trying to convince myself to go for the zoom H5, but need advice

Discuss the Zoom H6, H5, H4, H4n, H2, H2n, and H1. Please don't "post and run". Participate in the discussion. Thanks.
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musicalman
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trying to convince myself to go for the zoom H5, but need advice

Post by musicalman » Thu Jul 28, 2016 6:09 am

Hi all, new member here. And a really long post ahead!
For the past few years I have been using my Zoom H1 for my recording needs, either since 2012 or 2013, I can't remember which. . The $99 I spent on it were, I feel, more than well-spent. However, within the past 6 months, I have had collective problems with it..... which to my recollection all started roughly at the same time (strange tapping and buzzing sounds going between the channels in some spots which weren't there before, headphone jack periodically cutting audio, loud crackling with internal microphones for no known or consistent reason that I can find), and so I've decided that it is now time to replace it.
So, I thought I should replace my H1 with another H1. Not a bad prospect. However, because of how these problems I had with it sort of creeped up on me with little warning and predictability and then rapidly became worse from there, I decided to look at my options to see if I could find something else to try. Something perhaps that was built a bit better, as the jacks on the H1 always felt a little unstable. The headphone jack always felt caved in and now as a result I have recently noticed it may be bent inside from heavy use and possibly accidentally pulling the plug a couple times. It always felt looseish when putting headphones in, and recently a point of abnormal resistance started showing up that I have to work through. Once in, I have to shove and hold the plug to a very specific angle just to get monitoring to stay active. The mic/line in jack, while not used as much as the headphones, was still used a lot. Yet it was always snug and tight fitting, and holds anything I put in it like a charm, even now. That inconsistency makes me a little nervous.
The one thing I would have to devote at least a marginal amount of thought to when considering a replacement would be its accessibility to someone who is visually impaired. I have no useful vision, so it is imperative that the equipment I use can do what I need it to do in a predictable way so that I eventually can do my own recordings, and only occasionally need the help of someone with vision to look at the screen in unusual circumstances. The H1 is easy to use even without being able to see it, the worst of problems I've had is knowing when my batteries are low or the SD is full... the sD problem is easily solved with my computer in between recordings and copying the files off the card, and a 32GB card helps too. The batteries are helped with careful battery rotation and use of a smart charger, since I have a strong dislike for non-rechargeables and inconveniencing someone to help me get them when I run out. besides I'd be wasting a lot of power because I like to replace the battery before each session to avoid taking unnecessary risks or changing batteries and disrupting a recording. I never know how long I'll be recording for when I start, I've gone up to 7 hours at a huge stretch, sometimes I'm too lazy to turn the recorder off so I relax and enjoy ambiance which I later can potentially use, or sometimes I'll be at a gathering longer than I expect, etc.
My best option, which considers my needs as someone with no vision, would be the olympus LS-14. It has a voice guidance feature which would actually speak to indicate most things, so I wouldn't have to learn the menu setup by heart. Also, I think if you use the batteries it comes with, you can charge them via USB, and never have to worry about fussing with battery chargers. The microphones on it sound fine, and the preamps are good too.
But then again, a lifelong friend of mine, who is also blind and recently needed to buy a recorder that he can use and rely on, went for the Zoom H5 because of its multitracking capability, which he says he will eventually make use of as a performing musician, using internals to record audience and line in for a direct capture from the line out of his setup. For the price, I think the H5 is one of the most rich and cheapest of its class. I'm not sure why he avoided the talking recorders. The way I see it, voice guidance features are literally life-changing for those like myself who almost need them. Problem is, Olympus is the only serious field recorder producer that has that feature, and I don't like limiting choice like that, using a common denominator that most people would find insignificant. I don't hold anything against Zoom for not having this aid, as a minority I can't expect to have my cake and eat it too. I've used non-speaking things before successfully so I wouldn't be totally lost if I had the H5, once I got acquainted. After a pretty taxing decision-making process, I think I'm going to go for it, and follow in my friend's footsteps. He's got on pretty well with it, I just talked to him about it the other day, and while he's still learning, I know we can help each other. I am also interested in the ability to replace the microphone heads on the H5, as I am by nature a pick and up and go, but also obsessive about quality type of person. If the mics are nice enough they will serve a great purpose for me, and it'll be one less cable to carry with me.
