If you are looking for a professional podcast recorder, you must have come across the ZOOM H5 and H6 recorders. Given the excellent audio quality recordings produced by both, you may be wondering, what are the differences between the Zoom H5 and the Zoom H6. In this article we will be looking at the features. They are very similar but they are built for two very different purposes. So, let’s start.
1. Zoom H5
The Zoom H5 isn’t made out of cheap materials. Not only is a very light recorder but also sturdy with a nice metal finish throughout. The mic capsules are of high quality but also a bit fragile so I recommend taking the top off the recorder and keep it in a protective case while you roam around, otherwise you may break the most important part of the whole recorder.
When it comes to the display, the Zoom H5 features a monochrome backlit LCD screen (128 x 64 pixels). The display of the Zoom H5 is compact but still, is ergonomically arranged with its most essential and commonly used controls. You can access audio levels, recording time, battery status, and more on the large, monochrome backlit LCD. Additionally, there is a hold switch which disables all front-panel buttons to prevent accidental operation during recording.
Zoom H5 has shorter battery life in comparison to Zoom H6. Zoom H5 has a battery life of 16 hours. Connecting two microphones to the H5 will lower its battery life as well. Either way, it’s recommended that you carry spare batteries with you. That’s also because there are different variables that can also affect the battery life of the recorder. Phantom power has the most considerable effect on the battery life.
Sound Quality & Recording
The Zoom H5 delivers amazing audio quality. One can choose between two common file formats – MP3 and Wav. Wav files can be 16 bit or 24 bit with sampling rates of 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz or 96 KHz, although 96 KHz is only available in stereo recording mode, as are MP3 files (which allow bit rates from 48 kilobytes per second to 320 kilobytes per second). Wav files get time samples instantly. These are also compliant with the Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) The H5 also comes with SD and SDHC card slots for storage and supports anything the size of up to 32Gb.
When one turns on the pre-record function, it starts recording in such a way that it is able to capture up to two seconds before the record button has been pressed. When auto record function is on, you can also set it to record when the volume exceeds a user-defined level (and stop when it drops below a set level).
Zoom H5 even also comes with Backup-Record feature. This feature automatically records a duplicate set of stereo tracks that are twelve decibels lower than the original pair. This, however, only works when recording stereo Wav files at 44.1 or 48 kilohertz.
Overall, the audio quality is very crisp and clear. It has X/Y microphone capsule that is equipped with rugged rubber shock mounts. This helps isolate handling noise and the X/Y configuration ensures that captured stereo image is detailed. It also ensures that centre sources are clear and well-defined. It can handle sound levels up to one 140 decibels SPL.
At Zoom H5’s base, you can find a pair of XLR/TRS combo inputs. This helps with providing phantom power and a twenty decibels pad. On the front panel, there are the transport control, four input selector buttons and indicators, input volume controls which have a metal bar that prevents it from accidental knocking.
Zoom H5 comes with the XYH-5 X/Y microphone capsule. There is also a volume control button and a 3.5 millimetres mic/line input jack which supports plug-in power. There are also: the MSH-6 mid/side microphone capsule, the XYH-6 X/Y microphone capsule, the SGH-6 shotgun microphone capsule and the EXH-6 dual XLR/TRS combo capsule. This means the Zoom H5 recorder offers us a whole lot of different options which are very useful and easy to use.
On the left side of the panel, Zoom H5 has a 3.5 millimetres line-out jack, a 3.5 millimetres headphone jack, volume rocker, mini USB socket and a power/hold slider switch. On the bottom there is the speaker, battery compartment and screw mounting hole. You can also charge it via USB (with an optional AC adapter). You can also connect the USB to your own computer so H5 can function either as a card reader or an audio interface.
- Very durable and sturdy
- Great audio quality; very clear
- Many recording options
- Two XLR inputs, great for journalism or recording interviews
- Phantom power
- Short battery life
2. Zoom H6
The build quality of Zoom H6 isn’t too different from Zoom H5. On the other hand, it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than H5. So, it’s important to take note of that.
Zoom H6 has a very interesting display. It has a down-angled screen which can be either bad or good. Depends on what you need a recorder for. However, that angled screen helps with DSLR usage because the screen will be closer to your eye level. Because of that, you won’t need to move the camera a lot.
The H6 also has a 2’’ full-color LCD. The amount of info you get on that little screen is truly amazing. While you are recording, the screen literally shows you everything you need to make sure you have the perfect outcome.
The H6 has a much better battery life than the H5. It can last around 22 hours. Its battery life can also be affected by adding more microphones and especially by using phantom power.
Sound Quality & Recording
There is not much of a difference when it comes to sound quality. This means both Zoom H5 and Zoom H6 deliver amazing audio quality.
The only difference is that it has four instead of two XLR/TRS inputs which can be also extended to six. It also features an MS container and an X/Y case. It can record audio up to 24bit/96kHz.
Most of the features are also the same as with the H5. But there are some added features, however. You can also use it as a digital interface. This means you can send audio recordings directly to DAWs via a USB connection. It has a multitrack mode which can send six audio channels at the same time while the recorder provides a stereo return for monitoring. There is the Monitor Mixer and the Project Mixer as well.
- Long battery life
- Four XLR/TRS inputs great for podcasting
- Excellent audio quality
- Many features to assist your recording sessions
- Very good display
- Bulkier than the Zoom H5
For a new user, H6 may prove to be a bit complex. On the other hand, the H6 is equipped with everything you need. Its overall build quality along with its interchangeable capsules and overall operation make the Zoom H6 top in its class.
The Zoom H5 is for podcasters who are starting now and they are trying to get that professional quality sound, without paying through the nose.
In the end, you have to choose your weapon, the Zoom H5 as a Podcast recorder, or the Zoom H6 for podcasting. Both of them have pros and cons so choose whichever suits your needs the most.
Keep in mind, there are cheaper ways to podcast than the Zoom H6 or H5. So if you are just starting out on a budget, the Zoom recorders are probably not the best option for you. Perhaps our articles Best ASMR Microphone and Blue Yeti Alternative can help you find better alternatives.