Zoom H5

ZoomH5-header

Zoom has always been a major player on the portable recorder scene. The Zoom H2 was a small, inexpensive recorder that did a remarkably good job of recording music and ambiences. The original Zoom H4 was the first affordable flash recorder with XLR mic inputs. Its successor, the Zoom H4n, has dominated the video documentary world, because of its flexibility and good-sounding built-in mics.

But competition had gotten tough, with the Tascam DR-40, DR-100mkII, and DR-60D making a direct assault on the Zoom H4n’s position. Zoom’s response was to make some significant design changes, and increase the capabilities of its new models.

Buy the Zoom H5 from Amazon

Buy the Zoom H5 from B&H

Buy a complete recording kit from B&H, featuring the Zoom H5, an Omnidirectional Condenser Mic, Headphones, Mic Cable, and Memory Card.

Zoom H5

Knobs

The Zoom H5 is a clear successor to the H4n, and it has some distinctive improvements. Most noticeable are the big knobs dedicated to controlling input volume. On earlier models, the up/down rocker switches for adjusting gain were always annoying, so it’s a great relief to see a more intuitive way to adjust the input levels. They work well: they’re smooth and quiet, and allow precise volume adjustments. They’re even protected from accidental bumping, or damage in transport, by metal bars. The only downside is that if you’re holding the recorder in your hand, it’s difficult to adjust the volume with that same hand; it usually takes a second hand to adjust those knobs.

Buttons

The next big change is the intuitive track-arming buttons across the top of the recorder. The L-R buttons put the built-in mics into record, while the 1 and 2 buttons do the same for the XLR/Quarter-inch combi jacks for external inputs. Switching between inputs used to be a chore, but can now be done quickly and easily from the top panel.

ZoomH5-left

Rocker Switches

The up/down rocker switch remains as a control for the headphone level, and while a knob would be preferable there too, that’s less of an annoyance. There’s a stereo minijack line out that can feed a video camera, or a backup audio recorder when doing those really important interviews. The level can be attenuated in 5 dB increments if the external device needs a mic level signal. That adjustment is made in a menu, which is not as smooth or flexible as the “camera-out” level knob on the Tascam DR-60D, but it gets the job done.

ZoomH5-right

There are still times you’ll need to dive into the menus, and navigating those still uses Zoom’s weird combination toggle-switch/button on the side, and yes, it’s still hard to press in to select an option without accidentally toggling one direction or the other, but at least the menus are simpler and easier to move through.

Zoom H5

Mics+

The built-in stereo mics have a new look too: they are suspended in shock mounts, and no longer twist to change their angle of pick-up. The shock mounting is a slight improvement over the previous design. Handling noise from the recorder body is still a problem, though a little less so, and vibrations that would be transmitted through a tripod or stand are reduced somewhat. The problem is that the shock mounts are not especially hardy; I managed to break one while carrying it around in a bag with other gear, as I’ve done with many other recorders with no ill effects. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to impact the sound quality, although I’m sure its isolating capabilities are reduced.

And finally, the H5 has added the capability first introduced in its big brother the H6: interchangeable mic capsules. The H5 is sold with the basic X/Y mics, and those will very likely remain the most popular option. But you can also buy additional mic attachments. The various mic modules can be removed by squeezing together two buttons on each module’s base, and are attched by simply pressing the new module into place. The standard X/Y stereo mics can be replaced with a mono shotgun mic, or a M/S Stereo mic, or with a module that adds two more XLR mic inputs. It’s a pretty clever system, and the connections feel secure and solid. It’s too early to say how well that interface will hold up over time, but then, I can’t imagine that you’d be changing those modules all that frequently.

The X/Y mic module also has a mini input jack that can be used for an external mic or line input. Plugging a cable into that jack diverts the signal flow to the minijack, and the built-in mics are disabled.

Zoom H5

The X/Y

The X/Y module is the best sounding, and most useful of the options. There are sound samples below that illustrate the situation: the alternate modules exhibit some additional background noise that’s not really noticeable with the X/Y mics. The M/S module is the worst offender, but the shotgun mic attachment has some whooshy background noise too. The shotgun attachment might be handy for quick run-and-gun interview situations, but will not sound as good as a decent external shotgun mic. In the sound sample, I say it’s not a “terrible” level of background noise, but I go back and forth about that: the background “whoosh” is pretty noticeable; the context of your recordings will reveal whether that’s a problem or not. If you’re recording conversational dialog in a quiet room, you’d be much better-off with an external shotgun mic. If you’re recording a loud news conference with lots of background ambience, you probably won’t notice it so much. The M/S Stereo attachment creates so much hissy noise that I can’t imagine how one would use it successfully.

Zoom H5

Comparisons

If you ignore those optional attachments and stick with the stock Zoom H5, you’ll find that it’s a very versatile, good sounding, and easy-to-use recorder. Paired with an external mic, in particular, a dynamic omni mic, it’s not quite as quiet as the Tascam DR-100mkII or DR-60D, or even its big brother, the Zoom H6, but the difference is not dramatic. The H5 performs much better with condenser mics, getting nice clean recordings from the external inputs. My initial impressions were influenced by the fact that there’s a bit of hiss on the headphone output, which is not all that unusual on small portable devices. The actual recordings are a bit cleaner than they seemed while monitoring through headphones.

