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    Zoom F6 is now available
    #1
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    Zoom F6 is now available, Amazon, Adorama, and B&H have stock.

    Should be able to test the F6 on Wednesday- really dig the form factor and powering options, and of course looking forward to testing 32-bit float (including with 3D ambisonics!).

    Curtis talks about the F6 compared to the MP II series:


    His main points for the MPII over the F6 are better dials (quality), prefers the MPII form factor, better headphone amp, and a warmer sound. For what we do, dig the smaller size of the F6, especially with battery. I didn't like the dials for the MPI compared to the USBPre 2 (felt cheap, though not as cheap as the F4 dials). I preferred the sound of the USBPre 2 over the MPI, and found I could easily EQ the F4 to sound like USBPre II. What the SD recorders had over Zoom was clearly better limiters, however with 32-bit float there's no more advantage when recording internally. For feeding a camera, the SD limiters provide extra value (when not using 32-bit float); will test the F6 limiters and see how they compare to the F4.

    While the SD headphone amp is indeed excellent, until they fix all the bugs I found with dangerous ear-blasting events, that powerful headphone amp is a minus. An output limiter/compressor is easy to implement for both the headphones as well as feeding a camera, especially when the signal is 32-bit float.

    Curious how Zoom handles line/mic out when recording 32-bit float (as Curtis noted, if recording on the device and camera at the same time, you'll probably be using separate audio anyway, so camera audio clipping shouldn't be a big deal (unless the entire track is clipped, making audio-based sync impossible)). Again, if Zoom didn't do it already, adding a limiter/compressor to a 32-bit float signal path is easy (could be added via FW update if not already present).

    Based on power requirements, I'd expect the F6 to use a lot less power than the MP6II = longer battery life.
    Last edited by jcs; 10-06-2019 at 05:57 PM.


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    I'm interested to hear more - I've been interested in the F6 since I heard about it


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    At a glance, it seems the Zoom recorders are more friendly to inputting time code from a camera for sync. The F4 & F8 have BNCs where the F6 has a 3.5mm I need to research the SD a little more because I am always wanting to sync the recorder to my cameras rolling for live performances.


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    I'm interested in these new 32-bit float recorders, but am curious that the max mic input on the F6 is +4dBu (compared to +14dBu on the Mixpre ii): fine for most use, but this suggests to me that with a sensitive mic and a very loud source that seems a little low given all the dynamic range offered by 32-bit float. With an MKH 8040, just for an example, I think that gives you a 130dB SPL max, which is below the 142dB SPL max of the mic. If recording very loud sounds at close distances, this might be food for thought: someone please correct me if my maths isn't right!

    Cheers,

    Roland
    Last edited by Throwback; 10-07-2019 at 02:02 PM.


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    I am considering picking up a used unit, with all the 32bit game changers out there now. The used ones are dropping in price.


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    F6 1st impressions @ 32-bit float, tested with a Schoeps CMIT5U:

    1. Normal gain- super quiet, sounds great. Yelled into mic at close range- recovered in post- perfect!
    2. Max gain- constant clipping distorting on headphones, levels pulled down in post- perfect!
    3. Min gain- flat-line in post, however after normalizing to -3dB sounds perfect- no noise!

    Loading 32-bit float .wav into Audition shows 3 tracks- the 3rd track looked like a somewhat normalized version (clipping brought down, low levels brought up). Need to look more into what's going on (created by F6 or Audition... interesting if created by F6).

    Headphone amp is plenty loud and so far sounds pretty clean (Focal Listen headphones).

    Uses 4 AA batteries (internal, curious how long rechargeables will last), tested with external Sony battery as well as USB C.

    It's really small- I'll try using as a camera preamp- might provide for really cool POV 3D audio shots with the Ambeo 3D mic.
    What happens when recording in 32-bit internal and hooking up to a camera? It has a line out limiter, very cool! Would be nice if they enabled a headphone limiter/compressor too (they do provide headphone curves- will try that soon vs. default linear).

    Menus- super easy to use, set everything up fast without reading docs. Knobs are plastic, though damping feels good. Doesn't require a reboot to switch between 32-bit and 24-bit etc.

    Haven't tested ambisonic 3D yet- will test later tonight after work.

    Overall I'm liking better than the MixPre 6 I.

