Best Audio Recorder for Focus Groups

Best Audio Recorder for Focus Groups

Recording focus group discussion is not easy.

Focus groups are notoriously hard to control and manage. But crucially, you’ll have to record sound from different sources and directions. That’s not easy.

Luckily for you, there’s recording equipment that make recording focus group discussion easier. And that’s my intention, to share with you the best focus group recording devices.

In a previous post, I shared a general outline of how to record a focus group discussion. I listed the 3 things you need to think about while planning your focus groups. I also shared specific recording devices for recording different types of focus group discussions.

But I realized that I didn’t provide researchers with options and recommendations.

Summary: Here’s the Best Audio Recorder for Focus Groups

Sony ICD-ux570 and 2 Boundary Mics
  1. Sony ICD-ux570 Audio Recorder

    A couple of these recorders are great for small sized focus groups. But can also be used to power two ME33 boundary microphones and record slightly larger focus groups. Buy the Sony ICD-ux570 from Amazon.
  2. Olympus ME33 Boundary Microphone

    The best microphone for recording medium and large focus groups; works well with the Zoom H1n digital recorder. Buy Olympus ME33 from Amazon.
  3. Zoom H1n

    With the 2.5v plug in power output and USB charger (5v) capabilities, this is a great digital recorder for powering more than two ME33 boundary mics and recording your larger focus group. Buy Zoom H1n from Amazon.

Before I get to that, there are a couple of general tips that I want to share with you on recording focus groups. And they stem from a realization that most researchers see focus groups as a way to collect rich data in less time and with less effort.

How naïve!

When it’s time to get the FGs transcribed, researchers get in touch – looking to hire us to transcribe the focus group discussions for them. And there’s usually a bit of back and forth as we try to manage expectations on the quality of the data/transcripts that they’ll get from their poorly recorded focus group discussions.

If there is one thing that I’d like you to take away from this post, contrary to popular opinion, is that to conduct a good focus group, you’ll need to do a lot of planning – which takes time and resources. So here are my top 2 tips to get you started:

A Couple of Tips

Visit the Venue

A preliminary visit to the room where you are going to record the focus group is a must! I can’t over stress this. Unless you are very familiar with the location where you’re going to record the focus groups (which means that it’s not a neutral location – and you should not be using it to conduct the focus groups), you should plan for a preliminary visit to the room.

Best audio recorder for focus groups

Once you visit the room, there are a lot of things you need to check. I’m only going to touch on those that determine the quality of the recording, (but do make sure that the room puts your participants at ease and that they’ll be comfortable).

The first thing you’ll need to check is background noise.

Does sound come from adjacent room, or from a busy highway? Fans and air conditioning create a lot of background noise. So you might want to move them around or switch them off or at least set them at a lower setting.

You also want to visit the venue at around the same time of the day – and preferably on the same day of week, as when you intend to conduct the focus groups. The local marching band might be practicing in the adjacent room – happened to me.

Finally you want to have at least one alternative venue where you can conduct the focus group discussion is case there is an issue with the primary venue. If you don’t, and maybe your primary room is locked, you’ll be in a bind.

Do a Test Recording

Again this is a must. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the equipment and make sure that it works. And the test recording doesn’t have to be long, 5 minutes should suffice to let you know that you can capture audio from all the participants.

When you visit the venue of the focus group discussion, you’re likely to be accompanied by your moderator and maybe someone from the venue (receptionist, librarian etc). Kindly ask them sit around the table and record the interaction whilst you monitor the recording.

If you also plan to conduct research interviews, you’ll use the same equipment, for instance the Sony ICD-ux570, to record your interviews ( and here is a great post, with additional interview recording tips, on choosing the best voice recorder for interviews). Interviews are easier to manage and you should use that opportunity to get to know your recording equipment. If possible, conduct and record a few interviews before your first focus group discussion.

Finally, most participants are uneasy about being recorded. From my personal experience, let them play with the recording equipment beforehand.  The first focus group I conducted, I was a nervous wreck. One of my key informants noticed this and got me talking about my new mini-cassette recorder. As the rest of the participants walked in, we passed it around, and they all joined in the discussion and that was a great ice breaker. Try it!