The built-in X/Y mics sound very good too. I’ve never been a fan of using those kinds of mics for interviews; an external mic designed for voice recording usually offers several advantages. But the built-in stereo mics are excellent for recording the sounds of an event, for collecting ambience, or capturing musical performances.

The built-in X/Y mics are very wind sensitive, but Zoom provides a hefty foam wind cover that does a good job controlling low-level breezes and protecting from P-Pops if used to record voice. The foam is not secured to the recorder with anything other than friction, so be careful not to lose it when moving it around. The optional shotgun attachment comes with a furry windcover that is very effective, and also secures to the base of the attachment with elastic loops.

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – RE50 (external dynamic omnidirectional mic)

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-RE50”

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – Rode NTG2 (external shotgun mic)

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-NTG2”

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – Sennheiser K6/ME66 (external shotgun mic)

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-ME66”

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – Built-in Shotgun mic optional module

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-ShotgunModule”

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – Built-in M/S Stereo optional mic module

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-MS”

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – Built-in X/Y mic module: voice

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-XY-Voice”

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – Built-in X/Y Stereo mic module: music (spontaneous improvisation by Jeff Pearce and Michael Teager in a small stone church in Philadelphia, as concert set-up crew talks in the background. Recorded from approximately six feet away from each musician.)

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-XY-piano-sax”

Sound Sample: Zoom H5 – Built-in X/Y Stereo mic module: rain ambience

Download
Listen to “ZoomH5-XY-rain”

Four-Track Recording

The H5 maintains a very useful capability that was first introduced on the H4n: the ability to record from the internal mics and the external inputs at the same time, and save those recordings as two discrete stereo files, to be mixed together later. This allows you to use the built-in mics to record the live sound of a band, while taking a feed from the soundboard into the external line inputs. Or you could point the built-in mics at some vegetables being chopped, or a sizzling pan, while using the external mic inputs for a lavalier mic and a boom mic to better pick up a chef’s voice. Or you could point the built-in mics at an audience to record their reactions, while feeding a podium mic or table mic, or both, into the external mic inputs to record a lecturer or storyteller.

Or – if that level of complexity is dizzying – you can ignore the 4-track capability and simply use it with the built-in mics, or an external mic, and still be able to quickly switch between the two, even if you never use both at the same time.

BackUp

It also has a handy trick that allows you to record a backup file, reduced in volume by 12 dB. This can be very helpful if you’re confronting unpredictable levels, allowing you to record at a healthy level, and still have a lower-level backup in case a loud peak clips your main file. Other than the lower level, the backup file sounds the same as the original, with no loss in audio quality. There are a couple of significant limitations to this feature, the biggest being that it only works on the L-R inputs (the built-in mics.) This backup function cannot be used on the external XLR or line inputs. Also, the volume reduction is fixed at 12 dB. The Tascam DR-40, DR-60D and DR-70 can make backup recordings from any of the inputs (only two at a time, not in 4-track mode) and the gain reduction can be set at several user-defined increments. Still, it’s a nice thing to have available when recording from the built-in mics, although, of course, using this mode eats up twice as much disc space, because you’re making two separate recordings.

In multifile mode, you can even record only one external microphone as a mono file, saving disc space. Or you can link the external inputs 1 and 2 so that they always record as a stereo file. (In mutifile mode, press the 2 button while holding the 1 button, to link inputs 1 and 2. Do the same again to un-link.)

Evaluating Overall Design

The H5 is a little slimmer and more comfortable in the hand than the H4n or the H6, and it’s slightly smaller than the Tascam DR-100mkII as well. But it’s not quite pocketable either. The built-in mic module could be removed to make the recorder lighter and smaller, if one were only using external microphones, but you’d want to cover that socket where the mic modules go, and I don’t think there’s currently a secure cover made for that purpose.

The display is a decent size, and fairly easy to read when the backlight is on, except in very bright sunlight; with the backlight off (to save battery) it’s more of a challenge to see. However, that light can be set to stay on, or off, or on for varying lengths of time after any button push, and can be activated by flicking the menu selector. The screen shows you most vital information without toggling a display mode: in stop, it indicates remaining available record time, in record mode it can be set to show elapsed record time, or remain in “count down” mode.

ZoomH5-screen

Recordings can be made in “multifile mode” at 16- or 24-bit, 44.1 kHz or 48 khz, which is more than sufficient for most purposes. “Stereofile Mode” adds the 96 khz sample rate, but I find that to be overkill on a small recorder such as this. You can also record at many different MP3 resolutions, but I advise against recording directly to MP3 unless it’s absolutely necessary (or sound quality is not your main priority).

There are built-in compressors and limiters that can be adjusted in the menus, but they’re tricky to set correctly without creating audible artifacts of the processing, so I’d advise leaving them off, and making any adjustments in your computer at the mix stage.

