I’ve been using Zoom digital audio recorders since the day I began podcasting. In fact, my very first podcast was recorded using only the Zoom H2 digital audio recorder. Zoom has always had a reputation for producing cutting edge audio and video products for professionals and consumers alike. When Zoom released their flagship digital audio recorder, the H6, last year, I was blown away. While the Zoom H6 has an amazing amount of features and flexibility, I simply could not justify adding it to our studio since it also carries a price tag of $399. When Zoom announced the H5, I got really excited. It looked like the H5 would pack in the features I most wanted at a $270 price that was in my comfort zone. I pre-ordered a Zoom H5 and tried to patiently wait for it to arrive.
The Zoom H5 arrived to the studio on July 14. Here’s the unboxing and first look video that I did when it arrived.
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Now that I’ve had a few days to use the Zoom H5 as part of my regular weekly productions, I’m back with an in-depth demo and review of the Zoom H5.
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The Zoom H5 impressed me the moment I first held it. Although spent a lot of time looking a pictures and videos of it online, I still expected it to be larger. The Zoom H5 fits very comfortable in the hand and weighs less that I imagined. All of the controls are easy to reach and manipulate with a single hand. The Zoom H5 does not feel cheap at all. The body of the Zoom H5 is made of a rubberized plastic that will keep the device firmly in your hand. Like its big brother the Zoom H6, the Zoom H5 has interchangeable capsules. It ships with the XYH-5 capsule which has a pair of condenser microphones in a 90° pattern. The microphones are housed in a rubberized shock mount which will reduce noise from handling the device, and the XYH-5 capsule is made from a durable metal housing.
In addition to the XYH-5 capsule that ships with the Zoom H5, the Zoom H5 is also capable of using any of the other removable capsules that Zoom makes for the H6. These capsules include the EXH-6 Dual XLR/TRS Combo capsule, SGH-6 Shotgun mic capsule, XYH-6 XY mic Capsule, and MSH-6 Mid-Side mic capsule.
The Zoom H5 also includes 2 built-in XLR/TRS input ports. Each port is also capable of supplying up to 48v of phantom power to your phantom powered devices. The XYH-5 capsule also includes a line-in port that allows you to connect an auxiliary input device such as a media device, iPad, computer, etc.
As a podcaster, the Zoom H5 gives me all I need to record professional level audio whether I’m in studio or on the road. I could literally pack the Zoom H5, an XLR mic, my iPhone, and two cables and do a professional sounding podcast from ANYWHERE!
In addition to the incredible amount of inputs on the Zoom H5, there are also two outputs. One output is the headphone jack, complete with a volume control. The second output is the Line Out. The Line Out allows you to output the audio to your DSLR or other recording device so you can easily deliver high-quality audio directly into your video recordings.
The Zoom also comes packed with 3 different compressors, 3 different limiters, and a low cut filter. The low cut filter can be set to 80Hz, 98Hz, 115Hz, 133Hz, 150Hz, 168Hz, 185Hz, 203Hz, 220Hz, or 237Hz. Here’s a chart of the compressor and limiter settings.
The Zoom H5 also allows a wide variety of recording options. You can record in stereo mode via the 2 XLR/TRS inputs, the XY input, or the Line-In port. However, you can also combine the XLR/TRS inputs with either the XY input or Line In and record up to 4 tracks at a time with Multi File mode. Here are the recording options available in Multi File Mode and Stereo Mode.
The bottom line is that the Zoom H5 is a near perfect recorder. If you need more than 2 XLR or TRS inputs, you can add the EXH-6 capsule. If you need more than 4 XLR or TRS inputs, you’ll want to get the Zoom H6. However, for most podcasters and professional musicians, I believe the Zoom H5 will deliver the functionality and performance they need.
If I could improve the Zoom H5 I would add a noise gate and include a higher capacity memory card (it ships with a 2 GB MICRO SD card). However, these are relatively minor issues and don’t downgrade my opinion of the Zoom H5. I give the Zoom H5 an A++ rating!
UPDATE: I received a comment on YouTube about the noise floor of mics plugged in to the 3.5mm jack of the X/Y Capsule. Here’s an audio sample that I did that compares the noise floor of the built-in X/Y capsule, a lavalier mic (the Audiio Technica ATR3350), and the HTDZ HT-81 microphone. As you can hear in the sample, the noise floor will vary quite a bit depending on the microphone. All 3 microphones are condenser mics and will experience a higher noise floor than a dynamic mic. When using condenser style microphones, it’s important to use them in an environment that is wide open so sound can dissipate over distance, or that is well insulated so that the sound waves can’t echo back into the microphone. NOTE: This audio hasn’t been modified in any way with compression, limiting, noise reduction, lo cut filters, normalization, etc. It is the raw audio as recorded by the Zoom H5. It’s also worth noting that the buzz you hear in the sample of the ATR 3350 is very likely caused by a low battery. I haven’t used the mic in a while and I’m sure the battery needs to be changed. When it has a good battery, I’ve never known it to have the buzz in this sample.
Zoom H5 Noise Floor Test