During NAB this year, Zoom has announced a new field recorder: the Zoom F6. This compact recorder features 32-bit float recording via the six XLR inputs, and dual Analog/Digital converters. The Zoom F6 is nearly ready to ship, and we know a little bit more about it.
Zoom F6 – The Compact Production Workhorse
It draws only 10W and can be powered either by Sony L-Series batteries, 4AA batteries, or an AC adapter/power bank via the USB type-C connector (requires DC 5V power).
What I find useful is that each powering options are a different place. The AA battery compartment is at the bottom of the unit, the Sony L battery is on the back, while the USB port is on the left. Otherwise, there is no information if you can use each port for redundancy purposes.
Having a compact and reliable unit that can run for hours is great, but the features of a field recorder matter most.
Zoom F6 Features
The F6 supports various recording formats and sample rates, including 44.1/48/96/192 kHz at 16/24-bit/32-bit float in mono/stereo/2-8ch poly. You can record six tracks simultaneously at the maximum setting (192 kHz at 32-bit float). If you don’t need the extra bits, you can record up to fourteen tracks (6 inputs x 2 (Linear and Floating) + LR mix).
Usually, field recorders can “only” go up to 24-bit, but the F6 goes up to 32-bit. These extra bits should let you plenty of room in post-production. Also, combined with the two Analog/Digital converters built-in, your recordings should never clip again.
If you are recording in 24-bit, the F6 lets you use the “look-ahead hybrid limiters.” What those limiters do is add a 1-millisecond delay, so the limiters “look ahead” and anticipates future clipping before it’s recorded. Also, there is what Zoom calls “AutoMix” function built-in that automatically adjust the levels of your mix. I’m curious to see how they work in real life scenarios.
The six pre-amps are the same as the Zoom F8. These pre-amps are pretty decent and feature a low noise floor (-127 dBu EIN), high gain (up to 75 dB), and selectable mic/line levels for each input.
The Zoom F6 can accept Time Code (with 0.2 ppm when on and when powered off) via a dedicated 3.5mm stereo mini jack. Also, the recorder can be controlled wirelessly, if you purchase the optional BTA-1 Bluetooth adapter, via the Control App on your iPhone/iPad. While we talk about control, you can plug the F6 to the Zoom F-Control (FRC-8) module via the USB port. The Zoom F-Control panel gives you eight physical 60mm faders and additional buttons to control the trim/pan/track-arming for each track (and it looks cool).
Finally, recordings are stored on an SDXC card (up to 512 GB).
Zoom F6 User Interface
The Zoom F6 features six locking Neutrik XLR inputs. There are three on the left side, and three on the right side. On the front, there are six rotating knobs to control the gain input, one for each channel. In the middle of the front panel are the transport controls – stop/record/play – and the 1.54″ color LCD. If you are shooting in bright sunlight, there is a monochromatic mode. Finally, there are four buttons around the screen to navigate in the menus and a PFL button (Pre-Fade Listening).
On the left-hand side are the first three XLR inputs, the USB-C port, a 3.5mm stereo mini unbalanced line out jack, and the connection port for the optional BTA-1 Bluetooth adapter.
On the right-hand side are the other three XLR inputs, a wheel to adjust the headphone output next to the 3.5mm headphone jack that boasts an impressive 100 mW headphone amplifier, the timecode input/output 3.5mm jack, and finally the power button.
At the back of the F6, you will find the SDXC port as well as the Sony L-Series battery connectors. Finally, on the top of the recorder, you can mount a small (included) bracket with a 1/4″ screw. This is useful if you want to attach the recorder at the bottom of your camera. If you’re going to mount the F6 on a tripod, there is a 1/4″ screw hole at the bottom.
Pricing and Availability
The Zoom F6 is now available to pre-order and will ship early July. It retails for $649.99. In term of comparison, the Sound Devices MixPre 6, although it’s in another league, retails for $899.
What do you think of the Zoom F6? Do you need six inputs and are considering buying it? Let us know in the comments!