As with most Zoom recorders, you can also use the H5 as an audio interface to your computer. There’s a menu setting that toggles between interface mode and data transfer mode. I usually just remove the SD card and use a card reader, but you can move the data directly from the H5 via a USB cable if you wish.

The H5 runs on two AA batteries, and battery life is widely variable, depending on your recording configuration. Using the built-in mics, recording WAV files, and not using headphones, you could get perhaps as many as 14 hours of record time, as mentioned in some literature. But if you’re using external mics, especially if they need phantom power, or multitracking, or recording to MP3, or keeping the display light on more than absolutely necessary, your battery life will be less. I think it’s always crucial to wear headphones, so that’s going to reduce battery life somewhat. Count on 3-4 hours in basic set-ups, less with multiple tracks and phantom power. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get longer life.


Overall, the Zoom H5 is a worthy upgrade to the H4n, with significant improvements on almost every front. The hardware gain knobs and improved track-arming scheme make it easier to use, the mic preamps are cleaner than before, and the shock-mounted mics make it (marginally) less sensitive to handling noise. It’s not quite as flexible in its capacity to feed audio to a DSLR or budget video camera as the Tascam DR-60D or DR-70, but it bests those recorders on the quality of its built-in mics (the DR-60D has none, the DR-70 has two basic omni mics.) The optional mic modules are a mixed bag: it’s nice to have the option to switch to an interview-friendly shotgun mic, but it’s noisy; M/S stereo is a versatile stereo mode that retains mono compatibility, but that module is almost unusably hissy.

I did not get a chance to test the module that substitutes two additional XLR combi jacks for the built-in mics, to allow the connection of two additional external mics or line-ins, but I can imagine that this could be handy for panel discussions and other multi-mic environments. (Note – this add-on module does not provide phantom power to condenser mics.)

The competition among field recorders for audio and video documentary use is fierce these days, and users have benefited from dropping prices and additional features on reasonably priced recorders. The Zoom H5 certainly can hold its own among this field. If you use built-in stereo mics often, the H5 might be preferable to similar Tascam recorders. But if you primarily use external mics, and feed the audio to a video camera, the Tascams offer some small advantages. The good news is that either option is much better sounding, easier to use, and cheaper than what was available only a few years ago.

Buy the Zoom H5 from Amazon

Buy the Zoom H5 from B&H

Buy a complete recording kit from B&H, featuring the Zoom H5, an Omnidirectional Condenser Mic, Headphones, Mic Cable, and Memory Card.

Jeff Towne

About
Jeff Towne

Jeff Towne has been producing radio programs since he was a teenager, back then with a portable Marantz cassette deck and a Teac four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, and now with digital recorders and computer workstations. After honing his broadcasting skills at high school and college radio stations, Jeff has spent over two decades as the producer of the nationally-syndicated radio program Echoes. At Echoes, he has done extensive recording of interviews and musical performances, produced documentary features, and prepared daily programs for satellite and internet distribution. As Transom.org's Tools Editor, Jeff has reviewed dozens of audio recorders, editing software, and microphones, and written guides for recording, editing and mixing audio for radio and the web. Jeff has also taught classes and presented talks on various aspects of audio production. When not tweaking audio files, Jeff can probably be found eating (and compulsively taking pictures) at that little restaurant with the unpronounceable name that you always wondered about.

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  • Jon

    1.06.15

    Reply

    Excellent review! Thank you as always, Jeff.

  • John-Michael Forman

    1.16.15

    Reply

    I’m going back and forth between this guy and the DR-100mrkii. I want a recorder that will give me the cleanest sound possible with a variety of mics (mostly directional), but I LOVE the idea of simultaneous recording. I will use it for some live instrument recording (as well as spoken voice), so the simultaneous feature is very alluring.

    • Jeff Towne

      1.16.15

      Reply

      Yeah, that’s a tough call… The sound quality with external mics is pretty similar, I might give a VERY slight edge to the Tascam, but they’re very close. But if you think you’ll use the external mics regularly, the Zoom’s built-in XY stereo mics are better-sounding than the Tascam’s built-ins. I prefer certain aspects of the Tascam’s controls (more switches, fewer trips into the menus) but if you want to do the 4-track recording thing, using both built-in and external mics (or line inputs) then the Zoom H5 wins. The good news is that both recorders sound pretty good, and not too different from one another, so you’ll have a good recorder in any case!

  • John-Michael Forman

    1.16.15

    Reply

    Jeff, thank you so much. I think that you helped me decide on the Zoom. If it’s a close call between the two as far as quality, the functionality of the Zoom wins out for me. Thanks!

  • Steven/Setty

    1.16.15

    Reply

    I got an H5 recently and I’m impressed. I love dials. Did an interview recently where the source raised and lowered his voice a lot, and having nice smooth, quiet dials to compensate for that was a joy.

    The build quality is sturdy. Definitely the best small recorder I’ve used.

