Zoom is a Japanese company known for relatively affordable yet high-quality guitar effects processors, vocal processors, and recording and mixing devices. In this article, we'll take a look at both the Zoom H5 and the Zoom H6. Both are compact, portable field recorders.
Zoom released the H6 in 2013, and a year later, the H5 was released as a follow-up. While newer models are typically packed with more features, the H5 was intended to be a stripped-down, affordable version. We'll look at the Zoom H5 vs H6 and help you decide which one may be right for you.
Introducing the Products
The Zoom H5 is a small portable recorder that can be used for field recordings, podcasts, music, and more. It has a battery life of about 15 hours, which makes it suitable for most uses. While it can be battery-powered for field use, it also can be powered by AC or by USB. The USB connection also lets you use it as an audio interface for home recording into your DAW of choice. The H5 can record in 24-bit/96 kHz quality, putting it on par with many professional interfaces.
The H5 comes with two built-in, shockmounted X/Y mics, but you also can connect up to two external mics. This lets you record up to four tracks at a time. The input jacks are combination XLR TRS inputs, which let you connect either a 1/4" TRS cable or an XLR mic cable. The H5 is equipped with phantom power for use with external condenser microphones. On-board effects and an easy-to-navigate LCD screen make it a relatively intuitive device to understand.
Pros & Cons of Zoom H5
The H6 expands upon the already-impressive functionality of the H5. You get the same shockmounted X/Y mics as you get with the H5, but the H6 includes four XLR TRS inputs, meaning you can record up to six tracks at once, and it also is equipped with phantom power. The H6 has a modular build that also lets you use included mid-side mics. While the H5 only has one output for use as a line out or headphone jack, the H6 has two.
The H6 can also be used as an audio interface for home recording, and like the H5, it also comes with effects. With either one, you get a metronome, chromatic tuner, high pass filter, compressor, and a limiter, and a looper mode. Like the H5, the H6 also can record audio up to 24-bit/96 kHz for pristine sound quality.
Pros & Cons of Zoom H6
Features Face to Face
In this section, we'll give you a head-to-head feature comparison of the Zoom H5 vs H6.
Both recorders come with shockmounted X/Y mics, but only the H6 includes mid-side mics. The H5 includes two XLR TRS inputs, with the H6 offering four. Both recorders have a separate gain knob for each input, letting you dial in your desired sound before you start recording. It's also important to note that the X/Y mics on the H6 are movable, letting you adjust the stereo image. The mics on the Zoom H5 are fixed, so you don't have the same ability to adjust.
The Winner: Given the fact that the H6 offers more diverse microphone options and two more input jacks for external mics, we think it wins this round.
The H5 includes one 1/8" output for use as a line out or a headphone jack. The H6 includes two of these, so you can line out and monitor via headphones at the same time.
The Winner: Because the H6 has multiple outputs, we think it wins this round, too.
Many recording devices and digital audio interfaces don't include any kind of effects at all, so the fact that you can apply effects to polish tracks before the final mix is impressive in itself. Both the H5 and the H6 include the following effects:
- Chromatic tuner
- Highpass filter
- Looper mode
The Winner: Since both recorders have the same effects, we think this round is a tie.
Both of these recorders can be used for fairly extensive recordings when run on battery power alone. However, the H6 has a longer battery life--this recorder can run for up to 21 hours with fresh batteries. The H5 can run up to 15 hours. While this is still impressive, it's still significantly shorter than the battery life of the H6.
The Winner: We think the Zoom H6 wins this one thanks to its longer battery life. If you plan to power your recorder via AC or USB, battery life may not be an issue.
Both recorder options have an LCD display, but there are some important differences between the two. The H5 has a backlit LCD display, while the Zoom H6 has a larger, full-color display. This display is also mounted at an angle, making it easier to read as you record. The display on the Zoom H6 also offers more information than the screen on the Zoom H5. More information is often a good thing, but if you're new to recording or becomes easily overwhelmed, the simpler H5 display may be enough.
The Winner: We think that Zoom H6 has the better display, especially if you're an audio enthusiast who wants access to as much information as possible.
Zoom devices almost always offer impressive sound quality for the price, and these two recorder options are no exception. However, some users have noted that recordings made with the Zoom H5 tend to have less of a powerful low end. Higher frequencies tend to be ell-defined, but the reduced midrange and low frequencies mean that some recordings may sound tinny or artificial. This is something you can remedy somewhat with a good EQ, but it does seem to be a persistent issue for many.
With the Zoom H6, you get more balanced recordings overall. The Zoom H6 recorder helps more accurately record the sound that you hear with your own ears as you record.The Winner: We think that the more natural-sounding recordings of the Zoom H6 make it the winner of this round.
As we mentioned, both the H5 and the H6 have fairly similar features with some key differences. Here are some of the major differences::