First Look: Zoom H5 Recorder

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Zoom sent shock waves through the pro audio world last year with the introduction of its flagship H6 recorder and its breakthrough modular microphone system. Although still very young, the H6 has already become an industry standard and a go-to piece for professional and enthusiast videographers, journalists, engineers, and musicians alike. Now, just a year later, Zoom brings yet another creation to the table in the form of the new H5 Handy Recorder—a smaller, yet more affordable little brother to the mighty H6, which keeps many of its key features, including its trademark interchangeable mic system. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to spend some time with the H5 to get a sense of its capabilities and make some recordings of my own.

The H5 ships with the XYH-5, a stereo X/Y microphone module that's similar to the H6's standard XYH-6 mic, but with smaller matched condenser capsules and a fixed 90-degree X/Y angle. Like all of the modules, the XYH-5 has its own gain knob for setting the input level, but it also features an integrated rubberized shockmount that employs rugged external wires to help minimize vibration and handling noise. This feature will certainly come in handy for run-and-gun ENG applications, where any extra measure to combat hand, boom, and camera-borne noise is always appreciated. Another intriguing aspect of the XYH-5 is its ability to handle an impressive 140dB SPL, which is more than any other Handy Recorder mic. This means that you’ll be able to get closer to loud sound sources and rest assured that your audio will be recorded cleanly. This is great for recording concerts, foley, sporting events, and more. Additionally, the module has a 1/8" mic/line-in jack on its side, capable of supplying 2.5 volts of plug-in power to small condenser mics that require it.

Now, the XYH-5 is great, but the fun doesn't stop there. One of the things that excited me the most about the H5 is that it's compatible with all of the H6's microphone modules, including the XYH-6 X/Y mic mentioned above, the MSH-6 mid-side stereo mic, the SGH-6 shotgun mic, and the EXH-6 dual XLR/TRS combo input module. I made some test recordings with the H5 using the included XYH-5, and the optional SGH-6 shotgun module, which I'll tell you more about in a minute.

Capable of recording up to four tracks simultaneously, the H5 features two XLR/TRS combo inputs for connecting your own mics, in addition to the stereo module. These inputs use the same mic preamps as the H6, have switchable -20dB pads, and have the usual circular knobs to control the input gain. However, the H5 features a protective "roll-bar" that covers the knobs to prevent accidental movement of gain controls in the field. I thought this was a nice touch considering how well suited the unit is for handheld use, due to its small size (as opposed to always being used with protective carry case).

On the monitoring side, the H5 features an 1/8" headphone output, plus there's a line out for making a backup or sync-guide recording directly to your camera. The headphone and line out jacks both have independent volume controls, as well.

The recorder has the same tough rubberized plastic build we're used to, but is still very light, weighing only 0.7 pounds with the XYH-5 attached and two AA batteries installed. The H5 is capable of more than 15 hours of continuous recording using alkaline batteries, and an optional AC adapter is available separately to power the H5 without batteries.

While the H5 doesn't have the flashy, casino-like, full-color display of the H6, it does have a nice, large backlit LCD screen that is easy to look at, and certainly serves its purpose. It was easy on the eyes while reading level meters and navigating through menus; everything looked very clear and readable. The transport controls are as they should be, including dedicated buttons for Stop, Play/Pause, Record, Rewind, and Forward, as well as record arm buttons for each of the four inputs. The arm buttons also serve as track mutes during playback.

On the right side of the unit, you'll find the obligatory 2-way joystick selector and menu button that allows you to navigate the H5's folder-driven interface. The H5 puts a plethora of control at our fingertips, giving us channel independent compression and limiting on each track, as well as low-cut filtering. There are three compressor settings and three limiter settings for various applications, as well as ten different low-cut settings between 80 and 237Hz.

There are some useful advanced features that are worth mentioning, including the Pro Tools-esque pre-record function that keeps the H5 continuously recording in the background, keeping a two-second buffer whenever you have a track armed. This is useful in the event that you're late to the punch (no pun intended) in hitting the record button, so you won't miss the first word of that interview, or the first note of that guitar take. There is also a convenient back-up record option that can be engaged on the L/R tracks to create a duplicate version of your main recording, only 12db lower than your input level settings. This is a nice failsafe that will give you some options if your main recording clips by accident.