    Also, I’m impressed with Zoom customer support. The one complaint I had at first was that it was hard to capture ambi and FX while doing an interview because the sound from the internal mics’ too easily drowned out the interview, making it harder to control my main external mic. I called and asked for help, and a customer service rep was able to explain very quickly and clearly how to lower the monitor volume on the internal mics without lowering it on the external mics. Pretty handy, and it speaks well to the company.

  • JW

    2.24.15

    Reply

    Hi!

    I’ve purchased the Zoom H5 recorder so that I can record words and phrases to a language learning program but I have a problem with background noise. How do you setup the microphone to get that clear loud sound without turning the volume knob to 10? Have you got any tips for me?

    Best regards,
    JW

  • Andrew Kamsky

    3.25.15

    Reply

    No chance to do overdubs layer by layer using only internal mics. Useless for musicians. And H6 have this lag too.

    • Dan W

      3.28.15

      Reply

      Andrew, wouldn’t you rather overdub on your DAW (computer)? If you got the basic 4 tracks down on the portable you could overdub using this as an audio interface through the computer. A change in workflow might get you where you want to be. Or, you might be happier with a dedicated multi-track recorder w/o microphones. Something like the TASCAM DR-70D or TASCAM DP-03SD 8-track Digital Portastudio might suit you better.

      • Andrew Kamsky

        4.13.15

        No way. Its strange to buy 400 $ recorder to use overdub feature only with PC. How about fan noise from it? Noise left on recordings.

    • jim

      8.14.15

      Reply

      not useless for musicians, all musicians own atleast one external mics and you can plug a guitar in this, it’s a scratch device for ideas demons, hooks melodies.

  • Angel

    4.01.15

    Reply

    Great review!!
    I have one question regarding to your audio tests..
    What was the setup when using the NTG2 and the ME66

    Distance, position, phantom power? Im very curious, sounds great!

  • Shane Dallas (The Travel Camel)

    4.10.15

    Reply

    Best voice examples I’ve found of the H5, especially important since my usage would be voice and not music. Loved the warmth of the XY. Excellent work, thank you Jeff.

  • Charan

    4.14.15

    Reply

    Blimey. I am really grateful for all of these reviews. After hours of reading I am about to purchase the H5.
    Thanks again. Completely invaluable.
    Charan.

  • Charles

    4.21.15

    Reply

    Great review. I just recently purchased the H5 with the purpose of recording our band live. I’m thinking our best option for live band recording is recording multi-track using two external mics in combo with the x/y onboard. I recorded a couple of tunes in stereo mode at rehearsal, it sounded great but the drums were too hot. In a live setting, would it not be better to place the H5 at the center and the two external mics to each side of the stage? Any recommendation for which brand of external mics to purchase for live band recording.

  • Guy

    5.05.15

    Reply

    Thanks a lot for your excellent reviews, Jeff, and I had the opportunity to visit some of the competing sites to judge about it!
    Being based in France, I have to translate into european offers, but basically same products are available here.
    I intend recording classical music inhouse and organ music in churches, and I sometimes use a pair of calrec condenser mics besides the internal mikes.
    Question: how does the internal mics compare on noise and distortion with the other recent competitor: Tascam 44WL, and also the DR-100mrkii which I suppose is better? As the SONY PCM D100 is too expensive, I thought this set has the best value for money, but it still is a difficult step to decide. Thanks for your help!

  • Erik Magnus

    5.24.15

    Reply

    Jeff, I notice a common theme running through all of the audio recorder reviews. The prosumer hand held audio recorder in question (Zoom, Tascam, Sony, etc) has some nice features BUT the mic preamps are too low quality/hissy to use standard Dynamic handheld interview mics, the gain controls are difficult to control, handling noise is a problem, not enough gain for some mics, the digital limiters sound bad, etc, etc.
    Yes, all these problems are present to lesser or greater degrees with inexpensive audio recorders. There is a simple solution to these problems. Use a portable field mixer in front of the recorder such as a Sound Devices Mixpre D around $900 or a PSC DV Promix 3 around $475.
    Just plug in what ever brand of audio recorder you have lying around through the 3.5mm mini jack connection, and presto! you now have professional quality mic preamps, fantastic limiters, smooth, quiet gain control, 48ph power and high quality headphone monitoring!
    Basic interview/documentary audio recording doesn’t change that much over the years: plug mic in, adjust level, push record, hit stop, repeat. The beauty of these analog field mixers is that you can probably use them for decades because they are built like tanks for pro use! Use your audio recorder purely as recording device, and let the field mixer do all the heavy lifting!
    Please do your readers a favor and review some of the small, portable field mixers on the market.
    I work as a production sound mixer recording dialog for movies and scripted television on location.

    • Jeff Towne

      10.16.15

      Reply

      Hi Erik, sorry it’s taken so long to respond, your comment somehow slipped-by unnoticed! Your scenario is definitely appealing on many levels: if you get a very high-quality front-end, with excellent mic preamps. limiters and metering, it’s true enough that you could record to almost any medium and get good results. Even a relatively cheap flash recorder will sound pretty good if you record the line-out of a high-quality mic preamp. The technology of the recorders does change a fair amount, it’s a fairly recent development that field recorders could record at 24-bit, 96khz (or above) or use very large memory cards. I’m sure there will be new formats; better, smaller, cheaper, faster storage devices; or maybe everything will be on our phones… But the fundamental technology of a good microphone preamp hasn’t changed hardly at all! So it’s certainly true that if you get a high-quality portable mic preamp or field mixer, you could use that front-end for a long time, connecting it to whatever the latest, or most practical, recording device might be.

