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April 15, 2013

Zoom Announces H6 Audio Recorder, Modular Big Brother to the H4N and Serious Tool for Filmmakers

If you've been shooting video with DSLRs for the past couple of years, chances are you also own, or have at least used the Zoom H4N. It's one of those devices that has seemingly become ubiquitous on low-budget shoots due to the fact that it's incredibly easy to use and (relatively) affordable compared to other audio capture equipment. However, the H4N has always been a one-trick pony in that you are limited to either the XY mic atop the device, the two inputs on the bottom, or some combination thereof. For many sound recordists and location mixers, this combination of inputs simply wasn't enough. Luckily for them, Zoom recently announced the big brother (and significant upgrade) from the H4N, the extremely modular and versatile H6. Check below for the details.

Here are the specs of the device (straight from Zoom's website):

  • The world's first handy recorder with interchangeable mic system
  • XY mics capture remarkable stereo depth and clarity
  • Mid-side mics provide continuously variable stereo width
  • Four XLR/TRS inputs for external mic/line connections
  • Up to six channels of simultaneous recording
  • High-definition audio of up to 24-bit/96kHz
  • 6-in/2-out USB audio interface
  • Over 20 hours of operation with 4 AA batteries
  • Supports SDXC memory cards up to 128GB
  • Optional Shotgun mic and external XLR/TRS inputs available 

Here's a quick pic of the full H6 system (with optional attachments).

Although I've been frustrated with the H4N as a filmmaking tool for the past few years (largely due to its lack of inputs and its inefficient design), I have to say that the H6 looks like an extremely appealing option for filmmakers who are on a budget and who need to travel light. With the ability to record and mix up to six channels of audio at once, the H6 will allow sound recordists to use an arsenal of microphones like lavs, booms, zeppelins etc to record the best possible sound and to have the most options in post.

Another welcome feature of the H6 is the tactile volume knobs on the device itself and the various attachments. One of my biggest complaints about the H4N is that it's extremely inefficient to change levels, especially while recording, due to the small little plus and minus buttons on the side of the device. With the H6, changing levels looks to be both quick and silent, something which I'm sure will make everyone from the boom operator to the post production sound team very happy.

While the price for the Zoom H6 has yet to be released, my guess is that it will come in around $400 for the basic package, and maybe $550 for the complete package with the additional attachments. While that is speculation on my part, those prices would fit with their current line of audio capture devices.

What do you guys think? Do you see yourselves using the H6 on future sets? Let us know in the comments.

Link: Zoom H6 Recorder Announcement -- Zoom Website

Your Comment

71 Comments

Sorry, Zoom. Tascam's newest announcement has won me over, and we are planning to order one soon. Better preamps is what won me over, as my biggest complaint of the H4n is the awful, terribly low audio.

April 15, 2013

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David S.

Wait - how do you know how the preamps even compare on the new Tascam? If anything, I've read many of the same complaints about poor S/N with the rest of Tascam's "prosumer lineup.

April 15, 2013

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Hummer

I plan to wait until we have heard the Tascam, but the Tascam line in general has better preamps for video than the Zoom line, at least in my experience.

April 16, 2013

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David S.

FWIW, when we did side-by-side with the Zoom and Tascam, the Zoom was clearly the better choice regarding clarity, noise floor, strength of signal, and levels in general. We sent the Tascam back and kept the Zoom. Just our personal experience... there seems to be a lot of variance in these two units, judging from people's opinions and reported experiences.

April 17, 2013

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Jonas Bendsen

I started with the Zoom - my friend brought his tascam to a shoot. At the end of the day the zoom sounded better to both of us. The h4n is well built except for the external mics being vulnerable to abuse. Tascam got that right with the bumper rails. I like the new design because from a DSLR would view I don't really use the built on external mic so at least I can remove them. Other than the XLR inputs on two sides instead of one this looks like a sensible upgrade.

April 16, 2013

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Oops 'WorldViewPoint' my own that is :-D

April 16, 2013

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Agree. The tascam looks more practical as well.

April 15, 2013

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maghoxfr

Preamps are the answer. If Sound Devices made a single channel audio recorder for the same price as this Zoom, I would go with Sound Devices. Their Preamps are excellent.

April 16, 2013

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If Sound Devices made a recorder similar to the H4N, it would still likely cost $1000 (not anywhere near the H4N $250 price) considering the two channel 702 is almost $2k.

