Complete Zoom H6n Review

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Zoom H4

h6-aBack at the end of the last decade, my initial search for a quality mobile recording device resulted in my purchase of the Zoom H4.  I loved that thing.  I’m sure many still use it.  It had some mic emulation modules that I thought were pretty cool.

Of course, that was before Android, and iPhone, and iPad.  Before twisted wave
and Audio Evolution…before any attachments made by Tascam or Rode or iAudioInterface or iRig.  The Zoom was there with an elegant solution for recording under a blanket in the motel room.

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Zoom H4n

But when the H4n came along…well…it was even more cool…a vast improvement on the H4. I can’t tell you how many times that device saved my bacon (bacon!) in a pinch.

Now, Zoom’s flagship mobile recording device is out:  the Zoom H6n.

How could I resist?

The H6n is another evolutionary leap forward in hand-held mobile recording devices, and in my book, the Zoom (a Tokyo-based company) still leads the pack in technology in this category.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for many weeks, and finally got around to completing all the components of the review that do it justice. Let’s begin with a video I recorded that shows you how all those mic modules fit with the main unit.

 

In that video, I didn’t even mention the hi-resolution color display screen on the H6n.  VERY nice.  It offers digital VU meters for all h6n-3your tracks, plus info on which folder the recording is in, time display, whether you’re using .wav or .mp3, mono v. stereo, and other info.

The unit itself is solid, heavy, and of a high refinement of assembly.  All the buttons and movable pieces work in silence, and with a nice fit.

Now, as promised, a set of four brief SoundCloud recordings seen below.

A couple of notes for those of you who really care about this stuff (and you probably should):

  1. obviously, I could not record one reading using all four modules at once, so this is not a truly fair comparison of the true difference between the modules
  2. no mic screen was used on any of the recordings
  3. I held the H6 about 5-6 inches from my mouth, and slightly at an angle to avoid plosives
  4. in each recording, the manual gain nob was on “5″…which is half gain (the numbers go to “10″)
  5. Because a “5″ setting turned out to be low, I did boost the amplitude in the resulting wavform on Audition Cs6.0.
  6. I also removed a couple of breath sounds, and a mouth click or two, but in no way edited, processed, or added h6any other effects.  No normalization.
  7. The shotgun mic needed the least amplitude adjustment after recording on a “5″ gain setting
  8. The XLR mic needed very little amplitude boost, but more than the shotgun module
  9. the XY and ball mic needed a 300% amplitude adjustment in post from the recording at a “5″ gain setting.

Here are the 4 comparison recordings…. then see if you agree with me about which one sounds best at the bottom of this blog:

 

h6n-4In my opinion, the shotgun (I refer to as a “boom” mic — old lingo) is by far the best sound.  That, plus the fact that it required the least tweaking in post makes it the winner for me.

Finally, price:  The H6n is not cheap.  No matter where you look online, it’s $400. (well, $399.99 –but let’s call a spade a spade).  The Shotgun mic attachment (extra) is $130, and the extra XLR module is another $70.

You get a nice hard plastic carrying case with the unit.  The H6n does not connect to Wi-Fi.  I exported the sound by removing the SD card and plugging it into my computer SD slot, and copying over the soundfiles.

That’s about it.  I love this device. Yes, the iPhone and iPad and Android devices are nice, and being able to edit on them too is a plus, but for sheer fidelity, Zoom was and still is my choice for recording on the road.

CourVO

15+ Top VO Shopping Sites

audioequipmentC’mon…admit it!  The thought of adding a new…er… something …to your audio chain holds a magic allure.  It may, in fact, actually improve your sound, but even if it doesn’t…the effect it has on your morale and attitude is worth the price, no?  Well, not always…so that’s why you have to shop smart.

One word of advice:  no matter which site you shop…ask for the same sales associate each time.  Make a relationship with them.  Get them to remember you and what your needs are.  Tell them about the VO business.  They just want to make a sale, and when they have special pricing on that Neumann TLM103 or Behringer mixer, they’ll remember you and call.