      However! We haven’t tended to recommend that scenario for two reasons. For one, it’s rather expensive. Those reliably quiet, high-gain, high quality mic preamps, and their associated power sources and other electronics, cost some serious money. It’s absolutely worth spending that money if you can swing it, especially if you’re making critical, unrepeatable recordings, and earning money from them. But many Transom readers are just starting out, or working on a limited budget, and it’s just not possible to drop $900 on a preamp, or $2,000 on a recorder. So we tend to focus more on the good-enough stuff, that will get you close enough, without breaking the bank. That said, I would agree that a Sound Devices mic preamp, or a 702 recorder, will give you great results for many years, if you can afford it… And some of that gear can be used in other contexts, as an audio interface for a computer, etc.

      And regardless of price, it’s a bit of a pain to have several pieces of gear interconnected. It means more batteries, more cables, more indicators to keep an eye on, more space taken-up by multiple devices. Again – possibly worth it, but for many folks, the convenience of an all-in-one device will outweigh the difference in sound quality.

      So while I would agree that using a stand-alone mic preamp and/or field mixer is a good way to ensure quality recordings, especially with dynamic mics, it’s not practical, or appealing, to some recordists, who want. or need, to stay a little more streamlined!

      • Erik Magnus

        11.05.15

        Hi Jeff,

        Thanks for your reply, but I still respectfully disagree. First off, you don’t need a $2000. Sound Devices 702 (which is not a portable field mixer, its a recorder)

        Doing a quick internet search today, I find an AZDEN FMX-22 Portable Field Mixer for $279.00 (after rebate) with 2 XLR Mic inputs, 48 phantom power, 2 balanced XLR outputs, 1/8 TSR stereo line output, etc.
        A Rolls MX124 Portable 4-Channel Stereo Mixer for $150.00! Now yes, Rolls and AZDEN are not the same quality as a Sound Devices product, but for the intend use this is amazing added functionally for a very small investment.

        I own many of the small recorders, (Olympus LS-11, Tascam DR-40, Nagra Lino, etc). You can’t ignore the reality that they are all terrible to operate in a hand held mode! The little non analog digital gain buttons/wheels are virtually impossible to smoothly ride gain with. All of them pickup lots of handling noise because of course the built in mics have no shock mounting.

        Yes, a lot of Transom.org readers are amateurs, but they are coming to this site to “up their audio recording game” and I guarantee to you most of them would like to get paid for their work even if now its just a little hobby sound recording project they are presently creating.

        Why not explore this for the ones that want to improve their sound recordings?

        I think a significant portion of your readers would benefit and appreciate if you reviewed some of these inexpensive portable field mixers.

    • derrick L

      9.28.16

      Reply

      Hey Erik and Jeff,
      Came across your comment looking for answers. I actually have an H5N and a AZDEN FMX-22. I’m a noob, so please forgive me. So, on a shoot I would have my shotgun mic. My mic would hook xlr into my AZDEN, but then how I do I connect my AZDEN to my H5N? The H5N has a Line out, and a mic line on the XY stereo mics, and the AZDEN has a 1/8″ TRS Stereo Output. Any suggestions would be great.

      thanks,
      Derrick

  • william

    6.11.15

    Reply

    Does this have the ability to be mounted on a tripod or attached to a handle?

    • Jeff Towne

      10.16.15

      Reply

      Yes – like the vast majority of these small recorders – the H5 has a standard tripod mount on the bottom.

  • Yaroslav Bozhkov

    10.16.15

    Reply

    Many thanks Jeff! Great work! What do you think about preamp and noise Zoom H5 vs Zoom H6?

    • Jeff Towne

      10.16.15

      Reply

      The sound quality of the preamps seems pretty much the same between the H5 and H6, at least from just listening closely. We don’t tend to put the machines on a bench and look at specs too often, just because that doesn’t always correlate to how the machine sounds, and we’re more interested in how it sounds in the real world! And I think you’d have a hard time telling the H5 and H6 apart, if used with the same mics. The built-in mics on the two units are slightly different, and I’d give a small edge to the sound of the H6 built-in mics, but it’s not a huge contrast.

  • Katy

    11.01.15

    Reply

    I’ve never even touched a recorder or microphone before, so apologies in advance for what probably sound like simple questions to those of you who know what you’re doing.

    I am going to be doing short (5 minute) interviews for a local radio station and need good sound but I’ll be doing these interviews in people’s homes and maybe sometimes in public places (restaurants/bars). After reading what feels like a million reviews, I want to buy the H5 (in part because I prefer dials over buttons). I’m on a budget though and wondered if I could use the included xy microphones for my own voice and use Audio Technica AT 8010 on my subject? Also, do I need a stand (tripod?) for this recorder if I’m going to use it during the interviews? I don’t want to hand hold it because I don’t want it to get in the way of the conversation and I’m concerned about the sound quality if I just lay it on the table facing me. would a normal camera tripod work?

