Top critical review
44 people found this helpful
on 14 October 2013
I've been an owner of an H4n for the past three years or so. For anyone familiar with that model, you'll know the pros and the cons. The pros were having an extremely portable little unit that packed a punch with phantom power, onboard effects, and more options than you could shake a stick at. The cons were noisy preamps, the infamous noise floor and fiddly ways to get to the screen or folder you wanted.
I was very excited to see the H6 released, especially when I heard of the improvements with regard to the much quieter background noise it produces. In this respect, I have not been disappointed. In fact, I've been very pleasantly surprised. There is noticeable difference in the amount of background hiss with this model. The sound is not as true as the H4n and it can give quite a hard edge to things. I'm trying to find out what I would need to do in post production to give it a warmer, rounder sound.
The machine feels good quality. Gone are the internal buttons and knobs to control things--the H6 has the gain control as four physical dials for each of the XLR jacks, plus another on the XY mic attachments and Mid-Side mic.
There is no three mode option as with the H4n... Zoom have scrapped the Stereo/4 Channel/Multi-track modes. Now everything you get, you see. One screen for everything. So, selecting just the LR input lets you record to stereo. Selecting another input allows for multi-track recording (so long as you have 'overdub' selected in the options).
Other good things that I like about it is the battery life. On alkaline batteries, the unit has yet to die on me, and I've used it for probably around 8 hours and it's now down from the maximum three bars to two. I hope to use NiMH rechargables but I haven't needed them yet so can't comment on life.
Now, here are the things that I don't like. And I have to say, I really don't like these things.
Worst thing: there are absolutely no built-in effects in terms of patches, despite the company (and product pages) telling us it has 'many inbuilt effects, including...' the 'including' is the operative word. You get some pretty lousy compression and limiters. You don't get any of the guitar effects that came with the H4n. Admittedly, most of these were rubbish, but I used the reverb function extensively, for playing acoustic fingerstyle and Celtic whistles. Without this option, I feel a bit lost. I will have to buy some computer software, but it really defeats the object with not being able to apply even a touch of reverb in the unit. Everything records absolutely flat. So I would not recommend this for use as a music multi-track, especially if like me you need it for acoustic instruments.
Another gripe is that the external mic jack is not on the unit itself, but on the XY mic attachment. Seeing as the advent of binaural 3D in-ear mics has taken the world by storm, this is something I really need. But with the mic attachment it brings the model to a size that is not really pocketable.
Another thing that makes this less portable is that all the gains are loose and there's no way to 'hold' the buttons. Inside a pocket, they would probably move.
Lastly, the omission of an AC supply with the unit, at the price it sells for, is a scandal. You have to fork out another £40+ to get the accessory pack for that.
All in all... a much improved output in terms of background hiss, and very suitable for podcasting or interviews. Much more user friendly, but the price you pay for that is a stripped down upgrade. No frills, just press record. You'll have to rely heavily on a computer for making it work for you as a multi-track, gone are the days of creating a nice, tidy little demo somewhat true to how a professionally mastered track would sound to send as an .mp3 to a friend.
EDIT ~ I've now had this unit for around a month and my overall impression has made me drop this from four stars to three. The gain knob set on maximum sounds loud, until you put it through a computer monitor. Then you realise that number 10 gain on the H6 is around equivalent to a number 75 gain on the previous H4n model. You can access the settings to increase this gain, but with it you increase the noise floor and then you're more or less back to where you were with the H4n. I bought this to record very detailed and sometimes quite delicate ambient sounds. It's not ideal for this, and the sound is remarkably lifeless/thin and harsh (the kind of sound I would get when I pushed a high pass or noise removal too high on Audicity to counter undesirable levels on the H4n). It seems to me that they have pushed so hard on the noise floor front to improve that they've subsequently erased the fullness of a normal recording. For me this is a real disappointment. For others it could be just perfect, especially if you're looking at this for speech audio, ie. podcasts, reviews, etc.
Hope this helps. If you've never bought something like this before then you will quite possibly love it. But I'm writing this review having known what came before and feeling the pinches of the changes.