Most of them are very knowledgeable, too, and can make excellent comparative suggestions about similar equipment under different name brands. The audio interface I use most, was suggested to me by a SweetWater rep, and his advice was spot-on.  These people know their product lines, but they don’t always know what special considerations a voice actor has…so educate them, and the relationship will benefit you in the end.

Now, here’s my list of the top 15+ Audio Equipment sites:
I’ve narrowed this list to the best composite online sites, not those individual equipment companies with specified product lines — for a complete list, see my blogroll: Equipment/Supplies.  This list is alphabetical.

I’m sure I might’ve missed a site.  Please comment below with your favorite equipment site, and I’ll add it to the list.
(reprinted from November 2012)
CourVO

Centrance iOS & Android Entrance

MixerFace.FRONT-webYou know Centrance.  Though they’ve developed a host of products for musicians and audio production folks, most voice actors recognize them as people who developed the MicPortPro…the wildly popular device that translates your XLR mic into a USB output. After their lead into this realm, other names followed suit (for example, the Shure X2u), but the MicPortPro remains the standard.

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Michael Goodman

But now, Centrance is entering a field where many others already have a toehold: recording on tablets and smartphones.  Digital media aficionados everywhere recognize this shift to smaller.  The tech world is moving lock, stock ‘n’ barrel to greater ease of use on the smaller devices that people take with them everywhere (and expect them to do everything).

Thus, the MixerFace by Centrance is about to debut.  The Managing Director and Chief Product Achitect of Centrance — Michael Goodman — is in Las Vegas for CES (isn’t everybody?), and answered some quick questions for me which you can read immediately below, and I’m also re-printing the Centrance News Release.

The important thing, here is that Centrance is — according to Goodman, “…spreading the word about the crowd funding campaign on indiegogo, which is the way for us to build the product ASAP and being it to market faster…”

 I appreciate that unlike other device and equipment designers, Centrance openly embraces the niche  community of voice-actors.  Sure, most musical equipment also works for VO, but somehow the marketing never mentions us.  Goodman, though says:  “We are offering some crazy deals to a limited number of customers in order to quickly collect the cash we need to get production started. As we are so busy with our other products, including our HiFi line, this financing method allows us to bring this important product to the VO community quickly.”  Hence the emphasis on Indiegogo.
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(click to enlarge this photo of the back panel of MixerFace)
MXF-back-panel-controls1I also asked M. Goodman where and when the product would be available in retail.
We anticipate shipping in April. It will be available on our website and from a network of dealers, who currently offer MicPort Pro, such as Voiceoveressentials, B&H and others.
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Goodman had this to say when I asked him what the perceived need was in the VO community for such a product:
I hear that people are starting to leave the laptop at home when they travel. My iPhone 5 and iPad are as powerful today as a 3 year-old laptop, which is more than enough computing power for audio recording and processing. So MixerFace does for the phone what MicPort Pro does for the laptop. Yet, MixerFace shrinks the size of your setup, making it much more portable.
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When I asked Goodman what he had to say to his competitors already in this market, he said:
MicPort Pro has competitors and yet, remains a strong seller to this day. It’s the audio quality, construction and professional features that set it apart from cheaper alternatives. There will always be cost-effective solutions, and there will always be a need for a professional-level solution that doesn’t cut corners. This applies to MixerFace the same way. It’s got redesigned low noise boutique preamps, 48V power, a sophisticated monitoring section that let’s you feed a cue into one ear and keep your vocal in the middle, etc. of course, the battery power is the biggest difference with MicPort Pro.
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Goodman envisioned use of the MixerFace in a mobile setting, saying:
Think recording a spot on beach or in a hotel, but instead if using the laptop, using your phone or tablet. You can edit, mix, compress, upload, etc. easily with apps like twisted wave, etc. 
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Now, here’s the official new release about MixerFace: (for complete specs, go to the Indiegogo site)
CourVO
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Press contact: Paul de Benedictis pdbmusic@pacbell.net 1-(650)-303-2565


CEntrance Releases New MixerFace Product at Indiegogo
Company crowd-funds its new mobile recording interface for smartphones and tablets

Chicago, IL – January 6th, 2013 - Today CEntrance, a leader in Digital Audio, announced a crowd-funding effort to speed up the production ofMixerFace(tm), its new mobile recording interface. MixerFace connects professional microphones with smartphones, tablets and laptops. The small, battery-powered mobile device includes two studio-grade microphone preamps and rich digital connectivity options, enabling professional-quality recording on the go.

The new product comes on the heels of CEntrance’s successful “HiFi-M8” (pronounced HiFi-Mate) portable DAC and headphone amp for the audiophile listening community. MixerFace integrates the smart phone into the audio production workflow, creating mobile recording capability for the modern, on-the-go musician, broadcaster and VO artist. The Indiegogo campaign starts January 6th, 2013 and can be found at:http://igg.me/at/mixerface

Michael Goodman
, Managing Director of CEntrance, stated, “Getting the latest gear first has its advantages, so we decided to crowd-fund MixerFace to speed up the product introduction. This parallels our recent crowd-sourced efforts with the HiFi-M8, but takes that a step further by opening the process up to the general public.” MixerFace shares battery-powered technology with the HiFi-M8 and leverages our experience with small recording devices such as our popular MicPort Pro,” adds Goodman. “Today’s smart phones and tablets have become serious music production tools, and with Mixerface we are adding a professional, mobile audio capture solution.”

MixerFace
 offers two Neutrik(tm) combo jack inputs with boutique low-noise microphone preamps, independent gain controls with LED level monitoring, switchable 48V phantom power, sophisticated monitoring options, a headphone amp and 24-bit/192kHz converters. Mixerface offers the choice of connecting to a laptop or to a smart phone / tablet for recording or playback. The attractive, handheld, battery-powered device is made from tough, road-worthy extruded aluminum and works for over 6 hours on a single charge.

MixerFace
 is set for release in April 2014 and will be priced at $599-US, while Indiegogo contributors can save a significant amount and be the first to receive the new product well in advance of stores.  For more Mixerface product information, visit http://www.mixerface.com

About CEntrance, Inc. 
Founded in 2000, CEntrance develops innovative audio products and licenses its technology to industry leading brands, such as McIntosh, Playback Designs, Bel Canto, Benchmark, PS Audio, and Lavry. The company’s portable recording and playback solutions have earned rave reviews, industry awards and enthusiastic endorsements from artists such as Harry Shearer, Nathan East and Will Lee, and mastering engineers Bob Katz, Brian Gardner, Tom Jung and sound designer Frank Serafine, among others. CEntrance is headquartered in Chicago and distributes its products worldwide.
CEntrance is expanding its dealer network. To inquire, please call +1 (847) 581-0500 or e-mail sales@centrance.com.


All Trademarks are the property of their respective holders. MicPort(tm), AxePort(tm), DACport(tm), DACmini(tm), MasterClass(tm), Audiophile Desktop(tm), HiFi-M8(tm) and MixerFace(tm) are trademarks or registered trademarks of CEntrance, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Apple iPhone(r), iPad(r), and iPod(r) are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.

New Toys For Christmas

h6Notice I did NOT say “gifts that will be easy on the budget”…that’s why we call them WISH lists.

First up:  The new Zoom H6.   OMG, this thing has hi-tech written all over it!

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H6 shown with all 4 mic modules

In my mind, the Zoom family of portable hi-fidelity recorders has always led the pack and pushed the envelope for a whole host of also-rans.  The H1, the H2, the H4, and the H4n have all been top of class, but competitors eventually made sure there was not much difference…until now.  I think you’ll agree the H6 breaks new ground.

Chief among innovative features is the four interchangeable input capsules—X/Y, MS, Shotgun, and Dual XLR/TRS Combo.  The H6 also offers 6 track simultaneous recording, 4 mic/line inputs, REAL KNOB gain controls, phantom power for all main inputs, and a large full-color LCD angled LCD display. BSW and others are listing it at $400.