    Thanks!

    • Katy

      11.01.15

      Reply

      One other thing –I feel like I have a fairly sharp/piercing voice. Any suggestions on how to soften it or get a more warm/deep sound by using a different microphone? Keeping in mind -I would really love to only have to purchase one additional mic plus the recorder if that’s possible. Thanks again! Katy

    • Katy

      11.01.15

      Reply

      OK, nix that. I finally got antsy and just wanted to get moving. I bought a Zoom H5, a Shure SM 58, and a Studio Project B1 (hoping to deepen/soften my piercing voice). A few XLR cables and table top mic stands and I think I’m ready to go. Somebody please tell me this is an ok setup.

  • Doron Barness

    11.30.15

    Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    Just asking here because this is really a critical issue for me buying the H5 or H6.

    Can this thing record tracks while playback in monitored like jamming alone with several instruments using the x/y mics?
    I mean, if the x/y mics could record to channels 3/4 and then another x/y recording could be made onto channels 1/2, or vice versa.
    Just, if it is possible to use it as a regular 4-track or 6-track, where you could record using any input on any channel and then, while monitoring the playback, recording using any input on a non-recorded track. IF this is possible while looping the playback, it is even better.

    • Jeff Towne

      12.24.15

      Reply

      Hi Doron, sorry, didn’t mean to ignore your question, but what you’re imagining is just something I never try to do with those recorders, so I honestly just don’t know if what you’re proposing is possible! Or more to the point, if one recorder or another is better-suited. I honestly think you might be better off with something like the Zoom R8 or R16, which are built more for that overdub production thing. The H5 and H6 can do overdubs, but it’s not especially intuitive or easy to set up, especially for doing looped takes, etc… I’d look into a Zoom (or Tascam) portastudio-style machine, rather than a little handheld recorder. Good luck!

  • Michael

    12.24.15

    Reply

    I’d like to record my violin class and my practice sessions, especially when comparing different violins or playing with friends. I plan to use the built-in mics although I do have a AT2020 i use with my PC. I’m debating between this & the Sony PCM-M10. I think the H5 mics would be a bit better – better stereo image and less ambient noise, is that true? The Sony advantage is small size and it’s less intimidating. Any advice on choosing between these two?

    Thanks

    • Jeff Towne

      12.24.15

      Reply

      Either recorder could work, but in general I’d say that the Zoom H5 would be better for recording musical performances. It indeed will have a bit more distinct of a stereo image and be more focused on whatever you’re pointing it at. That said, the Sony M10 does surprisingly well at recording nice you-are-there stereo ambiences. Also – given that you have an AT 2020, you might want to go with the Zoom H5, because you could plug that in there if you wanted to. You can’t really use that mic with the Sony, because it needs phantom power, which the H5 can provide, but the Sony M10 cannot. For recording most musical performances, I’d probably stick with the Zoom H5 built-in mics, they excel at that kind of thing. But there could be times where you’d want to use an external mic instead. Or, perhaps even more important, the Zoom would let you use the built-ins AND an external mic (or two) at the same time. So I’d go Zoom in your case, even though I’m a big fan of the Sony.

      • Michael

        12.28.15

        Thanks for the reply. My only hesitation with the zoom is not the price, but rather the size. My teacher doesn’t mind me recording my lessons with my phone, and probably wouldn’t even notice the Sony instead of the phone, but the zoom could be a bit intimidating. Same for practicing with friends. Or when trying out a violin in a store, the Sony would go almost unnoticed but the zoom would be an attention-getter. I did more reading over the weekend and I’m actually kind of leaning towards the Sony. When you say it does “surprisingly well”, I’m thinking maybe that’s good enough. It’s a tough decision.

      • Michael

        2.05.16

        Thanks again for your feedback. I ended up going with the Sony. I have compared it to my AT2020 and I bought some cheap Behringer C2 cardioid mics, for recording my violin the sony sounds much better. I doubt I’d use external mics outside of the house, and at home I can use my notebook with my DAW. The sony is great.

  • Alan Barker

    12.28.15

    Reply

    Excellent review, my students have been using the H5 with very good results. A couple of tips/insights: The track indicator lights flash on clipping. I find these more accurate than the meter. The backlight and phantom powering don’t drain the batteries nearly as much as they did on the H4n and don’t need to be avoided. Leaving the backlight on gives you a good warning when the batteries are about to fail. It will turn itself off shortly before failure. The H5 is awkward to hold if you are booming at the same time – a neck strap makes that a lot easier. One of my students made an effective portable rig for the H5 with two wireless mics using the H5 on a neck strap and two Sennheiser G3 receivers clipped to his front pockets. The M/S Raw mode could have been brilliant for documentary work but the SSH-6 and probably the SGH-6 shotgun are near useless due to contact noise.

