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Settings for Zoom H2 - Djembefola - Djembe Forum

Discuss gear and techniques for recording and stage performance
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  • 11 posts
User avatar
By michi
I just received a private message from someone asking about the recommended settings for recording with the Zoom H2. Seeing that other people might find this useful too, I'm putting it here for posterity :)

I used the Zoom H2 for a little over two years and made a lot of recordings with it, both of performances and of group teaching sessions. I settled on the settings below after quite some experimentation. You might want to try these—they've worked well for me.


For stage performances, I try to place the recorder about 5m from the drummers, using the 120° microphones for better stereo imaging. Note that this also will pick up more ambient noise. If that is an issue, use the 90° microphones instead. For workshops and lessons, I use the 90° microphones pointed at the teacher, to remove more of the sound created by the students.

I've never bother using the surround sound setting with all four microphones active. It just eats more memory and often sounds worse, especially in indoor settings, because you pick up a lot more reflected sound (with its concomitant time delay).

Microphone Gain

Set the MIC GAIN switch to LOW. The sound pressure with drums is so high that the higher sensitivity settings cause clipping.

Record Mode

My preferred recording mode is MP3 VBR (Variable Bit Rate). It provides high quality while keeping memory consumption low. The quality with this setting is such that you will not be able to distinguish the recording from CD quality unless you are under 30, have well-trained ears, and a stereo system that is far out of the price range of what most people can afford. (I'm talking multiple tens of thousands of dollars here…)

I never bother recording in WAV format because, as a rule, the recording situation is such that the marginally higher recording quality is negated by the poor recording conditions. If you have plenty of memory, I'd recommend WAV 44.1kHz/16bit, which is CD quality. The higher sample rate and resolution WAV modes are almost certainly a waste of memory; recording quality improves only very marginally in these modes, and they use up a lot more memory (by a factor of 3.26 if you compare 44.1kHz/16bit with 96kHz/24bit).


I switch these off because they all tamper with the dynamics of the sound. It's better to not use them and instead pay attention to the record level setting, making sure that there is no clipping. That way, you get the true dynamics of the music instead of something that's been tampered with by the effects processor. If in doubt, set the record level a little low to be on the safe side and avoid clipping.

Never use the AGC (Automatic Gain Control)—it causes horrible pumping. The compressor settings are useless to for drums, really mucking up the dynamics.

If you really can't control the record level setting, or you are in a situation where you can't predict the maximum sound level, use the LIMIT2 setting, which gives you a few more decibels of head room if things get really loud.

Low-cut Filter

Turn this off. If you are outside, and there is wind, use the wind screen instead. It is more effective than the filter, even if there is quite a bit of wind.

Auto Record

I never use this. If found it to be too unreliable to be useful, and it has a habit of cutting off the the start of a sound when it starts recording.


I always turn this on. It buffers the preceding two seconds worth of sound in stand-by so I can be up to two seconds late when pressing the record button and still get a clean recording.


Turn this off—it wastes battery power.

Plug-in Power

Turn this off unless you are actually using an external microphone that requires plug-in power.

Battery Type

Remember to set this according to what kind of batteries it uses. That way, you get a more accurate indication of the remaining battery power.

General recording tips

Pay attention to the little LED just below the microphones (labelled MIC ACTIVE). During recording, that LED is supposed to be steady. If you see it flashing rapidly, this means that the recording level is set too high and you'll end up with truly horrible distortion.

Ideally, you want the recording level set as high as possible, that is, to the point just before you see the LED flash. But, pragmatically, it's safer and more convenient to set the recording level somewhat lower, say 5dB or so. That sacrifices a little of the dynamic range but avoids clipping. And, for drums, the dynamic range is usually not all that high so, even with a lower recording level, you still get a good-quality recording.

Look at the level meter during recording. For drums, to be on the safe side, set the recording level such that the peak level does not go beyond the 6dB mark. This gives you a good-quality recording with enough head room to absorb an unexpected louder passage without clipping.

I find that, with the microphone gain switch set to low, a recording level setting of around 90 works well in most situations.