Just under the joystick and menu button lives the SD card slot, which takes SD or SDHC cards up to 32GB, and a 2GB card is included in the box. Audio can be recorded to either BWF-compliant WAV or MP3 formats in a variety of resolutions. For WAV files, the H5 supports quality up to 24-bit/96kHz for stereo recording, and up to 24-bit/48kHz in four track mode. The MP3 format can only be used when recording in stereo mode, and various options between 48 to 320kbps quality are available. The USB port on the left side of the unit makes it easy to transfer recorded files to your computer, and it also lets you use the H5 as an audio interface with either your computer or an iPad.

In preparation for my test recording (an indoor interview of my poor wife), I set my bit-depth and sample rate to 24-bit/48kHz and connected the included XYH-5 stereo X/Y module to the H5, which locked into the top of the unit easily with a gratifying snap. I positioned my subject (wife) about five feet in front of me and the H5, so that the air conditioning unit in our apartment was to her right, about twelve feet away. I hit the Record button, and asked her to tell me about her day. The first thing I noticed in my headphones (other than that her job is way less fun than mine) was that the stereo image was tight and focused, reproducing her voice loud and clear in the center, while still giving me a sense of the acoustic space at the same time. I could hear the AC unit mostly in my left channel, but it was definitely lower in volume and more subdued in the stereo field.

Next, I popped on the optional SGH-6 shotgun module and immediately noticed the highly directional quality of the mic, and the excellent rejection from the sides. Now my wife's voice sounded extremely clear and present, as long as I kept the mic pointed directly at her. The air conditioner, on the other hand, was now dramatically lower in volume and, with the low cut kicked in at 150Hz, it was even less noticeable. 

After the interview, I was conveniently able to play back the recording so that my wife and I could both hear it by using the H5's built-in speaker, located on the back of the unit. Also located on the back, there's a 1/4"-20 thread for tripod mounting, or to connect directly to a DSLR or camcorder with the use of an optional hot-shoe mount.

Last but, not least, in addition to the XYH-5 capsule, the H5 package includes a foam windscreen, a USB cable, a 2GB SD card, two AA batteries, a download for Wavelab LE for PC or Mac (Windows and OS X), and a carry case for safe storage and transport.

If Zoom’s goal for the H5 was to take the most essential pieces of the H6 and pack them into a smaller, more portable device (and I have an inkling it was), I’d have to say they’ve succeeded with flying colors. I’d be curious and excited to see where Zoom takes the Handy Recorder line from here.

RECORDING MEDIA  
SD card  16MB to 2GB
SDHC card  4GB to 32GB
   
INPUTS L/R [XYH-5 X/Y mic]  
Mic type Directional
Sensitivity -45 dB, 1 kHz at 1 Pa
Input gain -∞ to 52 dB                                   
Maximum sound pressure input 140 dB SPL
   
MIC/LINE IN   
Connector  1/8" stereo mini jack
Input gain - ∞ to 52 dB
Input impedance  2 k Ω or more
Plug-in power  2.5V supported
Backup recording -12 dB lower than set L/R input gain
   
INPUTS 1/2  
Connectors  XLR / TRS combo jacks (XLR: Pin 2 hot / TRS: Tip hot)
Input gain (PAD OFF) -∞ to 55.0 dB  B11
Input gain (PAD ON) -∞ to 35.0 dB
Input impedance 1.8 k Ω or more
Maximum allowable input level +22 dBu (PAD ON)
Phantom power +12V /+24V /+48V (can be turned On/Off independently for Inputs 1/2)
Equivalent Input Noise (EIN)  -120 dBu or less 
   
LINE OUT   
Connector  1/8" (3.5mm) stereo mini jack
Rated output level  -10 dBm 
Output load impedance 10k Ω or more
   
