Should You Buy The Zoom H5, or the H6? by Chris Skyes

Chances are you’ve owned your trusty Zoom H4n for a few years now, and you’re looking to upgrade. Upon doing a bit of research, you find out that Zoom has two shiny recorders, the Zoom H5, and the Zoom H6.

The question is, which one is best for you?

In this article, we are going to explore the differences between the two recorders, and what purpose the different features might lend themselves to. Also, if you’d like to read a more comprehensive review of the Zoom H6 by itself, I’ve written an article about it here.

Before we begin, I am going to point out that the Zoom H5 and Zoom H6 are two very similar recorders, but they are built for different purposes. As we go through the article, I am going to lay down the actual differences, and explain what situation each option would be better suited for.

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Inputs

The Zoom H5 only has two XLR inputs, as opposed to the four built-in XLR inputs on the Zoom H6.

If you plan on doing journalism, or recording one on one interviews, which would only require a maximum of two external microphones, the two XLR inputs on the Zoom H5 will suffice.

On the other hand, the four built-in XLR inputs on the Zoom H6 gives you the ability to plug in four microphones, thus making it perfect for podcasts, recording demos, band recording, etc.

Battery Life

Even though both recorders have exceptional battery life, the Zoom H5’s is shorter than that of the Zoom H6, according to Zoom.

This was presumably measured without any external microphones connected to the devices. Bare in mind that connecting two microphones to the H5, or four to the H6, will lower the battery life, especially if you are using phantom power.

There are many different variables which would potentially affect the battery life of the device, but the takeaway is that they both can record for hours at a time, and It's always worth carrying some extra batteries with you, just in case.

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Size & Build

The Zoom H5 is a bit smaller and lighter than the Zoom H6. This is important to consider if you plan on adding it on top of a DSLR, which might already have a battery pack strapped to it.

The actual dimensions for the Zoom H5 are 7.77 x 2.63 x 1.66 inches, and it weighs 9.52 oz (269 grams). The Zoom H6 comes in at 14.46 oz (410 grams), and measures 8.39 x 3.1 x 1.88 inches.

Even though both are sturdy and rugged, it’s worth to point out that the Zoom H6 is rather larger and heavier, and this should be taken into consideration.

Display

When it comes to the displays, the H5 has a backlit LCD, whilst the H6 has a much nicer 2" full-colour LCD.

Also, whilst the Zoom H6 screen is angled slightly down (see image below), the H5 is not. This is neither a good thing, nor is it a bad thing, as it just depends on what you're using the device for.

If you'll be looking down at the recorder, the Zoom H5 screen is better for that. If, on the other hand, the recorder will be closer to eye level, like if it it's mounted on a DSLR camera, the H6 screen will allow you to monitor levels without having to move your camera too much in order to look at the screen.

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Phantom Power

Whilst both recorders offer phantom power, which is needed by some microphones, the Zoom H6 offers phantom power for all its 4 x XLR inputs. The two extra XLR inputs which can be mounted on top with a modular component can not receive phantom power on either the H5 or the H6.

Sound Quality

In regards to sound quality, they're about the same. No major differences between the two, though they both sound much better than the older Zoom H4n, especially in regards to self noise.

When it comes to pre-amps, neither of them are as good as the Sony PCM-D100, though the Sony device does not have XLR inputs, and in either case, the Zoom H5 and Zoom H6 have better pre-amps than the Zoom H4n.

Simply put, when recording quieter sounds, there is less hiss produced as a byproduct when you pump up the gain, compared to the older H4n.

Wind Protection

If you have to record outdoors, which might be the case if you're a journalist, field recordist, sound effects recordist, if you're recording a live band, or more, the foam windshield that comes with either recorder will prove itself to be rather unhelpful.

It's great when recording indoors, but any real gust of wind will make the recording unusable. Luckily, Rycote sells a three-in-one solution for each recorder.

A grip, by which you can hold the recorder, a shock mount which basically eliminates handling noise, and a good quality windshield, which will protect the microphone from wind, though very strong winds might still affect the microphone.

You can purchase the Zoom H5 version of the Rycote product here, or the Zoom H6 version of the product here.

Levels

The Zoom H5 has a metal bar which makes it difficult to accidentally change the input levels. Whilst the H6 does have some measures in place in order to prevent that, the H5 method feels a lot more reliable, as it is a large metal bar, physically preventing you from doing it.

If you know you're likely to accidentally hit, or run your hand over the recorder and change the levels, this might be something to take into consideration.

Which?

