As recognized leaders in cutting-edge yet affordable handheld products, Zoom has taken technology to the next level with the Q2HD. The new camcorder features an upgraded camera sensor, enhanced user interface, onboard Mid-Side stereo recording and live streaming capabilities via computer. The Q2HD was designed for consumer ease of use, but is advanced enough to capture media events and musical performances.
Mark Menghi, Director of Marketing, Samson Technologies, discussed the reasons for the Q2HD’s new features and the company’s commitment to quality audio and video.
This is the next step up from previous recorders in the line. How did you select the features to add to the series? How does it differ from the H2n and Q3HD?
A lot of people think that the number going down is a step down. It’s actually a step up. There are a lot of differences with the Q2HD. Number one, you can Livestream, Ustream and Skype. Another difference is the microphone. It’s Mid-Side stereo recording and it has three microphones — a left, a right and a center — so if you’re pointing the camera at your subject, you can control the recording level of the side mics, and it’s great for ambience, acoustics of the room, front of house guys love it because they can shut up the drunken fans behind them and get a good sound from the band. That’s where audio is really crucial, and we stepped it up with that microphone configuration. Another of the main features is it’s lighter, it’s smaller, and the menu is a lot more intuitive and very user-friendly. There’s also an analog mic gain wheel on the side, so if you’re recording and all of a sudden it gets really loud, with your thumb on that mic gain wheel you can lower that down and get back to your desired recording level.
Were these decisions based strictly on R&D or did you also receive customer feedback requesting these features?
Much like a lot of Zoom handheld recorders, the H4 versus the H4n, the H2 versus the H2n, the Q3HD and Q2HD, it’s just taking user feedback and what people want. With the H4, for example, everyone wanted a bigger LCD screen. People wanted to be able to use two external microphones with the onboard microphone, which you couldn’t do with the H4 but you can do with the H4n. Much like the Q3HD versus the Q2HD, people wanted an analog mic gain so they could control the audio settings, so it’s more so to the users and the reviews and feedback we get. That’s how we come up with these improved features.
Consumer feedback is a large part of your R&D. Many companies say that it is, but that isn’t always the case.
I can tell you that it is for us. They’re the people buying our products, so why would we not cater to them? Why would we not listen to them? If these people are buying it and you keep hearing the same things from them over and over, why not listen? That’s what we try to do, not only with Zoom but also with all the products in all three brands. We try to listen, we get a lot of reviews, we have a lot of relationships with large publications and retail partners, so we listen to what they say, what our buyers say, and we compile notes. Once we’re ready to make a new product or an improved product, I always refer to that and say, “X, Y and Z said this, but this person said this, so let’s see how it links up.”
What made this the right time for the Q2HD?
Technology is moving so fast today. It’s lightning fast, and if you don’t update and improve your products, in a year or two you’re going to fail and you’re going to bomb miserably. So we never sit on the same product. For example, the H4n — that’s something on its own, that’s an industry standard, like the SM58 or a Gibson Les Paul. Everyone has it, everyone wants it and it will always sell that way because there’s no other recorder like that for its price point. Much like the Q2HD, it comes down to a time when we go, “It’s been two years. Where is video today? How does our video recorder stand in the marketplace today?” So we take all that and make that decision.
At what point do you discontinue a product? What about the user who doesn’t want to replace what they have or can’t afford a new product?
We always service our products. We service products that are 10 years old, especially in Hartke and Samson. We’ll always service those products, and if we discontinue a product on November 1 and the customer bought it on October 1, we absolutely would service it. When we discontinue a product, it’s not like it’s gone. The stores still have stock they have to sell through. By the time it completely leaves the marketplace, you’re looking at least a year and a half after the company discontinues it. So it’s still out there. There are still H2s around and the H2n’s been out for a while now. So we’ll never just stop, but there comes a time when you have to discontinue and move forward to keep up with technology, especially with the anticipation of the iPhone 5. Rumor has it that they’re coming out with a 9-pin connector and moving away from the 30-pin connector. If that happens, that’s going to change the entire game of technology and the way musical instruments and accessories are made for the iPhone or iPad, because everything’s a 30-pin connector. Once that happens, that’s going to change the entire industry.
Let’s look at the three companies for a moment — Samson, Hartke and Zoom — and review what they’re about.
