When talking about the best digital audio recorders in 2021, you can’t fail to mention the Zoom H6. It is outrightly among the best digital recording mics from Zoom company and the whole digital recorders’ market. If you have used the Zoom H4n and the Zoom H5 recorders, you have a clear idea of how Zoom puts outstanding quality in its products. With that in mind, the Zoom H6 comes with more exceptional recording quality, excellent input and storage provisions and a load of pro features that put this kit at a reasonable edge above the H4n and H5 and most other digital recorders in the market. However, its complexity in use slightly acts as a challenge to non-professionals, and its price may scare off a few.
If you want to purchase the Zoom H6, you most probably want to know every detail concerning the microphone beforehand. We’ll begin this review from the basics.
What is the Zoom H6 Microphone?
The Zoom H6 microphone can be defined as a handheld recording studio; judging by the recorder’s capability and its size, that makes it comfortably fit on the palm. You can directly record high-quality audios into the mic or a computer audio editing software. The Zoom H6 has four XLR standard inputs and has two more channels through the top-mounted stereo mic, as evident through the 6in its name.
Another distinctive feature of the Zoom H6 is its inbuilt array of unique features such as compression tools, limiters and other audio processing tools, all packed into one device.
Who needs the Zoom H6 recorder?
This question is a guiding tool every time you need to purchase a recorder. It is essential to know who the recorder best suits to avoid making a costly investment on the device and, after that, not utilizing it to its maximum potential.
Therefore, if you wish to have a mic that can record 3-6 independent tracks, then the Zoom H6 is a worthwhile investment. Multicast audio recorders, multiple-guest podcasters and those who record roundtable discussion sessions also find the microphone helpful in ways other ordinary digital recorders aren’t.
However, solo/monologue podcasters, solo artists or online-based multiple-participant shows don’t need the services of the Zoom H6, as they can find other recorders that are more suitable with their nichè in the market. Why have a recorder that supports six mics when you can only use one among those?
Zoom H6 key Specs
As earlier mentioned, the Zoom H6 is a fantastic piece of kit loaded with a plethora of various distinctive features, ranging from compression and unique processing tools, limiters, and several others discussed in this section.
The ability to record six tracks independently
Unlike its predecessors, the Zoom H4n and the Zoom H5 that record four tracks, the Zoom H6 boasts recording six tracks at a go. That means you can run the four standard mics on the H6, plus two more, helped by a dual XLR capsule on the handheld. After all that is set up, you’ll be able to record six tracks independently.
That will be a significant upgrade on control and editing, especially when working on roundtable episodes or multiple guests. Audio dramatists and multiple-cast recorders find this feature of the H6 helpful as everything can be recorded independently but into one device, easing the process of recording and post-production.
A USB audio interface
You don’t necessarily need a computer to do a recording with the Zoom H6. It works independently, but if you wish, you can use it as a USB audio interface. That means that with multiple microphones and a USB cable, you can record audio directly into your computer’s Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). The DAW you’re using significantly determines if you’ll be able to record audio with each mic independently.
The recorder’s main body has four ‘combo’ jacks that take ¼” or XLR connections. Moreover, their levels are independently controlled as each jack has its own off/on button, a gain button and a PAD switch, which controls the reception of high signals.
Besides, you get an extra 3.5mm jack on the XY capsule that can be used to add a stereo mic or two lavalier mics to enhance your audio recording via a stereo splitter.
Detachable mic capsules
Two types of mic capsules come with the Zoom H6, the XY capsule and the MS capsule. However, you can purchase and add extra capsules when the need arises.
MS Capsule – This capsule comes as a default on the Zoom H6 and works for the Zoom H5 and Zoom Q8. Zoom says that the concept behind this capsule is that the ‘Mid’ mic is responsible for picking up signals in the centre. The ‘Side’ mic creates directionality and ambience by either adding or subtracting the signal from either end. That feature comes in handy when you’re recording audio from a specific source but still want to include the surrounding sounds as part of the audio’s ambience.
XY capsule – This is a set of two microphones. According to Zoom, this capsule enables recording a wide area while still aiming to maintain a solid central audio quality. The capsule comes as a default, so you don’t need to connect external mics on the zoom to get a high-quality recording in places with a great background ambience.
You are at will to purchase extra capsules too.
The Zoom SSH6 Shotgun Mic, for instance, is perfect for ultra directional recordings, where you’ll need to record sounds from a single source and reject every other single sound in the surroundings. That is very important when working on an interview in a noisy environment.
If you need a total of six mic inputs, then there’s the provision of a ¼”XLR ‘combo’ capsule to cater to your multiple recording session needs.
There are numerous digital audio settings on the Zoom H6, but here are the most important.
Recording on the H6 can be done either in MP3 or WAV formats. Podcasts are mostly recorded at a frequency of 44100Hz, 16 bit. However, you can go up to 96000Hz or as low as 48kbps for mp3.
The limiter raises low input signals and lowers high-level input audio signals. That makes the quiet parts of the audio more audible and pulls down the boisterous parts.