Which one should you get? Ultimately, both recorders are very similar, but built for different purposes. They're both quite rugged and well built, have good sound quality, modular microphones, and multiple XLR inputs.

If all you need is to connect a maximum of two microphones to it, like in a one on one interview setting, the Zoom H5 will suffice.

That being said, if you think you might one day need to plug in a few extra microphones, it's worth spending a little bit of extra money and getting the Zoom H6.

The price difference isn't massive, around £60 usually, or $80, and by getting the Zoom H6, you're future-proofing yourself.

Thank you very much for reading my review of the Zoom H5 vs Zoom H6. If you’d like to be notified whenever I post a new article, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter down below.


The Basic Gear You Need to Record Sound Effects (Part 1) by Chris Skyes

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In this article, we are going to talk about the basic equipment you need in order to start recording your own sound effects. The gear which I will recommend will be a balance between cost and quality, thus helping you get a good start in the world of sound effects.

This will be a two part series. In the first article, we will discuss microphones, recorders, and vital accessories. In the second article, we will go more in-depth on accessories, and discuss SD cards, external hard drives, useful things to have in your recording bag, and more!

In the interest of transparency, all of the gear links which will be present in this article are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you purchase anything, it won’t cost you anything extra, but I’ll get a small commission.

Right, let’s begin! We’ll go through a few common set-ups that you might use when recording sound effects.

Hand-held recorder

Everyone starts off with one of these, mainly because they are uncomplicated, and quite affordable. You turn them on, press record, and point them at the sound source.

Sony PCM-D100

If you want a hand-held device which produces really clean recordings, it’s worth having a look at the Sony PCM-D100. The downside of it though is that it doesn’t have XLR inputs, which means that if you decide to invest in some shotgun microphones down the line, you won’t be able to plug them into it.

Here is a demo from British Suburbia, a library I recorded, and am still recording, using this device.

Zoom H6

If the sounds you’ll be recording are on the louder side, and you need a recorded which is not only built like a tank, but is also really upgradeable, have a look at the Zoom H6. It’s durable, has great battery life, loads of XLR inputs, and even a detachable microphone at the top.

If you’d like to learn more about the Zoom H6, I’ve written a more in-depth review of it here.

Here is a demo for Dormant Village, a library I recorded using this device.

Zoom H4n

This is the device many people start out with, including myself. It’s great for personal and student projects, though it’s not often used in a professional setting. The main reason is that the Zoom H4n isn’t well suited to record quiet sounds, is because of its level of self noise.

In other words, if you record something really quiet, and then boost the levels later, the background hiss will be noticeable.

All recording devices have some degree of hiss when you boost the signal really loud, but some have more than others.

That being said, if you want a device which is great to learn on, and is affordable, the Zoom H4n might just be right for you.

You can always sell it later down the line when you want to upgrade. If taken care of, it shouldn’t lose too much of its value.

Wind Protection

When it comes to hand-held recorders, they do tend to come with some form of wind protection, often in the form of a foam cover for the microphones. Whilst this does help to some degree indoors, if you want to do any sort of work outdoors, you will need to purchase wind protection.

Whilst the Sony PCM-D100 does provide you with a really good windshield out of the box, there are alternatives out there, and each affect your audio in different ways. Here is a YouTube video by Paul Virostek, demonstrating the difference between the Sony PCM-D100 windjammer, and the equivalent which Rycote makes.

It is important to specify that you shouldn’t try to save money on your windshields, as a cheaply made one will adversely affect the sound of your recordings. In other words, a cheap windshield will muffle the recording, which might make it unusable.

Companies like Rycote make excellent products, including the Sony PCM-D100 windjammer, Zoom H6 windjammer, and the Zoom H4n windjammer.

Shock-absorption

When handling the devices, you introduce noise into the recordings. Even if you try to stay completely still, some amount of noise will be introduced, making it a nightmare to edit out later on, or even rendering the recording useless.

To that effect, Rycote has a series of products aimed at this, and they include the windjammers mentioned above bundled with them. They make a shockmount for the Sony PCM-D100, one for the Zoom H6, and also one for the Zoom H4n.

Microphone and Recorder

Once you have decided which recorder you would like, it’s time to consider some microphones. Honestly, if you want quality for a relatively low price, Rode is probably the way to go.

Rode NTG-2

Rode makes the NTG series of shotgun microphones. I personally have and use the Rode NTG-2 all the time, and I love it. I’ve traveled with it, used it for years, and it still works. It’s hard as nails, sounds great, and it also looks really cool.

What more could you want?

Additionally, here is a demo for Shimmering Shards, a library recorded using the Rode NTG-2, and the Tascam DR-60DmkII.

