Zoom H6 Portable Recorder
When it comes to capturing excellent audio for video, producers in the know either record using a detached microphone or record the audio on a separate device for more control and overall best quality. Many of Videomaker’s forum members use the Zoom H2 in their productions with great success,and will be pleased to know that Zoom is introducing a new addition to its portable recorder lineup: the Zoom H6.
Peter Erskine records live on the all-new Zoom H6, with special guests Darek Oles and Bob Sheppard.
Recorded using only the Zoom H6 X/Y capsule and spot microphones plugged directly into the newly designed H6 preamps.
The Zoom H6 features will offer users endless possibilities, and, like previous models, the H6 is still small and portable. the H6 can handle six tracks of simultaneous recording and a system input capsule. What this means is that you can swap between four different capsules (stereo X/Y, MS (Mid-side), Shotgun and dual XLR/TRS combo capsules,) which could prove quite handy for a broad variety of locations. The Zoom H6 has four XLR/TRS combo jacks inputs with their own gain control and pad switch, as well as phantom power in three different voltages (+12V, +24V and +48V).
The H6 offers four main inputs (1-4), plus two additional inputs (L, R) that are derived from whichever capsule (X/Y, MS, Shotgun, or Dual XLR/TRS Combo) is plugged into the unit. The supplied XYH-6 X/Y capsule also provides a secondary input for connecting an external mic- or line-level signal via a stereo ⅛” Mic/Line In mini phone jack. When a connection is made to that jack, signal from the X/Y microphones is muted.
All four main H6 inputs (inputs 1-4) are combo connectors that can accept either XLR or ¼” balanced or unbalanced phone cables. They can handle both mic- and line-level signals, which means that you can connect either external microphones or line-level devices like mixers, portable music players, electronic keyboards, or electric guitars or basses with active electronics (passive electric guitars or basses can also be connected with the use of a mixer or effects device). Internal switching contacts automatically detect the circuit of choice.
Each of the six inputs (that is, 1-4 as well L, R) have a dedicated gain control knob as well as a -20dB pad, allowing you to prevent distortion even when high-level signals are introduced. In fact, with the use of the Pad switch, the H6 can input a signal 30dB louder and 14dB softer than any other Handy Recorder model. In addition, all capsules utilize higher voltage preamps (5 volts instead of the more commonly used 3 volts) for distortion free recording, even at high volumes. A built-in instrumentation amp allows signals to be transmitted with minimal noise even when long cables are used.
If you’re using high-quality condenser (powered) microphones with the H6, no problem—a simple menu option allows the unit to provide Phantom Power (either +12, +24, or +48 volts) to any or all of the main inputs (inputs 1-4). Inexpensive condenser microphones requiring Plug-In Power (2.5 volts) can be connected to the X/Y capsule’s stereo 1/8” Line In jack.
The H6 Line Out is an unbalanced stereo 1/8” phone jack, located on the bottom of the H6, beneath the LCD display. It carries the analog stereo output signal, as determined by the H6’s internal mixer.
The H6 USB port, located on the side panel to the right of the LCD display, provides a digital output of either a stereo mix or the six individual input signals, depending upon the setting of the “Audio Interface” function in the USB menu.
In addition, the H6 provides a headphone output with a dedicated volume control, located on the side panel to the left of the LCD display. Connect your headphones to its stereo 1/8” mini phone jack for private monitoring of the stereo output signal.
The H6 even has a built-in speaker, located on the underside of the unit, for fast monophonic monitoring of the recorded signal without the need to make any connections whatsoever. This speaker is automatically disconnected when connection is made to either the Line Out or Headphone output.
The H6’s USB port allows it to send and receive digital data. Connect the H6 to your laptop or desktop computer via USB, launch your favorite DAW or use the included Cubase LE software, and start laying down your tracks. You can even connect the H6 to an iPad (camera connection kit required).
When the H6 is set to “Stereo Mix” in the USB menu, it acts as a 2-input / 2-output interface; when set to “Multi Track,” it acts as a 6-input / 2-output interface. The H6’s onboard INPUT&OUTPUT mixer allows you to create a custom stereo or six-track mix for output via USB, with independent control over the level and panning of each track, as well as access to effects like low-cut filtering, compression and limiting. In addition, signal that is input to the H6 can be monitored directly before it passes through the connected computer or iPad for zero latency (that is, without any delay). There’s also a handy Loop Back mode that allows you to blend stereo signal coming from the computer or iPad with signal coming into the H6 inputs, useful for live streaming via the Internet or for adding narration to a musical backing track.
