July 2, 2013

A Recommended Portable Recorder for Sermon Podcasting

 

Several months ago our church decided to start posting our weekly sermons and Bible studies on our website in the form of a podcast. With the addition of the ChurchLink Mobile app, creating a podcast seemed like the next logical step.

It did not take long, however, to determine that the recordings that we were making to send out to our shut-ins were not working well enough to use for these podcast. Each week, I would spend a minimum of an hour tweaking the sound file that was recording, running filters, trying everything that I could to get a clear recording.

I had heard the podcast of several other churches and organizations using the ChurchLink app and knew that there had to be a better way. I determined that our old sound system along with a recording that was not done with the proper levels was the culprit in our lousy sound. So I went on a mission to find an inexpensive solution for recording our services that would result in a clear sound file that was leveled properly and could be burned to a CD for our shut-ins and posted as a podcast with minimum effort.

The Zoom H4n Handheld Recorder

After doing some research I decided to purchase a Zoom H4n handheld recorder. I could not have made a better decision. The result has been clear sound files that I have been able to post online with very little editing.

First it is important to understand that the Zoom H4n is a very full-featured recording device. However, I will not go in to most of the features of this device, simply because I don’t use them for the application that I needed. Could I have gone with a less expensive recorder and achieved the same results? Maybe so, but I opted for the Zoom H4n because of the capabilities that it offered and the fact that it gives me the ability to do so much more with the device in the future without having to spend extra money.

Zoom H4n Features

The first thing that you will notice about the Zoom H4n is that it truly is portable. The size of the device makes it easy to hold in one hand and operate the controls. Because it can operate on either battery or electric power, I can use the Zoom anywhere that I want to record. At the present time, I am simply using the H4n sitting in a mic stand, using the included mic stand adapter, and positioning it in front of the speaker.

Although the Zoom H4n allows you to connect external microphones and record, at this time we have opted to record directly from the two internal microphones. These microphones are positioned to create a wide 180 degree field of recording and it is these internal mics that give the H4n its zapper-like appearance. The internal mics are great for picking up the speaker from a wide angle, and we have not had any problems with them not capturing the speakers as they spoke.

We do have the ability to record from our mics straight into the Zoom H4n with its two inputs, but have opted not to go this route for the time being due to the age and issues with our soundboard. I suspect that this board had a big impact on the quality of our previous recordings and don’t want to have to replace the soundboard at this time.

One of my favorite features of the Zoom H4n is the auto-level setting. By turning on the auto-level function, the H4n will automatically reduce the record level as the volume of your speaker increases. This is especially important when you are recording a sermon as this is usually not a monotone delivery. The H4n will prevent spikes in the recording that results in clipping. You may have to increase the volume in certain sections after the auto-level kicks in, but that is much easier to do in editing than trying to reduce clippings throughout the recording.

The H4n stores your recording directly on an SD card. When you are done you can simply pop the SD card into your computer or connect the recorder to your computer using the supplied USB cable. Popping the SD card into the built-in slot on my iMac allows me to have a recording trimmed and edited for posting in just about five minutes (depending on the time it takes for the computer to save the edited MP3 file).

Perfect for Sermon Podcasting

As I said earlier, the Zoom H4n is a much more powerful piece of recording gear, allowing you to edit files on the device, connect several different sources, and even record up to four separate tracks per recording. You can even connect the Zoom H4n to your camera or camcorder for recording the audio or connect straight to your computer's USB port to use the Zoom as a digital input for your computer.

There is so much that you can do with the Zoom H4n that there is no way that I can go into all of the uses here in this article. Suffice it say that if you are looking for an inexpensive way to record your church services, you should at least take a look at the Zoom H4n. Its ease of use, portability, and its wide array of options and settings make this a great buy if you are in the market for a digital audio recorder.

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