Intro: In this video I will be reviewing and testing the Zoom H6 Audio Recorder from a wildlife and outdoor filmmaker’s perspective.
First Impressions of the product:
I’m here in the Andean Paramo close to Cuenca, Ecuador, and I thought it would be a great place to test out the Zoom H6 Audio Recorder. Although there are already many reviews of the Zoom H6 on YouTube, they tend to test out the Zoom H6 in a studio environment, however this review will specifically run the Zoom H6 through its paces and test it out in an extreme environment which is what is what most wildlife and outdoor filmmakers have to deal with while filming out in the field.
Zoom H6 Specs:
The Zoom H6 All Black 2020 Version is, as far as I have found, exactly the same as the previous version except it doesn’t come with nearly as many accessories, so if you can find the previous version it won’t be to your disadvantage.
Swappable X/Y Stereo Microphone Capsule:
The Zoom H6 has a removable X/Y Stereo Microphone Capsule on the top of it which has an analogue dial and can be swapped out with the Zoom Extension microphones and capsules.
The X/Y Stereo Microphone Capsule can be adjusted for stereo
Other Audio Recorders:
I previously owned the Tascam 60D and what I loved about that recorder was that it has a long battery life and very low self noise, unlike the Zoom H4n which does have a considerable amount of Self-Noise, the batteries run out fairly quickly. What I didn’t like about the Tascam D60 was that it is quite a big bulky box of an audio recorder that you have to either mount underneath the camera, which is okay for handheld, but for steady tripod work, it would make the camera less stable. Meaning that it was always a bit of an issue as to where to mount it. The Tascam 60D also doesn’t have a built-in Microphone so although it’s a great audio recorder for low-budget filmmakers and creatives, I decided I needed to go for something like the Zoom H4n.
The Zoom H4n is an amazingly versatile audio recorder and super portable, which is very much what I was looking for. What I like about the Zoom H4n is that it that it is a small handheld audio recorder that you can fit into your pocket, making it ideal for most filmmakers who are looking to record ambience or attach up to two XLR microphones, as well as it being small enough to mount on top of your camera rig for run and gun filming.
I have used to Zoom H4n on numerous films and the only two things that I am not to fond of is that you tend to go through quite a lot of batteries in a full day of filming as it uses only 2 AA batteries, which when supplying phantom power to one or two XLR mics, causes the batteries to run out fairly quickly.
Why did I decide to buy the Zoom H6:
I’m always in favor of future proofing my filmmaking gear and what attracted me to buying the Zoom H6, was that I would be buying an audio recorder that would be useful for me for small to medium size productions. With the 4 XLR-¼” inputs and a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack input on the X/Y capsure, the Zoom H6 is a perfect audio recorder for small to medium film productions. I wanted an Audio Recorder that I could quickly pull out of my bag to record ambience while I’m in the bush, as well as be able to connect it to a shotgun microphone to record specific wildlife and nature sounds. Because it has 4 XLR-¼” inputs, if you ever need to connect a couple lavalier mics for an interview along with a shotgun mic on a boom, or record multiple sources of audio at the same time, you have this option available to you.
The build-quality is what you would expect from any prosumer audio recorder. It is plastic, but I would consider it strong enough to work outdoors, in bright sunlight or in the cold, without worrying too much about it being affected by the elements. The large analogue dials or potentiometers for each audio input make it quick and easy to adjust your gain levels and make changes while you are recording, this is a huge advantage over the Zoom H4n which requires you to go in the menu more often.I really do appreciate being able to control almost every function of the recorder without having to dive into the menu. This is particularly useful when your hands are freezing cold, or you are wearing gloves, or when recording out in the bring sunlight.
One thing that I didn’t really think I would appreciate is the color display. It’s a small display screen but it is a lot easier to interpret than the monochromatic display of the Zoom H4N, making it easier to set and monitor audio levels. The angle of the screen also stops the sunlight reflecting directly into your eyes when you are outdoors, and allows you to monitor audio levels while on-camera.
Zoom H6 Preamps:
The preamps of the deliver very low self noise performance with a self-noise of -120 dB EIN
The 4 XLR-¼” inputs are able to provide 12, 24, and 48, VDC phantom power to the XLR jacks and 3.5mm stereo input on the X/Y Mic Capsule provides 2.5V phantom power for Lavalier mics that need it.
There are two 3.5mm line outs, one for your headphones to monitor your recording and a line-out to which can be plugged directly into your camera to help you sync audio in post-production.
The Zoom H6 records to a single SD Card and can record in both .WAV and .MP3 formats.
You are also able to automatically record a duplicate of your audio recording with -12dB gain just in case your audio tracks distort or you clipped the audio while recording.
What I don’t like about the Zoom H6:
I think that for most outdoor and wildlife filmmakers this is the perfect audio recorder. My only complaint would be that I actually thought it would be a bit smaller than it is. I don’t mind that it is bigger than I expected, but it isn’t the smallest recorder so it does take up more space in my backpack, but I guess for the quality of audio that it adds to my wildlife documentaries, it is worth it, just more gear to carry I guess. It also didn’t come with a wind noise protector for the X/Y Stereo capsule or a strap or a case to carry it in. As all my work is outdoors, I decided to purchase the Auray Windbuster which fits on it perfectly and provides sufficient wind noise reduction even in extremely windy environments like up here at 4500 m above sea level.
To solve the problem of not having a case for it, I decided to buy a protective pouch for it, also from Auray, so that I would feel comfortable carrying it in my backpack and know that it is in a water-resistant pouch, but still be able to easily take it out to record some ambience when needed.
The Zoom H6 All Black also comes with Steinberg’s Cubase LE music production software and WaveLab LE audio editing software. Although I personally edit all my audio in Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition, it doesn’t hurt to get Steinberg’s software for free, which is worth just as much as the audio recorder itself.
My conclusion about the Zoom H6 is that it is an awesome prosumer audio recorder which has enough features to meet the everyday sound recording needs of
most outdoor, nature and wildlife filmmakers. The low-self noise and powerful preamps makes it a great companion to record with a shotgun microphone and provides you with quality sound recordings at an affordable price. The X/Y Stereo capsule makes it easy to record ambience quickly and effortlessly, and its batteries last 8-10 hours in most situations, making the Zoom H6 an awesome audio recorder for most filmmakers.