Wind Protection and Shock Mounts

When handing such a microphone, you will inevitably need some kind of shock mount, in order to stop vibrations and handling noise from polluting your recordings. You will also need some sort of wind protection, as you will inevitably end up recording outside.

In addition to many types of microphones, Rode also produces a blimp, which is basically a handle, mounting system, and windshield in one. It’s called the Rode Blimp.

The blimp itself is relatively standard, which means you can fit a lot of different microphones from many companies inside of it. It is worth researching each microphone before you purchase it though, as some shotgun microphones are extra long, and require a different type of blimp.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a less expensive alternative, the PROAIM Blimp works really well. I’ve personally used it on many trips, and it has served me well.

Headphones

In order to monitor what it is that you are recording, you’re going to need a good pair of headphones. Now, everyone has a specific pair which they love and use all the time, but I personally use the Beyerdynamics DT 150.

They’re good quality headphones, very affordable, and they’re built like tanks. I’ve had the same pair for years, and it’s never given me any trouble. I’ve abused them, stuffed them in bags, and all the rest, but whenever I plug them in, they still work.

This is the end of part one. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter down below, in order to be notified when part two comes out!


How To Record Sound Effects For Your Short Film by Chris Skyes

Whether you’re studying filmmaking, or you’re getting started on your own, there is an undeniable fact which you have to contend with: nowadays, more people are making more films than ever.

In fact, a lot of people might have access to better cameras, better lights, and better equipment in general.

Given all of that, what can you do to set yourself apart from your classmates, or your peers?

Sound. That’s it. Why?

Because it’s intimidating. You see, creating good visuals is a lot more intuitive than creating good audio.

Now, you can, of course, always hire a sound designer to work on the audio for your film, and that’s how I make a part of my income.

That being said, you might not have a budget for a sound designer, and you might have been considering having a go at recording your own sound effects.

This article is going to run you through how and when you can use sound effects more effectively, practical tips on how to record them, and gear recommendations, together with explanations as to which piece of gear is suitable for what.

1. Why Add Sound Effects?

Isn’t location sound enough?

Well, unfortunately no. Even if you have a super experienced audio recordist on set, using very expensive microphones, a lot of the production sound effects which happen to be picked up won’t be nearly enough. Additionally, as the sound recordist is focusing on the actors, sounds which happen in the distance will sound bad, and unprofessional.

Here is an example of what I mean. This is a short film/min-doc I made a few weeks ago. I went through pre-production, had a shot list, covered all the scenes, and then I put together the film.

In order to make my life easier, I could have placed a mic on my camera, recorded audio on set, and asked the actress to record her voice over on location as well. This would have saved a lot of time, but the final product wouldn’t have been as good, as the VO would have been noisy, and the sound would have been inconsistent from scene to scene.

Feel free to have a look at the film, and then I’ll tell you what I did for the sound.

Once the film was edited, I exported it from Davinci Resolve, and imported it into Pro Tools.

Then, using markers, I made sure to underline what each section of the film needed. Just to be clear, audio is worth thinking about well before you enter the production stage.

As I was writing the shot list, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the audio, and I could picture all the sounds that I’d need. When you then place markers in your DAW of choice, you already know what your film requires.

First of all, it needed a natural ambience, due to our location. I layered multiple natural ambiences on top of each other, and adjusted the volume of each, in order to get a mixture which felt right.

Then, using a Rode NTG-2, I recorded the cloth track. I simply pressed record, and using a shirt which I was holding, I followed the flow of her movement.

For the footsteps, I grabbed a very thin plastic bag. If you think about it, thin plastic bags sound exactly like foliage. I made it into a loose ball, placed it into my left hand, and using my right hand, I hit the plastic and imitated her footsteps.

When watching the film, you might notice that these things are relatively low in the mix. That’s fine. They’re not supposed to be the focus of the film, but, much like lighting, they’re supposed to be felt, not noticed.

the way you can think about sound design in general, is that if it’s done right, you won’t notice it, but if it’s not there, or done poorly, it will feel like something is missing.

Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s cover the how! Let’s go into some gear recommendations, for low to medium budgets, which will allow you to record quality sounds (in combination with the tips I’ll give you in section 3).

2. What Gear Should I Buy?

There are a few different set-ups which you could invest in, each with their pros and cons. I’ll describe what the benefits of each set-up is, so that you may decide which one is best for you. All the recommendations will be on the lower end of the price spectrum, in order to keep things affordable.

