Today, we're looking at Zoom’s portable audio field recorders the H4n Pro, the H5 and the H6. No matter what version you get, all three will record at your standard professional rates. So, let's check out some key differences.
The H4n Pro comes with two XLR inputs for two mono channels as well as a fixed stereo mount on top, or four channels in total with three inputs. Now, if we bump up to the H5 we also have two XLR mounts on the bottom as well as a stereo mount on top. However, we do see improved shock-absorbing material on the stereo mount. The biggest difference, however, is the removable capsules. With the H5 and H6, we now have the option of changing these capsules out to something else. Zoom makes multiple shotgun XLR and stereo mounts to really dial in exactly what you need to use it for. This opens up a lot of possibilities for interviews, Foley artists and independent videographers.
My favorite capsule is the additional XLR capsule. When used with the H5, instead of having three inputs, two mono and one stereo, we now have four mono inputs. The H6 also comes with removable capsules, but it has six total channels, two on both the left and right sides plus your stereo mount on top which can be converted to two or more XLR mounts.
My favorite thing about the H5 and H6 is the actual dials. In an increasingly digital world, it’s really nice to have analog functionality built into your system such as these sensitivity dials for your inputs. They are a lot smoother; they are easier to use and it simplifies the whole system.
The H5 and the H6 also have a backup record function that duplicates your file but at 12 decibels quieter. So, if your main recording peaks out, you now have a recovery.
Now, this only works on the stereo input. It doesn't work on any of the XLR inputs. So, for example, if you're running a wireless lav you're going to need to plug in your standard 3.5 millimeter into the capsule in order to get that duplicate backup recording at -12 decibels. If you don't need more than four inputs, the H5 is actually my favorite. It's the lightest, it fills the best in your hand and with this removable capsule, it gives a lot of options.
Power and Storage
There are a few more minor differences, such as the H4 and the H5 both use double-As while the H6 requires four double-As. You're going to get about 6 hours of use on the H4, 15 hours of use on the H5 and 20 hours on the H6. Both the H4 and the H5 have monochrome displays while the H6 is full color. 32GB is the limit on SD cards for both the H4 and H5, while the H6 can go up to 128GB.
All three Zoom recorders are on sale now until 5/28, don't miss out! Let us know what equipment you're using to record audio in the field. We'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments.