I’m a heavy fan of recording my environment and using unique sounds in my music. While our current smartphones and tablets replace a lot of devices from the past, the one area where they are still lacking is in the mic department. Although internal microphones keep on improving, there’s nothing like whipping out a high-quality portable recorder for capturing sounds on the go.
This is an area where Zoom keeps a large footprint in and the Zoom H6, their new flagship offering featuring interchangeable mic heads looks like a promising new option. Let’s take a closer look.
There are a lot of features to list for the Zoom H6 because it is simply a versatile beast. The interchangeable input capsules definitely stand out as the trademark feature for the H6. You’ll get a stereo X/Y and Middle-Side microphone capsule included, but you can add to its arsenal with a Shotgun microphone capsule or a Dual XLR/TRS Combo input capsule to expand the already comfortable amount of inputs to 6.
With the default setup you’ll find 4 XLR/TRS combo inputs on the Zoom H6. Each with its own phantom power (+12/+24/+48V) as well as a gain dial on the front of the device. With those you can record in up to 24-bit/96kHz audio (WAV) or choose for a compressed MP3 signal coming in on one of the 6 tracks.
Output-wise you’ll find a line-out that you can also connect to your camera, and a headphone output for privately monitoring the mixed signal.
Another eye-catcher on the Zoom H6 is the large LCD screen. With it you’re able to conveniently mix your signals and process your audio in a variety of ways. You can cut, trim, normalize and pitch shift your audio as well as put a variety of effects on your recordings allowing you to do as much work inside the device before transferring it over to a DAW.
My most favourite feature of the H6 is that you can put it to use as an audio interface on your PC/Mac with all of its input glory showing up in your DAW. This option will probably be overlooked a lot by people shopping for a new interface, but it’s one not to forget. The H6 is also said to work as a microphone on iPhone and iPad through the CCK, although I haven’t been able to test that myself.
The sound quality is as good as it gets when it comes to portable recorders. Positioning the mic can be an art in itself, but there’s a remarkable clarity and low-noise level when using the standard X/Y capsule to record your environment. Check out some examples below to hear the H6 recordings for yourself:
Cuckoo playing a prepared piano recorded by the H6:
Zoom H6 VS Zoom H4N
The H6 is in most ways a worthy successor to the Zoom H4N improving it in many areas. You have the extra inputs, the full-color LCD, track mixer and of course the interchangeable capsule inputs, all not available on the H4N.
Does the Zoom H6 render the H4N useless then? Not really, the H4N stands on it own as a great portable recorder and can be more straightforward in usage than the H6. Besides, it’s a good amount cheaper as well.
Comparing the two in audio quality is of course the stuff you’re looking for. While the difference is minimal, the H6 has a lower noise floor and seems to carry a more ‘upfront’ sound. You can find the comparative examples below.
An audio comparison between the Zoom H4N and Zoom H6:
A video of guitar recording on both the H4N and H6:
The Zoom H6 is in all ways a flagship product, not only among Zoom’s product line, but also among portable recorders in general. The interchangeable inputs make it a device suitable for many occasions, from professional video recording to using it in your music studio as an audio interface.
With the H6 being everything at once, it might not be for everyone. It’s a bulky device compared to other models and with the large amount of inputs and options it can easily become an overkill for your needs.
For professional users that feel limited by their current portable recorder (i.e. the H4N), this is a clear winner.