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Zoom has been building innovative, great-sounding products for the past thirty years. But with the revolutionary H6—the most versatile portable recorder ever—the bar is raised further still.
Four interchangeable input capsules—X/Y, MS, Shotgun, and Dual XLR/TRS Combo—make the H6 the ultimate chameleon of the audio world, and its advanced preamps make it the best-sounding one too.
Whatever your application—live recording, professional film/video work, or broadcast ENG (electronic news gathering), etc.—the H6 can handle it with ease.
The H6 offers four main inputs (1-4), plus two additional inputs (L, R) that are derived from whichever capsule (X/Y, MS, Shotgun, or Dual XLR/TRS Combo) is plugged into the unit. The supplied XYH-6 X/Y capsule also provides a secondary input for connecting an external mic- or line-level signal via a stereo 1/8" Mic/Line In mini phone jack. When a connection is made to that jack, signal from the X/Y microphones is muted.
All four main H6 inputs (inputs 1-4) are combo connectors that can accept either XLR or 1/4" balanced or unbalanced phone cables. They can handle both micand line-level signals, which means that you can connect either external microphones or line-level devices like mixers, portable music players, electronic keyboards, or electric guitars or basses with active electronics (passive electric guitars or basses can also be connected with the use of a mixer or effects device). Internal switching contacts automatically detect the circuit of choice.
On the H6, all connectors use the industry standard Pin 2 hot on XLR connectors and Tip hot on TRS connectors, as shown here:
Each of the six inputs (that is, 1-4 as well a L, R) has a dedicated gain control knob. In addition, the four main inputs and the EXH-6 capsule feature a -20dB pad, allowing you to prevent distortion even when high-level signals are introduced. In fact, with the use of the Pad switch, the H6 can input a signal 30dB louder and 14dB softer than any other Handy Recorder model. In addition, all capsules utilize higher voltage preamps (5 volts instead of the more commonly used 3 volts) for distortion free recording, even at high volumes. A built-in instrumentation amp allows signals to be transmitted with minimal noise even when long cables are used.
If you're using high-quality condenser (powered) microphones with the H6, no problem—a simple menu option allows the unit to provide Phantom Power (either +12, +24, or +48 volts) to any or all of the main inputs (inputs 1-4). Inexpensive condenser microphones requiring Plug-In Power (2.5 volts) can be connected to the X/Y capsule's stereo 1/8" Line In jack.
The H6 Line Out is an unbalanced stereo 1/8" phone jack, located on the bottom of the H6, beneath the LCD display. It carries the analog stereo output signal, as determined by the H6's internal mixer.
The H6 USB port, located on the side panel to the right of the LCD display, provides a digital output of either a stereo mix or the six individual input signals, depending upon the setting of the "Audio Interface" function in the USB menu.
In addition, the H6 provides a headphone output with a dedicated volume control, located on the side panel to the left of the LCD display. Connect your headphones to the stereo 1/8" mini phone jack for private monitoring of the stereo output signal.
The H6 even has a built-in speaker, located on the underside of the unit, for fast monophonic monitoring of the recorded signal without the need to make any connections whatsoever. This speaker is automatically disconnected when connection is made to either the Line Out or Headphone output.
A little X, a little Y, a whole lotta stereo
The X/Y miking technique is optimal when you want to cover a wide area and still capture sound sources in the center with clarity and definition, making it great for all types of live stereo recording.
The supplied XYH-6 X/Y capsule adds two matched high-quality unidirectional microphones to your H6. This kind of microphone is most sensitive to signal coming from directly in front, and less sensitive to signal coming from behind or from the sides; in technical terms, they are said to utilize a cardioid polar pattern. These mics have the largest diaphragm size (0.579" = 14.6mm) of any ever available on a portable recorder.
As shown in this illustration, the angle of the two mics can easily be changed from 90 degrees to 120 degrees for a wider stereo image (US Patent 8184815).
Playing back stereo X/Y tracks in mono results in a fuller sound than you would get with one microphone, but if mono compatibility is critical (for example, in television production), the Mid-Side (MS) mic technique can be a better choice.
Mid-side mic magic
Enter MS ("Mid-Side") recording: an incredible technique that allows you to actually adjust the width of the stereo image after it has been recorded, making it especially useful for film, video and television projects. Sound like magic? Read on.
Although the H6's supplied MSH-6 MS capsule appears to be just one microphone, it actually contains two mic elements, positioned directly on top of one another. One of the microphones inside the MSH-6 is unidirectional (that is, it is mostly sensitive to signal coming from directly in front, and less sensitive to signal coming from behind or from the sides) while the other is bi-directional (that is, it is mostly sensitive to signals coming from directly in front and directly behind, and less sensitive to signal coming from the sides).
Inside the H6 MS capsule, the directional ("Mid") mic faces forwards while the bi-directional ("Side") mic is set perpendicular to it, like this:
The basic concept behind MS recording is that the Mid microphone picks up signal coming from the center, while the Side microphone creates ambience and directionality by adding or subtracting information from either side.
The Mid-Side technique works well whenever you need a variable amount of room sound. It can also be used for studio recording, and its convenience and flexibility make it a good option for rehearsal and live concert recording as well.
The interview started a splitsecond before you were ready. The conductor lifted his baton just as you were checking a cable. The talent went back on-air a moment too soon.
No problem… as long as you're using the H6. Its Pre-record function automatically keeps the H6 silently but continuously recording in the background, all the time. Then, when you hit the RECORD button, it keeps the previous two seconds and appends it to the beginning of the file. It's as if the H6 had started recording two seconds before you actually got to hit the button.
Backup-record—the ultimate safety net. When turned on during the recording of WAV files, the H6 automatically records a duplicate set of L/R tracks, but with 12dB less input gain. Even if the original L/R track is distorted, chances are the Backup version is fine.
You can listen to either set of tracks simply by going to the Backup File option in the PROJECT menu. When turned OFF, you'll hear the original L/R tracks; when turned ON, you'll hear the lower-level Backup tracks instead. Pick the one you prefer and use it as your L/R master. Bacon saved.
The Auto-record function allows the H6 to automatically start recording when a certain level of sound is detected. When turned ON and the RECORD button is pressed, the H6 doesn't immediately start recording; instead, it goes into a standby mode; as soon as an incoming signal exceeds the Start Level you've set, recording begins.
There's an equivalent Autorecord Stop function, too. When turned ON, as soon as incoming signal drops below the Stop Level you've set, recording ends.
The H6 provides an arsenal of effects that allows you to add polish to your recordings and compensate for any problems or limitations in the acoustics of the recording environment.
A low-cut filter allows you to remove signal below a certain user-designated frequency (called a cutoff frequency). This is useful for eliminating pops, wind noise, blowing, transmitted resonance from an onstage mic stand and other kinds of low frequency rumble.
Compression and limiting compensate for fluctuations in level; in essence, they act like an automatic volume control, reducing the level of louder sounds (that is, the sounds below a threshold point). The main difference between the two is that a limiter reduces louder sounds more severely.
The H6 allows you to choose from three compressor settings and three limiter settings. The two "General" settings (Comp1 and Limiter1) are all-purpose settings that will work well on most kinds of program material. The Comp2 and Comp3 presets are optimized for use with vocals and drums, respectively, while the Limiter2 and Limiter3 presets are optimized for use in live concert recording and small room "studio" recording, respectively.
In addition, there's an onboard metronome and chromatic / guitar / bass tuner—both handy tools when recording musical content.