Next:  KAOTICA EYEBALL.  I have no idea where this one came from, or what perceived need it answers, or whether it even legitimately meets it’s promise of channelling “…sound directly into your microphone. kaoticaThis means that all of the low and high frequency information contained within your voice can now be captured, allowing you to truly hear yourself for the first time. The Eyeball accurately portrays every aspect of your voice, without adding any colouration, producing a vocal track that is clear and defined every time. The design prevents your microphone from capturing ambient noise and room tone, while reducing any potential phase cancellations…”

For all those reasons, I would LOVE for EWABS (Dan and Georrge) to give this a full once-over and let us know if it’s legit.  But it sure looks cool.

The Kaotica website says the unit is available for $200.

 

Honorable mention on this blog is ProductionTrax.  From my list of 50+ Royalty-Free Stock Music Sites, I’d put ProductionTrax among the top 10.  They’re always ready with new promotions, and great deals.  Their latest pitch says:  Productiontrax.com has all new original royalty free music, sound effects, stock footage and photos for your next production. No matter the genre of your project, our contributors have been working hard to create new stock audio and video content for you, quality guaranteed at prices you’ll love – no hidden fees or needle drop charges (or pesky credits!). Check out some of our newest files below, or Start Searching Now.

So there you have it.  Sheesh, I hope my wife reads my blog!

CourVO

iRig Pre vs. Pro

irig proNew smartphone and tablet devices are getting churned out at a dizzying pace.  Apple and Samsung lead the pack, but the new Nokia/Microsoft merge promises some surprises, while HTC and LG continue to innovate.

Because of that, 3rd-party device manufacturers are having a heyday keeping up.  Not only is that good for those of us in voice-acting seeking a new mobile solution, but it provides almost never-ending blog fodder.

I’ve written time and time again about mobile solutions.  Tascam iM2, iRig, iAudioInterface2 for iOS from StudioSixDigital, Tascam iZX, Alesis iODockRØDE iXY and Blue Mikey to name a few.  Within weeks the reviews are superseded by the “next best thing”.  That’s not gonna stop me.

Fellow VO Blogger Paul Strikwerda recently wrote an excellent article Recording Voice Overs on Your iPhone, which includes info about the iRig Pre…an incredible value for the price.

What you don’t want to miss, though, is the iRig ProAlthough the name and even the look are are similar to the “Pre”, the fundamental design difference explains the disparity in the price between the two.

Both offer:

  • a pre-amp interface between your standard USB or XLR mic and your iOS device
  • 48V Phantom power for your condenser mic
  • Android device adaptability
  • handy apps for use with the device
  • a compact, handy form factor

Where the PRO differs, however is at the point of interface with the smartphone or tablet.  The PRE plugs into the headphone jack, wheras the PRO plugs into the 30-pin connector for older iPhones, the Lightning connector for the newer iPhones, and even comes with a USB connector for your Android, Mac, or Windows device.

The headphone/jack mic port has a radical “telephone filter” eq baked in, so there is no way to get broadcast quality audio through it.  I’m not sure I could tell, maybe you can’t either, but we’re not the audio engineers and producers that will be receiving demos from these portable devices, and my money is that THEY can tell the difference.  I’d prefer to have that edge, but the you’ll have to ask yourself if the $110 price difference is worth it.

Check out the iRig Pre, and the iRig Pro.  Then take a hard look at your budget.

My thanks to Dan Tucek for the tip about iRig Pro.  He notes that the only drawback to the Pro is the lack of any headphone jack for monitoring on the device.

CourVO

FocusRite iTrack Solo

focusriteJust ricocheting a post from Alan Curry of PieHole that I thought had merit in case you didn’t see it.

Alan hails the new FocusRite iTrack Solo with the following comment on my Voice-Over Friends FaceBook Group: “…it’s never going to replace a properly equipped studio, nevertheless I’m impressed with it so far and can’t really fault it as a portable or temporary solution. Indeed, for certain projects like web video, on-hold & IVR, I’d even go so far as to deem it perfectly acceptable…”

Banking on the legendary FocusRite reputation, and selling at a reasonable $159 at online shops like Sweetwater, the FocusRite iTrack Solo is touted as being compatible with Mac, PC, iPhone and iPad.