I've never had anything like the H5 before, I come from an H1 and Edirol R09-HR background. Both are two track recorders, both have minijack ins and outs. The H5 on the other hand has TRS and XLR, two things I have little exposure with since up until this point I have been mainly using USB audio devices or minijacks, and I want to move away from that since it limits the options of things I can get, or makes me have to fuss with adapters which I often lose. Plus I would be getting the option of using the XYH-6 capsules. I think they sound amazing for internals, if I don't need the XYH-5's shock mount or loud noise pickup.
I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I do have a few questions about the H5 and its mic heads, some of which are visual things I cannot see, others are sound questions. The two heads I am most interested in are the xY mics and an ms mic.
For the XY mics:
From what I have heard, the XYH-5 head has a stereo mic/line combo minijack on the actual microphone head, not the recorder. I would certainly use that for portability. Does the XYH-6 head also have this, and if it does, is it better than that on the XYH-5?
For the mid side mics:
I am a huge fan of a wide stereo image because I tend to record active things, so I want to capture a sense of space in my recordings, and from what I have heard the MS mics can do that well. I was considering getting one of the mid side mics, either the msh-6 or the ssh-6. I'm not well acquainted with MS recording, but I understand it at least a little, and I think I can work with it easily enough. The common elements between both channels are on the left, the difference in them is on the right. Why it works is something that still bends my brain in uncomfortable ways but that's why we have MS decoders that do what they do. From what I understand both the msh and ssh heads have a knob to adjust between the center and side balance for stereo mode, and at the leftmost position is raw mode which is meant for you to adjust and decode in post production?
The reason I am unsure of whether I like the msh or ssh is twofold. First, I've heard the msh and it's too noisy for me, I sometimes record outside and the noise floor can get unacceptibly loud and those situations, if the ssh is less noisy I will be more drawn to it. Plus it will have the benefit of focusing in on things a bit, which I will need in the situation I describe below.
I recently took an environmental sustainability course at college, and this course included a Costa Rica mini tour. For my own enjoyment and a reflection project for the class, I recorded basically the whole trip. Each student could do whatever they wanted for the reflection project so long as it was approved. I chose to edit my recordings and create a short documentary type of thing, as I am also an amateur composer, so this was just as much about recording sounds as it was about writing music to reflect my experience. Because I feel the H1 internals aren't spacious enough to get the vast sounds of nature I would be recording out there, I decided to use binaural mics, as they were the only other alternative I had. The mic decision was on reflection actually a big mistake, as I'm sure any field recorddist would tell you. My intentions were to mix the recordings with the music, yeah I knew it would sound weird since most stereo media has audio of interest in mono with ambiance and music in stereo... but that aside, the main problem was I couldn't focus in on our tour guide, and the mics I was using were virtually unshielded from wind. Any time the wind would blow in my face, even a little bit, it would destroy the recording. So it required me to duck the music down about 5-10 db more than I would like just to hear the tour guide over the wind and other noise. The H5 could help a lot with that, you could use a stereo mic, preferably one that's wind shielded, along with a shotgun too and mix them in post. But I feel I have to work up to that first, I'm still getting used to the prospect of stepping past the 2-track recording I'm used to. Perhaps the ssh would've been the cheap way of doing it better, with its windscreen and ability to focus in, but still have a spacious though not binaurel image with the side mic. My only concerns with the ssh are noise floor of the capsules as compared to the msh, and also ability to just record ambiance with the presence of a shotgun mic. Because when the tour guide isn't speaking I would've wanted just general background, not a weirdly jumpy centralized image when decoding to stereo because of the shotgun's sensitivity and things that just happen to go in its narrow field and then back out. From my understanding you do need a center mic in ms for it to work, otherwise you get weird stereo image things. I also have heard the shotgun isn't all that sensitive, it's not a professional grade discriminant so perhaps that's why it works with a mid side setup. which for my starter needs with this stuff *might* be enough. Am I thinking rationally and on the right track here?
Apologies for the long rant and 500 questions and ideas, I'm borderline OCd when it comes to this stuff and so I want to settle every conceivable uncertainty that only audio people care about before I go for it...
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
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Fran Guidry
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Re: trying to convince myself to go for the zoom H5, but need advice

