Zoom H5 Review – A Portable Sound Studio
Rating: 8 out of 10
I did a lot of research and I decided on the Zoom H5 for two reasons. One was that it did everything I wanted and more, and the other reason was, I couldn’t afford the top of their range, the Zoom H6. Trying always to buy the best I can afford. And this is my Zoom H5 review after years of using it.
The X/Y microphone capsule
The Zoom H5 has at least a four-way microphone recording ability. On the top there are the stereo desktop X/Y microphones which are part of a detachable capsule. These are used for when placing the recorder on a table/tripod/camera and recording a group or conference. The microphones are insulated against slight vibration with a shock mount, but this would only work when the recorder is off the person and stationary on a tripod etc.
Rode make a shotgun microphone capsule which can be exchanged with the x/y capsule. This will then turn your H5 into a total shotgun/external microphone recorder, camera or tripod mounted. But there is then no shock mount for the microphone. So you will need to get one which will fit on the camera/tripod mount.
Stereo microphone socket
On the side of the capsule is a stereo 3.5 mm jack plug socket which allows an external microphone with this size of plug to be used with this recorder. Would this socket be better positioned elsewhere on the recorder? Yes it would. This would allow the x/y microphone capsule to be removed so that the recorder could be worn on the body easier. Also there would be less chance of the x/y microphones being damaged if used this way. For my use, the x/y capsule is a pain when it is attached and always catching on clothes or something. If it gets damaged, then that’s my Lavalier microphone use gone and £75 to replace the capsule.
Underneath the recorder at the bottom are two 3-pin XLR sockets for two external mono microphones which can be used and recorded independently or together. Only one mono microphone can be used if required. The pre-amps for the XLR microphones are quite good. Nothing compared to a quality studio interface. But for on the move mics like a Rode NTG2. Then they shine and work well together. I even plugged in a Neumann TLM 103 and used that with the H5. No problem at all. Although again, not as good as an Audient studio interface. But what do you expect.
All mono microphones have complete independent gain adjustment controls and on/off switches. The x/y microphones and stereo external microphone (via 3.5 mm plug-in socket) have their own single gain adjustment control, for both mics or the 3.5mm plug-in mic.
Batteries & phantom power
This zoom H5 recorder delivers a variety of phantom power to any of your external microphones.
Two AA batteries power this recorder which they claim last for hours. I have read people say up to 14 hours record time? Well I can tell you when using phantom power. You will get nowhere near that. There is a battery indicator which will tell you when your batteries are low. It’s not the best and no warning when it is about to run out of power. But remember supplying phantom power to external microphones can delete your batteries far quicker.
Phantom power is 12v – 24v and 48v. Phantom power can be supplied to the 3 external microphones.
So to be on the safe side carry spare batteries and test your batteries with a good battery meter. Otherwise disaster looms. Or you use the external power source to supply the extra power needed for phantom power for the external microphones. This would be essential if all microphones are plugged at the same time. You can record using all microphones at the same time.
Battery life with phantom power
In my experience. With one external mono mic using 48v phantom power and headphones plugged in. Only 1 hour use per set of Duracell batteries before you risk them dying and spoiling the recording..
Recordings are saved on multiple files on an SD card of up to 32 gb. This is not supplied but you do get a 2 gb card. MP3 & WAV files are the files in how your sound is recorded and saved. It will take some serious recording to fill a 32 gb card. Each time you press the stop button, then that recording will be saved in an independent file that is date and time stamped. So finding each recording made is easy. You must remember to name them individually when loaded to your pc.
If you press pause while recording. You can playback and check that recording before continuing. Which is a great feature and allows you to check your recording for errors and re-takes.
There are also record, prerecord and backup record functions in its menu feature.
A line ‘in’ socket will allow external plug-in 2.5v power. (I have never used).
The Zoom H5 has lots of built-in features to be used on your recordings such as high-pass filters, compressor and limiter. These can be used and set as you record with the H5. But all my processing is done post recording on the computer, so I never use these features.
On it’s side it has a 3.5 headphones plug where you can listen to your recordings playback and also monitor your live recordings. Bare in mind when your headphones are plugged in, you are using more battery power. There is of course playback facility without the use of headphones through a built in speaker located on the back of the Zoom. To be honest this is not very loud when outside and for me useless with poor sound quality compared to headphones.
Simple things really matter. One little thing I love is that it has a quarter-inch attachment thread on the back of the recorder so it can be screwed onto a second tripod or other attachment near your external microphone. Even onto a boom pole It allows you to be free when recording instead of being attached by a cable to your Blimp/boom pole. Also it allows you to monitor the controls this way. You could also use the x/y microphones on a camera and attach the Zoom to the camera for recording a conference type recording this way. But it records quiet this way even with the gain up maximum.
Portable Sound Studio
Because of its extensive menu, it is like walking around with your personal sound engineer. You can just plug in your lapel microphone and put this Zoom H5 in your pocket and just record away.
Processing is done through downloading via usb so the sd card need never leave the recorder.
Complete with a foam muffler for the X/Y microphones and a great little shaped plastic hard case to protect it from knocks when not in use.
Conclusion. My Zoom H5 is in use regularly for making my own videos. As already shown in this review. It is more than just a sound recorder for video production because it has many different uses. It comes with a lot of facilities on it’s menu that I would never use. I use it for mobile/outside recording with my Rode NTG2 (in a blimp). Also for studio recording with a clip-on/lapel microphone. Simple to operate when recording and when transferring to pc. Very versatile and from initially turning on, you will be recording in less than 10 seconds. It is that simple to use.
Pros: Phantom power. Ease-of-use. Lots of features. Multiple microphone sockets.
Cons: The top stereo X/Y microphones and capsule are always a worry regards being damaged.
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