Best Audio Recorder for Focus Groups

1. Sony ICD-ux570

Best audio recorder for focus group discussions: Sony ICD-ux560

The Sony ICD-ux570 is the recorder you’ll want to get if you plan on recording small sized focus group discussions. Its greatest selling point is the ability to record high quality sound files in the .wav format and that you can visually monitor the microphones input on the screen. Great for doing that test recording I talked about.

My only concern is that it comes with 4GB of internal memory. That’s about 6 hours’ worth of good high quality recordings. You may want to get a 64 GB MicroSD card as additional memory. Here’s a detailed review of the Sony ICD ux570. For small focus groups, you’ll want to buy at least a couple of these recorders so that you can clearly capture all the participants. For slightly larger focus groups in a roomy location, get a couple of ME33 boundary mics and use the Sony ux570 to power them. Buy Sony ICD-ux570 from Amazon.

2. Olympus ME33 Boundary Mic

While a couple of Sony ux570s are perfect for recording small focus group discussions, they are not great for medium to large focus groups. And that’s because the internal microphones cannot cover a wide area without picking up a lot of background noise.

Olympus ME33 Boundary Microphone
Olympus ME33 Boundary Microphone

I realize that this is a post of audio recorders, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the only device you can use to audio record medium and large focus groups: boundary microphones.

The Olympus ME33 boundary microphones captures very little background noise, but captures distant voices very well. And you can connect up to 6 microphones using its daisy chain capabilities. All that equates to very large coverage.

That makes the Olympus ME33 boundary microphone perfect for recording audio in large meeting or conference rooms. The only downside: you’ll need a digital recorder that provides plug in power.

Let me repeat that.

The ME33 will not work unless you connect it to a digital voice recorder that provides plug-in power.

Depending on your location and number of participants, you have a couple of options. If you plan to use only a couple of boundary microphones (covers about 40sqft), use the Sony ICD-ux570 to power them. I’ve tested this setup and it works very well. If you plan to use more than a couple of the ME33 boundary microphones I recommend the Zoom H1n.

Here is a detailed review (with a few tips on how to set them up) of the Olympus ME33 boundary microphones. To reiterate, if you need to effectively cover a large recording area, get the ME33s (at least 2 of them) coupled with a digital recorder to power them. Buy Olympus ME33 boundary mics from Amazon.

3. Zoom H1n

Zoom H1n with ME33 boundary microphones for recording focus group discussions

Coupled with the Olympus ME33 boundary microphones, the Zoom H1n is the recorder I recommend for recording medium to large focus group discussions: whenever you daisy chain more than a couple ME33 boundary microphones. The main reason why I recommend the H1n is because it will output enough power to 6 ME33 boundary microphones without loss of sensitivity.

Not only does the Zoom H1n output 2.5v plug-in power, but you have the added advantage of being able to power it using a 5v USB charger. As opposed to batteries (which reduce power output as they discharge), you’ll be able to provide optimal power to your ME33 boundary microphones. Perfect!

Now, the Zoom H1n does not come with a USB charger, that’s sold separately in an Zoom APH-1n Accessory Pack (amazon link). But any 5v USB charger works (my phone USB charger works great). And you’ll also need to buy Micro SD card to store the recording (here’s one (Amazon link) that I use on my H1n).

I recently penned a detailed review of the Zoom H1n, but let me highlight a few other great features of this recorder.  You can record high quality sound using the Zoom H1n 96 kHz 24 bit Wav format. You can visually monitor the stereo mic inputs onscreen. Also monitor the recording, while the recording is ongoing, with a pair of headphones (great if you have a dedicated assistant to record your focus groups)… Great professional quality digital recorder that I recommend for powering more than two ME33 boundary microphones. Buy Zoom H1n digital recorder from Amazon.

That’s it for this post. I hope you’ve found it useful. If you have any questions, post them in the comment section below. I do read all of your comments and endeavor to answer all of your questions. All the best in your research.

