Zoom F1 Field Recorder as MP3 Player

Unable to find a proper simple, durable portable music player, I've decided to use my Zoom F1

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I bought my Zoom F1 field audio recorder to increase the audio quality of my YouTube videos and various projects. It has done so quite admirably. I have been using my Android smartphone to play music at work, and hate it. I already dropped it and shattered the screen. It has welding burns on the screen. I spent a few hours researching music players and could not find a single one that I like. I don't want a fragile touch screen, short battery life, or complex operating systems. I just want something rugged and reliable. I have tried to get the Zoom F1 to play music before, but failed. I was unsure of what it needed to recognize audio files, but I knew it could do so as it plays back its own files. Here is the documentation of my journey towards a proper portable music player in 2022.

The Zoom F1 field recorder is a small 2 channel professional audio recorder. It's portable, and offers a very versatile audio recorder that can be mounted to cameras, hooked on a belt, and jammed wherever it may be needed. It records very high quality audio, as well as plays it back. It's this second feature I was so interested in, after the demise of my smartphone at work. The welding spatter had burned the screen, then I dropped it and shattered it while trying to clean it off. I was unable to find a proper portable player and decided to try this device again. This time I was successful and am listening to an album as I type this up. This is a very easy project, and will be the first one I have completed here. It's not a perfect media player, but it is very good for what I need. I'll share what it's good at, what it isn't, and how to make it play back music files. I have not done much testing yet, as I just got it working. I will go through all the settings and play around with it more later and update things as needed.

The Good:

It will happily play back mp3 files without any interruptions, until the batteries die. It takes 2 AAA batteries, which can be swapped out very quickly so there is no need to go without music as it charges. It takes micro SD cards. It can record audio if needed, such as voice memos or butt sounds. It is non-intrusive. No updates, no random glitches I've found, no games or nonsense to distract from music or tasks. It's very durable. This is a professional device and is built as such. For about $170, it makes a solid music player and audio recorder. For the same price the next best options are all generic Chinese devices, outdated players, or overly complicated devices with touchscreens that will not fare well in harsh environments. It has a physical hold button, which prevents any input. I use this feature while recording often. It has physical buttons for every feature, including volume. It has 100 volume steps and you can set the volume almost exactly where you want it. The simple backlit LCD screen is easy to read, even at odd angles. It can play, pause, skip, and stop playback with buttons right on the front. It has micro USB for power and data. I think it is one of the models that can be used as a USB microphone. Plugging in USB seems to conserve battery power as well. It transitions seamlessly between battery and USB power. It has a nice 3.5mm headphone jack with a screw on bit for headsets that support it. The sound quality is excellent, as would be expected of a professional audio recorder. I hear no noise, or random artifacts. Just music. I'm using in ear stage monitors and I'm hearing things in my music I have never heard before. It gets incredibly loud, and also fairly quiet.

The Not So Good

It is not designed as an mp3 player, and that does show. The biggest downside is that it requires the files to follow a specific naming convention. For example: ZOOM0001.MP3. I used a bulk rename utility for Linux to rename copies of the files from an album to put onto the SD card of this recorder. It works fine for playback. The song name is displayed as the ZOOM file name. There is no shuffle feature, and it only plays in numerical order. I listen to a few thousand songs, so this isn't too much of a problem. I plan to find a software workaround for this such as renaming the files in a random order every once in a while. It's expensive for such a simple music player. It uses AAA batteries. I don't like disposable batteries, so I will buy professional rechargeable batteries for it. There is no equalizer or any kind of audio effects. I don't mind this one bit. There is no buetooth. I hate bluetooth with a passion, so this is fine with me, but I know how much people like their bluetooth.

Initial Thoughts

In the half hour or so I've been using this as an MP3 payer, I've enjoyed it. The true sign of a good tool for me is if I don't notice it. If it can just blend into the background, get out of...