    The MixPre 6 II has some advantages over the F6:

    1. Higher max mic level. I yelled into the CMIT5U at close range with the F6- no issue, so that's good enough for me. If recording a jet engine at the tailpipe with a dynamic mic, the MP6 II is a better choice haha.
    2. The F6 is limited to 96kHz in 32-bit mode (192kHz grayed out in my limited test). I'm good with 48kHz though 96kHz might be useful for 3D audio (don't see a need for 192kHz yet).
    3. More powerful headphone amp: however the F6 headphone amp is plenty loud and quiet in testing so far. Again, SD needs to add a headphone limiter to protect hearing in case of accidents/bugs.
    4. Analog limiters when using as a camera preamp- I like the limiters on the USBPre2 vs. the Zoom F4- need to test the F6's vs. the USBPre 2.
    5. The MP I ambisonic 3D mix was really excellent- best I've heard live, and you can save it too (F4 did a basic mix, not very 3D).

    32-bit float is awesome as expected! This is the biggest advancement in audio recording in a long time (computational audio with array mics. etc. is coming next (think ambisonic on steroids)).

    EDIT:

    Regarding recording levels and very loud sounds: the XLR inputs can be set to Mic, Mic(PH) (phantom powered), Line, and Line(PH). The differences are attenuation: Line reduces input by 20dB. Guessing there's different handling for PH (phantom) mics as they generally provide higher levels vs. dynamic and ribbon mics. In Mic mode (PH on or off), max level is +4dBu. Checking the CMIT5U's max output, it's 1.3V or 2.5dBV, which is 4.72dBu. This makes the MP II series look like a better choice, as they can handle +14dBu. However, the F6 can go up to +24dBu when the XLR input is set to Line / Line(PH). Just tested the CMIT5U at Line(PH) and had to turn up gain (20dB drop), still sounded good (-127dBu EIN vs. -128dBu EIN for the MPII). So recording butterflies and jet engines in the same take will probably work OK haha (MPII might have a slight noise edge?).
    Last edited by jcs; 10-10-2019 at 08:26 PM.


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    Thanks for sharing. After the unit is out for a little while, it would be interesting to hear the same source like a music performance recorded in 24bit and 32bit to see if there is a noticeable difference. 32bit seems very convenient but will it result in better sound in the end?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Bassman2003 View Post
    Thanks for sharing. After the unit is out for a little while, it would be interesting to hear the same source like a music performance recorded in 24bit and 32bit to see if there is a noticeable difference. 32bit seems very convenient but will it result in better sound in the end?
    I doubt there's any audible difference between 24 and 32-bit float for sounds that don't clip, as they have the same number of usable bits if you don't clip. The extra 8 bits is for the exponent, and that's where the magic happens. You can set the level to zero and still get a clean recording. You can set the level to max and still get a clean recording. In both cases in post you've got to normalize/adjust levels to get back to something you can use. If you set levels too low in 24-bit, you're going to raise the noise floor when bringing it back up in post (in many cases that won't matter as the preamps are very clean).

    With 32-bit float, if you set your levels too low, you're still going to get the max number of usable bits for the signal as the exponent will be adjusted- just need to bring the level up in post: got a clean recording when level set to 0 and brought back up in post. Unless there's a file size limitation, why would anyone not record in 32-bit float? Can't clip, low levels won't cause noise when brought back up in post.

    Sound Devices has very nice analog limiters, which made 24-bit recording sound really good, even if you clip (a little). As clipping increases, the analog limiters start to sound like a compressor, which changes the sound (can be OK, but it's not the original signal anymore). 32-bit float won't ever change the sound- don't need limiters. The F6 has a line out limiter- so the camera won't clip either for typical dialog (will have compression artifacts and really loud sounds will have issues; the 32-bit recording won't have any issues- so can use in-camera for editing speed and use the 32-bit recording for backup (or when max audio quality is desired)).


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    Thanks for your help. How about in the DAW? Will 32bit files have any advantage from a processing point of view compared to 24bit? More EQ headroom/clarity or compression transparency? Or is this mainly about getting a clean recording? People have stated that this is one of the biggest advancements in audio but if it does not sound any better, then I think it is not as big of a deal. It is not like tracking in 24bit at safe levels is difficult. We all have been doing it forever.


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    All modern DAWs/NLEs convert and process everything in float-32 or float-64. Recorded 24-bit becomes at least float-32 for editing.

    Not having to worry about clipping or artifacts from limiters is helpful. The F6 is so far very quiet. I’ll test the 24-bit USBPre2 against the F6 shortly.


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