In this informative write-up, we’ll compare the Zoom H4n Pro vs the H5. They’re both great portable audio recorders for beginners and professionals, and will surely upgrade your sound design. But which one is better for you? Let’s sort the marketing hype from the tech specs and leave you with a recommendation worth the read.
Back in 2016, Zoom improved on the already popular H4n handy recorder with a few nifty features like a brighter screen, locking XLR jacks, and a new rubberized grip. But most notably, the H4n Pro’s preamps were upgraded to the same preamp design as the Zoom H5 and H6. If you’re not sure why that’s notable, just know that preamps are responsible for boosting a weak mic signal– and the better the preamps, the lower the unwanted noise.
As you’ll see in the side-by-side chart, there are only a few hairsplitting technicalities that distinguish the Zoom H4n Pro and the Zoom H5. In my mind, this makes the decision less about which recorder is technically superior and more about which of their features/costs are more convenient for you.
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Zoom H4n Pro vs H5: Technical Specs
Zoom H4n Pro
|Sample rates for .wav file||44.1/48/96 kHz||44.1/48/96 kHz|
|Resolution for .wav file||16-/24-bit||16-/24-bit|
|Equivalent input noise (inputs 1/2)||Less than -120 dBu||Less than -120 dBu|
|Maximum SPL (XY mic)||140 dB||140 dB|
|Interchangeable mic capsules||No||Yes|
|Inputs||2 x XLR-¼” TRS combo jacks||2 x XLR-¼” TRS combo jacks|
|Outputs||1 x ⅛” stereo line out jack||1 x ⅛” stereo line out jack|
|USB Audio Interface||Yes||Yes|
|Headphones||1 x ⅛” stereo jack||1 x ⅛” stereo jack|
|Recording media||4 GB (SDHC)||Up to 32 GB (SD/SDHC)|
|File format||WAV, MP3||WAV, MP3|
|Display||Backlit LCD (128 x 64 dots)||Backlit LCD (128 x 64 pixels)|
|Effects||Compressor, limiter, low-cut filter, playback looping, pitch change, variable playback speed, metronome, guitar tuner||Compressor, limiter, low-cut filter, playback looping, pitch change, variable playback speed, metronome, guitar tuner|
|Power supply||AA battery x 2, AC adapter, USB bus power||AA battery x 2, AC adapter, USB bus power|
|Battery life||Up to 6 hours||Up to 15 hours|
|Weight||0.65 lbs||0.59 lbs|
|Additional data||Zoom H4n Pro web page||Zoom H5 web page|
Zoom H4n Pro
Zoom H4n Pro vs H5 vs H6: Video Comparison
Zoom H4n Pro vs H5: Critical Similarities & Differences
Show me the videographer who uses all 32 GB of recording space on one project and I will show you my honest amazement (which may not mean much to you, but for me is harder to come by these days).
When I plug in an empty 32 GB card into my H5, the recorder has either reached its readout limit or I truly have a spare 99 hours of record time remaining. In either case, 32 GB is way overkill, or at least it is for me who has never used more than a few hours in one go.
On the other hand, 4 GB clocks out at about 6 hours and could actually get used up on a long shoot. It all depends on the types of projects you’ll be recording, but the H4n’s 4 GB limit could be an important consideration.
Audio interface functionality
One of my favorite things about both of these recorders is their audio interface functionality.
While some products, like the Focusrite Scarlett, are built for the sole purpose of connecting your external microphones with your computer, the H4n Pro and H5 tack on this functionality as an added bonus.
Plugging a mini-USB cable from the recorder into my computer and recording voiceovers straight into Adobe Premiere is so simple. And it’s practically magic when I think about how many steps I am skipping from using an SD card.
Boot up times
Speaking of SD cards, one of my least favorite things is waiting for my Zoom H5 to format a partially full SD card.
For example, I was once at a wedding setting up my H5 with an SD card that already had twelve gigabytes of video files written to it. No problem, right? I should have 20 odd more gigabytes of storage.
But as the countdown to the start of the ceremony ticked away, I grew increasingly nervous as my H5 failed to proceed past the “now loading” message. On a blank card, this screen takes a few seconds. The H5 is supposed to quickly setup its filing system on the card and let you get back to recording, but not today.
Five minutes before showtime, I realized the H5 wasn’t gonna cut it and forced a hard reset by pulling the batteries from the back compartment. Fortunately, I had a spare SD card that was empty, but if I hadn’t… bye bye wedding vows.
Perhaps there is a firmware update out there that I have yet to install, but with other users reporting this issue on the H4n Pro as well as the H5, I will leave this as a word to the wise.
Whether it’s remembering to charge them, bring spares, or the hidden monetary (and environmental) cost of the disposable kind, batteries can be a pain in the butt. If there’s one area the H5 beats the H4n Pro senseless, it’s in the battery.
Pun intended(?) It’s actually quite odd how much better the battery life of the H5 is since they both use 2 AA’s and use the same type of screen. While the stress of running out of batteries can be avoided by remembering to bring spares, the fact that the H5 gets a 2.5 times longer life is something to consider.
The H4n Pro does have an edge over the H5 in the area of locking XLR jacks.
Though I’ve personally never run into the issue of an accidentally disconnected cable with my H5, the security of the H4n Pro jacks could be important in environments where people and gear are constantly being moved around.
Ex: A juiced up bassist who jumps around like some kind of delirious funky priest. Or an equally delirious Billy Eichner accosting strangers on the mean streets of New York City.
On another note, the H5 steals the show with its input gain dials. The spinning dials are much smoother and faster to adjust than the repetitive clicking required of the H4n Pro’s input rocker switch.
Finally, despite the H4n’s limited functionality it is still a tad larger than the H5 which could be important if you’re trying to keep your gear setup light and compact.
Zoom H4n vs H5: The Bottom Line
If the manual input dials, interchangeable mic capsules, or backup recording of the Zoom H5 are features you feel like you’ll miss out on, if not today but in the future, I recommend saving up for the Zoom H5. The H5 is a powerful, convenient, and future-proof recorder that I have used for years and see myself continuing to use for years to come.
But if the rocker switch, four gigabyte limit, and added bulk aren’t that big of a deal to you, then I’d rest assured that you’re still getting an excellent recorder with the H4n Pro. You could even put that chunk of change you saved towards some other gear… or a nice dinner.
If you’re still not convinced and want a better look at the H5, check out our full review here or our side-by-side comparison of the H5 and H6.