April 17, 2013

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Jonas Bendsen

Zoom H4n has been my centerpiece for field recording production, Running 4 channel with a shotgun mic, a 2nd room mic for ambience on a mic stand, and hand held with the Zoom itself. If you guys complain about poor quality you're either using it wrong OR you guys aren't sound mix engineers. Its part of the job to work with the audio you get. Invest in noise reduction processors, learn how to edit and mix.

Tascams have always had more hiss and a higher noise floor. If you learn to use the built in compressors and limiters the H4n has available you'd find there's no situation the H4n can't handle.

April 21, 2013

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any ideas on price?

April 15, 2013

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HVisuals

My guess is around $400, but it's difficult to say at this point since this is quite a departure from their other handy recorders.

April 15, 2013

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Robert Hardy
Writer
Cinematographer / Editor

"While the price for the Zoom H6 has yet to be released, my guess is that it will come in around $400 for the basic package, and maybe $550 for the complete package with the additional attachments. While that is speculation on my part, those prices would fit with their current line of audio capture devices." -Robert Hardy 2013

April 15, 2013

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I'm Robert Hardy, and I approve this message :)

April 15, 2013

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Robert Hardy
Writer
Cinematographer / Editor

thanks guys, i noticed that at the end a bit late, dunno how i missed it the first time. thanks for the replies =)

April 15, 2013

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HVisuals

Yeah it look like a worthy competitor but the pre amps have always been the zooms weak spot. End of the day quality audio is far more important to me than an array of inputs and gadgets.

Having said that I will wait until some comparisons come out to see whic new device has the better audio quality.

April 15, 2013

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Peter

It's nice to see Zoom improving on the H4N, but this form factor is not terribly practical for filmmakers. You don't want the shotgun mic connected directly to the device. You want it in the air above your actors and then the recorder itself in a bag or harness where you can make adjustments. Even if you run your own boom mic into one of the inputs, the shape of the device isn't the greatest for filmmakers.

I second David S in that Tascam's new DR-60D looks much more appealing and designed specifically for filmmakers. But I'll be looking for some comparisons on YouTube before I buy :)

April 15, 2013

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Nathania

I remember on one shoot someone had an H4N attached to the end of a boom pole. I thought it was hilarious because it looked like he put the adapter together himself.

April 15, 2013

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Maybe hilarious looking, but I bet it worked great (and who really cares if he put the adapter together himself?).

April 17, 2013

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Jonas Bendsen

Watch this. It's my solution for hold this little handheld recorder and easy make adjustments.
https://vimeo.com/56867764

April 15, 2013

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Smart!

April 16, 2013

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JR

Great idea! There's a real need for this. I've gotten away with having the h4n in a pocket but it's so risky.

April 16, 2013

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David

GENIUS! My god I wish I could use my brain like this!

June 26, 2013

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Keith

These add-on mic modules for the H6 make little sense for film making to me. They appear to provide no handling noise isolation/suspension. With the odd shape of the H6 I suspect it would be a challenging feat to rig the unit itself into some form of suspension mount. The add on dual XLR module looks interesting and from a quick glance over the above NFS article appears to maybe allow the H6 to provide 6 recordable XLR input channels. If that is correct, and if the battery life for such a configuration when in actually use is 8+ hours (not standby mode), then I COULD definitely see this being extremely useful for film making if the pre-amps are solid. What would be truly convenient is if one of the XLR ports on the H6 could be used as a down mixed pass-through output channel. For example, say you got yourself a camera with 2 XLR/TRS inputs (RED, Sony, etc), you could output 3 channels (or 5 with the dual XLR add-on module) of audio acquisition down mixed into a single mono channel that could feed into the camera as a glide/reference/sync (or useable in a pinch if the SDXC card in the H6 fails/is lost), along with an additional backup audio channel into the 2nd camera XLR input from either an on camera mic or a cabled out static mounted/boomed mic. Thanks

April 16, 2013

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Dan

Agreed. The XLR capsule is useful, but the others seem like novelties with no real practical use. Once you place the recorder out of reach (on a boom in order to use the shotgun mic) you can no longer control the device! I know people do this on a regular basis, but while putting an H4N on a pole might be a great solution for a super low budget situation, if this H6 is suppose to be the next step up toward "professional" it should employ more professional sensibilities. That said, I'm betting the H6 with the XLR capsule is going to be a great little unit for semi-professional 6 channel sound on a budget. I guess having the capsule options doesn't really detract (I wouldn't use them, and no says you have to), but I'm pretty stoked about just having an affordable six channel recorder with four ON BOARD XLR inputs, especially with all previous experience from Zoom field recorders.

April 17, 2013

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Jonas Bendsen

Literally just ordered my black magic pocket cam and tascam dr 60.... I was worried Zoom would come out with something better, but it looks like I made the right choice.