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Isaac

Isaac here. At Weloty, we provide bespoke academic transcription services to qualitative researchers. If you wish to hire us, get in touch. Please note that if you choose to buy the products we recommend as a result of our research and testing, we’ll get paid some money through an affiliate commission from the retailer when you make a purchase. You can find out more here.

28 responses to “Best Audio Recorder for Focus Groups”

  1. Elena Avatar

    Thank you for such useful blogs about recording focus groups! I am nervous about the sensitivity of the Tascam and want to purchase the Sony recorder you recommend because I may not be able to control background noise in some of our groups. The problem is that I’ll be recording for a group of 12 and from your advice should use boundary mics. Is there an external power source that can be used with the Olympus boundary mics if I get the Sony recorder?

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Hey Elena. No, you cannot get an external power source for the Olympus boundary mics. And yes, for a group of 12 participant I’d recommend that you use at least 3 boundary mics to record the focus group. When using boundary mics, don’t worry about the ultra sensitive Tascam built in mics – they are automatically turned off!. The Sony ICD-UX560 has a powered mic jack. But Sony does not say how much power the jack can output (I’ll rig something up and test). I know the Tascam has a max output of 1.7 volts, which is more than you’ll need. Do remember to switch on the plug in power (Home Screen > MENU > REC SETTING > MIC POWER) when you connect the boundary mics to the Tascam…

  2. Doris Alvarez Avatar

    Isaac, I am a complete newbie when it comes to recordings. I have a group of 12-20 I want to record in a series of meetings- a focus group I guess. I am not sure what you mean by boundary microphones. Where do you purchase these? I know Amazon has the Tascam. Where can I find help on setting something like this up. What kind of store?

    1. Isaac Avatar

      You can get the ME33 boundary mics on amazon – here’s the to the Amazon link.
      And they are very easy to set up – just plug them into a recorder and press record. This is a great how to post.

      I don’t know of any physical stores that sell these.

      If you have any issues setting them up, let me know and I’ll be glad to help.
      Regards,
      Isaac

  3. Cheryl Avatar

    Isaac –
    First, THANK YOU for this awesome post. It’s exactly what I needed for a project I’m undertaking.
    Question: Did you happen to test the Sony with a daisy chain of six boundary mikes to see if it outputs enough to power them?
    I’m preparing to record a series of focus groups over the next eight weeks and need to make certain we get the audio recorded.

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Hey Cheryl. Yes, been testing them for the last 1 month or so.
      Can the Sony power 6 daisy chained ME33 microphones? Yes it can. But the bad news is, I found there was a loss in power supplied to the mics after about 45 minutes = the mics recorded at a lower volume (decreased sensitivity). So I wouldn’t recommend you use the Sony to power up 6 boundary mics. Instead, I now recommend the Zoom H1n, which you can power up using a USB charger.
      I recently recorded a stakeholders meeting that lasted all day. I powered the H1n using my phone’s USB charger. That setup powered 6 mics the whole day! Didn’t have to worry about the batteries running out (which can be an issue when you’re powering a lot of mics).
      So yeah, get H1n and a 5v USB charger and that setup works very well with 6 ME33 boundary mics.
      Let me know if you have further questions.
      Regards,
      Isaac

      1. RH Avatar

        MIght you be able to suggest a specific 5v USB charger that you like?

        1. Isaac Avatar

          I’ll add a link (in the post) to the Zoom H1n accessories pack, because I think it offers the best value. It comes with an USB charger and cable, carrying case for the H1n, tripod and a few other accessories. Definitely worth it.

  4. Sandy Bargainnier Avatar

    I am new to running focus grous and plan to use my iphone6 S–do these mics plug into phones?

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Sandy, no they don’t. These boundary mics need plug-in power. Which means that they need to be supplied with power in order for them to function. They don’t need much power, but they will not work without a power supply. I don’t want to get into the reasons why they wont work (unless you want to be geeked out with ohms/impedance), but they are built to be powered by a digital recorder that outputs power via the mic 3.5mm input. As I stated in the post, depending on the number of ME33 you’ll want to use, the Sony ux560 or the Zoom H1n are your best options.
      All the best.

