Zoom H-5I love the Zoom H5.  In full disclosure, I have never been much of a Zoom type of guy.  It started with the guitar effects pedals in the ’90s…They were designed (and priced) for the low end market, and usually sounded low-end.  The H2 and H2n were disappointing recorders.  The H4n, however, raised my eyebrows and made me stop to listen.  I liked the concept, I liked the process and the recording was pretty good for the price.  Last year Zoom came out with the revolutionary Zoom H6, a recorder with incredible capabilities.  With the H6 they introduced us to the swappable, interchangeable attachments.  The “internal” microphone was no longer internal, it was attachable.  The H5 succeeds as a 4-channel recorder and retains the most important elements of the H6.  The Zoom H5 is easy to use and, for the price,  provides remarkable adaptability and capability.


The Zoom H5 comes with professional quality XLR/TRS combo inputs.  Zoom has improved the preamps on this recorder (since the H4n), so if you are still using the H4n, it is probably worth the migration.  One of my favorite aspects of the Zoom H5 is the interchangeable microphone module attachments.  The H5 ships with the stereo X/Y microphone attachment (XYH-5 module) , but you can purchase a range of microphone attachments (also compatible with the H6) including a shotgun, as well as an attachment that adds 2 additional XLR inputs.  This recorder has two modules that I think will prove quite useful for oral history, which, by definition, involves recording multiple sources.  The XYH-6 stereo module that ships with the H6 is compatible with the H5 and has a wider stereo image (switchable from 90 to 120 degrees), and the MSH-6 Mid-Side Module, which captures a signal from both unidirectional (center) and bidirectional (sides) microphones.  Each of these microphone modules contains a dedicated gain adjustment for easy level control.


With the Zoom H5, you can record four tracks at one time, however, in this mode you can only record a maximum quality of 24-bit/48 kHz.  In stereo mode, you can record up to 24-bit/96 kHz.  Multi-track recording can be tricky for the novice recorder, but the H5 includes the ability to “mix down” your 4 channels to a stereo file or to record your two channels in stereo mode or your record your four channels (stereo signal from the interchangeable microphone system + your 2 external mono microphone inputs) to separate files, which you can later mix down using your favorite audio editing software.  The H5 does record BWF compliant WAV files and has a built in compressor/limiter.  The AC adapter is optional, which drives me crazy, except for the fact that this recorder will give you up to 15 hours of continuous recording with just two standard AA alkaline batteries.   Remember, your battery life will be diminished if you are using phantom power for your microphones.  Finally, the Zoom H5 can be configured to create a simultaneous, backup recording (12db lower than the primary recording), so if you inadvertently lose track of your recording levels, the Zoom H5can provide  an alternative option.   This recorder provides an incredible feature set for under $300 and is sure to be a very popular recorder for oral history and other forms of fieldwork, as well as with those shooting DSLR video looking for an external audio recording device.  This is one of the best recorders you can buy for under $300.  The preamps in this recorder are still preamps you would expect in a recorder costing less then $300.  Of course there are much better recorders out there that will cost more money, however, the recording quality is, indeed, a step up from previous Zoom models and this recorder is very easy to operate.  This is a lot of recorder for the money.  As you may expect, I am working on the Closer Look and the Getting Started  videos for this recorder, and will post sample audio files as well, so stay tuned.

Heart my test of the Zoom H-5 microphones in the post Testing 1-2-3: Zoom H-5 Microphone Test

Quick Summary:

Memory: SD/SDHC (up to 32 gb)
Sample rate /Bitdepth: 24/96 (2 channels)  24/48 (4 channels)
Microphone Input type: External: XLR/1/4″ TRS;  Interchangeable Microphone Modules (X/Y Stereo, Mid/Side, Shotgun)
Phantom Power: yes
Favorite Features: Swappable microphone modules, improved preamps, battery life, limiter
Cost: $ 269


About Author

Douglas A. Boyd

(4) Readers Comments

  1. I bought one of these. I am trying to find out how to do multitrack recording on the H5. It doesnt explain it in the manual, and despite a few references in reviews like yours saying that it can do multitrack recording, I have yet to find a tutorial or guide online explaining how. H5-owning forum users seem split on whether it actually can do multitrack or not. As this is is a key feature of the H5, it seems really very surprising (I am choosing my words kindly here!) that Zoom havent published the information on how to do it. Do you know how? Thank you, Jim

    • Your H5 must be in “Stereo” Record Mode. Press “Menu” button on the right side, scroll all the way to the bottom. Select “REC MODE” then choose “MULTI FILE” rather than “STEREO FILE”.
      You should now be in multi track record mode.

  2. I have kind of intteruptions in all my recording in every two or three seconds intervals. I mean when I listen to my recordings with high quality i can hear that the sound gets low or off every two or three seconds. I haven\\’t found anything about it on internet, please help me.

  3. First, as in the reply, you need to be in multi-file mode.Once in multi-file mode you will begin to record within a project, which houses the collection pf files you will end up recording in your multi track project. Then, if you go into the menu system and select \\\\”Project\\\\” there will be an option for \\\\”Overdub\\\\”. This allows you to record secondary tracks after an initial mono (via external input) or stereo track has been recorded. If you are using the internal mics you would create your first file as a stereo file. Then, to record another stereo track with the internal mics, you would have to move the first recording to the Track 1/Track 2, linked as stereo tracks, and then record the second track to the L/R pair. The manual explains this in the Overdub section. After you record the second stereo track, utilizing all four tracks, you would need to mixdown the four tracks to two, allowing you to record another stereo track, Note that your project would still contain the individual stereo tracks but to utilize them rather than the stereo mixdown file you would need to export your tracks to a digital audio workstation (DAW) to work with more than 4 tracks. Other multi track strategies are possible using mono files and external mics but the idea is similar. While the H5 does support multi tracking, it can become cumbersome if you will be incorporating more than four tracks or two stereo tracks. A dedicated multi-track recorder like the Zoom R8 or Tascam DP-008ex are better suited to multitasking.

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