Samson Zoom H4I had the chance to take the Samson Zoom H4 portable digital recorder for a test drive in December (thank you to Steve’s Music in Ottawa). At first glance it looks to be a distant cousin of the Sony PCM-D1 — at a fraction of the cost.

The Zoom H4 has many of the same features as its direct competitors — the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 and Edirol R-1 (I can’t bring myself to consider the R-09 to be in the same league) which include internal mics that capture a great sonic spectrum and have nice stereo definition, and an interface that’s easy to understand.

There are significant bonuses with the H4. This device comes with two combination XLR-1/4″ inputs with phantom power (a huge feature), a built in limiter and other digital processing effects, and four-track recording with amp modelling (for all you musicians out there). All that and it fits in the palm of your hand.

The downside to the H4 is that the switches at the side of the unit are stiff, and I found the “joystick” control to feel delicate — I was concerned about breaking it.

The Zoom H4 is a great addition to the market and offers yet another great option for anyone looking to buy a portable recorder. Be sure to consider all features carefully and pick the unit that best suits your needs.