  5. michelle Avatar

    Hi Isaac, Thank you for this great post. I am about to embark on a research project using focus groups for the first time. I expect my groups to have (roughly) 7 to 10 people and think I will be able to find a relatively cozy space for recording somewhere on my university campus. Would you consider this a small focus group? I am a little bit intimidated by the Zoom H1n (and technology generally). Do you think a couple of Sony ICD-UX560s with Olympus ME33s will work? How many of each device do you recommend? (I don’t really understand how two of the Sony recorders would work together?) Anyways, thanks for your expertise! Best, MJ

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Hi Michelle.
      Good question. I’d classify that as a medium sized focus group. But from my experience conducting focus groups, 7-10 usually turns out to be 3-6; you’ll plan to conduct a medium sized focus group, but you’ll actually conduct a small sized focus group.
      But more importantly, it all depends on where you are going to conduct the focus group. Proximity to the microphones and room acoustics are the two important factors.
      For instance, if you find a little cozy room, with some furniture in it, and fits 10 participants (and everyone else in your team), then yes a couple of the ME33 and a Sony ICD-ux560 should be sufficient. Conversely, if you conduct the focus groups in a large boardroom with a 20 ft table, you’ll probably need more than a couple of ME33 microphones.
      So I’d recommend you first find a venue, and then buy the recording equipment that suitable for the venue of your focus groups.
      And while the Zoom H1n is a little intimidating, it’s actually quite easy to use – once you figure out which button does what.

      Finally, for the Sony + mic setup, you’ll need one (1) Sony ICD-ux560 and two (2) Olympus ME33 boundary mics. If you realize that you’ll need more microphones, then get the H1n. More on how this setup works here.
      Hope that helps, and if you have further questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.
      KD
      Isaac

  6. Peigi Askew Avatar

    Hi There, I am conducting focus group with 4-7 people. I have an Olympus VN- 8500PC voice recorder. Do you know which microphone I can pare with this?

    I’m guessing the Olympus ME33 Boundary Microphone won’t work?

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Peigi, the ME33 would probably work – I’ve not used them on the 8500PC, but they should work. However, replacing the Olympus VN- 8500PC with a newer/better recorder will probably get you better audio than buying microphones. If I may ask, why do you want to use the Olympus VN- 8500PC to record focus groups?
      Isaac

  7. Juliana Cuccaro Avatar

    Hi, thanks for making such useful posts! This is exactly what I need for my dissertation. I was planning on doing focus groups of 7-10 people and getting the Sony ICD PX-470. It would be in a small furnished living room setting. Would you still recommend the Sony ICD UX-560 for this case or would the PX-470 work fine?

    thanks!

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Juliana, a couple of the PX470 will work fine; with a few caveats: the PX470 does record a lot more background noise than the ux560, so you’ll need a quiet location. And keep in mind that you’ll also need to combine the 2 recordings into 1, which you can do in Audacity, before transcription. Ideally, a couple of the Me33s and the ux560 is what I’d recommend for a 7-10 people focus group.
      All the best,
      Isaac

  8. Frances K Avatar

    Hello, Isaac – really glad I came across your posts, learning a lot from them! I am a postdoc researcher new to qualitative research and am preparing to start a project in Zambia in which I will conduct focus groups discussions and one-on-one interviews. Based on your recommendations, I am planning to purchase the Sony UX570 recorder. I will have 3 Zambian research assistants working with me (they will primarily be the ones moderating the focus groups, and will conduct the interviews on my behalf).

    My main concern is making sure I have the appropriate equipment to record clear audio from my focus group discussions so that I can transcribe the data afterward. I want to make these purchases before I travel from the US to Zambia to avoid ordering/shipping issues once I am abroad.

    I had been planning to purchase 4 of the Sony UX570 recorders – to have 1 each for me and the 3 assistants, and also to be able to put multiple around the room during focus groups so that I have backup recordings in case one of them is not clear. I will be conducting focus groups of 15 participants max. The groups will consist of students, parents, or teachers. Given the current COVID-19 situation, I will also have to acommodate social distancing guidelines in the setup of my focus groups, which may require the use of a larger room and presumably participants will be farther apart than normal. Since I am not on the ground there yet, it is difficult to anticipate the logistics right now – I’m guessing we may ultimately need to cut the number of participants per focus group (perhaps down to 10).