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Simple Linux shell script to convert a few common audio file types to 256kbps mp3 format for use with the Zoom F1 Field Recorder. The files must be renamed to fit the following naming convention in order to be recognized by the device: ZOOM0001, ZOOM0002, etc. This is a crude shell script, and is only tested on a Linux system. Additional versions will be uploaded as they are developed. This will remain up for anyone who wants a simple shell script.

x-shellscript - 1.68 kB - 03/07/2022 at 20:19


  • 1 × Zoom F1 Field Audio Recorder The main unit
  • 1 × Audio Output Device with 3.5mm Headphone Jack Something to plug into the Zoom F1 to get the audio out of it
  • 2 × AAA Batteries Used as the main power source when on the go
  • 1 × Micro USB Cable Used to power the device when stationary, and transfer data
  • 1 × Micro SD Cards Used to hold the music files for playback

  • Annoyance: Slow Navigation

    Dustin03/24/2022 at 22:54 0 comments

    After using this thing for a while, I've enjoyed it but discovered another annoyance today. I put more music on another SD card that I had used in the Zoom and it remembered the track it left off on, even after replacing all files. Instead of starting the fresh SD card off at track 1, it started at 192 or so. This isn't a huge problem, but it did bring to light the fact that it takes a very long time to skip many tracks. There is no quick jumping to the beginning or end of the track list, as far as I am aware. I've decided to just let it play through the tracks for a while as I don't feel like skipping around. It can be painfully slow.

    Just wanted to post this update before I forgot about it.

  • Proper Playback Achieved

    Dustin03/15/2022 at 02:19 0 comments

    The first test of the Zoom F1 as a music player was brief and frustrating. With many songs failing to play with an "Invalid File!" error, and others had multiple minutes of silence following the track. This was infuriating as I was trying to work and do things link weld upside down in the dark. Taking off heavy gloves to try and skip the track was a massive interruption. With the latest updates to my Zoom_Converter script, I have solved these massive issues. For full details, see the previous log. I have listened to almost 300 songs on the device without a single issue or interruption. This is the exact experience I was looking for from my audio player. With some Amazon Basics rechargeable AAA batteries and an extra SD card, I can have an endless stream of audio wherever I go. Having an SD card that can be swapped quickly is very helpful. I keep different playlists on different cards, and just take them with me. I got tired of music the other day and swapped out the card for one with some fun interviews and podcasts on it. This was more pleasant to me than switching apps and playlists on my phone, as I do not like getting my phone out during the work day. The removable batteries are more pleasant than I thought they would be as well. It's so nice to be able to just take 30 seconds to have a fresh set of batteries installed. So far, I've been getting nearly a full day of playback from a pair off 800mah batteries. I work 10 hour days, so this is good. I usually have to swap out once towards the end of the day, but I do also listen to music in the morning, on the drive to work, and on the way back. Many days the Zoom is playing for well over 12 hours a day.

    At this point in time, I still recommend the Zoom F1 as an audio player if you can live with the weird file names, converting files, and no bluetooth support. It makes perfect sense for a professional environment or user, as far as I can tell. The average user may not find the lack of luxury features worth the reliability and simplicity, but I certainly do.

  • Updates

    Dustin03/07/2022 at 20:28 0 comments

    The crude Linux shell script for preparing audio files for the Zoom F1 has been updated to include automatic file source declaration, and the destination is now a simple variable that can be set once at the start of the program. It has also been renamed to Instructions for use have been included in the comments within the script file. The required "/" in the destination has been added to the code, so the user no longer needs to add it to the destination variable, and can copy and paste the address from the file manager window.

    Current workflow is as follows:

    1) Download script.

    2) Place script in folder of files to be converted.

    3) Open script with text editor of choice and fill out the "destination" variable. Save changes

    4) Navigate to folder containing script and audio files within the terminal.

    5) Run the following command: sh Alternatively, some users may need to run the following alternative command: bash

    The script will attempt to convert all supported audio files into 256kbps mp3 files. They will be placed in the directory specified in the "destination" variable defined in the script. 

