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Zoom H6

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Zoom H6

Postby awjoe » Sat May 14, 2016 11:27 pm

Having just bought and started using the Zoom H6, I thought I’d give it the thumbs up it deserves. If you want the full SOS review, it’s here:

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/nov13/a ... oom-h6.htm

I agree with pretty much everything Tom Flint had to say about the H6 in his review of it, but FWIW here’s a summary of my experience with it. I’m using it for recording my own music at home, recording in different rooms. My main concern was whether the H6 was going to be quiet enough, and I was pleased to find that it is. Aside from that, I’m pleased with how the unit works – it does what it says on the box. The only issues that I think are worth sharing are these:

* The meters. The meters stand a proud ½” tall, so it’s a bit difficult reading them easily enough to get precise with recording levels the first time in – to learn how to work levels, I had to record stuff and then transfer the files into my DAW to find out exactly what levels were like, and then go back to the H6 and tweak to get a better result – it was a matter of adjusting the gain knobs by an increment of about 1 to get it fine-tuned. I won’t need to do this as much in the future, because I’m learning how it works in practice.

* Positioning the Zoom unit in the room. I cable in my own mics for close mic work, but I want to use the zoom mics for room sound, so the problem is how to operate the unit and have it in the right place in the room. There are two ways: you can take the Zoom mic offboard using an extension cable (extra cost), or you can leave the mic on the unit and operate it by means of a cabled remote (extra cost). The latter option’s cheaper, and the one I went for.

* The H6 package comes with enough batteries to operate the unit, but no power adapter. This and the previous point mean that you may well, like me, have to budget for more than the cost of the basic unit.

Overall, I feel very positive about it so far.
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby awjoe » Sun Jun 12, 2016 11:09 pm

Second round. I still love this thing, but here are some things I've had to learn to work with.

* To navigate the menu, you have to toggle back and forth between the Menu button and the Scroll button. If, like me, you have three mic cables running into the unit, a power cable, a remote cable, a headphone cable, an earbud cable, and you're operating in low light conditions, you might do what I did last night - as I was going through the multiple button presses to get what I wanted on the menu, all upside down because of the ergonomics of the situation and difficult to see and difficult to work the controls, I inadvertently changed the level on Input 4 and the subsequent recording clipped on that track. Gotta be careful with that, in other words.

* The H6 saves its track to Folders which are built in - you select the folder and what you record goes there. If you're doing a lot of takes or different songs like I was last night, then it's really useful to organize your tracks into different folders. It's easy enough to select a different folder, but I found that after you've recorded to the folder of your choosing, the device defaults back to Folder 1 the next time you hit Record. I haven't found a way to defeat this behavior yet, but if the device doesn't stay in the folder most recently selected, then I think it's a design fault.

* I find it hard setting levels, again, purely because of the ergonomics of the situation. Because I've set up a kickass reflection filter behind the mics, and because the device is on the other side of it so that I can pick up room sound with the built in mics, I can't see the screen when I'm recording. So, the procedure becomes:

1 Ballpark the level from experience.

2 Record a take and check both the sound on earbuds and the levels on the H6 meters.

3 Tweak levels and repeat.

4 Swap the SD card out to the computer and import the files into my DAW where I can get a definitive idea about how good the levels are.

5 Swap the SD card back out to the H6 and tweak if necessary before doing any more takes.

* I can't use my Royer R-121 with it. Too much hiss. That's a pity, because I'm using two figure 8 mics to record with, and the Royer ribbon has much better side rejection than the condensers I've got.

Now, that sounds like nothing but griping, but I want to say I'm well pleased with this thing because, most importantly, it sounds good and it enables me to get what I want to get with it.
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Jun 13, 2016 9:45 am

I think Hugh's covered the preamp gain issue very well in another thread.

When using external mics in my H5, anything with a low output gets some form of preamplification these days.

Re mains powering... I've not checked if the H6 is different, but with the H5 I find the USB lead I use for transfers connected to a standard 'phone-charger' type mains plug (obviously with the requisite integral USB socket) works just fine...
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby awjoe » Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:05 am

Here's the H6 at work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oremFnbgO0#t=51

Bit of a follow-up. I still love the H6. Like I said above, I cable in the close mics and use the Zoom built-in room mic to capture the room sound. But I found something very interesting about the mid-side mic. There's a free download available from Zoom called the Zoom Mid-Side Decoder plugin, which enables you, if you install it on the track in your DAW, to adjust the relative gain of the mid and side mics on the track. It's magic, and very powerful.
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jan 15, 2017 3:31 pm

Presumably any mid-side processing plugin would work equally well?

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Re: Zoom H6

Postby awjoe » Sun Jan 15, 2017 5:52 pm

I guess so, but I'm not sure. When I do a mid-side recording usually, I record two mics to two separate mono tracks, then clone the side track, flip the polarity, pan the side tracks, and adjust levels to taste. But the Zoom records both the mid and side bits to one track. The plugin represents it visually as a polar pattern - boost the level of the mid signal, and it's polar pattern increases in size, and vice versa. Boost the level of the side signal, and the two wings of the bidirectional polar pattern increase in size, and you can hear the stereo image widen. I don't understand how that can be done with just one track. The Zoom website talks about the side part of the mic being 'bidirectional'. But how can you record a bidirectional signal and combine it with a mid signal, and put all that information on one stereo track? That's one of the reasons I called it magic. But it works, and it's fast. I'd love to know how it works, but in the meantime I'm enjoying using it.
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:44 pm

Hi awjoe!

The 'one track' is one dual-channel track (AKA a 'stereo' track - confusingly)... one channel contains the mid information and the other the unprocessed side information.

'Bidirectional' is simply the pick-up pattern of the side mic.

