After tantalizing hints and a more tantalizing shipping delay, the Zoom H2 is finally here, promising digital surround-sound recording in the palm of your hand for only $199. Was it worth the wait? Well, let me say that it certainly lives up to its moniker: this is one Handy Recorder.
At half the price of competing flash-RAM recorders, but with double the number of mics, the Zoom H2 is just 2.5 x 4.3 x 1.3 inches.
Whereas the earlier H4 resembled an alien grooming device, the H2 looks more like a vintage studio microphone. The designers took advantage of every inch of its meager surface area: a 1/8-inch stereo output for headphones (with a dandy rocker switch for volume), the on/off switch, and the power receptacle line up down one side. On the other you'll find 1/8-inch stereo inputs for line-level sources and an external mic (with plug-in power), a three-position mic gain switch, and a standard mini USB socket. A large sliding door on the rear accesses the battery compartment; the H2 runs on two AA batteries.
Not even the bottom is spared: there is a small door hiding the memory slot and a threaded metal insert for attaching either a tabletop stand or a clever, barrel-shaped microphone clip adapter (both supplied). The threading fits a camera tripod—nice!
All of the transport and navigation controls are mounted front and center below the tiny but serviceable display. The six membrane switches did not inspire a great deal of confidence at first touch, but after working with the recorder for a while I found them fairly solid.
I'll explain what those switches do in a moment, but first I want to mention a few other things you'll find in the box. Zoom obviously wants you to go out and use the recorder, because it included everything you need. Not only do you get the power supply and the two nifty stands, but you'll find a 512MB SD card (big enough to record several hours of high-quality MP3s), a miniphone-to-RCA cable for connecting stereo line sources, a drawstring carrying bag, and even a decent set of earbuds.
The included tabletop stand screws in to the tripod socket on the bottom of the H2. Click for a 3D view (1.9MB Flash movie) at Zoom's website.