Microphone

The selection available to you might at first be overwhelming. There’s all the different brands, like Shure, AKG, Behringer, Rode, Neumann, etc., and then all the different types, such as shotgun microphones, condensers, dynamics, large diaphragm, small diaphragm, lav, etc.

As you’re starting out, let’s keep it simple. Given the fact that you most likely don’t have a proper room set-up to record in, and the fact that you’ll often be recording in noisy places, a shotgun mic is, in my opinion, a first great mic.

A good one would be the Rode NTG-2, though there are more models available. You can have a look here, if you’re interested.

This microphone will serve you well. It has very low self noise, and it’s hard as nails (almost). Rode are well known for making durable microphones, which makes them great as a first choice.

In order to better understand what a shotgun microphone is, one could easily compare it to a long lens. It helps focus on specific sounds, whilst ignoring a lot of what’s happening around it.

Audio Interface and Microphone

If you want something closer to a studio set-up, getting an audio interface, together with your mic, will allow you to do this. Some examples of affordable audio interfaces would be Focusrite Scarlett Solo, and the Behringer U-PHORIA, but you can also use a hand-held device such as the Zoom H6, when not using it in the field.

These allow you to connect directly to your DAW of choice, and a lot of them can even provide phantom power, which is needed in order to run some microphones.

Alternatively, you can purchase a studio bundle like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio, or the Rode AI-1, but they have large diaphragm condenser microphones instead, which can provide a bit more detail, but which capture a lot more unwanted noise, if present. You can think of them more like a wide lens.

Handheld Recorder and Microphone

I personally love using my Tascam DR-60d MKII, combined with my Rode NTG-2. As it is a compact set-up, you can just whack it into your bag, and take it anywhere, as long as it’s indoors, and you use a handheld shock mount to remove unwanted mic handling noise.

If you want to use it outside, you’ll need to invest in a good wind protection method, such as the Rode Blimp, as the foam windshield that comes with the Rode NTG-2, or any other microphone for that matter, isn’t nearly good enough.

This set-up is great if you want to be able to run around, and record sound effects cleanly on the go, but it wouldn’t allow you to record stereo ambiences.

Handheld Recorder with Internal Mics and Microphone

If recording both stereo ambiences, and sound effects on the go is what you’re looking for, I would recommend investing in a Zoom H6, together with the Rode NTG-2, or a similar microphone in the line-up.

The Zoom H6 not only has built-in microphones, which allows you to record stereo ambiences, but it can take up to 4 XLR-inputs, thus allowing you to plug-in your mic and record mono sound effects when needed.

The only issue with the Zoom H6 is that it doesn’t do very well when recording very quiet sounds, as quite a bit of pre-amp noise gets introduced. You can think of it as a camera with poor low-light performance, due to a small sensor.

I’ve actually reviewed the Zoom H6. You can read all about it here.

Handheld Recorder with Internal Mics

Naturally, if you’d like to forgo the external mic, you could just go with the Zoom H6 or a Sony PCM-D100 by itself.

If you go with the Sony PCM-D100, you have better stereo sound, but you don’t have XLR inputs, limiting the kinds of microphones you can plug into it.

If you choose the Zoom H6, the mics at the top are actually detachable, which allows you to purchase a Shotgun Mic module for it. You just plug it in at the top, and you have an all-in-one recorder and shotgun microphone.

That being said, the Zoom H6 isn’t stellar when it comes to recording very quiet sounds, so just bare that in mind.

Additionally, regardless of which one you invest in, you’ll have to get some wind protection for them, such as the one for the Zoom H6, or the one for the Sony PCM-D100.

3. How Do You Get the Best Out of Your Equipment

I’m going to break this down into two smaller categories, for the sake of simplicity.

When recording sounds, you’ll find yourself in one of two possible environments: outdoors, or indoors.

Each location has its advantages and disadvantages, and we’ll explore each right now, along with what to do in order to fully take advantage of the pros, and mitigate the cons.

Indoors

If you choose to record indoors, the first obvious issue is reverb. When you make a sound, it will bounce off the often empty walls, and this will colour your recording. Even if the sounds are recorded for a scene which takes place in a similar room, it’s best practice to record the sounds in a neutral way, and then process them to match the environment.

As a result, you want to record your sounds in a place where reflections would be dampened, such as in a closet. Even opening up the closet, and recording in-between hanging shirts and jackets should work, as long as you leave the sound a bit of room to breathe.

Recording them in a confined space might give it a ‘boxy’ sound, which wouldn’t be great.

So, divide up your coat-hangers into two, push one half to the left, and one half to the right, thus allowing you some space in-between to record.

