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And now... the Zoom F6!

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And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Apr 09, 2019 11:03 pm

Another one where I knew Zoom were going to announce something of interest at NAB.... this is it - the F6:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGebCVb1CUM

Haven't had a chance to look at the video...

[Edit: I've now looked at the video... my brain hurts! :o ]
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Bob Bickerton » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:46 am

Records at 32bit floating...... Dual AD converters....... No gain options......????? Because it's not necessary!!!

My brain hurts as well.......

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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Apr 10, 2019 1:16 am

I've not yet had a chance to look into the F6 specifically, but it's not the first device to take this approach. Neumann do something similar with their digital mics to enable a much wider dynamic range than can be accommodated in any other way. It's an approach that overcomes the inherent noise floor limitations of analogue circuitry.

The idea of adjusting the preamp gain in a conventional system is to optimise the headroom and noise floor, making sure the wanted signal sits nicely somewhere in the middle. But it would be nice if you didn't have to adjust the gain and could just record the mic signal as it comes, without having to worry about keeping it above the analogue system noise floor, and below the clipping level.

The solution is to have two preamps, one with high gain for quiet signals, and another with low gain for loud signals, each feeding into their own A-D converter. The outputs of these two 24-bit A-Ds are then slotted into the 32-bit output word at different levels, so the high gain preamp might feed its quiet signal into bits 32-17, while the low gain preamp feeds its loud signal into bits 16-1, and in that way the combination spans a very wide dynamic range conversion with a very low noise floor and plenty of headroom -- and with the output digital word have an absolute calibrated fixed relationship to the input SPL (taking into account the mic sensitivity). And there's no need anymore to adjust the preamp gain.

It's really an extension of the facility already included in the F8 where a single input can be configured to feed two tracks simultaneously at different levels, except that the user has to then make decisions about when and how to use which converter output (the quiet or loud track), wheas the F6 effectively sorts that out for you.
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed Apr 10, 2019 3:42 am

The same basic idea was used with a pro mastering tape machine in the mid 60's. The 3M Dynatrack recorded the one channel to two tape tracks instead of one, with one at a higher level than the other. On playback, an "electronic switch" chose the best signal at any given moment.
https://www.historyofrecording.com/the- ... hines.html
Dolby A appeared very shortly afterwards and won the battle. It didnt require twice as much recording tape.

Of course this system in the F6 doesnt compensate for mics with more limited dynamic range. It just allows you to capture the full dynamic range of whichever mics are used.
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby miN2 » Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:52 am

I really like the sound of that. Sounds like something which would never get old.
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby The Elf » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:24 am

Clever stuff! Really hope this idea drops down to an H4/5 format.

Got to say that I don't understand that guy's explanation of the level knobs. If he's saying that they are output/monitoring level controls it makes sense, but he seems to be differentiating between 'gain' and 'fader'. which I don't grasp.
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:09 am

The Elf wrote:Clever stuff! Really hope this idea drops down to an H4/5 format.

Got to say that I don't understand that guy's explanation of the level knobs. If he's saying that they are output/monitoring level controls it makes sense, but he seems to be differentiating between 'gain' and 'fader'. which I don't grasp.

It's a concept definitely used with/for the F4 - can't say about the F8. It's the designation Zoom use in the F4 manual so I 'got' what he meant.

On the F4 the rotary pots have two functions... input gains and mix faders. You can toggle between the uses via the menu. Concept is that you set channel gains and then flip over to fader-mode where you can set up a stereo - or dual-channel mono - mix. The gains 'hold' their settings until you choose to flip back to that menu and adjust them. Ditto the faders.

In reality, because I'm working solo I've never used the fader function. Curtis (in the video) doesn't either.

Of course, with the F6 you don't need input gain controls.... !!
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby The Elf » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:22 am

Thanks, Mike. His explanation was a bit clumsy, but yours makes perfect sense!

Mike Stranks wrote:Of course, with the F6 you don't need input gain controls.... !!
That is going to take some sinking in! :headbang:

Wow! I can imagine this being something of a Holy Grail discovery moment for TV/location work. And I thought that the H5's 'safety margin' parallel recording was clever! Genius!
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:38 am

The Elf wrote:
Wow! I can imagine this being something of a Holy Grail discovery moment for TV/location work. And I thought that the H5's 'safety margin' parallel recording was clever! Genius!

The 'pro' sound people I know wouldn't be that bothered - and the F6 isn't aimed at them. * But it should be a help for those who are one-person-band people both shooting video and capturing sound or semi-pro or amateur sound people who don't have in-depth experience.

* That said, some recent day-time TV I've seen - well, I am retired! :lol: - has had appalling sound that I wouldn't be happy with on my puny video efforts - never mind mainstream TV. Distortion, clipping, wobbling levels... you name it. And that on progs that are using separate sound people!
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:39 am

The Elf wrote:Clever stuff! Really hope this idea drops down to an H4/5 format.

Not possible because it requires a radically different analogue front-end architecture.

Got to say that I don't understand that guy's explanation of the level knobs. If he's saying that they are output/monitoring level controls it makes sense, but he seems to be differentiating between 'gain' and 'fader'. which I don't grasp.

