Tutorial: Upgrade Your Zoom H1 Recorder with This $15 DIY Hack

If you've got 15 bucks, you can make your Zoom H1 recorder even better than it already is.

The Zoom H1 is one of the cheapest and best handheld recorders of its kind. Not only does it record pro-quality audio, but its tiny size makes it super portable—plus, it's $100, so it's easy on the wallet. However, the H1 does have its downsides, the major one being that it's missing XLR inputs. But Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter has created a super cheap way to add two XLR inputs—plus two outputs for monitoring—to the H1 using about $15 to $20 worth of jacks, splitters, and adapters.

Here are the parts you'll need in order to follow along with the tutorial:

  • Dual XLR to 3.5mm Jack: $11
  • Small 3.5mm Splitter: $2.50
  • Small Zip Ties: $2.50
  • Cold Shoe Adapter: $2

Now, how do each of these items actually upgrade the H1's features? Well, the dual XLR jack allows you to plug in XLR cables, giving you the ability to use two professional microphones. (You can also use a single XLR jack if you're only going to use one mic.) The splitter gives you two outputs so you can plug in your head phones as well as run a line to your camera. Finally, the cold shoe adapter simply allows you to mount your new and improved recorder onto your camera.

If you don't already have an H1, you might want to consider taking a look at the popular Zoom H4n, which is basically the H1's bigger brother. It already has two XLR inputs, as well as a 3.5mm line output for headphones or your camera. Not only that, but is also relatively inexpensive at just $160. So, you won't need the dual XLR jack or zip ties to hold all of the cables down, but since it only has a single headphone/line output, you'd still need a splitter to plug in both headphones and your camera. You'll also need a cold shoe for mounting.

Are you like, "What about the H4n Pro?" Well, Zoom did make a few improvements to the new version of the H4n, like better pre-amps and locking XLR connections, but for $220 the extra investment might not be worth it.

If you're sticking with the H1, Pike's DIY upgrade is definitely one you want to look into, especially if you want great sound and great features at the lowest possible price.     

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Your Comment


Love this!

August 4, 2016 at 9:20PM

Caleb Price

Cheap work-around for when you need it, but don't assume the audio will be as clean as if it was recorded on a device with built in Balanced inputs.

The A7s works really well with a Tascam DR-70D ;)

August 4, 2016 at 10:00PM, Edited August 4, 10:00PM

Stewart Fairweather

I used to think the same, but it turns out unbalanced signals are actually fine for short runs. But if you start running 15+ feet you'll start getting into the danger zone.

August 9, 2016 at 10:02AM

Caleb Pike
Shooter, Educator

Cool. Too bad I can't even get my H1 to read the "approved" cards.

August 5, 2016 at 2:49PM

Taylor Mefford
Video Editor / Sound Designer / Music Composer

You tried formatting the card using the Zoom itself?

August 11, 2016 at 11:57AM