ZOOM H6 Handy Recorder by Fran Guidry
I've been waiting for a hand held recorder with preamps that match the capabilities of a mid-level prosumer audio interface. The Zoom H6 has arrived and delivers.
The obvious gee-whiz feature of this recorder is a set of replaceable modules. Two are included, an XY mic module and an MS mic module. The XY module also provides a 1/8" stereo input with plug-in power for mics that require it. The XY mic module is comparable in quality to the Sony PCM-D50 built-in mics. The MS module is much noisier than the XY unless the side mics are turned off completely, resulting in a mono capture.
Two additional modules have been announced but are not yet available. One of these is a mono short shotgun mic, the other provides a pair of additional XLR inputs without phantom power.
The four channels of phantom powered XLR/TRS inputs are the real meat of this recorder. In my comparisons these preamps are very close to my RME UFX in performance. With all four preamps delivering P48 phantom _and_ the XY mic module operating, four fresh AA batteries powered the unit for about 4 and a half hours.
The user interface has really been cleaned up. Physical knobs set the level for all the inputs. Menu navigation is handled with one button and one flipper but is not needed for normal recording tasks, only for setting up details like phantom power voltage and recording format.
A 20 dB pad is included on each XLR/TRS input. I haven't tested but I'm hoping that this will solve the problem of clipping when connecting to mixer tape outs.
The overdub capabilities of the H6 are limited compared to the H4n, but that's not a feature I use so I haven't explored much.
My first Zoom recorder was an H2. I was excited when the H4n came out, hoping it would deliver quality similar to my home studio rig at that time (a John Hardy preamp into a Lynx Two). But the H4n failed to measure up to the Fostex FR2-LE, let alone the Lynx/Hardy combo. I returned that H4n. Now with this Zoom H6 I'm satisfied that the audible performance is good enough to make it my sole recorder/interface.