The interview started a split-second before you were ready. The conductor lifted his baton just as you were checking a cable. The talent went back on-air a moment too soon.
No problem… as long as you’re using the H6. Its Pre-Record function automatically keeps the H6 silently but continuously recording in the background, all the time. Then, when you hit the RECORD button, it keeps the previous two seconds and appends it to the beginning of the file. It’s as if the H6 had started recording two seconds before you actually got to hit the button.
Backup-Record—the ultimate safety net. When turned on during the recording of WAV files, the H6 automatically records a duplicate set of L/R tracks, but with 12dB less input gain. Even if the original L/R track is distorted, chances are the Backup version is fine.
You can listen to either set of tracks simply by going to the Backup File option in the PROJECT menu. When turned OFF, you’ll hear the original L/R tracks; when turned ON, you’ll hear the lower-level Backup tracks instead. Pick the one you prefer and use it as your L/R master. Bacon saved.
The Auto-Record function allows the H6 to automatically start recording when a certain level of sound is detected. When turned ON and the RECORD button is pressed, the H6 doesn’t immediately start recording; instead, it goes into a standby mode; as soon as an incoming signal exceeds the Start Level you’ve set, recording begins.
There’s an equivalent Auto-Record Stop function, too. When turned ON, as soon as incoming signal drops below the Stop Level you’ve set, recording ends.
The H6 allows you to choose from three compressor settings and three limiter settings. The two “General” settings (Comp1 and Limiter1) are all-purpose settings that will work well on most kinds of program material. The Comp2 and Comp3 presets are optimized for use with vocals and drums, respectively, while the Limiter2 and Limiter3 presets are optimized for use in live concert recording and small room “studio” recording, respectively.
Compression and limiting compensate for fluctuations in level; in essence, they act like an automatic volume control, reducing the level of louder sounds (that is, the sounds below a threshold point). The main difference between the two is that a limiter reduces louder sounds more severely.
A low-cut filter allows you to remove signal below a certain user-designated frequency (called a cutoff frequency). This is useful for eliminating pops, wind noise, blowing, transmitted resonance from an onstage mic stand and other kinds of low frequency rumble.
In addition, there’s an onboard metronome and chromatic / guitar / bass tuner—both handy tools when recording musical content.
The H6 requires just 4 AA batteries—either alkaline or rechargeable NiMH—for power. Battery life (when using alkaline batteries) is more than 20 hours, even during continuous recording. An optional AD-17 AC adapter (included in the APH-6 Accessory Pack) allows you to power the H6 from any standard wall socket.
The H6 records directly to SD cards. It supports standard SD cards as well as the newer SDHC and SDXC cards, up to 128 gigabytes, making it capable of accessing massive data storage. A handy "SD Card Remain" function allows you to see at a glance how much space remains on the currently inserted card, both in gigabytes and percentage.
The H6 can record audio in two different basic file types: WAV and MP3. The main difference between the two is that WAV files are uncompressed; that is, they contain all the recorded data without any “bits” (digital words) being removed. Thus, they provide full fidelity without compromise.
The H6 can record up to six monophonic WAV files (or up to three stereo files) in any of the following formats:
44.1kHz / 16-bit
44.1kHz / 24-bit
48kHz / 16-bit
48kHz / 24-bit
96kHz / 16-bit
96kHz / 24-bit
All WAV files recorded by the H6 are automatically time-stamped, making them fully compatible with the Broadcast Wave Format (BWF); in other words, they are “BWF-compliant.” This is especially important when recording audio for video, because it allows the audio to be precisely synchronized with the onscreen action in post-production.
MP3 recordings are compressed, which means that some unnecessary data is removed prior to storage, making them much smaller than WAV files, and thus much easier to upload and download. Some MP3 files exhibit a slight loss of audio fidelity as compared with the original signal; however, this is not noticeable in all circumstances.
Note that when the MP3 file type is selected, the H6 only records in stereo; if you want to record in multitrack, you must select a WAV file type. The H6’s internal mixdown function allows multitrack WAV projects to be easily reduced down to stereo MP3 (or WAV), with independent control over each track’s level, panning and pitch.