category: notes

ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder

This is my new audio recorder since summer 2015 -

for recording interviews and reports on the fly:

The ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder

There are very few user reviews about the ZOOM H5 on the internet from indepentent radio feature producers. Therefore I’d like to share a few experiences.

I was looking for something portable, something flexible in use and solid, outdoors, indoors, on crowded places, in offices, cafés, wherever. Normally I can’t choose the locations, I do not know the acoustic conditions, and there is no second trial, the recording has to work immediately, even with not so good conditions. I need to have a recorder which is quickly ready for use, robust and on which I can rely. The H5 covers these needs. Turn-on time 7 seconds.

Shootings without a tripod
I have been using the H5 quite often since last summer, and I enjoyed it. The red dot on the Rec button is already a bit worn and the display has suffered scratches. Recording without tripod is okay. Some people say the ZOOM H5 hand noise would be “extreme”. I do not know how it is with other recorders of this kind, but, yes, it does pick up handling noise more then I expected and more than I am used to when recording with my old recorder and external microphones. – Walking interviews? I haven’t tried yet.
What else is there to say  –
It has a rubberized surface, it fits comfortably in the hand, and I can use it with a single hand. It has a thread for mounting on a tripod or camera. All in all I can say yes, this recorder fits my purposes in many ways.

This is one of my test shots with the ZOOM H5 using the XY stereo microphone module.

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Recording level 10* of 10. On my old recording device with external microphone I normally turn to 6 of 10 in order to get a recording between -12 and -6 dB. I tried this on the H5 (with XY module). Result: the recording was low, between -18 and -12 dB or even lower.

Effects: None. Hairy windscreen. Recorder in hand. Indoors + balcony (windspeed 30 km/h, autobahn noise about half a kilometer away.

With the wind-’pompom’ mentioned in the audio the H5 looks like this:

ZOOM H 5 Handy Recorder / with windshield


The ZOOM H5 and the microphones
It comes with an XY stereo microphone capsule. In addition,

ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder - 2 XLR inputsit has two XLR/TRS input ports for external microphones, music instruments or line level devices. There are several types of microphone modules to be used with the H5 and changed as quickly as camera lenses, which is absolutely great. I use its directional microphone for interviews.

ZOOM H5 Handy Recorder with directional microphone attachement

This is a test shot using the directional mono microphone attachement SGH-6.

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Microphone: directly at source (5-10 cm), record level: 8 of 10, effects: none, hairy windscreen, recorder in hand, indoors + balcony, windspeed 20 km/h, autobahn noise about half a kilometer away.

Recording level
The recording level can be operated by turning knobs and the small ‘rollbar’ protects against inadvertent adjustment.

If it’s loud – no problem
The ZOOM H5 with its X/Y Stereo Mic or the SGH-6 Shotgun Mic is best  when recording louder sources. Live music or voices close to the microphone. Quiet environmental sounds are not its speciality really, according to my experiences. For quiet sounds I use external microphones anyway. Walking interviews? I haven’t tried yet.

All in all
the ZOOM H5 Recorder is a reliable and versatile tool for me. The important thing for me was getting to know its special ‘behaviour’ in less than ideal acoustic conditions and to be prepared how to compensate.

It is very helpful for the one-woman production crew I am.
There will be more ‘real-world’ shots to come soon.




12 years !  -   So I think it’s time to give my little true helper an extra mention.

12 years – That’s how long I have been recording with this pair of ear microphones. Quite some radio features I have created with its help. And quite  some sound engineers were impressed by the sound quality. My OKM Soundman consists of an adapter with battery and the two tiny microphones.

In-ear-microphones allow binaural recordings. (Binaural = with both ears.) Binaural recording is a method of making spatially, almost realistic recordings for headphone listening, creating an effect for as if you were actually there.

Since I started my radio work I have been recording sounds of the environment (often called ‘field recordings’). Most of all I have been fascinated by urban sounds and I still am. When I first used ear microphones it was a sonic experience unlike anything I had known. And I found environmental recordings even more fascinating. The city as a listening space, that is what fascinates me so much. All the different sounds a city can offer.

In my soundscape See you in Siam you can find sounds of the City of Bangkok, the loud sounds of the streets and the shopping malls, and the very soft ones like inside the Skytrain. You can listen to See you in Siam here on Soundcloud. Also on my Soundcloud-page there is the recording Uphill with birds. It is a sound of a mountain landscape, recorded on a hill near to a serpentine road.
Should you like some information about field recordings, here you can find it.