Whilst this will take a bit more time and effort, the effects will be noticeable, and the final result will be well worth it!

One major perk of recording indoors, whenever possible, is that you won’t have to deal with wind slamming into your microphone, and distorting the signal.

Outdoors

Sometimes, when recording sound effects, you have no choice but to take your set-up outside. This comes with its own challenges.

The main two are wind, and background noise, such as traffic, birds, etc. The biggest tip I can give you on this, and this is something I learned the hard way, is to never underestimate wind.

Whilst working on one of my audio libraries, I went out for a day to record ambiences, whilst visiting friends in another part of the country. I got to my location, unpacked everything, set everything up, and immediately realised that the wind was incredibly strong that day.

I could have brought more protection, but ended up only bringing some, as I figured it should be enough. Finally, after going through what I recorded over eight hours, only about an hour was useable.

Learn from my mistake, invest in good windshields, and bring more than you need.

If you want to know what kind of wind protection you can use, refer to section 2, where I link to a few different kinds. One major tip I can give you is to not cheap out on wind protection though.

At the end of the day, pricier windshields will protect your microphones from the wind, but they are also transparent, which means that they don’t muffle the audio. Using a really cheap windshield can change the sound dramatically, which is not something that you want.

This is all for today, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter, in order to be notified whenever I put out any new posts.

10 Gift Ideas for Filmmakers by Chris Skyes

So you have a friend, or family member, who is into filmmaking and cameras. You want to get them a gift on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, but you don’t know what they need, or what brands they’re using.

Fear not! I’m going to give you my list of ten items which every person with a camera needs!

1. Audio Recorders

As videographers, we often find ourselves in need of recording sound. This could be for an interview, a monologue, or perhaps recording ambiences. Devices such as the Zoom H6, Zoom H5, Zoom H4n, or the Tascam DR-60d MkII are compact, durable, and allow you to do just that.

As a guide, the more you spend on these types of devices, the better, and cleaner, the audio will be. Additionally, most of these devices can be mounted on top of the camera, allowing us to record audio whilst filming.

2. Microphone

In order to do actual recording, we need microphones. Some, such as the Rode VideoMic Pro, Rode VideoMic GO, or the Rode VideoMicro can be plugged in straight into the camera, and mounted on top of it, whilst microphones such as the Rode NTG-2 require a separate device, such as the Zoom H6, but produce much better audio.

3. External Storage

Our cameras can produce beautiful images, but all that information needs to be stored somewhere. Filmmakers in general require a lot of external storage, in order for us to retain all of the footage we’ve shot.

External hard drives like the Western Digital Passport, or the LaCie Rugged HDD, definitely come in handy, as they’re small, compact, and can store a lot of footage.

4. Screen Calibrator

This one is a bit technical, but stick with me. Have you ever noticed how the same image can look different, if you look at it on your computer, and then on your phone? That’s because colours look different on different kinds of screens.

Professional filmmakers need a device such as the Datacolor Spyder 5 Elite, or X-Rite i1Display Pro, in order to calibrate our screens to the required colour standard. This ensures that we can accurately edit our videos and photos in terms of colour.

5. Video editing equipment

When editing video, sometimes a keyboard and a mouse won’t suffice. We need additional hardware such as the Contour Design ShuttlePRO V.2 to more easily, and more efficiently, edit our video.

6. Camera Stabilisers

When holding a camera, the resulting footage can be shaky. Even when trying our best, sometimes our hands aren’t quite enough. In order to eliminate shake, a device such as a DJI Ronin-M can help eliminate it, and produce wonderfully stable footage.

7. Camera Tripod

When we’re not moving, holding a heavy camera isn’t particularly comfortable. As a result, using a tripod can help out with that!

8. Power Banks

All of our devices require power. Lots, and lots, of power. We often carry power banks with us on shoots, in order to make sure we have enough. As a general rule of thumb, buying more expensive power banks is the best way to go, as they have built-in safety systems.

Really cheap power banks have been known to explode, or catch on fire, so spending a bit more on them tends to be best.

9. Headphones

When it comes to audio, headphones are a must! We need to go for quality, as opposed to looks, so I’m going to happily recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 150. I’ve been using them for years, and they still work perfectly, even after daily use.

10. Camera Backpack

Finally, all of this gear needs to go somewhere when we’re moving about. Investing in a quality backpack will not only make you look more professional, but also protect your gear if you ever happen to drop it.

I hope this list has been helpful! Getting any of these items on the list as a gift will make any videographer happy!

