Inside The Studio 024: Zoom H6

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Linux for Podcasting
Linux is a great open source and free operating system. For the third week of the Podcasting for free challenge I was supposed to use only Linux to create a full podcast episode. Did that happen? No. Linux has its pros and cons. It’s good at certain things and bad at others.

Pros:
It is of course an open source and free platform. As a result there are large communities creating their own distributions of Linux. Some of the most popular distributions are Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora and Debian. There are all different operating systems but based on the same Linux kernel.

There are some tools on Linux that work great. Video editors are an example of that. There are quite a few video editors available on Linux now and they work great. PiTiVi is one of my personal favourite but Lightworks and others are available too.

Linux is also very flexible. You can use it to simply automate certain tasks or write your own programs for it. You can do whatever you like with it without having to worry about developer tool costs and submitting your apps to the app store.

There are also no viruses on Linux. Linux is widely known as the hackers operating system. Hackers use it so that they cannot get their own viruses.

Cons:
From the research that I did there is very limited software for live video recording. I did find one program, Webcam Studio but the interface was poor, features were limited and it did not run well. It’s unfortunate but Linux just isn’t designed to do these sort of tasks.

Another problem that I faced was limited audio and video device support. While most of the webcams I have work with Linux there is no manual control options. Few audio devices work too.

The biggest problem with Linux is its overall interface. Recent distributions of Linux have been becoming more and more user friendly. Distro’s such as Ubuntu now have their own app stores. However, you’re still going to end up in terminal if you want to use the OS to its fullest capabilities.

So can I use Linux in my Podcast?
If you have a website the chances are that you are already using Linux. Nearly all web hosting servers use an OS called centOS which is a distribution of Linux.

I am working on a project right now that uses centOS as its core. I am nearly finished the project and I will hopefully talk about it on next weeks show.

Domain and Website Hosting
Since I started Talks About Tech in 2011 I have used Godaddy for both my website domain and hosting. Last week I decided to move them over to different providers.

I moved my domain name over to hover.com. I have heard some great things about hover. It cost me $35 for the year with 5 email forwards. I’m really happy with hover. There were simple instructions on how to move my domain from Godaddy to Hover and the transfer began immediately.

I decided to move my hosting over to Bluehost.com. So why didn’t I get hosting and domain with hover? If hover shut down then both my hosting and domain would be gone. However, if I have them hosted by separate companies then it is much safer. I also heard great things about Bluehost but I had heard that transferring a WordPress site is quite difficult. It was. I took me the best part of two days to get everything set up and working. Here is an overview of the steps that I took to help you:

1. I copied my wp-content folder on my old server to my local computer using FTP.
2. I copied my WordPress database from my dropbox account where my weekly site backups are stored. You should be backing up your site every week but if you aren’t I recommend the BackWPup plugin.
3. I logged in to my new server C-panel and installed a new WordPress install.
4. I replaced the newly generated wp-content folder on my new server with the one from my website.
5. I went into phpMyAdmin from my bluehost C-Panel and navigated to the SQL database generated for the new WordPress install. I then went to the import tab and imported the database from my website.
6. I then forwarded my domain name to the new Bluehost server and everything was transferred.

I am paying $6.95 per month for a year which is a very good deal. There is unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth but that does not include media files.

Zoom H6 Audio Recorder
Zoom are famous for their great range of audio recorders. Their latest top of the range audio recorder is the H6 and this is an incredible recorder!

Zoom H6Where should I start? The H6 has 4 XLR 1/4 combo inputs built into it. Each of the inputs also has a dedicated gain knob and 12V, 24V or 48V phantom power. There is also a slot for different microphone capsules on the top. It comes with a standard X/Y stereo mic but you can put a mid-side mic, shotgun mic or even a capsule that adds two extra XLR 1/4 combo inputs for up to 6 inputs!

There is a line out to go into a mixer or any other line in device, a headphone out for real time monitoring and a USB port which can be used to transfer recorded files to a computer or for the device to be used as an audio interface.

The clear angled display is perfect for monitoring audio levels with the VU meter. There are built-in Compressor/Limiter features as well as other effects.

Some of the coolest features on the H6 are the Pre-Record, Backup-Record and Auto-Record features.

When pre-record is on the device is always recording from the moment you turn it on. Then, when you press the record button it saves two seconds before you start recording just in case you pressed the record button a little bit late.

Backup-record is my favourite. When you start recording with backup-record enabled another recording will be recorded simultaneously with 12db less gain so if you set the levels a little hot no worries because the backup recording won’t be affected.

Auto-record allows you to set an audio level. When the volume goes over that audio level then the H6 will start recording automatically.