Samson Technologies is made of three distinct brands. Samson is known for wireless guitar systems, wireless handheld microphones, lavalier ear sets, PA mixers, power amps, handheld dynamic microphones, studio microphones, and is one of the leaders in USB microphones. Samson was the first company to come out with a USB microphone. The CO1U was released in 2005 and it’s still one of our top five selling products. In addition, Samson produces studio monitors, keyboard controllers, MIDI controllers and much more. It’s a pretty wide-ranging brand. Zoom, as you know, is handheld recorders, desktop recorders, handheld video recorders. Zoom started as a guitar effects company. They were making guitar effect pedals in the early 1990s and are still one of the leaders in multi-effects today for guitar and bass players. And obviously, Zoom created handheld recording. We were the first to come out with an affordable recorder for the everyday person. We set the marketplace for that and we set the bar for handheld recording, and obviously we have our desktop recorders. Hartke is an amplification company. We make bass amps for all the great bass players around the world.
Where did you see a void in the marketplace when you designed the Q3HD and Q2HD, and what does the Q2HD offer that the marketplace has been lacking?
Just like the 3 versus the 2, audio means everything. How often do you watch videos on YouTube and the audio is terrible? The video’s good, but people don’t realize how important the audio aspect of their video is. If you don’t have good audio, who’s going to watch it? The main reason for coming out with even the original blue Q3 was taking the world-renowned mics that we have in these recorders and putting them on the video camera. With the Q3HD, it was the standard XY configuration, which was crossing those two microphones that that looked like an X. The Q2HD is a whole different recording application. Mid-Side recording is higher-end audio, better mic capsules, and the ability to really control the nuances of your recording, and I think that’s what the marketplace is missing. From moms filming their kids in sports, to people going to a concert, or an educator recording the students in class, the audio is important for all aspects and that’s what the marketplace is missing.
How user-friendly is the Q2HD and who is the target customer?
Anybody who wants to take video with good audio can benefit. It’s extremely simple to use. Obviously, we’re in the musical instruments industry, so every musician on the planet should have this. If you’re a student, an educator, a cello player, a bass player, flute player, guitar player, heavy metal or hip-hop artist, whatever you are, you should own one of these because there’s nothing else like it. You can critique your performance. It’s crucial. As a player, every time I pick up an instrument, I have the Q2HD running, because when an idea strikes and I’m writing, a lot of time I forget, as do a lot of people. This way, I can see and hear what I was doing. Same thing for journalists doing interviews. You have the option of video with great audio, or you can shut off the video and just use the audio microphones. It’s pretty wide-ranged. Hollywood has loved our product because it’s small and gets great sound. Our recorders are used throughout for recording special effects and anything where good quality audio is needed in movies or TV shows or anything in our world.
What comes with the package?
Two AA batteries and a 2-gigabyte SD card. Battery life is about four hours on the highest settings. If you’re using 1080p video with the highest audio setting, which is 2496, you’ll get four or five hours because that eats up batteries and space on an SD card. If you’re doing standard audio recording with standard 720HD video, you can get ten hours from it. With this recorder you can put up to a 64 gigabyte SD card in it.
There is also an accessory pack.
The accessory pack comes with an HDMI cable, so you can go right from the recorder to HDTV, which a lot of people confuse. Computers, to this day, cannot read true 1080p, so a lot of people put the 1080p setting on their video recorder and complain, “Why doesn’t this look good on my computer?” A computer screen can only go up to 720p right now. So we include the cable, a tripod stand, a hard-shell padded case, the MIDI USB to regular USB cable so you can transfer your files to the computer, which is also critical for the live stream — you need that USB cable, and a windscreen for when you’re outdoors.
How do the video and streaming capabilities work?
With the Q2HD, you have to go to Ustream and download the software. Once you’re powered up, you plug the USB cable into the computer, whether it’s Ustream, Ystream, Skype or whatever it is, it automatically reads the camera and you’re good to go. We’re using our first official live stream with these recorders for our Metal Masters 4 event and we’re going to have a bunch of these placed around the drummers’ feet and the kick drums and overheads. We’re going to link them all up and Livestream all that footage. B-roll footage, pannings and close-ups will be the Q2HD.
The Q2HD does not use an external mic. How close must I be to my subject for quality audio and video?