Again, I've not studied the tech of this new machine in any depth, but I think what he's basically saying is this: The thing records in a 32-bit float format. The mantissa of that file format contains the audio from the dual-converter set-up as described above. Audio is always kept well above the noise floor and well below clipping thanks to the dual preamp/converter setup, and has a massive dynamic range capability which exceeds that of any known mic (in others words, true 24-bit with 141dB dynamic range, say).

But the exponent part (the multiplier) of the 32-bit float file is set by the fader so that the user can record the desired level balance of different sources within the file. But even if the fader is turned all the way down, the actual audio from the dual-converters is still captured in full 'resolution' in the mantissa part of the file, so it can subsequently be set to any desired level in post-production by simply changing the exponent part of the float-file again (by normalising in a DAW or whatever).

Does that help with the concept? It's a completely different idea to the assignable control function that exists in previous Zoom (and other location recorders) where the rotary knob can be assigned to adjust the preamp gain or the mix fader, etc.

As I say, the actual practical details within the Zoom6 might be slightly different to those I've outlined, but that seems to be the gist of what he's saying conceptually, and it's been done like that elsewhere so it makes perfect sense (to me at least).

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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:47 am

Mike Stranks wrote:The 'pro' sound people I know wouldn't be that bothered...

Actually, I think they would. Being able to record anything without fear of noise or clipping is the holy grail! No need for limiters any more? No need to worry when the talent decides to shout a line in the take that they mumbled in rehearsals? No worry if you missed a fade? What's not to like?

And for 'da management' it means you can cut even more of the training budget because there's no need to worry about setting audio levels properly or fading things up and down at the right moment on location. It can all be done in post. All the 'sound person' has to do is get the mic in roughly the right place!

So yes, this is a big thing for the pro world especially!

Distortion, clipping, wobbling levels... you name it. And that on progs that are using separate sound people!

Sadly, 'separate sound people' are increasingly a distant memory, and even on those indie programmes that do claim to have a separate sound person, they are often actually just an 'assistant producer' or cheap apprentice. And picture editors are often not as skilled in sound mixing as they once were either! I've noticed a growing number of programmes that have clearly not passed through a dubbing stage, and where the picture editor has made a complete hash of balancing voice over and sync sound. :-(

T'wern't like that in my day... :cry:
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Wonks » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:54 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:T'wern't like that in my day... :cry:

But at least we have colour pictures now. ;)
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby The Korff » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:56 am

Moving pictures, no less!
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby The Elf » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:58 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
The Elf wrote:Clever stuff! Really hope this idea drops down to an H4/5 format.

Not possible because it requires a radically different analogue front-end architecture.
I meant a new H4/5-ish type machine with this technology - not that they could somehow implement it in the H4/5 specifically.
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:02 am

Picking-up on Hugh's thoughts...

OK; fair point in this 'pare it to the limit' world! :(

My comment was predicated on the point that the pro sound people I've chatted to - usually on location somewhere - were all using separate mixers. And the 'cheapest' gear I was seeing was upper-echelons Sound Devices! :) They were happy to talk, but it was clear that 'their' world was far removed from mine!

Maybe as deskilling and lack of craft experience creeps inexorably onward...
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby The Elf » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:06 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:But the exponent part (the multiplier) of the 32-bit float file is set by the fader so that the user can record the desired level balance of different sources within the file. But even if the fader is turned all the way down, the actual audio from the dual-converters is still captured in full 'resolution' in the mantissa part of the file, so it can subsequently be set to any desired level in post-production by simply changing the exponent part of the float-file again (by normalising in a DAW or whatever).

Does that help with the concept?
Sorry, no. I'm even more baffled now! Is it just a monitoring level, or is it doing something before the audio is recorded? I'm assuming the former. In which case, isn't it just an output volume control? :headbang:
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:06 am

The Elf wrote:I meant a new H4/5-ish type machine with this technology - not that they could somehow implement it in the H4/5 specifically.

Ah... yes... the front-end tech is complicated to get right, but not particularly expensive to implement (double that of a conventional input stage, roughly), so could be employed in a lower-cost and/or smaller channel-count machine fairly easily.

The challenge was making it work properly, but if Zoom has succeeded there (and it seems likely they have) then implementing the dual preamp/converter topology in other machines should be straightforward.

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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:08 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:T'wern't like that in my day... :cry:

Nor mine... Back in the early 70's the News crews for 'Points West' had four people: reporter, cameraman/director, soundman, lightsman.

These days more often than not for BBC local news the reporter does it all...

But I'm now engaging in forum-wandering - a common affliction! :lol:
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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:11 am

The Elf wrote:Sorry, no.

Bugger! ;)

Is it just a monitoring level, or is it doing something before the audio is recorded?

Think of the fader knob as a VCA fader, and the exponent part of the float file recording the VCA automation data! The actual audio content is always recorded in the mantissa, regardless of what you choose to do with the (VCA) fader.

Does that work for you?

The fader allows you to mix the input channels together to create a live stereo mix in the usual way, but your fader settings are also encoded into the individual (pre-fade) track files.

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Re: And now... the Zoom F6!

Postby The Elf » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:16 am

Maybe penny is falling...

That knob is an 'offset' (or multiplier?) to the mantissa, and that offset value is stored along with the data? (And can be changed to a different offset at any point later)
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