    I am fairly new to shell scripting and needed a fair bit of help with this one from the internet. It does work, and has allowed me to fairly easily put music onto a very well made device that would otherwise sit unused for the vast majority of its life. Any suggestions for the code would be appreciated.

  • More Lessons Learned

    Dustin03/07/2022 at 15:05 0 comments

    I woke up this morning and wanted my music, so I changed the rechargeable AAA batteries in my Zoom F1 and got it playing on my portable soundbar. All was great until it encounter another "invalid File" and stopped playback. The point of using this device for music playback is uninterrupted playback. It's quite jarring to have a song end and unlimited silence follow. Especially when working on something that cannot be set aside, such as a weld in progress.

    I've taken note of 2 offending files and found a pattern in them: 320kbps mp3 files. The original script to convert the audio files for the Zoom was set up to skip mp3 files as I was unaware of this limitation. I confirmed that the offending file works when taken down to 192kbps, but I want the highest that it will support. I suspect it will handle 256kbps just fine, as I compared a known working file and seem to remember seeing that bitrate. I've rewritten much of the original script to not only convert all mp3 files to 256kbps mp3, but also to change the file extension to MP3, with capitals, as ffmpeg would not "edit a file in place" when trying to specify the same file name. This works for me as I can tell the files apart quickly, and sort by converted and unconverted. I also specified a different output folder for the script so that I can keep the files separate.

    Currently, I am writing simple instructions inside the program to make it a little easier to figure out. It already has a "source" variable, and I will add in a "destination" variable when I get a chance. The end goal is to have a simple GUI program that will run on any system, and just automatically prepare any audio files for use on the Zoom F1. This would include shuffling the files if desired, converting them, then batch renaming and exporting to the specified SD card. Another feature I'd like to add is an auto shuffle feature where you can just have it re-order and rename the files to change up the music playlist. I will likely write this program in Python, using tkinter for the GUI as I am already familiar with both, and they are fairly standard. I may compile some executables for various systems if I can decide on a good system for that and get it working. I understand that many people who already own this device may not be programmers, or even use Linux. The goal is to turn one of the best pieces of compact audio gear into a suitable music player in its free time. Ultimately, I want to hack the firmware and write custom firmware for it to turn it into a full featured recorder and player. I do not have anywhere near the skill for that at this time, so I must work within the limitations of a stock device.

    Another limitation I've found is the speed at which the device skips files. It is very slow to skip through files, meaning it takes quite a while to get to the song you want. This is a minor complaint as I just let it play all day long as I work.

    A more serious issue I've run into is the fact that ffmpeg is only using a single core to do the conversion. This isn't a serious issue for most people, but I work from a Raspberry Pi 400 these days, and it can be painfully slow at times, especially with 3 CPU cores sitting nearly idle. I could look into making a multi-threaded program, but it isn't that simple. I suspect that the core issue is that fffmpeg can only work on one file at a time, so I would need to open a new instance for each CPU core, and specify a file for that instance. I haven't thought of this before, but I suspect I could add it later down the road when I implement this is program in Python. I'm sure there is an accepted best approach to this, but I like to try to figure it out myself first and see how close I get to the "right" answer. My first thought is to have the program count the number of physical CPU cores, subtract 1, then use that as the number of instances to run. I'd leave 1 or 2 cores unused as to not bog down the entire system. The user could also specify the number...

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  • Additional Problems

    Dustin01/16/2022 at 02:57 0 comments

    after spending two full ten hour days with the F1 at work, I have a few more things to report. First is that it does make an excellent basic audio player. The sound quality is far superior to my smartphone, and the physical buttons make skipping around far easier. I miss having the media control button on my headphones actually work, but I can live with the Zoom buttons. The belt clip is a huge pain to get clipped on, but it definitely isn't going anywhere.