Post by Fran Guidry » Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:03 pm

musicalman wrote:...
For the XY mics:
From what I have heard, the XYH-5 head has a stereo mic/line combo minijack on the actual microphone head, not the recorder. I would certainly use that for portability. Does the XYH-6 head also have this, and if it does, is it better than that on the XYH-5?
Yes, the XYH-6 has the minijack input. I know of no difference between the two XY mic capsules.
For the mid side mics:
I am a huge fan of a wide stereo image because I tend to record active things, so I want to capture a sense of space in my recordings, and from what I have heard the MS mics can do that well. I was considering getting one of the mid side mics, either the msh-6 or the ssh-6. I'm not well acquainted with MS recording, but I understand it at least a little, and I think I can work with it easily enough. The common elements between both channels are on the left, the difference in them is on the right. Why it works is something that still bends my brain in uncomfortable ways but that's why we have MS decoders that do what they do. From what I understand both the msh and ssh heads have a knob to adjust between the center and side balance for stereo mode, and at the leftmost position is raw mode which is meant for you to adjust and decode in post production?
The reason I am unsure of whether I like the msh or ssh is twofold. First, I've heard the msh and it's too noisy for me, I sometimes record outside and the noise floor can get unacceptibly loud and those situations, if the ssh is less noisy I will be more drawn to it. Plus it will have the benefit of focusing in on things a bit, which I will need in the situation I describe below.
I was unimpressed by my tests with the MSH-6 due to the noise introduced by the side mics. If you widen the stereo image by increasing the level of the side mics you will increase this self-noise.

The MSH-6 does not have a control for adjusting the level of the side mics. This is done using the menu paddle on the side of the recorder.

I'm not sure how you are relating outside recording, self-noise, and noise floor. Noisy surroundings actually mask self-noise and make it less noticeable.

One thing to understand is that any recording made with the XY module can be adjusted for width in post-production by using a mid-side encoder, adjusting the side level, then applying the mid-side decoder to create the adjusted stereo file.
I recently took an environmental sustainability course at college, and this course included a Costa Rica mini tour. For my own enjoyment and a reflection project for the class, I recorded basically the whole trip. Each student could do whatever they wanted for the reflection project so long as it was approved. I chose to edit my recordings and create a short documentary type of thing, as I am also an amateur composer, so this was just as much about recording sounds as it was about writing music to reflect my experience. Because I feel the H1 internals aren't spacious enough to get the vast sounds of nature I would be recording out there, I decided to use binaural mics, as they were the only other alternative I had. The mic decision was on reflection actually a big mistake, as I'm sure any field recorddist would tell you. My intentions were to mix the recordings with the music, yeah I knew it would sound weird since most stereo media has audio of interest in mono with ambiance and music in stereo... but that aside, the main problem was I couldn't focus in on our tour guide, and the mics I was using were virtually unshielded from wind. Any time the wind would blow in my face, even a little bit, it would destroy the recording. So it required me to duck the music down about 5-10 db more than I would like just to hear the tour guide over the wind and other noise. The H5 could help a lot with that, you could use a stereo mic, preferably one that's wind shielded, along with a shotgun too and mix them in post. But I feel I have to work up to that first, I'm still getting used to the prospect of stepping past the 2-track recording I'm used to. Perhaps the ssh would've been the cheap way of doing it better, with its windscreen and ability to focus in, but still have a spacious though not binaurel image with the side mic. My only concerns with the ssh are noise floor of the capsules as compared to the msh, and also ability to just record ambiance with the presence of a shotgun mic. Because when the tour guide isn't speaking I would've wanted just general background, not a weirdly jumpy centralized image when decoding to stereo because of the shotgun's sensitivity and things that just happen to go in its narrow field and then back out. From my understanding you do need a center mic in ms for it to work, otherwise you get weird stereo image things. I also have heard the shotgun isn't all that sensitive, it's not a professional grade discriminant so perhaps that's why it works with a mid side setup. which for my starter needs with this stuff *might* be enough. Am I thinking rationally and on the right track here?
Apologies for the long rant and 500 questions and ideas, I'm borderline OCd when it comes to this stuff and so I want to settle every conceivable uncertainty that only audio people care about before I go for it...
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Sorry, I have no experience with the Zoom shotgun capsules.

Fran
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Re: trying to convince myself to go for the zoom H5, but need advice

Post by greenA2 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 1:47 am

Fran Guidry wrote:
Yes, the XYH-6 has the minijack input. I know of no difference between the two XY mic capsules.
In XYH-6, the angle of the two mics can be changed from 90 degrees to 120 degrees for wider stereo. XYH-5 is shock mounted, but that also exposes the cable carrying the mic signal.
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musicalman
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Re: trying to convince myself to go for the zoom H5, but need advice

