COMPACT DIGITAL-AUDIO RECORDERS are all the rage—as are mini video cams such as the Flip UltraHD—but the Zoom Q3 ($249 retail) combines both functions in a single product. The Q3 only captures regular-definition/640x480 video, meaning it can’t rival HD mini-cams, but it is peerless when it comes to audio recording. Besides sporting a nice-sounding stereo condenser microphone, the Q3 offers an extensive choice of recording formats, including 12 flavors of mp3 (ranging from 48kps to 320kps), 16-bit or 24-bit/44.1kHz or 48kHz PCM, and up to 24-bit/96kHz in audio-only mode. There isn’t an external microphone jack, however—a cost-containment measure that limits the unit’s versatility.
Operating the Q3 is a breeze, and its joystick master button and Play, Menu, and Erase buttons will be familiar to mini-cam users. There’s also a Mic Gain switch with a choice of Low, High, or Auto modes. Auto works well for most situations, and you can tweak the mic-input level using the joystick if necessary. In addition, there’s a switch for audio only, 1/8" jacks for headphone/ line-level audio output, and an included cable that routs NTSC or PAL TV signals to a monitor or VCR. A pop-out USB connector and an SDHC card slot complete the picture. The Q3 includes a 2GB card for an hour of video, and accepts up to 32GB cards.
I used the Q3 while covering the 2010 Winter NAMM Show with good results. Audio quality was excellent, and the autolimiter kept even the most cochlea-crushing levels under control. Video quality was more than adequate for Web streaming as long as there was sufficient light—the clarity decreased precipitously in darkened spaces. This is a great device for any application where audio is critical, although I’d certainly be willing to pay more for HD video capability and an external microphone jack.
HANDY VIDEO RECORDER
KUDOS Superb audio quality in a variety of formats. Easy to use. Good video quality.
CONCERNS Standard-definition video only. No external mic input.
CONTACT Zoom/Samson, 631-784-2200;