It’s powerful and there’s no line in for an external mic. That’s another difference between the Q2HD and the Q3HD. A lot of people plug in an external mic with the Q3HD, but with this one, you can’t. Having said that, because of the analog mic gain wheel, the ability to really control the recording level, you don’t need an external microphone. That was one of the downfalls of the Q3HD. It didn’t have the nuances to control it. If you want to get a good shot from a front of house desk in a shed or arena, front of house is far away. Put it at the edge of your board and you’re going to get a great view of the stage and the crowd, and you’re going to get the true sound of the band. You can hear the crowd, you can hear the drums, the cymbals, you can even hear the guitar player hitting his strings from that distance. The video is a matter of opinion. I like far away stuff. I like to see crowd and the whole band. If you want just the guitar player, you have to get close.
HandyShare editing software is included. Is this Zoom software? How user-friendly is it?
HandyShare can edit and trim your videos. You can trim your videos on the unit, so we include Handyshare, which is basic editing software for YouTube or wherever you want to upload your videos. It’s very easy to use, a pleasure to use. It is Zoom proprietary software and has been in usage since the first Q3, the blue one, came out. Once you get your files on the computer, you can use any software you’re comfortable with. If you don’t have software, use Handyshare to trim, edit and enhance your video and upload it from the software to YouTube.
Almost everyone has a mobile phone that records, takes still photos and shoots video, and in some cases, additional lenses are available. With all of these capabilities on a phone, why should they purchase a Q2HD?
You don’t get the audio. You can get all the great video in the world on an iPhone, but you’re going to get crappy audio. The iPhone can only do so much, and yes, there are a million accessories for it, but come September when they release that iPhone 5, it’s all going to change and it’s all going to be obsolete. That’s why we need to keep thinking ahead.
Speaking of thinking ahead, what’s in store for winter NAMM 2013?
A lot! For Samson, it’s going to be the biggest show in the company’s history. We’re re-facing, redoing, redesigning and re-engineering our entire microphone line, which I’m really excited about. They’re unbelievable, so I’m looking forward to that. We have brand-new wireless systems coming out for the consumer to the pro guitarists and vocalists. We have brand new studio monitors coming out, more keyboard controllers coming out, more tuners coming out. We released our first tuner about a year and a half ago and that’s been a huge seller, with people like Steve Vai, John Petrucci and Victor Wooten all endorsing it. We were just testing the waters to see how we would fare with a tuner, and people love it and say it’s the most accurate tuner they’ve ever used. For Steve Vai to say that — he doesn’t just say that to anything. With Zoom, we have some cool new stuff coming out that I can’t disclose yet. I rarely use the word revolutionary, but it is. So it’s going to be a big show for us.
Do we agree that while in the 1960s, “the future was in plastics,” today, the future and the present are in video?
I believe the future is in video with great audio. With the emergence of technology, the Internet, Google, YouTube, Vimeo, all these things that are done on the computer — I come from the day when audio was king. I still listen to records. When you listen to vinyl compared to MP3, it’s night and day. I know that most of the world listens to MP3s, but we’re here to tell people that audio is key. You need to have good audio. A lot of people’s ears are trained to MP3s, not to what audio recording is supposed to sound like and the richness and warmth of that. That’s why Zoom has taken off right now, because Zoom recorders, for the money you’re spending on it, you couldn’t get audio and video, or just audio if you have one of our designated audio recorders, you never got that until today, and that’s key. So I believe the future is audio and video with ease of use and intuitive.
How do you keep the price point low for so many products?
The Q2HD is $199.99 You get all that for $200, which is incredible. The funny answer is because everyone who works here — we’re all musicians and we know how it is! But it’s because we like to keep things affordable. We’re not in the business to charge $600 or $800 for a recorder. Could we? I’m sure we could. Would we? Never. We’re not into that. We keep it nice and reasonable, we can move quantity and it’s a great product. Everyone uses it. Our endorsees for the Q2HD campaign — we have Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Neil Peart, Peter Erskine, all of Chickenfoot — these guys are the best at what they do, and if they’re putting their faces and names to it, it has to be somewhat decent. We’re known for reliable, great-sounding products and for our artists. Our artists are the blood of the company. They keep us running. Without the products and the artists, there wouldn’t be a Zoom right now.
Watch the Metal Masters concert stream on September 7 at 7 p.m. EST at Ustream.TV/metalmasters, on Guitar Center’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GuitarCenter, and on Revolver’s website, http://www.RevolverMag.com/.
Learm more about Zoom, Samson and Hartke products at http://www.samsontech.com/.
Learn more about Metal Masters 4 at http://www.samsontech.com/events/metal-masters-4/ and https://www.facebook.com/metalmastersclinic