PHONE OUT  
Connector  1/8" (3.5mm) stereo mini jack 
Output Level  20 W +20 W into 32 Ω load
Built-in speaker 400 mw @ 8 Ω, mono 
Recording Formats [STEREO MODE] WAV (BWF-compliant)
Sampling frequency  44.1/48/96 kHz
Bit rate  16/24-bit (Stereo)
Maximum simultaneous recording tracks 2
   
MP3   
Sampling frequency 44.1 kHz
Bit rate  48/56/64/80/96/112/32/160/192/224/256/320 kbps 
   
WAV (BWF-compliant)  
Sampling frequency  44.1/48 kHz
Bit rate  16/24-bit (Mono/Stereo)
Maximum simultaneous recording tracks  6 (L/R + INPUT 1/2 + L/R backup)
   
DISPLAY Backlit LCD (128 x 64 pixels)
   
USB [Mass Storage Class operation]  
Class USB 2.0 High Speed 
   
USB [Audio Interface operation: Multitrack mode]  
Class USB 2.0 High Speed
Sampling frequency  44.1/48 kHz 
Bit rate  16/24-bit  
Inputs / Outputs  4/2
   
AUDIO INTERFACE OPERATION [Stereo mode]  
Class USB 2.0 Full Speed
Sampling frequency  44.1/48 kHz 
Bit rate 16-bit 
Inputs / Outputs  2/2
USB bus-powered operation: yes
iPad operation yes, stereo mode only
   
POWER REQUIREMENTS  
Battery AA size (LR6) battery x 2
AC adapter  AD-17 (DC5V/1A/USB-type) (optional)
USB USB bus power
Battery life (with alkaline battery, continuous recording): Over 15 hours
   
DIMENSIONS  
H5 2.3 x 5.3 x 1.7" (66.8 x 135.2 x 42.1mm)
XYH-5 X/Y mic 2.6 x 2.4 x 1.6" (65.5 x  62.2 x 41mm)
   
WEIGHT  
H5: 6.2 oz (176.0 g)
XYH-5 X/Y mic: 3.3 oz (94.0 g)

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Question:

I would like to use an external battery to power the H5. The external battery uses USB connectors to deliver power to devices.

Would I be able to power the H5 using the external battery by connecting it to the USB mini port on the H5, or is that strictly for powering the H5 for use as an audio interface?

Hi JP -

The USB input accepts 5 VDC, 1 A  power.  Conceivably you could use an external USB battery source.    But until the product actually ships we have not had a hands on opportunity to try it out.  Zoom also provides an USB/AC power adapter as an option:   Zoom AD-17

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

When will this be available?

The Zoom H5 Handy Recorder is available for pre-order now. We are expecting them late July.

Thx you 4 the Review. I have one big question about the overdubbing features: does the H5 has the same features as the H4n, or is it similar to the H6. With the H4n it was possible to record over and over with the same mic input respectively with the build in mic. With the H6 you have to change the input with every new overdub. so it isn´t possible to do overdubs just with the "build in" mic. Did you test any overdub funktions or do you know more details?

Hi Florian -

This recorder is most similar to the Zoom H6.  Until the product is actually released and shipped we cannot offer you an exact answer.  We do not have the Zoom H5 on hand to test yet.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I have had the H4n for a while, and it's preamps weren't that impressive. As far as I am aware, the preamps actually kick in automatically when using XLR, but when using TRS 1/4" jacks you can bypass the preamps. Might this still be the case (or am I in error in my description) with the H5? 

Hi Chris -

This recorder is more similar to the Zoom H6 than the H4n.  The preamp section has been greatly improved over the earlier H4n and we do not know if what you describe is indeed the case.  Until the product is actually released and shipped we cannot offer you an exact answer.  We do not have the Zoom H5 on hand to test yet.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

please show photo of the Hard Case which comes with this??

also a photo of all the things come with In The Box.

thank you

Hi -

We do not have photos at this time.  The case is a soft, fitted case.

Here's what comes included with the H5.