April 15, 2013

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James

I liked the ability on getting and attaching extra mics, but where in the hell can u sit the H6, is bulky and with more cables attached will get heavier and heavier.
DR-60D will be my choice as Nathania and David S wrote before.
Or maybe have both!!!....... NAH!

April 15, 2013

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Cris

I've been using the H4N for years without any problems. My only concern was indeed the lack of inputs. Now with 4 inputs things will get a little different. Pre amp on the device was never a problem to me.

And frankly I'm not a DSLR user so I don't like the new tascam form factor...

Really anxious to buy this one...

April 15, 2013

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Alex Mand

Yeah... everyone seems to be raving about the new Tascam, but I would NEVER mount a recorder under my camera (especially since that's a place where I need to mount so many other things), so the form factor is actually a major detraction. I know a lot of people (especially "one man bands") are excited about how the Tascam mounts, but it's definitely not for me.

April 17, 2013

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Jonas Bendsen

Where does it say that Zoom is using the same preamps and have not improved on the preamps in the H4N?

April 15, 2013

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Tim

I think Mr . Hard is complaining about the H4N on a very high level. Just finished some stuff and it performed marvelous. And I second Nathania on the useless boom feature (at least with out a boomstick & cable) also I already see users loosing/misplacing all the gimmick nicknacs during productions on the go. Additionally the device will soon not be so "Handy" after all, since it seems to get bulkier by the mark. And the price is .- well (at least quite) pricey.
But I do appreciate the announcement and Zoom in general. And I welcome the progress. (But would have not bashed down the h4n so harshly. Seems like whenever the next mark of anything (5d wink wink) comes out, the predecessor suddenly is the worst piece of crap ever to have surfaced on geek horizon.
(I'm exaggerating a bit here hope you caught that. ;)

April 15, 2013

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joe

Having had the fortune of using a wide range of recorders even when the Zoom was at its height of popularity, I agree with Robert's assessment. I think no matter the piece of gear, you will inevitably trade performance for price. That changes as things get cheaper, but my biggest complaint with the Zoom was always that there was no easy way to adjust levels, and that has certainly been fixed with the H6.

April 15, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

agreed. those knobs look very nice! :)

April 15, 2013

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joe

yes! excellent feature...

April 15, 2013

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Alex Mand

As a recorder I'm very excited about this. I got a used Sound Devices 442 a few months ago and this looks like it will let me finally record isolated channels through the 4 independent line inputs. I was going to start looking for a used 744T but not anymore!

April 15, 2013

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Matthew Sonnenfeld

If they were really forward thinking, they would have put wi-fi on this thing. Also, I have a hard time seeing this for mobile use. Managing 2 xlr cables plus power and maybe a headphone cable is already a mess. Have a hard time seeing this as not being clunky.

Also, the price of the H4n is dropping like crazy. You may find it more worth it to buy two of them instead of this...don't know yet...looking forward to seeing the comparison videos.

The challenge that these devices have is that iOs and tablets are getting better and better and smaller with Internet connectivity. At some point, there will be better ways to get xlr inputs into these things. Zoom, Tascam and the rest of them need to innovate. Otherwise, people will buy interfaces, mixers, Iphones or the newer mics like from Rode that have on-board recorders.

April 15, 2013

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" is that it’s extremely inefficient to change levels, especially while recording, due to the small little plus and minus buttons on the side of the device. "

You DO know that it has an optional remote control, right?

April 15, 2013

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john jeffreys

The Zoom H6 is not practilcle for filmmaking....you don't hook a shotgun directly to the recorder. It's great for interviews or lectures but not FILMMAKING.
I am blown away no blogs have done an audio test on the TASCAM DR-60D yet. It's available now. The first blog to post some real world test will get a ton of hits overnight for sure! Everyone is looking for the next BLACK MAGIC in the AUDIO category for low budget film making. Is TASCAM it??? This could be the hottest item if it sounds as good as it looks.

April 16, 2013

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marky mark

April 16, 2013

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blackespresso

"you don’t hook a shotgun directly to the recorder. It’s great for interviews or lectures but not FILMMAKING."

That's a completely nonsensical statement. What precludes you from running the mics to an H6 without first going through a preamp, like you would with any other recorder?

Answer: nothing.

The add-on mic modules seem a bit pointless, but the device itself will work fine for film making as long as its sound quality is up to snuff.