    I want to put a screen protector on it as I'm often grinding and welding, or just bumping into things. This thing wasn't cheap, and I still need it for audio production, so it's worthwhile to protect it. For now, I'll cover the screen in really nice clear packaging tape. I used the same tape to hold together my shattered smartphone screen, and it's been excellent so far, all things considered. I have magnetic charging cable adapter plugged into it at all times, which does a great job of protecting the micro USB port. The headphone jack is protected by the headphones plugged into it. The mic input jack is left exposed, but I keep the Zoom clipped to my belt and under my shirt at all times. I may just cut the end off a cheap old 3.5mm aux cable and leave it plugged in. I found a nice little adventuresome that has an mp3 player case I want. It's a waterproof tough box with a waterproof headphone jack passing through the case, padding inside, and a belt clip. This would be ideal when I go sit in the hot tub at the gym to do my thinking and recovery. I've also got a decent piece of nice bison leather left from my leather working business, and all my basic tools. I may actually make a custom protective case for it and offer it up for sale. It's such a niche device that I might end up being one of the only people making cases for it. I've also got experience using it and making various cases and sheaths for things. Could be fun. 

    Battery life is pretty darn good. I've gotten a full day off a set of standard AAA alkaline batteries. More, if I remember correctly. I don't like disposable things in general, so I'll be buying professional rechargeable batteries for it soon. NiMH are old school, but are proven durable and reliable. The new lithium AAA batteries seem to be pretty good these days, but I've never seen a set from a reputable brand or used in a professional setting. This is a professional piece of audio gear, after all, and I need it to be as reliable as possible when it comes time to record audio. I can't have a weird battery fry it or cause other issues. 

    There are two major issues I've found, but haven't had time to work on yet. I've not used it in a while due to lack of batteries and refusing to buy disposable. There are tracks that will not play and come up with "invalid file" and some that will play through the entire track, but have multiple minutes of silence at the end of the track. I suspect this has something to do with my batch conversion process. I need to make note of the offending tracks, and will do so now that I've added a pencil and water proof notebook to my every day carry. The Zoom will be another very lucky item to get added to my EDC once I have good batteries. In order to figure out which tracks are the problem, I have to get them off the SD card and take a look at the files. I'll compare them to known good files and just look for differences. In order to match the converted file to the source file, I'll need the original set of files, in the order they were processed. Luckily I kept every set of files in their own folder, in the same order through each step of processing. I'll write a Python script to grab all the file names in a certain order, then put them into a spreadsheet so I can compare and search for files. A database would be ideal for this, but I have no experience with database management and don't feel like learning it right now. Once I know what is wrong with the files, I'll look into possible solutions and update my process as needed. ...

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  • Batch File Conversion and Renaming

    Dustin01/01/2022 at 19:05 0 comments

    To get this working right away, I took an album of mp3 files and simply renamed them using Krename. This got the proof of concept working right away and I've been listening to it and working on a better way to prepare files for the Zoom. This involves two steps. The first is to convert the file to an MP3 format, if it isn't already. I have wav, wma, and flac files among the various mp3 files. I started by just making a folder with all the songs I wanted on the the device. I then searched all files using "*.*", which showed all files. I selected all and copied them into another folder. Then I removed all files that weren't audio files. This left me with just the audio files in a folder. I used a Linux script to search for wma, wav and flac files with ffmpeg, and convert them to 320Kbps mp3 files. I'll share the script code here and in the "Files" section of the main project page. I may start a GitHub page for it and refine it as I go. This is running in a terminal window now. I'm using an overclocked Raspberry Pi 400 running Pop!_OS, but this would go much faster on a more powerful machine.

    The next step, after file conversion, is to batch rename the files into a format the Zoom can handle. It looks like this: ZOOM0001.MP3. I will use Krename to batch rename these, add the numbers automatically, and change the extension to uppercase.

    After that is done, it's a simple matter of copying the converted and renamed files to the SD card and putting it into the Zoom to enjoy my music.