    Regarding purchasing boundary mics – I see you have consistently recommended the Olympus ME33 from Amazon. This mic is quite expensive, and I have a rather limited budget for my project. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for other boundary mics that might be a little more affordable but of equally good quality? When I opened the link for the ME33 on Amazon, it recommended a couple other products to me, including: Kaysuda Omnidirectional Microphone, Movo Conference Microphone, and SoundTech Conference Microphone.

    Secondarily, do you think setting up 4 recorders per focus group of 15 people (e.g., one on each side of the room) would be advisable? Would it be doable to use 4 recorders and no mics? Or would it be better to use fewer recorders per focus group (perhaps 2, one at front and one at back) and connect those to mics? If so, how many mics per recorder would you recommend for this size of focus group?

    Thanks for reading, I hope you stuck with me through all that! To recap:

    1) Would you recommend using 4 audio recorders placed on each side of the room for a focus group discussion of 15 people max, or would you recommend using fewer recorders?

    2) If using 4 recorders, do I need boundary mics? If so, would you recommend 1 boundary mic for each? If using less than 4 recorders, how many boundary mics would you use per recorder?

    3) Do you have any recommendations for boundary mics that are less expensive than the M33?

    Best,
    Frances

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Hey Frances.
      Let me start with equipment recommendations and then I’ll answer your specific questions.
      So, you have two choices.
      1. You can use multiple recorders, placed around the room, to record your focus groups. If you plan to go down this route, please note that you will need to synchronize and merge your FG recordings. To assist with that, you will need to clap sync at the beginning of each recording. I’d start recording on all the recorders, then clap once, then place them in the room. You’ll need to be very organized to keep tabs of every recording, as you will have multiple recordings per FG. Then you’ll need to sync and merge the recording of each FG. You can do this manually using Audacity or get PluralEyes, automatic audio synchronization software (you can get a student discount so it’s only $3 every 6 months) that will automatically sync the audio tracks for you.
      2. Your second option is to use a recorder (one voice recorder) and boundary microphones. For more than a couple of boundary microphones, I’d recommend that you get the Zoom H1n voice recorder and not the ux570. Then you will need boundary microphones, I recommend the ME33s, and you can connect up to 6 of them to the H1n. You will also need to stock up on AAA batteries to power the recorder or buy a good powerbank; you can power the H1n using a USB cable and a powerbank. As noted in the post, you will also need a MicroSD card for the H1n. This option has the advantage of giving you one recording, easier to manage, and you will not need to clap sync or merge the recordings using a software.

      With that out of the way, let me try and answer your specific questions.
      1. Would I recommend 4 or fewer recorders? With option one, I’d recommend more recorders. I think 6 is a good number for 15 participants, with social distancing. If you want to save some money, get the PX470, they are about $20 cheaper than the UX570 (but first read this).
      2. If you are using multiple recorders, you’ll not need boundary microphones. If you use boundary microphones, you only need one recorder.
      3. No I don’t. For the second option, you need a boundary microphone that has a daisy chain capability – most don’t, AND it also needs to have a 3.5mm plug to work with a voice recorder. Most boundary microphones, for instance the Kaysuda and Movo that were recommended to you by Amazon, are USB microphones. They will not work with a digital voice recorder. The SoundTech microphones would probably work; you can daisy chain 4 of them (with social distancing I think you will need 6 microphones) and it has a 3.5mm plug. And theoretically, there’s nothing stopping you from daisy chaining 6 SoundTech mics. BUT I have not used or tested this microphone. So it’s hard for me to recommend them. If you are adventurous and have time, buy them and test, and let us know if they work.

