So, you are thinking of buying your first (or next) digital audio recorder. Which one should you pick? The Zoom H4N, or the Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder? Let’s explore the pros and cons of each model and help you decide which portable digital recorder meets your needs.
Apart from price – the Zoom H6 is around 180-200 dollars more expensive – there are some features which set the H6 apart.
- You get six recording channels with the Zoom H6 – four XLR inputs, and two on device microphones. On the Zoom H4n you only get four channels – two XLR inputs, and two on device microphones
- You can use an SD card to record up to 128 GB of audio data on the Zoom H6. On the Zoom H4n you can only record up to 32 GB of audio data on a single SD card
- There are physical gain knobs and pads for each XLR input on the Zoom H6. On the Zoom H4n you can control gain through the on board menu system
- You can detach the on device X/Y stereo microphone from the Zoom H6. On the Zoom H4n the stereo X/Y microphone is permanently attached
- You can purchase additional microphone capsules for the Zoom H6 to extend the versatility of the device. For example, the Zoom SGH-6 Shotgun Microphone Capsule can give your Zoom H6 a highly directional shotgun microphone. The Zoom XYH-5 Shock Mounted Stereo Microphone Capsule can minimise vibration and handling noise, perfect if you are capturing audio whilst the Zoom H6 is attached to a camera. The Zoom EXH-6 Dual XLR/TRS Capsule adds an additional two inputs so you can capture more lines in.
- The Zoom H6 has a separate line out, whereas the Zoom H4n just has a Microphone Out option
- Finally, you should get about twice the battery life out of a Zoom H6 than a Zoom H4n
So which one should you pick? Here is how I would decide. If you are just starting out, looking for an affordable portable digital audio recorder with the option of XLR inputs and good quality on board microphone recording, you can’t go past the Zoom H4N. It is a great device.
However, if you are looking to get into videography, and want to attach the audio recorder to the top of your camera rig – or are looking to record many different inputs, like different instruments in a live band set up, the Zoom H6 is worth the extra investment.