    This process is not very pretty, but it does work. The script currently only finds files in the directory it is located and needs to be started from a terminal window using the "bash" command. It is working just fine and I have gotten working audio files out of it already. It also dumps the converted files into the source directory. This isn't a huge problem as I can just search for ".MP3", select all, and copy those to the SD card, ignoring all invalid files.

    If testing goes well and I decide to stick with the Zoom F1 as my main media player, I will refine the software and make it far more user friendly. I know of someone who has a Zoom F1 and might really enjoy this project. He runs a business collecting interesting sounds from all over the world. I'll write the code and documentation with him in mind, and ask if he would like to test it out for me and report back. If not, I'll still end up with a nicely polished program that soles a real problem for me and anyone else who might be interested.

    Here is the initial code. Crude, but effective:

    source = /home/dustin/Music/Zoom_All_Sorted
    for f in *.wav; do
        ffmpeg -i "$f" -c:a libmp3lame -b:a 320k \
    for f in *.wma; do
        ffmpeg -i "$f" -c:a libmp3lame -b:a 320k \
    for f in *.flac; do
        ffmpeg -i "$f" -c:a libmp3lame -b:a 320k \

    I would like to rewrite the entire thing in Python and make it cross platform compatible. I only use Linux, but I know many people use various other operating systems. This is a fairly simple program, but I want to add a few advanced features, such as being able to shuffle the playlist. This would require randomly reordering the files, then renaming them. This should be fairly simple, but very useful to change up a playlist. I'd like to make a program that manages entire audio libraries for the Zoom, but this might take a while. I made this as fast as possible so I can get this working and ready for work on Monday.

    The program just finished running and converted 113 files for me. Doing this by hand would have been a nightmare. I tried using VLC to batch convert the files. It ran, but left empty files. This method using ffmpeg seems to have worked just fine.

    Renaming the files now and testing. There are 1,518 files to rename here. Krename would not add them all when using the open dialog box, but worked when dragging and dropping the files in. Odd, but it is running now. I'm copying...

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  • Exploring Features

    Dustin01/01/2022 at 16:43 0 comments

    I haven't spent much time with this as a music player yet, but I do like it so far. The simple, reliable nature, physical buttons, and fine volume control are refreshing in a world of giant touchscreens and many distractions.

    I've found that it will simply play files in numerical order, looping once it reaches the end. Many SD cards could be loaded with various albums, playlists, artists, audiobook series, and podcasts. There is partial resume function that I've found so far. It will remember what track you were on, but not what location within that track. There is an option to pause and mark a track during playback, but I am not sure how to see the mark on the device. This might not be available here. The skip buttons can be held down to seek through a track, and it does go faster the longer you hold it. Audiobooks are viable on this device as long as you remember where you left off. Even multi track audiobooks would work well here. I combine all tracks of an audiobook into a single file, so this would work very well for me. I just need to remember the track name of the book I am on and where I left off. Easy enough.

    There is a playback mode selection of "Play All", "Repeat One" and "Repeat All." I keep it on "Repeat All." Maybe I can somehow modify the firmware or convince Zoom to add a shuffle feature. That seems like a long shot.

    I believe this device has gapless playback, which is a feature I really like and is incredibly hard to find as a default feature anywhere these days. My old Zune and Zune HD had gapless playback. There are a few albums in my collection that rely on it for proper listening. I was amazed at how hard it was to get gapless playback when I started looking in 2018 or so. I now have a device that seems to support it by default. I will have to check later and report back. Even if it doesn't I often merge tracks together that don't have a gap between them.

    The display has contrast control and a backlight timer that goes as low as 30 seconds, and can be turned on and off manually.

    The physical hold switch is excellent to avoid accidental button presses. This a required feature for a proper audio recorder where you can't afford button presses during recording. It's a very nice feature to have on a portable audio player with so many physical buttons.