From the website:  “…A supplied cable connects iTrack Solo to the iPad, and it is powered by the included USB cable that delivers the power necessary to run the iTrack’s high-specification components. If you are using iTrack Solo with a Mac or PC you don’t need to connect it to the mains, your computer will supply enough power via the USB cable….”

Here is the link to Alan’s SoundCloud audio sample using the iTrack Solo:  https://soundcloud.com/alancurry/ipad-itrack-solo-audio-sample/s-rZeD8

Thanks Alan!

CourVO

Studio Suit: Installed!

suitDan Lenard’s Studio Suit got its first install the other day.

Dan — The Home Studio Master — made the sojourn to Chicago in sub-zero temps to find his first victim, er, uh volunteer for the occasion.

I wrote about the Studio Suit just last week.  Dan wasn’t talking about it much ’cause he was wanting to get that first real-world application under his belt.  But I took the cue from his website, and so he shared with me some video he took of that install in a friend’s closet in Chicago…turning it from an echo chamber to a dead-space studio.

It only takes 3 minutes to watch this brief, instructive demonstration of the transformative power of the studio suit.  Be sure to slide the player control back ‘n’ forth to listen to the “before” and “after” sound.

Thanks, Dan!  Good luck with it!

YouTube Preview Image

CourVO

Under the Surface

In the exploding tablet wars, one new entry stands out…and it’s from a familiar name:  Microsoft.

The global computing giant made it’s fortune on software…not hardware.  The most serious hardware offering it had heretofore was a series of keyboards, mice, and webcams.

But with the almost simultaneous launch of it’s newest operating system – Windows 8 -  MS also released it’s first serious hardware/software device: the Microsoft Surface. (manufactured by Asus).

Ive had the chance to put this tablet through its paces.  As context, I also own an iPad, and an Android Tablet, and well…you know me…I’m a geek who gets off on this stuff, so I think I have a pretty fair foundation to comment.

In a word:  AWESOME.

In fact, our Manager of Digital Media here at the TV station — who is even more of a gadget guy than I am (if that’s possible), spent a half-hour with the Surface, and said he was sorry he bought the newest version of the iPad.  He was that impressed.

There are a TON of reviews of the Surface, so I won’t try to add to the chatter, but let me give you a few hilites from a voice-actor’s POV.

  • Incredibly crisp display: 10.6″ ClearType HD Display, 1366×768 pixels, 16:9 (widescreen), 5-point multi-touch.  The first thing you notice is that it’s “longer” than the iPad.  Of course, the screen automatically adjusts to a vertical or horizontal orientation, but in vertical…a LOT more copy fits on the screen…that’s good for use in your VO studio, as you read from the device.
  • Inputs/Outputs: Finally!  A USB port!  Works great.  The device immediately recognizes the input, meaning you can store stuff on an external USB thumb drive or a Terabyte external drive.  You can also run Surface apps from the USB device.  The Surface also has a mini-HDMI output slot, a micro-SDXC slot (accepts up to 64 Gig storage), and stereo speakers.  Completing the package:  rear/forward facing cameras (720p HD LifeCams), a headphone jack, magnetized power cable, and magnetized 3-prong touch keyboard connector.
  • It’s FAST!  Quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3, 2GB RAM.  Noticeably fast and smooth.
  • Extras:  Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass.  Nifty “touch” keyboard, and built-in stand, as well as a built-in SkyDrive connection.

Negatives:
No question the Achilles heel of this device is a deficient universe of available apps.  This is growing by the day, but some things you’d expect just aren’t there yet.  DropBox for one.  However, it does have the full Microsoft Office Suite as part of the package…and not just an evaluation copy:  Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.  Fully functional.  Also, since Microsoft owns Skype, the Surface has the most advanced version of this program…it’s a pleasure to use… and works flawlessly.