  • Operation manual
  • XYH-5 X/Y mic capsule
  • SD card (2GB) 
  • AA size (LR6) battery x 2
  • USB cable
  • Foam windscreen
  • Case
  • ​Steinberg Wavelab LE software download
  •  

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

  1. 1) Which external dial enables manual control of the gain from the 1/8"/3.5mm minijack, please?
  2. 2) Which track does that record on, especially when you have 2 xlr jacks (or 4 with the additional module) filled?
  3. 3) How would you establish independent attenuation for each of those 3 to 5 inputs, please?
  4. 4) How about adding a "Send" button to your "Comments" preview form (so we don't have to redo it, not knowing whether it got sent by clicking "quote"?

Hi Scott -

Zoom's documentation regarding these question topics are not clear.

Please contact us via e-mail and we will be happy research this further for you:  AskBH@BandH.com

5) If you split the 1/8" stereo input for Left & Right channels, how does the H5 enable you to address & manage them independently?

6) The problem with Zoom in the past, like many recorders with the mics built-in, is that once you start taping an event through those mics, you mustn't touch the unit to make any settings adjustments without generating ruinous "handling noise."  What kind of remote control is provided to avoid this, please? 

7) What kind of software does it come with to manage the settings from your computer/tablet when connected as a USB mixer?

8) Like the H4n & H6, the physical unit is ergonomically unsuited for use as a mixer for easy video.  If you mount it high, it's too cumbersome and difficult to view and control on top of a prosumer or consumer camera (on a consumer or prosumer, video-tripod head, especially one already bearing a video light) without unbalancing the mount and unstabilizing your tilt. What type of articulating arm do you sell which would mount underneath than the tripod head hinge (say, on a tripod leg) to support it in a high, but still a viewable, adjustable position (without shaking your long-shot)?

Hi Scott -

Zoom's documentation regarding these question topics are not clear. 

5. When using the 1/8" input the signal is stereo and cannot be split or managed as independent left and right channels.

6. The H5, like the H6 has better isolation.  Using a shock mount and handing the unit minimally during recording is strongly recommended.  Remote access via the ZOOM RC4 Remote Control.

7. There is no software included. DAW software is optional.

8.This recorder like it's older siblings was never designed to be a true mixer.  It offers some mixer features strictly as a convenience.

One could use an  Articulating Arm and Mini Clamp Kit which is available exclusively from B&H. The kit includes an articulating arm that fits on any standard shoe mount and features a usable extension range of 8.3" and single-point locking mechanism. Also included is a lightweight aluminum clamp with 1/4"-20 and 3/8" female sockets with a textured, non-slip jaw grip.

All in all, this is a terrific little recorder and offers really significant features and" pro" capability and results in a remarkably compact form and at an amazing price point.

Please contact us via e-mail and we will be happy research this further for you:  AskBH@BandH.com

I noticed the h5 is lacking the included mid-side mic of the h6. You state the modules are interchangeable but I can't seem to find any information on how to buy this module seperately from the h6. Or the h6 x/y for that matter. Do you know if/when these will be availiable to buy seperately and what the expected cost would be? 

Hi Matt -

The MSH-6 MS (mid-side) mic capsule is not yet available for retail sale.  It will connect to the new  Zoom H5 as well as the H6. It may be available in the future, but Zoom has not yet released any details when it will do so. When and if it becomes available we will be sure to offer it on our website.

Please contact us via e-mail and we will be happy research this further for you:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hello,I had purchased the zoom h5 and have been experimenting with the inputs.  I am having audio issues with the trs inputs. When i plug in my device into 1 or 2 to record into the trs input with a 1/4" cable the sound is very weak as if it is not powerful enough to reproduce the bass and some songs you cannot hear the vocals at all as it's being monitored. The monitor settings are up so it's not that.  Can you please tell me what the problem is and how to fix it or if I've received a faulty device.

Hi Charles -

Please e-mail us at the address below with the make and model number of the devices you have connected to the recorder.

Please contact us via e-mail and we will be happy research this further for you:  AskBH@BandH.com