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Zoom H6 – high quality portable audio recorder adds a 6 track studio to your pocket [Review]

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The Zoom brand is well known among recording folk as representing some of the best audio products in the world, especially with the company’s range of portable recorders, which deliver top quality audio recording for people on the move. They are especially popular with news gatherers, videographers and other portable recording professionals.

The new Zoom H6 Handy Recorder is the latest in the company’s range of portable recorders, and like its popular predecessors the H2 and H4 it offers high resolution audio capture, along with some new and very interesting additional features. The new product is something of a departure for the company in that it’s the first product to combine six track mixing and an innovative module based inputs design in an ultra portable pocket sized package.

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First impressions
The product comes in a very professional looking package containing a case with the recorder and components inside. The recorder ships with A/V and USB cables, and a substantial user manual (so nice to see that, and so necessary with this kind of product. The really cool feature, though, is the inclusion of two different microphone modules, X/Y and MS, which you can bolt on to the main recorder for different purposes.

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There are other optional modules you can buy, including a shotgun mic unit and a module to add an additional two XLR inputs (giving a total maximum of 6 phantom powered XLR ports on a portable unit!!) but most people will probably be very happy with the default options in the box.

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In use
The really surprising thing about this new recorder, as you’ll see from our video review below, is how easy it is to operate. Despite the ability to record simultaneously onto six channels and the wide range of recording options (including setting different compression and limiting ratios, different input settings and output file formats etc), the basic recording requires just two button presses. Hit the L/R buttons (for left and right) and the friendly red dot recording button and you’re in action.

Volume levels can be dynamically adjusted with the simple twirl of a clearly marked knob, and the bright LCD gives a clear indication of levels which you can use to ensure your sound mix is as optimal as possible. The really clever thing the designers have done is to make sure that everything you need is right in front of your face, not buried in menus three levels down after multiple button presses.

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Despite this superb level of simplicity, the H6 is a real professional’s tool, and the results it delivers are top class. The mics are sensitive and give excellent dynamic range, and the device works superbly across its operating range. The recorder will run for 20 hours on four AA batteries, and the unit also allows for marking during recording, over-dubbing, normalizing, low cut filtering, loop and variable speed/pitch playback and more.

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Conclusion
The Zoom H6 is a real powerhouse of a portable recorder, offering convenience and flexibility in a package which although not as small as previous models is still dainty enough to fit into a large pocket. The connectivity with computers via the multifunction USB port is excellent – although it is a little fiddly to have to set the USB port to data mode every time you want to connect, it would be nice for that to be the default really.

If you’re in the market for better higher quality audio recording for your DSLR, camcorder or if you’re just looking for some way to record and store efficiently and with more flexibility than just a voice recorder, then you should definitely consider this product as an option. It’s not the cheapest solution around, but you’ll be hard pressed to find something as versatile and powerful.

Price:
$469.00 in the US
£329.00 in the UK

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


  • antoinepgrew

    Great video review and helpful. Much better than other youtube stuff.

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