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A project log for 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

DustinDustin 01/01/2022 at 16:430 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 currently have it clipped to my underwear as I work on this, make coffee, and go about my day. I actually just clipped it on and forgot about it. This is a sign of proper design in my opinion. When it can get out of the way and blend into the background, it is doing it's job exceptionally well.

I need to do some testing on battery life, but that will come soon. It has options for alkaline, NiMH, and lithium batteries, which is a great feature. It won't report low battery when you put in fresh rechargeable batteries like many devices would. This is a very well thought out professional device. The difference between professional and consumer equipment is very apparent here, and I find the simple professional features far more satisfying than the endless features of the consumer options. I do miss having lyrics, but I don't need them at work, which is where I will be using this.

I don't have much else to say at this point as I've explored the entire menu system and outlined the basic features, but I will explore file names, file types, confirm gapless playback, and report back later. I was just able to reach down, turn off the hold switch, and skip tracks without much thought. That makes me very happy. No need to look at the screen at all. I consider this an excellent, though basic portable audio player that I'm proud to own and happy to use. I recommend this to anyone looking for a simple audio playback device, and especially those who could actually use a professional audio recorder. I would not recommend the larger Zoom players as portable audio players as they're very large, expensive, and just massive overkill. The Zoom F1 will make a decent player for the right person.

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