April 21, 2013

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Well if you are running mics to a quality pre-amp first, which you should be doing if you're doing ('film-making' (or anything at least as pretentious as this) or recording a musical event, then the a/d converters on the Zoom aren't as big of deal, as long as they are fairly transparent, for your tone will come from your pres. And I agree, even in 'film-making', ahem, this module would work well because your most likely feeding it from boom operators, lapels, and field mics.

July 2, 2013

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Patrick

That is the craziest thing I have read. Let me tell you..if I am on a shoot in Tampa on a hot summer day and I don't have to run and gun with a mixer and big ass porta brace on my stomach, count me in! I seriously am considering not using a mixer. I am a pro at post so why bother???

June 26, 2013

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Keith

Assuming that it is a similar size to the H4N, I could see the H6 being a reasonable either/or device. The size and form factor allow it to be a practical X/Y mic, but as soon as you begin to use the side-mounted XLRs it would become a much larger, more cumbersome beast. With the extra XLR attachment, and perhaps with a neck strap, it would make a decent field mixer for a dedicated sound recordist. The shotgun might be useful for radio or podcasting, but for film you'd want a boom pole or a desktop mic that you can adjust and monitor without your sound guy getting his head in the shot.

April 16, 2013

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Tim

I'm not sure why people are dogging the form factor of the H6 and saying the DR-60D is much better? Of course attaching the field mic to a boom is ridiculous -no one says you have to. Just run an XLR cable. The major downside to the form factor IMO is that the XLR ports aren't all on the same side, which can make it awkward. But at least it can accept 4 (up to 6 with the accessory) XLR ports whereas the DR-60D only has 2 inputs. I appreciate that the DR-60D can be mounted under the camera, but for all the people saying how the H6 isn't for filmmaking and praising the Tascam, having the audio tethered to the camera isn't exactly a best practice either.. Both units look great to me, but the comments are leaving me a bit baffled!

April 16, 2013

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Oliver

"The major downside to the form factor IMO is that the XLR ports aren’t all on the same side, which can make it awkward."

That depends on how you end up carrying it. While I prefer this form factor to the dr-60's form factor, I think designing it around hand held use is silly. It would have made a lot more sense to design it with the same usage model as a field mixer like a MixPre-D or 302, where the cables plug in on the sides where the cases have openings, and the controls and display are on the side that would be facing up toward the user.

April 21, 2013

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Most people making films only use 1 boom mic anyway. Why do we need 4 or 6 six inputs. In most cases thats overkill.

April 16, 2013

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marky mark

try recording a 3-6 person panel with 1 boom mic; Manufacturers make devices to meet the needs of multiple scenarios. It would be sad world if there were only 1 track recorders.

"What say you?"

April 19, 2013

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Henry

Well, personally, after having owned the H4N, I think I will go in a total other direction, using a tablet and a USB sound card to have a powerful yet simple solution to record, mix & edit on the field.
For example, with that kind of DAW : http://www.ipadmusic.com/daws-for-ipad , I find it to be a much more convenient solution for me to adjust quickly the level, as I do at home with my mixer : http://imgur.com/gjwkY6s

As I already own a lot of RME gear, I think I will go with an RME Babyface, it has 2 XLR and an ADAT I/O so if I want to add inputs, I can easily add 8 XLR inputs with a battery 8-input preamp.
AND, RME is known to have some of the best audio quality on the market.
Totally, with an old iPad, and a used Babyface on ebay, it will cost me I think 500$...Not so much more expensive ...

April 16, 2013

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One thing I'd like to have reintroduced to the Zoom H4n is the mic-protection-cage. Twice have I had the H4n dropped and both times it's bent both mics inwards leaving me no other choice but to send it off to a repair-shop. Both the original H4 and the little-brother H1 has a cage protecting the mic-setup.

Though I have actually found that I use the XLR-inputs very infrequently. So I have been extremely happy with my H1. So much so that I am considering just sending mt offf to the repair-shop and then selling it. But at least I would love an option for a protecting cage.

Now you may question if I'm a complete cluts to be able to drop (and break) a piece of expensive equipment twice. But as it's built. Rather heavy and with the cables in the bottom and no protection for the mics that are angled on the far end, it will always drop mic-first and break. I am thinking of getting some sort of neck-strap but a cage would be very nice indeed when it's built like that. And I'm rather paranoid about dropping things in general.

April 16, 2013

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I don`t get it at all why anyone would prefer a boxy thing with only two full sized plugs instead of the zoom - who really need to have a recorder directly in front of their noses all time, screwed below the camera which only makes the whole thing more wobbly and places the lens into absurd heights. Sorry, but to me, the Tascam seems to cater to an amateurish market.

April 16, 2013

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Mariano

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