The processor is simply doing what you do manually, but in a way that keeps the extra stuff 'hidden'. So behind the scenes it's copying the side track, inverting the polarity of the appropriate side, panning the (now) two side elements left and right and then mixing in the side elements as you adjust the controls.

As Hugh says, there are numerous M/S processors available... I have a couple, but tend to do it the manual way on the rare occasions that I use M/S techniques.
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:52 pm

awjoe wrote: I don't understand how that can be done with just one track.

The one 'track' has to be a stereo track!

Stereo information needs two channels, and that information can be formatted on those two channels as either left-right or mid-side -- and converted (and processed) between the two formats as often as required without loss.

The Zoom website talks about the side part of the mic being 'bidirectional'.

Yes, the Side mic in an MS array is always a fig-8 mic, otherwise known as a bidirectional mic because of its two lobes.

But how can you record a bidirectional signal and combine it with a mid signal, and put all that information on one stereo track?

Easy. It's only two signals, the Mid, and the Side signal.

I'd love to know how it works, but in the meantime I'm enjoying using it.

The Mid mic faces forward and captures the whole sound stage, but with a focus on the centre thanks to its polar pattern (typically cardioid, but it can be anything you like).

The Side mic faces sideways and, as it always has a fig-8 polar pattern, it rejects the centre of the soundstage and picks up the edges or sides. Again because it is a fig-8 pattern, the right side is captured with the opposite polarity to the left side, and by convention the left side is the same polarity as the Mid mic.

MS decoding adds the mid and side signals to create the equivalent left channel (M+S=left), and subtracts them to create the equivalent right channel (M-S=right).

You can see how it works if you think about how the individual polar patterns of the two mics combine, and it's easiest if you start with a fig-8 pattern for the Mid mic. So we have a Mid fig-8 facing forwards, positive lobe at the front, and a Side fig-8 facing sideways, positive lobe at the left.

The decoded left output is mid plus side, so we add the two fig-8 patterns which creates a virtual fig-8 facing 45 degrees left, positive lobe at the front. The decoded right output is mid minus side which is most easily implemented as mid plus inverted-polarity side.
( M-S = M+[-S] )

Inverting the polarity of a fig-8 swaps the positive and negative lobes over, so in this case the positive lobe moves to the right. Thus adding the mid and inverted side mic now creates a virtual fig-8 facing 45 degrees right, positive lobe at the front.

In other words, a mid-side array with a fig-8 mid pattern decodes into a virtual XY array of fig-8s, otherwise known as a Blumlein array.

Changing the level of the side signal relative to the mid has the effect of altering the mutual angle of the equivalent left-right mics, and hence changes the perceived stereo width. No side signal at all leaves just the mid mic, and a (dual) mono signal. Over-egging the side signal widens the stereo image, eventually leaving a hole-in-the-middle and a rather phasey sound.

If the mid mic is a cardioid -- which is more typical in a practical application -- you can work out the decoded left-right equivalents by doing the same polar-pattern additions, but bearing in mind that a cardioid comprises fig-8 and omni components of equal sensitivity.

So for the M+S = left output, we have the two fig-8 patterns again, giving a 45 degree left fig-8, but that also adds with the cardioid's omni component, giving a resultant cardioid facing 45 degrees left... And likewise for the right channel, a cardioid facing 45 degrees right.

This time, however, changing the level of the Side mic not only changes the mutual angle, but also the polar pattern, as the relative proportions of fig-8 and omni components in the summed signals also vary, changing the pattern more towards hypo- or hyper-cardioid.

Hope that brings some clarity...

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Re: Zoom H6

Postby awjoe » Mon Jan 16, 2017 2:39 am

Mike Stranks wrote:Hi awjoe!

The 'one track' is one dual-channel track (AKA a 'stereo' track - confusingly)... one channel contains the mid information and the other the unprocessed side information.

'Bidirectional' is simply the pick-up pattern of the side mic.

The processor is simply doing what you do manually, but in a way that keeps the extra stuff 'hidden'. So behind the scenes it's copying the side track, inverting the polarity of the appropriate side, panning the (now) two side elements left and right and then mixing in the side elements as you adjust the controls.


Got it. I couldn't figure out how an apparent stereo track could come up with the information that three mono tracks contain when I do it the manual way. Thanks.
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby awjoe » Mon Jan 16, 2017 2:52 am

Hugh - Mike explained what the plugin's doing. You explained how mid-side works. Guess which one I understood. I'll pick it up eventually. It will seem normal. :mrgreen:

Thanks for the in-depth explanation. I hadn't heard of using a figure 8 for the mid mic.
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jan 16, 2017 11:27 am

Here are a couple of diagrams to illustrate the way the sum-and-difference matrixing (that you might create using duplicate panned Side channels and polarity inversions etc, or an all-in-one plug-in) work, but by thinking about how the polar patterns of the Mid and Side mics are combined in that matrix decode process to create 'virtual' left-right microphones.

This first example is with a fig-8 as the Mid mic:

MS decode fig 8s.png


And then with a cardioid as the Mid mic (remembering that a cardioid comprises equal fig-8 and omni components):

MS decode cardioids.png


Hopefully that will help with the comprehension of Mid-Side conversion

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Re: Zoom H6

Postby awjoe » Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:34 pm

Hugh: Okay, I've studied this and mulled it enough to start to understand it. I've got a question about a mid-side recording played back in mono, though. What happens to the left and right signals? Do they nullify each other, producing a drop in level for the instrument in the mix? Or does everything just collapse into mono with no level change?
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Re: Zoom H6

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:33 am

If you sum the decodede left and right outputs together to make mono you end up with just the original Mid mic signal. Whether the level changes or not compared to the original Mid mic signal depends on the exact design of the matrix. Hopefully it won't change at all.
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