  • ed

    1.18.16

    Reply

    hello,,question about recording birds,nature,urban or cityscape sounds to house creeks thuds and thumps,mainly birds and nature,,capturing crickets,cicadas tropical birds singing,,foghorn and the surf pounding distant sounds,,will h5 or h6 do the trick with x/y minor shotgun sgh6 or ssh-6.be better? I was suggested h2n with a shotgun from azden 10. Most of you are more studio oriented and not so much the nature landscape side,real new at this ,using a sony 820 recorder.I recorded in the kitchen and was picking up the clock ticking,frog motors more so than the thuds I was after. I am ready to purchase now,just trying to figure out which one. Is it better to buy an me 66 senheiser with h5 or h6 or h2n with a nice mic like the me 66 or a cheaper shotgun will do better ??many questions…

  • Mx

    2.11.16

    Reply

    I’m curious what kind of mic you’d recommend for the H5 for interviews outside of the studio, in lieu of say, the dynamic omni RE50. It seems like that and other dynamic mics are not an option because of the H5 pre-amps and the limits on output. However, I’ve been checking out the dynamic omni RE50 N/D B, because its neodymium capsule boosts the output; I’m wondering if that’s enough to compensate? or should just shell out for an omni condenser mic like the Beyer MCE58? I’m probably also eventually going to buy a Rode NTG2 shotgun mic, but having the option of a dynamic mic I’d dedicate more to interviews seems appealing if I can make it work with the H5.

    • Jon

      2.17.16

      Reply

      Mx, I would shell out for a condenser mic. I have to crank up the gain on my H5 when I use an RE50 and the result is unwanted hiss. By contrast, the H5 sounds lovely with the Sennheiser MKE 600 with gain knobs between 5 and 6. Everybody raves about the NTG2, but every one I’ve ever used (all three of them) rattle where the XLR cable goes in, which has been a total dealbreaker for me since it shows up in recordings. No such problem with the Sennheiser. And though the NTG is pleasantly bass-ier than the Sennheiser, the Sennheiser is hotter and is therefore quieter with the H5 in my experience.

      • Mx

        3.07.16

        Hey Jon, thanks for your feedback. I’m wondering, are you talking about the RE-50b, or the RE-50N/D B? If the former, how high are you cranking the gain on the H5 to get acceptable levels?

      • Jeff Towne

        3.09.16

        Just a quick interjection: the N/D versions of Electrovoice mics do have a LITTLE bit hotter output than the standard models, but it’s not a huge difference.

  • Thomas Blankenhorn

    3.09.16

    Reply

    Based on this interesting review and its illuminating sound samples, the Zoom H5 really got my attention. But I have a question about its XLR connectors. When I look at your pictures of them, I’m not seeing any of those little latches that other recorders have to lock the microphone plugs in their place. (Marantz’s and Tascam’s XLR inputs do have them, for example.)

    So my question is this: How hard would it be to disconnect a microphone plug from the H5’s XLR socket by having someone trip over a cable? (Under Murphy’s law, after all, someone WILL trip over a cable eventually.) And what, if anything, can the user do about it? Would it be hard for a reasonably competent tinkerer to replace the built-in XLR connectors with variants that have latches?

    Thanks! Thomas.

    • Jeff Towne

      3.09.16

      Reply

      You’re right that the Zoom H5 does NOT have latches on the XLR connectors, and I agree that I like having them on most of the other recorders that I use. I’m not sure how practical it would be to try to replace them – I think it would be tricky, because as you can probably see from the photo above, there’s not much extra space in the Zoom’s case, and I would assume that locking connectors would be at least a little larger. And I’m not even sure whether you could get the existing connectors out without wrecking the case…

      For what it’s worth, the existing connectors are fairly snug, so a cable won’t disconnect by simply falling out, but a cable certainly could get pulled-out if someone tripped on a cable. But there are legitimate concerns about the wisdom of having locking connectors. Sure, you might not lose a connection if someone tripped over your cable when it was plugged into a locking socket, but that cable being violently pulled as a result of that trip could easily pull the recorder off of wherever it’s sitting, possibly damaging it or disconnecting it from other things it’s plugged into. There’s a reason that many laptop power cords have breakaway magnetic connectors now: it’s way worse to have the laptop yanked off the desk when someone trips on the cord, than it is to have the cord disconnect!

      Of course that’s different: the laptop can continue running without the power cord, but if an audio cable is pulled out, that might ruin the recording session. But rather than trying to retrofit the H5 with locking connectors, I’d probably try do devise some other ways of securing the cables. Perhaps make a small loop with the cable right where it attaches to the recorder, and taping the cable(s) to the back of the recorder with some sturdy gaffer tape. Or taping the cables to the floor, so nobody trips in the first place! Or both…

      Despite that rationalization, I do prefer latching connectors. But it’s still possible to get reliable work done without them!

      • Thomas Blankenhorn

        3.09.16

        Thanks Jeff, that was very helpful!

      • Thomas Blankenhorn

        3.09.16

        Jeff, I have another question about the H5. Following your link to Amazon, I see that one of the optional built-in mikes is an M/S stereo shotgun, the SSH-6. Have you played with it, by any chance? And if you have, what’s your opinion?