So, What is The Sony PCM-D100/1? by Chris Skyes

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A little while ago, one of my Facebook posts got quite a bit of attention. The whole situation revolved around Sony agreeing to send me a replacement for my Sony PCM-D100, which was broken, but due to no fault of mine.

As more and more people interacted with the post, a common thread started to arise. What is the Sony PCM-D100/1?

You see, when Sony told me that they'd send me a replacement, they mentioned that due to the fact that the PCM-D100 was discontinued, they'd send me a PCM-D100/1.

Understandably, this caused quite a bit of confusion.

According to the customer service representative that I spoke to, there's no real difference. Given the fact that it's called PCM-D100/1, and not the PCM-D200, one would be lead to assume that it's different internal parts used due to different reason, but ultimately, it would be the same product.

As you can see from the photos, at least on the outside, the device looks identical to the Sony PCM-D100.

After a few e-mails back and forth, one of their customer service representatives eventually said that they changed factories, hence the D100/1 was created.

In the preview for my newest library, British Suburbia, the rain tracks were recorded with the D100/1 model, whilst everything else was recorded with the D100. Whilst there is no noticeable tone change between them, the contents of the recordings is obviously too different to make a definitive decision.

That being said, the updates to the library that are scheduled to follow will all be made with the D100/1, so I shall update this article and add a new preview once the next version of the library comes out. If you want to make sure you will be notified, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter down below.

So, what do you think? Do you reckon there are differences in the internal components? Will you hold out on making a decision until I publish more recordings? Let us know in the comments down below.


How I Recorded My First Ever Ambience Library by Chris Skyes

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The Black Sea. The first audio library I have ever recorded, and it is still my favourite. Allow me to tell you a story.

*insert Harp_06.wav*

It was September 2015. I hopped off the rusty, old, Eastern European train, and landed on harsh gravel, after a three foot fall. With such a distance between the ground and the door, I'm not quite sure who designed these trains, but I'm fairly certain stick insects and Basil Fawlty were foremost on their mind.

If you're British, you might have gotten a chuckle out of this. If not, don't worry about it, I promise you that it was a funny little gag.

Looking out, I see an old brutalist-style building, which served as the ticket office for the station, and as occasional shelter from the rain for short old women carrying leek-filled cloth bags, all staring at the strange 6ft3 man wearing a neon yellow Adventure Time shirt and carrying what looked like the fur of a dead gray cat.

Upon arrival at my hotel, I check in, and I am given the keys to my room. I head down a cold corridor, insert the key into the lock, and freak out when I realize that that's not my room, but the next one down.

I jump a few feet, open the door to my room, and carefully close it before anyone would know what just happened. I would later find out that I was the only person in the small hotel, except for the old lady behind the desk. As it turns out, the Romanian seaside is not very popular in late September, when temperatures can reach close to freezing.

Who could have known.

Anyway, as I entered my room, I was immediately greeted by what looked like a concrete floor, concrete walls, and the lowest beds I have ever seen. That's not particularly relevant, but just kind of weird.

Upon getting my bearings, I grab my gear bag, containing, among other things, my Rode NT 4, and my Tascam DR-60d mkII, and head out to the beach. As I arrive on the freezing cold beach, a realisation struck me.

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I was the only living thing within quite a distance. No other humans, no annoying ice cream stealing birds, no nothing. At the time, I didn't quite know how wrong I was, but we'll get to that later.

Carefully placing my bag on the sand, I zip it open and grab my equipment. I firmly place my feet in the sand, and I press record. As the signal traveled from my recorder, up to my headphones, I was shocked to only hear waves, and nothing else.

No annoying music blaring in the distance, no kids running around, no seagulls, nothing. Just the waves.

As the days progressed, I got more and more courageous. I was climbing up on wet slippery rocks, recording from different angles, even stepping into the sea, to get unusual sonic perspectives.

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In fact, whilst navigating my way across a field of slippery jagged rocks, trying my best to avoid the water, I nearly broke my neck as a flurry of rats scurried over the rocks and went past.

It turns out I wasn't alone after all. Luckily, I'm a big boy, so the rats weren't looking for a fight.

Upon returning to my base of operations in London, I sat down and began listening through the audio.

The original version that I had put out did not sell a great deal of copies. I was still learning, and I definitely should have spent more time editing it. Upon discussing things with Timothy McHugh, and sending my library to Paul Virostek for feedback, they very graciously gave me loads of pointers and great advice!

I imported the whole bloody library into Pro Tools, and started brutally cutting out anything that was sub par. Any kind of wind and handling noise was removed, and even though the library was now half the size, I felt like I had a quality product that I could be proud of!