      If I was in your shoes, I’d buy 6 UX570 (if you buy the PX70, you’ll also need to buy lots of AAA batteries) and 6 microSD cards. Then create folders in the microSD cards for each FG (FG1, FG2 FG3…etc). At the beginning of each FG, set the recorders to record into the respective folder and then merge and sync all the recording for each FG in post. If you are well organized and computer savvy, this is what I’d recommend you do.
      Alternatively, buy the H1n, 6 ME33s, MicroSd card and batteries. Costs more, but very easy to manage your data.

      Hope that helps.
      Isaac

      1. Frances K Avatar

        Hi Isaac, thanks so much for your response – it really gave me a lot to think about, and I sincerely apologize for my delayed response! When I originally wrote that I would have 15 participants per FG, I was thinking that I would arrange them in desks placed in rows, like in a classroom (the majority of the FGs will be taking place in schools) – however, another colleague has since pointed out that having desks arranged in a circle, or participants gathered around a large table, will be more conducive to discussion. In light of that, I think I’m going to reduce my max to 10 participants per FG – I’m waiting to hear back from my team in Zambia, but I suspect that it will be difficult to find a room large enough to arrange more than that in a circle to accommodate social distancing requirements.

        So, keeping in mind that there will be ~12 people (10 participants + 2 moderators) arranged in an enclosed shape (square/circle, etc. rather than rows) in each FG, I’ve estimated that I’ll need at least a 20′ x 20′ room (preferably a bit bigger than that if I can manage it). In this scenario, would you still recommend 6 recorders (or 6 microphones), or do you think 4 would be enough for a group/room of this size?

        I feel pretty confident in my tech abilities, so I am leaning toward going with the multiple recorders option vs. microphones option, to keep within the bounds of my budget. I should be able to manage the syncing/merging aspect.

        Thank you again for your input! I really appreciate it!!

        1. Isaac Avatar

          Yeah, I think 4 recorders would be enough for a 20 feet by 20 feet room.
          Optimal distance for these recorders is around 10 feet in diameter, though you also need to be aware of background noise (mainly from outdoors – open windows etc).
          And try and get rooms that have a good amount of furniture in them – it will reduce reverb and echo in your recordings.
          Also get an extra recorder in case of failure – the recorders I recommend are very reliable, but accidents do happen; I’d recommend you get a spare recorder.
          I am planning to buy the cheaper boundary microphones you brought to my attention. Thank you.
          Planning to buy them next week, and test them out over the coming months, usually takes me a couple of months to adequately test equipment before I pen a review…I’ll post another comment once the review is up on our blog.
          All the best in your research.
          Isaac

          1. Frances K Avatar

            Awesome, thanks so much – I’ll look forward to your future posts about the microphones!

            I was also reading through your recommendations for microSD cards – I see for the UX570, you recommended getting the Samsung EVO Select SDXC 64 GB card. When I click on the link in your blog post, it takes me to a page for that product priced at $28/card, but there is also a link on that product page to a newer model priced at only $11/card. I compared them side-by-side and they seem to be basically the same – is there any reason why this newer model wouldn’t work as well with the UX570?

            Thanks again for your help!

            1. Isaac Avatar

              Get the newer model. I’ll try and update the links on the blog to the newer microSD card.
              I try and keep the links in the UX570 accessories page up to date.
              And you should read this post on buying microSD cards for your recorder.

              1. Frances K Avatar

                Thanks so much. One last question for now – I’m back to waffling a bit between the multiple recorders vs. boundary microphone approach.

                With this smaller FG setup (10-12 people in a 20×20 foot room), I wanted to get your thoughts on whether 4 boundary microphones would be sufficient in that case? And would I be able to use the UX570 with 4 ME33s rather than the H1n? From what I’ve read about the H1n it seems a little intimidating, so I’d rather stick with the UX570 if it’s feasible.

                So in this scenario I’d have 1 UX570 hooked up to 4 ME33s, with one microSD card and a powerbank to help keep the recorder going.