    Physically, it's a very bulky device, and not pocket friendly. I enjoy this as it doesn't feel like it will just slip out of my hands. It's not too heavy, but does not feel cheap ether. It has metal bars coming off the back that let it mount to a tripod shock mount, and a belt could be run through them to mount it to one's waist. I have the belt clip for it as well. It's hard to clip on, but stays put quite well. It has a nice locking battery cover and a rubber cover for the SD card. The large expansion port on the top has a very nice hard cover that snaps on securely and blends in to the point it wouldn't likely be noticed. A variety of professional microphones can be attached to the top, such as the shotgun microphone I have for it. The 3.5mm audio input and output jacks have male threads on the outside for screwing cables to the device. I use this with my lapel microphone for extra security.

    In my line of work, this device is good, but not ideal. I weld and grind often. Magnetic dust is always flying through the air, and red hot metal often flies around and drips. I burned the screen on my phone while welding, then dropped it and shattered the screen trying to clean it. This was quite frustrating and led me down this path. The headphone jack will be protected when headphones are plugged in, I have a magnetic USB cable end plugged into the USB port that will keep it safe, and I can order 3.5mm protective plugs later. I will clip this onto my belt, as far from the welding and grinding as possible. I may put a screen protector on it and either find a case or make a leather one for it. I don't think I have enough leather in stock, but that would be a fun project. I...

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View all 7 project logs

  • 1
    Format SD Card

    Insert an SD card of choice into the Zoom F1 and turn it on. It wil ask to format the card. Do so.

  • 2
    Add Audio Files to SD Card

    Copy music, recordings, audiobooks, podcasts, and whatever else you want to play. Only MP3 has been tested so far, but WAV files can be created on the device, so WAV playback should be possible as well. Convert as needed.

  • 3
    Rename Files to Zoom Naming Convention

    The Zoom F1 creates files with the following naming convention: ZOOM0001.MP3.

    Bulk rename files as such using a bulk rename utility of choice. The device will not recognize files that do not follow this naming convention.

View all 4 instructions

Enjoy this project?



mehar wrote 03/25/2022 at 16:39 point

Not to take anything away from what you're trying to accomplish, but have you considered simply purchasing an old iPod? An iPod Mini is a tough device.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dustin wrote 04/11/2022 at 14:37 point

Yes I have, and I'm fairly certain that I said so in the description. If I wanted an iPod, I'd have bought an iPod. The point was to use what I already had, which contains higher quality components than an old iPod and is still current and supported. I am a professional, and I do not want to use consumer equipment. What is with everyone these days? This comment definitely takes something away from the goal of this comment, and I'm quite tired of such comments. If you're not interested in the project, and just want to drop a comment saying "Why didn't you just do this", just don't leave the comment. Have a good one.

  Are you sure? yes | no

lakeskin wrote 03/25/2022 at 04:31 point

Not to undermine what you're trying to achieve, but have you considered just buying an old ipod? An iPod Mini is rugged, it takes very little effort to swap out the drive for a flash card, and it can be had for around 40 to 60 dollars, less if you find one laying around.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dustin wrote 03/25/2022 at 11:51 point

No worries. Yes I have. The reason I didn't is because I don't care for Apple, and I wanted to use something that's still in production. Otherwise I would have just bought an old Zune HD. Had one of those and loved it. There's also a huge difference between consumer gear(iPod) and professional equipment (Zoom). The build quality and audio quality of the Zoom is far greater than an ipod. Removable batteries means I don't ever have to wait for it to charge. Built in belt clip is nice too as I never have to take it out of a pocket. It's just got so many features that make it nearly perfect for me.

Not to be rude, but what is it with people always recommending something that completely defeats the point of what is trying to be accomplished? Every where I go I run into this. "Why not just do this instead?" Is very common. I know I didn't say I wasn't interested in hardware alternatives in the description, and you're just being friendly. You're suggestion was so much friendlier than the crap I've seen elsewhere these days. I've been called dumb for some of my choices by people who don't even know what I'm doing. Anyway, I appreciate the comment. During my initial search, an ipod was actually my next choice, followed by something from Fiio and then some Chinese players. I happened to have a Zoom F1 and really liked it so I decided to try it out.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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