In the old days, state of the art home recording was a 4-track cassette portastudio. I suppose they were all right, so long as you had somebody along who could actually use one, and didn’t expect pristine sound quality. In my old band, it was out of the question, since no one could afford one. When we recorded ourselves, we did so with with a cheap boombox on the floor. Mixing was done by physically moving the device closer to (or further from) an amp or the drums. If the input level was too high, we simply put a towel over the microphone aperture.
The Zoom H1 is the very same tool, but adapted for the 21st century and miniaturized until it’s just about pocketable. It records digital sound in stereo onto an SD Micro card, in either MP3 or WAV format, and with full control of input volume. It is not just for musicians, these devices are also sold in photo stores for pro video use, and I imagine that they can also be used by journalists or even compulsive note-takers. In my opinion, this is a wonderful tool for musical note-taking and rudimentary demoing. If I want to capture something quickly, I don’t have to fire up my sound card, plug in a microphone and start up Reaper. I can just switch this little thing on, and off I go. Same thing in the rehearsal room: write something and record it immediately. Even a small 2 gigabyte card (do they even sell those anymore?) is good for more than 3 hours of CD-quality uncompressed audio.
The big drawback is that the H1 just eats batteries, and will chew through an AA in 24 hours no matter if you use the recorder or not. That doesn’t mean I don’t recommend it, but be aware of this, stock up on rechargeable AA:s and keep them topped up.