                1. Isaac Avatar

                  Yes, 4 would work. The limiting factor with the ME33s is the 6.5feet cable.
                  My guess is that a couple of the ME33 would also work, they have more coverage than the UX570 recorders.
                  For more than a couple of ME33s, I’d recommend the H1n. The main concern with using the UX570 is you need to hook it up to a power source.
                  But it’s not advisable to use devices while charging them – especially for long duration.
                  Yes, the H1n looks intimidating, but I’ve found it’s actually easier to use than the UX570 – I’ve been meaning create a series of video masterclasses on using the UX570, PX470, and H1n.
                  If you get the H1n and get stuck, let me know and I’ll prioritize it.

                  1. Frances K Avatar

                    Thanks, Isaac – after reading through all your posts and comments, numerous reviews, etc., I think I’m now convinced on getting a Zoom H1n and 4 boundary microphones after all. There’s one thing I’m confused about, though – in your last comment, you wrote that it’s not good to use devices while charging them, in this case the UX570. I’m assuming the concern here is that hooking up the UX570 to more than 2 microphones would drain the battery too fast, but that connecting the UX570 to a powerbank to maintain charge while it’s in use would be bad for the internal battery longevity – is that correct? (I will probably only need to record for 1-3 hours each day with the way my project will be set up, and I will only need my equipment to last a year because after that the project will be done.)

                    However, in your first comment you wrote that with the H1n I would want to either stock up on AAA batteries or have a good powerbank. So I’m wondering, why is it okay to power the H1n while it’s in use with a powerbank, but not the UX570? (If I understood that correctly.) Does it just come down to differences in the internal electronics of each recorder?

                    1. Isaac Avatar

                      Yes it does. You can’t charge batteries with the H1n, but you also can power the H1n without batteries.
                      The UX570 comes with an internal battery, and my understanding is that you can’t directly power the UX570 – you charge the battery that powers the recorder.
                      The boundary microphones do draw power from the recorder, though not a lot. But if you connect a lot of them, they obviously draw more power (I estimated that 6 ME33s triple the load on the UX570 battery).
                      The problem with batteries is output voltage decreases as they discharge, and that does affect the efficiency of attached microphones.
                      That’s the main issue.
                      But yes, charging and discharging batteries does reduce their longevity.
                      Can you use the UX570 to power 4 microphones? Yes you can. But know the pitfalls, my guess is that you reduce the lifespan of the UX570 battery by about 5X-10X. I don’t know by how much because I’m too scared to test this, coz I know, for sure, it will kill the battery on the UX570. Then I’m left with a very light paperweight! It’s very hard to replace the UX570 internal battery.
                      The main takeaway is that if you connect more than 2 ME33s to a recorder, I recommend that you supply the recorder with constant voltage, either via an outlet (5V USB charger) or using a powerbank.
                      Also keep in mind that these devices do have good resale value in the used market, so you can recuperate more than half of you purchase costs…

  9. Katharina Avatar

    Hi Isaac, thanks for this useful post. I am wondering whether you have an update on the post by now, so would you suggest different devices at this point of time to use for a focus group between 6 and 20 people than the Zoom H1n, splitter, 2-6 Olympus ME33 Boundary Mic, 5v USB charger, and Micro SD card? Which splitter would you suggest to buy? I read something about the Zoom H4nPro and wonder whether this would be a better choice than the zoom h1n?

    1. Isaac Avatar

      Hey Katharina, I have been planning an update for this post for a while now.
      There is one issue (I need to talk to an electronics engineer) I need to figure out and then I’ll update the post.
      But the general gist of the post still holds in late 2021.
      Zoom H1n is a good all round recorder for focus group discussions.
      Unless you need the XLR capability or multi channel recording (maybe for a podcast side hustle), the H4n Pro is not much better than the H1n.
      ME33 are still the best boundary microphones for recording FGs. I’ve been testing the CM-1000s, and recently wrote a review. Tl,Dr: they are cheaper and will do the job.
      The ME33 comes with their own splitter, so you won’t need to get a separate one.
      And get a good USB charger or power bank and several 32GB microSD cards.
      Summary, get the Zoom H1n, enough ME33s, microSD memory and a way to power the H1n, and you’ll be fine.
      H4n pro is overkill, your money is better spent buying more ME33s (they are not cheap).
      Hope that helps…

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