Zoom H6 is compatible with phantom power. This means that you can use the recorder with an external mic that needs a power source to work. On the H6, inputs 1-4 provide phantom power of 48V, 24V and 12V.
Low cut filter
The low cut filter eradicates the impact of low sounds during recordings like handling noise, wind and popping.
Excellent built quality
The recorder feels sturdy. It has a rubberized plastic casing that helps to diminish handling noise during operations. The build quality of the recorder makes it super portable as it assumes a lighter feel. Moreover, the rubber-plastic casing gives you a firm grip that prevents any accidental slips.
The Zoom H6 has a tilted screen that works great when monitoring whilst recording or during location recording on a DSLR. There are some instances when the tilted screen is not of much help, but they are the minority. The recorder displays the quality of audio you’re currently running on the screen and the estimated time of record remaining. That information is necessary for determining how much storage space or battery life remains.
However, it would be great if Zoom fitted a swivel screen on the H6 to be tilted at will.
Great battery life
Zoom states that the H6’s battery can last up to 20 hours of constant recording. That statement has been proven to be accurate, with the recorder exceeding the 20-hour mark when recording lower frequencies. Nonetheless, you can back the Zoom H6 battery with an external USB battery.
Excellent Storage specifications
The higher the quality of recorded audio, the more space it requires on the SD card. Nonetheless, you should not worry about storage as the Zoom H6 supports SD cards of up to 128GB.
Other features of the Zoom H6
There’s a headphone jack on the side of the recorder responsible for the playback and monitoring of recordings. It has a separate volume control button. There is a power button that is still the hold/lock button and a separate SD slot on the same side of the recorder. On the other side, you’ll find a USB jack, a scroll button and a menu button.
There’s a line out jack on the bottom for sending audio to a separate device, like a DSLR, when recording video.
There’s also an additional jack to plug a wired remote control, just if you’ll be too busy but working around the recorder.
On the recorder’s back is the recorder’s battery compartment, which houses four (4) AA batteries. Just near the battery compartment is the recorder’s speaker that allows you to play the saved recordings without plugging in a headset.
When you purchase the digital recorder, it comes with the few items below.
- Four AA batteries
- A USB cable
- A sponge windscreen
- Two detachable (X/Y and M/S) mic capsules
- One 2GB SD card
- A Cubase installation DVD
- A durable carry case
Quick summary into the pros and cons
The Zoom H6 is a professional-quality recorder, and it comes with excellent features and audio clarity to match. Here’s a summary of the mic’s pros and cons.
- Outstanding recording quality – The Zoom H6 receives praise from professionals for its exceptional audio recording quality. Nonetheless, there’s a ton of audio recording settings that will affect the outcome quality. Owing to the H6’s ability to record a wide range of audio frequencies and the quality limiter, you will not fail to get your preferred audio quality frequency.
- Loads of pro features – The Zoom H6 is loaded with numerous professional features that enhance audio recording to produce high-quality results.
- Ample storage – The H6 can hold up to 128GB of storage.
- Multiple outputs – This is the most distinct advantage of using the Zoom H6. Unlike most audio recorders with four channels, the H6 has the provision of adding two more external mics, raising the total to 6 audio inputs.
- Complexity in use – The Zoom H6 might seem a little bit complicated to use for beginners. Its numerous buttons and recording options outrightly favour the professionals, who find every menu item on the kit essential. Lesser experienced users can find alternative mic recorders, which might be cheaper, to prevent paying for features they won’t use.
- The recorder is a bit expensive – Owing to the professional design of the Zoom H6, it is priced above other regular recorders in the market. However, the price may vary with the outlet you wish to obtain the recorder from.
- Noise – Even when the H6 is far above the noise requirements for audio recorders, it tends to record some handling noise during operations. However, you can try the Rycote kit that comprises a shock mount, a windshield and a grip.
Zoom is the ultimate master of the current ‘Digital Recorder’ market. The Zoom H6 stands at the top of their digital recorders’ list. Does it top your list too?
Every professional podcaster would recommend the Zoom H6 if you want to record audio in top-notch quality. Even when the kit might seem a little bit complicated to use, no one would fail to recognize the big red ‘Record’ button at first sight. Nonetheless, you can always learn your way around in successive encounters with the kit or through familiarizing yourself with the user manual.
The Zoom H6 is your ultimate mic choice if you need to record high-quality audios with precise clarity. With the correct mic capsule, the Zoom H6 can be used as a highly directional mic, effective in place with loud ambiences. There are cheaper options, like the MXLR144 and Rode NTR, that still offer quality audio recording.
Jeremy has been running several online businesses behind his laptop for the past 5 years and he has worked as a freelance web developer previously. A trained marketer by profession, he also has Ruby on Rails and web development knowledge. His forte lies in eCommerce, SEO and content marketing. He’s been featured on Vice, Thrive Global, YFS Magazine, Forbes and several other publications. He prefers to connect with people on LinkedIn.