Thank you to everyone who has purchased it, and helped motivate me to record more and more libraries! If you'd like to have a look at the library page, click the image down below. If you'd like to download some samples before deciding whether you want to purchase it or not, click here.

 
 
The Black Sea   30 audio files Over 30 minutes of audio 1.04 GB Unpacked Size 24bit/96kHz Sample Rate

The Black Sea

30 audio files
Over 30 minutes of audio
1.04 GB Unpacked Size
24bit/96kHz Sample Rate

 

Psst. I’ve recently written an article on what kind of gear you might need if you want to get into sound effects recording. You can read it here.


Read This Before You Buy the Zoom H6 by Chris Skyes

Thinking about purchasing the Zoom H6, but you want to know if it suits your needs before you do so? Here are my thoughts on it after using it for a while.

By the way, if you’d like to see a comparison between the Zoom H6 and the Zoom H5, I’ve written an article on it here.

Late last year I purchased the Zoom H6. Even though I specifically bought it to record sound effects, after I began using it, I started to slowly realise what a versatile piece of hardware it really is, and how you can use it for anything from podcasting and voice over work, to dialogue and live music recording.

Grab some tea and biscuits, and play some smooth jazz, because we're about to dive deep into the pros and cons of the Zoom H6.

It's versatile

Upon close inspection, you might notice that the Zoom H6 has 4 XLR/TRS inputs, which can actually be expanded to 6 if you purchase the separate attachable head.

This can come in handy if you, for example, want to record a podcast in the studio. You plug in a microphone in each XLR input, and not only can you monitor the level of each individual track, but you can also record a safety track at -12 dB, in case one of the guests gets a bit too excited.

Need to record some location audio? Plug in a boom and a few radio mics into the inputs, and you're ready to go!

Want to record a demo with your band? Plug in the instruments and the microphones, and you can record on the go, wherever you might be.

It's modular

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One of the things that I really love about the Zoom H6 is the fact that it's modular. The recorder itself comes with an X/Y capsule and MS capsule, but there are a few other capsules that you can purchase and use when needed.

Here is a list of the capsules which I could find, together with more information, and relevant Amazon affiliate links.

 

  • The Combo Input Capsule: This is the capsule mentioned before, which offers you an extra 2 XLR/TLR inputs.

  • MS capsule: This one comes with the Zoom H6 by default, but the really cool thing about it is that it also works on the Zoom H5, and the Zoom Q8.

  • X/Y capsule: This capsule also comes by default with the Zoom H6. This means that if the capsules stop working, you don't have to throw out the entire unit. You just need to purchase a replacement capsule, and you can keep on recording.

  • X/Y shock mounted capsule: Whilst this does not come by default with the Zoom H6, it is still compatible with it, as well as with the Zoom H5, and the Zoom Q8.

  • Stereo shotgun microphone capsule: Includes a super-directional microphone for picking up sound in the centre, as well as a bidirectional side mic for picking up sounds from the left and right. It is also compatible with the Zoom H5.

  • Shotgun microphone capsule: Highly directional, it allows you to record focused sound effects without having to carry a separate microphone and grip with the recorder. Whilst there are obviously better, and more expensive, shotgun microphones out there, this is a winning combo if you prefer to have a more compact set-up.

Build quality

The device itself feels really sturdy. The rubberised plastic casing also helps diminish handling noise if hand held, though I would wholeheartedly recommend getting this Rycote kit which contains a windshield, shock mount, and grip.

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I've used it and it really helped to eliminate most of the handling noise. When I went on my last recording trip, I could only hear handling noise if I basically shook the whole thing really hard.

Tilted screen

The screen is obviously tilted, which is great when placed on a DSLR for location recording, or when monitoring whilst recording a podcast. There are situations in which the tilted screen doesn't help, but they are in the minority.

If I could make a suggestion, I would say that I would have loved it to have a swivel screen, so it could be tilted as needed.

Great for loud ambiences

Whilst on my last recording trip, I recorded some gorgeous ambiences, such as windy or rainy ambiences, or city ambiences. The Zoom H6 was actually used to record my Dormant Village audio library.

Super portable

The device itself is super portable, and it comes in a very sturdy case. I wish more portable recorders, such as the Sony PCM-D100 came in such a case.

Affordable

Whilst the prices vary depending on where you are, the Zoom H6 remains a very affordable portable recording device. Click this affiliate link to view it on Amazon in your country.

Unbelievable battery life

Whilst on a recording trip to Transylvania earlier this year, and whilst recording all the time, I only really had to replace the batteries maybe four or five times. Zoom says it can record for up to 20 hours, and depending on the conditions, I'd definitely say that's true.