This tablet — like no other I’ve seen — approximates a laptop.  The touch keyboard even comes with a built-in mousepad, so you can touch the screen, or use the mouse.  Also, with one touch, you can get to what looks for all the world like a Win7 desktop screen.

One other note, sadly, is an absolute absence of any available (decent) recording or editing software (DAW).  There are some rudimentary voice-recording apps…but this void is a drawback for voice-actors using the Surface as a mobile recording device, and especially frustrating in light of the possibilities afforded by the external USB port.

Remember, though…anything you can call up on the internet, you can utilize as a web-app on the internet.  I have yet to explore those options.  Some downloadable Windows programs are not compatible with the ARM processor/Win8 OS available on the Surface.

Final word:  A delight for everyday use.  Perfect for browsing and use as a resource and reading device in  your studio, but a failure as a mobile recording device (so far).

CourVO

 

Geeky Christmas Buying Guide for VO’s

You can see the holiday shopping buzz building already.

If ever a price was going to be knocked-down on hardware items it’s between now and the end of the year.

Below is a brief collection of some stuff I’ve noticed in just the last day.  Tools like this can  make your VO  job easier, and even  more fun, but it’s gotta fit in the budget to make good on your ROI.

Skype Preview for Windows Phone 8  Yeah, yeah, I know…you love your iPhone, or your new Samsung Galaxy S III….but if you’re shopping for a new smartphone this year…you might want to consider the Windows Phone 8. Nokia is going full-tilt with Windows, and remember, Microsoft owns Skype now, so their new OS will bring the greatest functionality for this program.  I personally saw a demo of a Windows 8 Phone the other day and was duly impressed.

SweetWater’s new DEAL ZONE.  This restructuring of Sweetwater’s site claims to offer a new and improved way to find the gear you want with price drops, demos, B-Stocks and deals…over 1,500 according to this site.

Commun.it.  This Hootsuite-like social media interface has some nice little features…not the least of which is a daily report sent to your email that summarizes a lot of the Twitter and FaceBook metrics you should probably be watching.  Free to sign-up!

Wireless Wifi HD. Wireless streaming access to a batter-driven external Hard Drive for your laptop, Android tablet, iPad, or Smartphone.  Half a terabyte for $200.  Pocket-sized and portable.

WiFi w/ Built-In HD. This particular model from Netgear combines a Wireless Access Point with a built-in 2Terabyte HD that you can access from any device that connects to the internet.  Yes, that means you can back up virtually all your wifi-enabled devices to this monster hard drive, and do it wirelessly.  It also means you have a common access to all your files in one place easily accessible from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  I’m telling my wife to get me this for Christmas!!!

Microsoft Store.  The new Win8 is said to have the best handling of an audio signal yet.  See their official store for some of their latest offerings. (sorry, you knew I was a MS guy, didn’t you?)

CourVO

15+ Top Sites to Shop for VO Equipment

C’mon…admit it!  The thought of adding a new…er… something …to your audio chain holds a magic allure.  It may, in fact, actually improve your sound, but even if it doesn’t…the effect it has on your morale and attitude is worth the price, no?  Well, not always…so that’s why you have to shop smart.

One word of advice:  no matter which site you shop…ask for the same sales associate each time.  Make a relationship with them.  Get them to remember you and what your needs are.  Tell them about the VO business.  They just want to make a sale, and when they have special pricing on that Neumann TLM103 or Behringer mixer, they’ll remember you and call.

Most of them are very knowledgeable, too, and can make excellent comparative suggestions about similar equipment under different name brands. The audio interface I use most, was suggested to me by a SweetWater rep, and his advice was spot-on.  These people know their product lines, but they don’t always know what special considerations a voice actor has…so educate them, and the relationship will benefit you in the end.

Now, here’s my list of the top 15+ Audio Equipment sites:
I’ve narrowed this list to the best composite online sites, not those individual equipment companies with specified product lines — for a complete list, see my blogroll: Equipment/Supplies.  This list is alphabetical.

I’m sure I might’ve missed a site.  Please comment below with your favorite equipment site, and I’ll add it to the list.
CourVO