Zoom’s modular approach makes this unique portable recorder far more versatile than others.
Believe it or not, Zoom have now been in business for 37 years, and the technology and expertise built up in the company over that time is readily evident in its current extensive range of audio interfaces, LiveTrak digital mixer/multitrack combos, sophisticated professional F‑series field recorders, and semi‑professional H‑series handy recorders. It’s the latest addition to the H‑series that I’m reviewing here: a portable multichannel recorder called the H8.
The H8’s styling is unique: with the stock mic module, it looks uncannily like a robotic insect! The included mic module is reminiscent of shiny antennae on its head, joined to an octagonal thorax, where connected cables mimic legs, and it’s all completed with a square abdomen below that lights up! Zoom, though, claim that the design actually results from ergonomic practicality. In that respect it largely delivers, though there are some scenarios in which I feel the form factor can be problematic, as I’ll explain later.
Although part of the ‘handy recorder’ range, that label is a bit of a stretch in this case, since the H8 is actually quite large — it is far more naturally suited to placement on a table‑top or mounting on a camera tripod (there’s a quarter‑inch threaded insert on the base for that) than handheld use. The basic recorder measures 116 x 49 x 163 mm and weighs 354g (without batteries). If fitted with the supplied XYH‑6 stereo microphone module the depth extends another 60 to 223 mm, and the mass increases by 130g, taking the fully loaded weight (with batteries) to just under 0.6kg.
Regardless of the physical configuration, Zoom have managed to squeeze an awful lot of capability into a very compact, lightweight, and remarkably affordable little recorder. Impressively, the H8 is able to record up to 12 tracks simultaneously, configured as 10 ‘iso’ tracks of individual inputs plus a stereo mix. The core unit has only six physical inputs, plus the mic module — so up to eight sources as supplied. An optional module, the EXH‑8, has four XLR inputs and can replace the stereo mic module, to give you the maximum 10 physical inputs (see the ‘Optional Modules’ box).
In the box with the review H8 itself were the surprisingly heavy XYH‑6 stereo mic array module, four AA batteries, a Quick Guide manual, and an access code to download Steinberg’s Cubase LE DAW software. A full 150‑page PDF manual is available for download too, and that’s required reading if you’re to get the most from the H8.
In a departure from the previous H‑series operating paradigms, the H8 comes pre‑configured for three different modes, selected via ‘apps’ on a 2.4‑inch colour touchscreen. These are identified as Field, Music and Podcast, and the chosen app determines which of the recorder’s facilities are made available, and how the virtual controls and graphics are displayed. I’ll cover their differences in a moment.
As so many functions are controlled using the touchscreen, there are relatively few physical controls. A recessed and spring‑loaded slide switch on the unit’s base has to be held for a couple of seconds to power the unit on/off, and if moved in the opposite direction (Hold) it disables...