As a working audio engineer, my favorite type of gear is the kind that pays for itself over and over again. The Zoom H4N is exactly that type of recording gear. With a price tag of $299 and too many features to list here, the Zoom could be the biggest value in recording equipment available today. Let me show you how my Zoom H4N makes me money every day.
This is my primary moneymaker. The H4N is perfect for recording any type of classical chamber music whether it's strings, horns, piano, vocals or any combination of each. Put well trained musicians in a great sounding room and the Zoom will deliver top quality recordings every time.
Jazz is another genre of music that's perfectly suited for the Zoom, especially when it's totally acoustic rather than amplified. The reason that these two types of music work so well with the Zoom H4n is that classical and jazz musicians are very good at balancing their own levels. This makes it very easy to get a good stereo recording. You simply find the spot in the room where you have the proper balance of direct sound verses room sound. You don't need do any mixing of the instruments because the performers do it themselves.
I've used the H4N several times to do multi-track location recordings of pop/rock music in clubs. The vast majority of bars and clubs I've been to are horrible environments for location recordings. Luckily, the H4N has a way to deal with this.
It allows you take the stereo feed off of the house mixer and record that to two track. That gives you very nice, clean, direct tracks. Then you can use the built-in stereo condenser microphones to capture the sound in the room, recording those to two more tracks. These tracks can then be imported into your favorite multi-track editing software, or you can mix them inside the H4N itself. The combination of the two pairs of tracks usually gives you a very nice live recording.
Podcast Audio and Interviews for Radio/Web:
This type of work has become more and more common recently. I have several clients that were looking to generate content for their websites. They knew that they needed to keep adding interesting things to their sites in order to encourage people to keep coming back. I suggested recording a weekly or monthly podcast to discuss issues related to their business. My clients aren't audio professionals so think this is complicated but it's actually a very simple procedure.
I use the Zoom to record whatever they want to talk about. I then edit that recording and then post it up on their websites as podcast episodes. These podcasts can then be indexed in iTunes, which allows them to reach an even larger audience. Even better, this content can then be re-purposed and used for radio and other media. The kicker for me is that I don't have to drag around a whole rack or bag full of expensive gear. All I need is the Zoom, which fits in my jacket pocket.
Another one of my favorite things to do with the Zoom is to take it with me wherever I go so that I can capture any interesting sounds I might run across. I then take those sounds back to my studio for further editing and/or processing. Just from doing this one simple thing I've been able to put together several sample and SFX libraries that make me a nice steady monthly income.
This is a project I've just started working on. The area where I live is full of beautiful parks with lots of lakes, rivers and wildlife. I've been recording these nature sounds, while at the same time taking photos and HD video. My goal is to put together a series of relaxation audio CD's and video DVD's. Here's an example using some of my original music as the soundtrack.
Beyond The Moon - Relaxing Nature Video
My research shows that this is an emerging niche market so I want to be in front of this. Obviously, the Zoom is perfect for this. I set it up on a tripod and just record the sounds of nature for hours at a time. Even if I never make a dollar from these recordings, getting out into nature helps keep me sane so it's worth it.
Computer Audio Interface:
The last thing I want to mention is that the Zoom H4N works as an excellent computer audio interface for GarageBand and other audio software. You can use the built-in condenser microphones or plug anything in to it using the XLR-combo jacks. It provides great sound quality and works like a charm.
So, that's how I make money with my Zoom H4N. I recommend it to everyone I know. Do you have one? Have you ever used one? Leave me a comment and let me know.