The H6 takes 4 AA batteries and has over 20 hours battery life. It can take SD cards of up to 128GB and it can record six tracks of audio simultaneously. It records to MP3 or WAV and it is available on Amazon now for £329.

12 comments
mrut
mrut

 @talksabouttech@JohnnyRosenbergThank you very much for your answers to my question. Being able to play back a track or tracks and record a new track with them made the H4n a composer's or arranger's friend. I hope that a review of the H6 would show how it is done in the new model. The effects--well, most of them were not so great on the H4n, but the concert hall was a good effect. Once again, the purpose to which I put the Zoom is quick draft-style arrangement, not to produce a studio-quality finished recording. Dry-recording and adding effects with another piece of equipment gives a much higher quality sound, but the H4n has been an inexpensive but quite nice-sounding composing tool. Thank you, once again, for your answers.

Michael McAndreww
Michael McAndreww moderator

@mrut Sorry I couldn't be of much help. There seems to be very little information out there about the H6. I'm going to try to get a unit for review so that I can try it out for myself and answer your questions.

Michael McAndreww
Michael McAndreww moderator

I hope this helps you. So as far as I understand MTR mode allows you to record multiple tracks at the same time. In the H6 you can record up to 6 tracks at a time but it is not called MTR mode. As for effects and reverb presets I am not sure. I know that there are presets for compression but maybe @JohnnyRosenberg might be able to answer the question better as he actually has a H6. Thank you very much for your question.

mrut
mrut

Do you know if the Zoom H6 has an MTR mode like the H4n? Additionally, can one preset it for effects and reverb as is possible for the H4n? I figured you all would know. Thank you.

Michael McAndreww
Michael McAndreww moderator

Thank you very much for the information. Sorry I wasn't of much help to you. Do you mind if I mention that information on the next episode of the podcast? I'm sure other people will be interested in that information too as there is very little on the web about the H6 yet. Thanks again.

JohnnyRosenberg
JohnnyRosenberg

I have actually bought a H6 now, today as a matter of fact… I didn't do any deeper tests, but Audacity recognised the H6 inputs, but I couldn't make them work. I didn't put too much effort in trying though, since I don't need that function anyway.

One was better with H4n though, even if it didn't fulfil my needs:

With a H4n connected to my PC (with Ubuntu 12.04, but that doesn't matter) I could put WAV-files there created elsewhere. In MTR mode in the H4n, I could then select that WAV for playback and record on the rest of the tracks available. This is the most commonly used feature by me. Unfortunately those WAV files need to be 16-bit with the H4n.

What I usually do, is that I record most stuff on my Roland VS-2480, which is a 24-channel recording device with built in mixer, effects, motorised faders and a lot more. It's old now (2001) but it still does its work pretty well. Sometimes, especially when doing acoustic stuff or when recording maybe outdoors or at someone else's place, I need something smaller and quieter, so I export a pre-mixed track to WAV format (usually 24-bit) and copy it to the H4n. As I said, the H4n doesn't support 24 bits in MTR mode, so I need to convert it to 16-bit first.

Then I add the stuff I need and copy those new WAV files (16-bit, unfortunately) to the Roland VS-2480 and continue there with mixing and so on.

Well, the reason, or at least one of the reasons, that I bought the H6 was that it supports 24-bit in multitrack mode! Unfortunately there is no ”MTR mode”, like H4n, so I can't just copy an external WAV file to it and use it for recording additional recordings. If I add a file to the project folder, the H6 doesn't find it and it doesn't bother to let me assign it to a channel or a channel pair. So how to get around this?

Well, what I did, was that I recorded a few seconds with the internal microphones. Then connected the H6 to my PC and found the folder. I copied my external WAV file to the same folder, removed the short WAV file I just recorded, then changed the name of the new (external) WAV-file to the name of that one I just removed (something like ZOOM0001-LR.WAV). This actually worked! That was very fortunate, because otherwise I would go right back with it where I bought it, first thing tomorrow, because then the H6 would be very unnecessary for me. Everything else I need to do, I can do with the H4n…

I like the new battery cover though. The H4n battery cover breaks when you look at it for too long…

So, so far I'm quite happy with the H6. It does what I need it to do, but I just need to get used to the recording procedure, when listening to some tracks and recording on other tracks.

Michael McAndreww
Michael McAndreww moderator

I have not had any personal experience with the H6 so I don't know. I do know that the H6 is very similar to the h4n so it should work but they might have changed something on it to prevent use on Ubuntu. Unfortunately the H6 is brand new on the market so there isn't very much information on it yet. If I find out any information that might help you I'll let you know in the comments. Thanks very much for the question.

JohnnyRosenberg
JohnnyRosenberg

Just a question about that H6 recorder. I have the old H4n myself, and when plugging it in as an audio interface to my computer (with Ubuntu 12.04), it just works out of the box. No drivers needed. Can I expect the same thing to happen with the H6?

