam got the effects right for a wide use case by adding a reverb to the DR-40.

Also, it doesn't appear that the recording format can be set to defaults. It always defaults to 16-bit/44.1k. So if you want to record in another format, you must always dive into the menu before pressing record.

Apologies for being so critical, but the software in this device is just very disappointing. It isn't really 'Pro' at all. This thing just oozes with poor software design choices. It's too bad because the hardware seems to be well made and the preamps are just adequate (not really good), except for the very obvious lack of line inputs!

So now my choices seem to be, keep the thing and use it for portable recording only. I won't use the built in effects and the trainer features are useless to me as is. Send it back and get a Tascam that has noisier preamps but has simultaneous varispeed and looping, where at least all my basic functionality of such a device would be covered (mic recording, line recording, varispeed and looping for learning parts). Or just forget about these devices and use a laptop or phone with a usb mic/line device, where nothing is lacking on the software side, just being a matter of convenience and internet distraction
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Re: Zoom H4n vs Tascam DR040x

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jun 30, 2020 8:38 am

A friend has a Zoom H2 that he’s been using for years, for recording orchestral and opera rehearsals, it’s a good machine for the money, and has lots of different mic combinations.
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