Post by musicalman » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:42 am

Thanks for your responses!
Fran Guidry wrote: I'm not sure how you are relating outside recording, self-noise, and noise floor. Noisy surroundings actually mask self-noise and make it less noticeable.
I am very likely misusing those terms. What I mean by outside noise is perhaps most obvious, and refers to background noise outside. When I record I try to do it in spots where there is quiet if I can. Therefore, self-noise, or noise floor as I sometimes called it, needs to be as low as I can get it. For most situations I know a lot of it would be masked by sounds around me, but there are times when I've run into problems with some setups,, so I always am on the lookout for it. Again I am probably not as clear as I should be with the usage of those terms, sorry for the ambiguity.
One thing to understand is that any recording made with the XY module can be adjusted for width in post-production by using a mid-side encoder, adjusting the side level, then applying the mid-side decoder to create the adjusted stereo file.
I knew about this trick for the XY mics, though it slipped my mind for the longest time. Thanks for reminding me. I've used it with limited success on some H1 recordings, though I had to be careful as the image would get too wide and the center components would be emphasized in a strange way. IMHO it didn't create the illusion of a bigger sense of space, instead it felt like it pushed stuff against the sides of whatever space was there. Used in moderation though it does make things sound better.
I was unimpressed by my tests with the MSH-6 due to the noise introduced by the side mics. If you widen the stereo image by increasing the level of the side mics you will increase this self-noise.
What drew me to the MS was that I could almost hear the sound reflecting off the individual walls of some of the recordings I heard. When the guy moved to another side of the room I could hear where he was in relation to the whole space. I wouldn't describe it as a 3d effect, just a presence I was missing in my recordings. Maybe it was placebo, I don't know, but I still liked it and I continue to notice at least marginal improvements when I hear the image of the mic.
However the fact that you are not impressed does not surprise me. I too am not impressed with its self-noise. Therefore I was asking if the SSH would be a better capsule. The SSH uses something similar to the sgh shotgun for the mid mic, and something similar to the msh side mics. Zoom claims it to be the best of both worlds then, and for me it certainly would be, as I would make good use of both if it really does work. But because of my concerns with excessive self-noise I am trying to exercise very careful judgment. There are few informative demos of the SSH that I can find, only one ended up being useful, and I couldn't make much of it since I knew little about the setup used. My first impressions were that the self-noise wasn't bad, but the recording was made with an intrusive fan running so you couldn't get a level of quiet performance. I'm reserving judgment until I either get a better idea of it or risk it and purchase one.
GreenA2 wrote: In XYH-6, the angle of the two mics can be changed from 90 degrees to 120 degrees for wider stereo.
I am aware of this, and that is why I am definitely not taking that off my list, I've heard a comparison of the XYH-6 to the XYH-5 that instantly sold me for what I wanted the XYH-6 to be able to do. I'll really not have a good handle on the strengths and weaknesses of each until I have them both side-by-side, but I am pretty set on having both. I think the XYH-6 will be the one I use most often.
With all of this said I know it isn't worth getting too excited about the ssh, but I like to have options. Just trying to decide if this option will fall flat or not.
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coolyota
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Re: trying to convince myself to go for the zoom H5, but need advice

Post by coolyota » Sat Sep 10, 2016 6:17 pm

Therefore I was asking if the SSH would be a better capsule. The SSH uses something similar to the sgh shotgun for the mid mic, and something similar to the msh side mics. Zoom claims it to be the best of both worlds then, and for me it certainly would be, as I would make good use of both if it really does work. But because of my concerns with excessive self-noise I am trying to exercise very careful judgment.
Hi Musicalman, I have recently purchased SSH-6 and wondering what's your experience with the shotgun capsule?

In my experience it is less than perfect, self-noise is loud. Wondering if I have a faulty unit.
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Re: trying to convince myself to go for the zoom H5, but need advice

Post by Kites » Mon Jun 26, 2017 1:54 am

Hey guys, I was searching the forums for peoples experience with headphone noise coming from the H5s or any of the handhelds. My apoligies, but I could catch and specific talk about it the posts hear. Nor did I find users comparisons of auditioning or A/Bing their recording on different systems - I read a few reviews on the noisey headphone amps on the handhelds but almost compltey forgot about it till the last few days.

Anyways I've been trying to rig up an external field mixer, (Shure FP33, can't afford most if any of Sound Device's mixers) and I thought I was getting a lot of noise, but when I ran my recordings through my studio monitors and DAW the noise floor was significantly different than the headphone outs on the H5. So for the last month I've been recording low level audio because of the poor head amps.

Just tried a 3.5mm in-line noise filter with my headphones and H5 - all is good. I now Zoom mic capsules are noisy, but wanted to make sure people were aware of the noisey head amps too.
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