        Here’s the reason I ask: I am a big fan of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts (both of their music and of the way it sounds in their recordings). Word on the web has it that NPR records most of them in single-point stereo, using an M/S stereo shotgun microphone from Sennheiser, the MKH 418-S. At $1,800, this microphone is well outside my price range. But now I’m seeing Zoom’s built-in SSH-6, almost exactly an order of magnitude cheaper. And I’m wondering if the SSH-6 might work as an amateur-budget alternative to the MKH 418-S for recording small music ensembles in the style of the Tiny Desk concerts. From listening to your recordings here, the sound of Zoom’s optional mono shotgun makes me cautiously optimistic. On the other hand, the noise floor of their optional M/S omni makes me rather sceptical. What gives?

      • Jeff Towne

        3.10.16

        I’m sorry to say that I have NOT had a chance to try the SSH-6 mic attachment. So I don’t have any real-world experience to report, but you have the same misgivings that I do. On one had, it’s a cool idea, but both the shotgun and M/S capsules that I did test were pretty noisy. I wasn’t really happy with the noise floor of the shotgun attachment, but the M/S mic was REALLY bad! So… I don’t have anything definitive to say, not having tried the SSH-6, but let’s just say that I’m skeptical! You’re right about the NPR Tiny Desk Concerts: they are (usually) recorded with a single M/S stereo shotgun, and they sound great. But that particular mic is very nice, and of course, expensive. I don’t think you can expect a similar sound quality from this Zoom attachment. For recording musical performances, I’d actually recommend sticking with the standard X/Y mics. I think they sound terrific, especially for recording a scenario like the TinyDesk concerts presents. I think if you experiment with placement, you could get really great results with the X/Y mics. The main appeal of an M/S mic of any kind, but an M/S shotgun in particular, is the ability to adjust the Mid-Side ratio later, which will change the width of the stereo image, how much info from the sides, relative to directly in front of the mic. That can be very useful in some situations, especially when what you want is more of a mono shotgun sound with a little stereo ambience, rather than a wide stereo image. There’s no doubt that the sound of the Tiny Desk concerts is great, but it’s kind of surprising that they get such good results from a stereo M/S shotgun. I think that’s more of a testimony to the quality of that particular microphone than to that type of mic in general! So, again, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that you’ll get better results with the X/Y mics you already have. I promise to report back if I get a chance to try that SSH-6 attachment!

  • Thomas Blankenhorn

    3.10.16

    Reply

    Thanks again!

  • Wei

    3.18.16

    Reply

    “The built-in stereo mics have a new look too …”

    Zoom H5 doesn’t have any built-in mic at all. It comes with a XY Microphone Module which can be detached.

  • Jim Peterson

    3.23.16

    Reply

    Is it true you can’t record a passive bass into the h5 without a preamp? What about the h4n?

  • Jim

    3.24.16

    Reply

    Does the H5 have built in reverb like the H4n?

  • Dale

    5.27.16

    Reply

    I’m looking at a hard decision: Zoom H5 or Marantz PMD-661mkII. My use: video, dual system. Current setup: Tascam DR-60 + Sennheiser ME80. The Zoom seems to have much better battery life which is essential for me if I’m on the field. The Marantz seems to sound better, though I’ve read of some people having issues with the preamps and having to send their units back, and can’t afford to have it fail in the middle of a shoot.

    This (and the Marantz PMD-661mkIIon this site) are by far the best info I’ve found on the web, though I still have no clear winner.

    Anybody that knows both and can add some feedback to help in my selection, would be much appreciated.

    Cheers, and thanks so much for your reviews, Jeff.

    Cheers!

  • Andrew

    6.10.16

    Reply

    I’m in the process of switching my reporters to Zoom H5’s (from Marantz 660’s and 661’s.) My staff generally really likes the Zoom; the one issue that seems common is understanding the manual, which is not the most clear, when it comes to recording options along with the options for the folders where those audio files get recorded. Does anyone have a tip for a good source that does a better job of explaining this?

  • Alex Bourgeau

    7.20.16

    Reply

    I purchased a zoom h5 and it seems great…the 1/4 inch jack input is far too tight, and it breaks my jacks… 2 of them… once that happens it becomes useless. Not happy.

  • Matt

    11.13.16

    Reply

    Hi there – am a wildlife safari guide based in Southern Africa. I am interested in making recordings in two main areas (1) live voice recordings (2) wildlife recordings out in the field. The voice recordings seem fairly straightforward, but am keen to know the effectiveness of the H5 in outdoor situations whilst being worked by myself alone, as I do not have a crew (awkward with large beasties in the vicinity). I am looking to record animal and bird sounds as well as the ambient noises of rain, night calls etc. I have listened to your samples and they sound good to me. I am making a promo video for my safari business and will be collecting sound clips for additions into this and future projects. Am at the threshold of purchasing a unit and was advised the h4 (but seems out of date) so hence the H5 seems next obvious choice. I don’t wish to over purchase for my needs and maybe even the H1 would suffice – your advice would be appreciated. Many thanks – Matt

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