Traveling with Electronics : First Look Review : Zoom H6 Recorder


        this month.....we're goin' mobile



As you can see from the picture above, mobile / location / field recording has been with us for some time now and every "sound artist" needs a good portable capture device to take out in the real-world to harvest some sonic information and create a pool of "samples" to work with. Before we check out the ZOOM H6 - we'll see how technology has evolved with a brief look at 5 mobile recorders I've used over time.


(dates indicate the period I used the units) 


(mid 1970's to early 1980's) : This was my first portable (the size of a shoe box), mono analog cassette tape recorder. It came with a built in microphone and "vari-speed' control. I carried this brick everywhere - and so began my sample library.



(early 1980's to late 1990's) : State of the Art in it's time. Built like a tank, this stereo analog cassette tape recorder was a true workhorse and as long as you made sure you had it serviced from time to time it just kept on working for you. I wish I'd kept it.



(late 1980's to late 1990's) : Ah the promise of mobile digital recording, which came with this great and rather pricey DAT recorder, but in fifteen years the format itself was all but obsolete. A little preview - nothing in the Digital Domain has a shelf life.



(late 1990's to mid 2000's) : MiniDisc recorders - another format that came and went within a decade - due in no small part, to the introduction of MP3 and the beginning of a race to the bottom between high quality audio and inferior sounding quantity



(mid 2000's to present) : Digital recorders which use SD cards (Secure Digital) became popular in the early 2000's in the form of mono, stereo and multi-track recorders and are now widely used in film production and broadcast news. I chose an Olympus for a number of reasons (one being a metal body), and it has proven to be another remarkably solid workhorse recorder (internal file count is now at 1,775).



                                    ZOOM H6 : SIX-TRACK RECORDER                                    

released 7/1/2013  ZOOM H6

I first pulled your tail about the H6 after I had the opportunity to use one to record a Conduction Workshop in Austin earlier this year. Over the last decade, Zoom has become a very innovative company. The stunningly versatile H6 demonstrates this with multiple microphone capsules that can be swapped out like lenses on a camera. 

 * H6 comes with the XY mic (adjustable 90 or 120) and the MS mic (adjustable stereo width)

 * plus a usb cable, a wind screen and a hard case which holds everything securely in place

 * the shotgun mic and the XLR/TRS input bloc are add ons, as is the SSH-6 MS Shotgun mic

 * six tracks each having a physical gain control - L/R (mics) plus 4 additional XLR/TRS inputs

 * each track has individual pad, phantom power, low cut, compressor/limiter, pan and volume

 * resolution from mp3 to 24bit 96K WAV - can record a "safety" track 12db lower than L/R track

 *  the H6 can also be used as a multi-channel USB audio interface for a computer or a tablet

Both the XY and MS mics have much larger diaphragms than are normal for a hand held recorder and this is reflected in the sonic detail and low frequencies captured.

No they are not equal to a pair of Neumann 184's but they are.....very impressive.

Something to be aware of when recording with the MS mics - you have the option of creating a finished stereo file and set the balance between the mid and side before you record - or you can record in "RAW" mode which lets you set the width of the stereo field (mid / side balance) after the recording is done - but...that file is still a stereo file not 2 mono files so you need to use the free download VST ms decoder. 

I would suggest taking a look at these other two online reviews to get a little more background on the ZOOM H6 SOUND ON SOUNDB&H PHOTO : at this price point ($399 street) and at this point in time.....I think the H6 is as good as it gets!

the H5 is a four track version with the same preamps, specs & interchangeable mic capsules 

** Zoom just released a Pro version of the very popular H4n revamped with the same preamps as the H6 ** 





I have always had great respect for Electro-Harmonix. Mike Matthews is a true survivor who's been creating innovative effects since the 1960's. Out of the blue they released an app version of their quirky mini-synth from 1980 but updated from mono to four voice polyphony with a two second delay plus the plate and reverse reverbs from the holy grail. I hope that this isn't just a one off, but rather opens the door for more apps to come, with that unique EHX point of view.

             Keep on Rockin' Mike!             




               COOL TOOL ALERT                


This demo video by JUST NICK is well worth the 20 minutes - a very interesting unit! 




  Darwin Grosse : CLO CYCLING '74

    - Corporate lead for all educational, educational outreach and learning opportunities -   

Darwin has a great podcast series called  ART + MUSIC + TECHNOLOGY

and he recently invited me on the show - I'll leave you with our chat : #135 :


until next month travels.....dino