Normalize Function

You may find that you made a recording where the record level was set too low, so the whole thing is very quiet on playback. If so, you can use the normalize function of the Zoom H2 to raise the sound level. Go to the FILE menu and select the recording you want to fix. Then select FILE NORMALIZE. This readjusts the recording such that the loudest passage of the recording is at 0dB, meaning that the recording is as loud as it can be without causing distortion.


User avatar
By Erny
Another proposal for the H2-adjustment is:

1. Decide if which quality you need, wav.- or mp3-file
.wav-file = higher quality and more memory-consumption
. mp3-file = lower quality and much less memory consumption
I usually use .mp3-file with 192 kbps

2. Decide choice of microphones (90°, 120° or 4 micros at the same time)
I usually use the 120°-arrangement, the little red light indicates the active microphones

3. Go to menu AGC/COMP and choose Limit2(concert)
According to my experience this is a good choice, because blasting should be prevented in any case. Blasted recordings can´t be modified later, whereas quiet recordings can easily be boosted.

4. Decide position of mic-gain switch (L/M/H) to prevent blasting
In recording-ready-mode just have a look at the level-meters while music is running. Adjust mic-gain switch in a way that loudest parts are below 0 dB. During this, the software-recording-level should remain on "100". This means, you have to decide between 3 possibilities.

5. Remember:
press record-button: red record-lamp flashing = ready to record (watch level-meters)
press record-button again: red record-lamp on = recording in progress
press record-button again: red record-lamp off = recording switched off

By zute7
When playing back an MP3 file on my Zoom H2, it is so quiet that I can tell it is me talking but I cannot distinguish the words.

The problem all started when my SD card was filled up. I formatted the card. I have not been able to record since.

I checked to see if there was a normalize function under "File". There were none in my H2. The only functions were select, information, rename, divide and delete. So, I guess I cannot normalize.

Does anyone have any idea how to get my sound working again?

User avatar
By michi
Are you using a Mac by any chance? If so, it may have filled up the card by keeping everything in the trash.

User avatar
By michi
There is a previous thread for this here.

You need to delete the dot files that are created by OS X and then follow the instructions in the article (I recommend the archived link) to stop OS X from re-creating all the junk.


User avatar
By boromir76
Concerning Wav vs. mp3 format... Ok, mp3 is lot more memory economic and handy. But I supose that in case of some modifications of sound or sound editing in post production, recording in wav could be far better choice. It is similar analogy as in photography where jpeg format is best for instant use and raw format for postproduction.
Last edited by boromir76 on Tue May 24, 2016 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By michi
Almost no-one will be able to tell the difference between a high-quality MP3 (say, > 220 kbits/sec) an d CD quality. The ears and sound equipment of almost everyone are nowhere near good enough for that. For simple sound editing, such as adjusting overall volume, I strongly suspect it won't make any noticeable difference. But you do want to avoid repeatedly decoding and re-encoding an MP3 file. (That's the equivalent of making a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy…)


User avatar
By boromir76
Yes, in case of not to much compressed mp3, there is litlle to no difference with both formats when hearing them "direct", unedited. As mentioned, Wav is better for thorough sound mixing, mastering and editing, as it contains uncompressed loosless info, in contrast to mp3, where certain amount of information is gone forever and therefore impossible to be manipulated in post production. Ofcourse it deppends for what purpose the recoding is being made. For sole informative recording of let say practice, rehearsal, workshop etc., wav may not be practical and the best choice.

"But you do want to avoid repeatedly decoding and re-encoding an MP3 file. (That's the equivalent of making a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy…)"

I am not sure, why someone would make copy of a copy of a copy... :uglynerd: Wav is more or less working format made for serious post processing or high fidelity listening, and can be transformed in smaller sized (or even different sizes) mp3 after editing and that's it. No need for any further decodings. Basicaly the same as in photography, where - litlle known, usseles for average consumer and general use- raw file photo, is processed, converted in Photo shop and saved in smaller, jet very well known and usefull jpeg. The main advantage of bigger uncompressed files is in better post processing options and adjustments and on the end: better finishing result. Reverse processing jpg to raw or mp3 to wav (?) would not make much sense in terms of quality, postprocessing,... :-)
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