I left it to record rain ambiences overnight and 8-9 hours later it was still going strong. When I checked the battery status, it wasn't even half-way depleted.

Jin from ODDVISIONARY has mentioned that you can use an external USB battery to power the recorder as well. This could come in handy if you run out of batteries, as most people are likely to be carrying a USB battery pack with them anyway.

Ease of use

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I found the design and menus to be really intuitive and easy to use, and changing capsules is also painless and quick to do. When under time constraints, this is a massive plus.

It records high quality audio

The Zoom H6 can record audio up to 24bit/96kHz, which is great if you record ambiences or sound effects. If you're recording a podcast, or dialogue, there's no real need to go above 24bit/48kHz.

Now that I've talked about all the pros, I want to talk about the cons.

Tilted Screen

I would have loved to see a flip screen on the Zoom H6, like you see on some DSLR cameras. Whilst the tilted screen is a pro in most situations, there are instances where being able to move it around a bit would come in handy.

Noise

Whilst some Zoom recorder pre-amps tend to not be seen in a positive light online, I want to make it clear that the Zoom H6 is miles above in terms of quality and noise.

Conclusion

If you want to record super quiet nature ambiences, the Zoom H6 would not be my first choice. For literally anything else, it's an amazing, affordable, and portable choice!

These have been my thoughts on the Zoom H6, after using it for months. If you click on any of the links above, it will take you to Amazon, where you will be able to view the price of the item in question, along with more specs.

If you’d like to see a comparison between the Zoom H6, and the Zoom H5, I’ve written an article on it here.

If you purchase the item, I receive some money from Amazon, at no extra cost to you, which helps support this blog.

Do you have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment down below.

Thank you very much for reading, and I'll see you next week! 


How I Made My Most Successful Sound Effects Library to Date by Chris Skyes

The groundskeeper walks up to the wooden doors of the old building, thrusts a large metal key into the lock, and then turns it, before the house opens up with a creak.

'Good luck,' he says, as he hurries away.

I take a look inside to see a vast building, covered in dust and black mould, imagining the kind of life the family that lived there a hundred years ago might have lead. I place my bag down and carefully install my respirator, before I walk inside, the sound of my footsteps echoing throughout the curiously shaped building.

As I walk around the house, inspecting all the doors that I could record, I felt my pace quicken with excitement. Such a large house, with literally nothing better to do, just waiting for me to record it.

Making my way back to the entrance, I take my equipment out, set it up, and I begin recording the doors, in all their might.

With every movement, the shrieking sound of old wood and metal hinges resonated throughout the mansion.

As I moved from room to room, I tried to image what purpose each might have served. Perhaps this room was used as a living room, as it overlooks the town at the bottom of the hill. Or maybe this is where the father established his private office, where he could smoke and look at the adult photos he had locked up in his bottom drawer, right next to his revolver.

I digress.

Making my way through the house, I begin slamming and hitting the doors, the entire house shaking with each impact, black mould and dust flying freely through the air. The strange shape of the building gave each impact interesting resonance, adding to the character of the recordings.

As I looped around the house, ignoring all the sounds and creaks coming from the seemingly empty rooms, I stumbled across two large wooden doors, similar to the kind you would find upon entering an 18th century European Ballroom. Rather relatable, I know.

I swung them open a few times, which made a grandiose sound, and then I scurried out of the building, before I slowly drove myself insane.

After repeating the process a few more times at an abandoned house, warehouse, and another mansion, I found myself back at my lair in London. My eyebrows furrowed with doubt, I scrolled through the endless tracks, clips, and takes that I had to edit through.

Nevertheless, I'm a good boy, so I got started straight away, cleaning up the audio, putting iZotope RX to work, chopping up and editing different takes, writing awesome metadata, etc.

After weeks of work, I was done. The absolute mess of clips that I on my computer was now organised into sweet .WAV files, dripping with metadata, inviting you to press play.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was standing there, all proud, looking at this neatly packaged library, gently shedding a tear. Before uploading it, I didn't quite know how popular it was going to be.

After posting about it on Facebook, and getting some great feedback from George Vlad, I knew people were excited, but I didn't quite realise how popular it would be, trending on asoundeffect.com for a couple of weeks.

If you've purchased Abandoned Doors, I want to say thanks! I hope you got good use out of it, you're awesome, and you make what I do so much fun. If you haven't purchased it yet, you can get it here

 *Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge*

Also, if you’d like to learn more about how you can get started recording sound effects, I’ve written an article about the gear you need here.