Sound Recorder Hardware

December 14, 2016
AWARD

Zoom H6With its impressive track count and interchangeable input modules, Zoom's H6 is one of the most flexible handheld recorders available.

Tom Flint

Zoom's H6 is designed to be extremely versatile, and should interest budget film-makers, musicians, bands, interviewers and anyone else trying to capture multiple sound sources on location. The main body of the H6 accepts four different input attachments, each of which expands its recording capabilities in a different direction. Zoom liken the attachments to camera lenses, which can be swapped over very quickly to change the capabilities of the hardware.

The device records up to six tracks of 24-bit/96kHz Broadcast WAV audio simultaneously, plus an additional two -12dB 'safe' backup tracks that can captured from the attachment mics or inputs. On the main body of the recorder there are four XLR/TRS combi sockets, each of which can be assigned phantom power independently of the others. What's more, each input has its own hardware level-control dial, much like those commonly found on professional location recorders, and a -20dB pad switch.

The identity of the remaining two inputs depends on the attachment type. Options include X/Y, M/S and shotgun microphone systems, and a dual XLR/TRS combo attachment with a hardware level control and pad switch matching those on the main body of the recorder. The X/Y and M/S capsules are included as standard, together with a foam wind shield that fits them both, but the other two are optional extras, the shotgun being almost twice the price of the additional input module.

As well as the X/Y array you can see in the main picture for this review, the standard package includes an M/S mic module.The X/Y capsules, which can be set at either 90 or 120 degrees, are mounted on a moulded piece of metal which feels very solid and protects them from side knocks, although they are still vulnerable to front-on impacts. The block itself contains the contact board which carries the data, and the two spring-loaded clips that secure it to the body of the recorder.

The M/S mic attachment, in contrast to the X/Y attachment, feels rather lightweight and flimsy, and does not look like something that will survive a knock. The section which attaches to the body of the recorder is solid enough, but the mic capsule enclosure is ball-shaped, and has a point of weakness where it meets the attachment block.

Although the H6 is very capable as a recorder, it's also able to function as a digital interface, sending its audio directly to DAWs via a USB connection. When put into Multitrack mode, all six audio channels can be sent simultaneously, while the recorder provides a stereo return signal for monitoring. In this mode, any processing that has been selected is also recorded, so the user has the option of applying to any of the inputs a low cut filter of 80, 98, 115, 133 or 150 Hz, and one of three compressor and two limiter presets.

As well as the X/Y array you can see in the main picture for this review, the standard package includes an M/S mic module.Central to the workings of the recorder are two mixer pages which take advantage of the colour screen. The Monitor Mixer is for managing input settings when recording to card or computer, and appears as a miniature console, showing whether or not each channel has a low-cut filter, compressor/limiter or phantom power applied. A hardware control can be used to select and modify pan and level settings within the display, but for some reason it is not possible to change the compressor, filter or phantom-power settings without exiting the mixer and delving into the menu system!

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