JohnnyRosenberg
JohnnyRosenberg

@mrut You're welcome.

I was looking around at Zoom's site and those who want a small multitrack unit (with no built in, reasonable quality, microphones, though) that can record and playback a lot of tracks simultaneously and that contains a lot of effects and a mixer, should maybe take a look at the R-24. 8 XLR inputs, 24 channel playback, I think you can run it with batteries too. It's not as ”handy” as the H6 or H4n, but it's a lot handier than my old Roland VS-2480. Compared to the VS-2480, the R-24 lacks motorised faders and a lot more, though. I just thought that the R-24 was worth mentioning, since it costs only slightly more than the H6. When I bought the Roland VS-2480 I paid 42 000 SEK. I can get something like 12 Zoom H6 units for that kind of money today (3 490 SEK each)…

JohnnyRosenberg
JohnnyRosenberg

@talksabouttech @JohnnyRosenberg MTR mode of the H4n means that you can listen to some channels and record to other channels simultaneously. The H4n has two more modes: Stereo mode and 4 channel mode. The latter allows you to record on all channels at the same time. The MTR mode has some limitations, for instance that only 16 bits/channel is allowed. The other modes allows 24 bits.

The H6, as I said, doesn't seem to have any ”modes”. It seems to be MTR mode all the time, but there are no 16 bit restrictions. That's actually why I bought it…

About effects… I didn't use them on the H4n myself, since I only move the dry recorded tracks to another piece of equipment and add effects there, but I did played a little with it.

As for the H6, there there doesn't seem to be any effects at all, except low cut filter, compressor and limiter.

JohnnyRosenberg
JohnnyRosenberg

@mrut I haven't used mine much since I bought it, unfortunately, but as far as I can see, it's always working in ”MTR” mode, even though it's not called ”MTR”. There just are no ”modes”… If you want really to be sure, you can always download the user's manual from Zoom's site. It's in PDF format.

As I tried to say below, it's not as easy to work with as the H4n if you want to record additional tracks to an existing track that you recorded elsewhere. You need to, as far as I know, at least rename the track before H6 will play it.

The H6 is more limited when it comes to tracks vs input channels. They are directly connected, so you can't record input 3 to channel 2, for instance. It behaves quite differently to the H4n in many aspects, so you probably need to read the manual if you are used to the H4n.

JohnnyRosenberg
JohnnyRosenberg

@talksabouttech No, I don't mind at all. I can see now, when I read my post again, that it's written in some dreadful kind of English and there are words missing and so on (English is not my native language), so I hope my message went through anyway, somehow…

Also I am not sure that what I did is the best and only way to do it, only that it's ONE way doing it and that it at least worked when I tried it. I'm talking about how I copied an external WAV (a WAV not created by the H6) to the H6 and made H6 play it while recording to other channels. It SEEMS like the H6 only cares about the file name (I guess that it also matters if the WAV is stereo or mono, but I only tried a stereo file for the ”LR” channel), so I guess that trick also works if you want to record the extra tracks using the built in (or what I should call them, since they are replaceable…) microphones. Then I probably just need to name the file like if it had been recorded at channel 1-2 or 3-4, whatever file name that would be, which is easy to find out: Just record on those channels and have a look at the file names. Or study the manual…

About the Linux compatibility: The mass storage mode works, of course, and the H6 is recognised by Ubuntu in audio interface mode, but I couldn't make Audacity receiving any signals from it, BUT I didn't try very hard. Maybe I just overlooked something obvious, since I never do this kind of thing. Besides, I tried with Ubuntu 12.04; 13.04 has been out for quite a while now and 13.10 will arrive in October. Maybe it'll be a different story which those. I'll keep to the Ubuntu (or maybe Mint) LTS versions so I won't upgrade until version 14.04 in April 2014. I think it's a bit annoying having to upgrade twice a year, but every second year is OK.

I also want to say that I like the way the Zoom products (at least H4n and H6, I don't know much about the others) are upgraded. You just download a file from Zoom's site, put it on the SD card and at the next start-up, H4n or H6 will upgrade itself, if you start it up in a certain way. There is information about how to do that. On the H4n you press two buttons simultaneously (I don't remember which ones, but there is a manual) and then you start it while holding those buttons. What's so great about that? Well, you don't need a certain operating system on your PC, as long as it can handle a mass storage device!

I also have an Olympus LS-10, but I can't upgrade it since I need MacOS X or Windows for that (and I have neither of them)! Going to sell the LS-10 now anyway, though. And the H4n. Neither of them seems necessary now when I have the H6. The LS-10 is a lot smaller than the other two, though… but it only supports two channels.