Since its launch in 2007, the Zoom H2 Handy recorder with its ability to record high quality digital audio has become popular for everything from recording personal memos and band demos to sticking in the faces of politicians. Zoom has now given its portable "studio on a stick" an update in the form of the H2n Handy Recorder that ups the number of microphones to five and, according to Zoom, is the first handheld recorder to offer Mid-Side recording.

The inclusion of five onboard mics gives H2n users the choice of four unique recording modes: Mid-Side (MS) stereo, 90-degree X/Y stereo, 2-channel and 4-channel surround sound.

Mid-Side recording combines a uni-directional Mid mic that captures sound from directly in front of the unit with a bi-directional Side mic that captures sound from the left and right. This allows the width of the stereo field to be altered on the fly by increasing or decreasing the level of the Side mic. Additionally, for recordings made in RAW mode, the stereo width can be adjusted after recording.

Meanwhile, the unit's right and left onboard X/Y condenser mics are arranged on the same axis to ensure they are always equidistant from the sound source for more natural stereo recording in 90-degree X/Y stereo mode.

Combining the Mid-Side and X/Y mics together allows full 360-degree surround sound recordings in either 2-channel or 4-channels. In 2-channel mode the sound is recorded to a single stereo file, while in 4-channel mode two separate stereo files are recorded to provide more options when it comes to post-production.

The H2n also features a 1.8-inch backlit 128 x 64 pixel LCD display, stereo line in, stereo line out, built-in reference speaker, analog-type mic gain wheel, and can be used as a USB microphone for recording directly to a PC. Zoom claims over 20 hours of continuous operation on two standard AA alkaline batteries, while a new data recovery function will automatically restore any recorded data if the batteries run out while recording. It will also run on AC or USB bus power.

It comes with a copy of Steinberg WaveLab LE 7 and a 2GB SD card, but supports SD/SDHC cards up to 32GB, which will provide over 50 hours of recording time using 16-bit/44.1 kHz WAV format.

The H2n Handy Recorder will retail for US$199 when it is released in September. An optional accessory package that includes a wired remote, tripod stand, windscreen, protective carry case, AC adapter and USB cable will also be available.