Zoom H6 vs RME UFX

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

The H6 has four XLR inputs built-in to the body with individual phantom power options. I noticed in an earlier comparison that the preamps behind these XLRs seemed very high in quality, basically indistinguishable from those in my RME UFX interface in a quick and dirty comparison. I set out to do a more careful comparison to see if my initial impression was correct.

One Mic in Mono

Years ago I needed a line level switcher. The device I bought, the Coleman Audio LS3, has become one of my handiest accessories over the years, giving me a fairly easy way to do comparisons of different bits of audio gear. Another tool that helps is the Rode NT4 mic, which can be battery powered. This allows me to use a single mic as a source while I avoid phantom power issues and still have some confidence that impedance loading is not coloring the results.

In my first comparisons of the Zoom H6 XLR preamps and the RME UFX I did some pretty crude level matching and used different mics for each chain, all in the interests of stereo and expediency. Now I’m attempting to do a bit more careful job of evaluating the H6 preamps by using a single mic source and a mono recording. I fired up the Rode NT4 on battery power and connected the left channel through the Coleman and into channel 4 of the Zoom H6 and channel 12 of the RME UFX. I then played a 1 khz test tone through the Dynaudio BM6p and into the Rode mic. After adjusting both preamps to about -12 dBFS I recorded a bit of the test tone. This is a pretty loud tone, and I used it to check and fine tune the level matching in post. Then I turned down the tone by 40 dB and played the tone followed by silence and recorded that. I measured the tone and it showed a level of 55 dB, about the same sound level as a quiet office setting. I’m not reproducing the loud tone, but here is the quiet tone, followed by what passes for silence in my suburban bedroom studio. Remember, these are WAV files so you’ll need to download them to play them smoothly.

RME UFX Low Volume Tone

Zoom H6 Low Volume Tone

A Musical Sample

Test tones are useful but perhaps a musical sample would be more satisfying. I set up the Lumix GH3 camera and the Rode NT4 mic in front of the guitar stool, tuned up the Wingert to taropatch open G, and played a bit of “Ke Aloha” for the camera and the recorders.

Here’s the audio clip from that session:

RME UFX Music Sample

Zoom H6 Music Sample

and here’s the video:

Conclusions

I hope you’ll listen to the samples yourself and make your own judgment, but I must say that I can hear no difference at all between the preamps in the H6 and the preamps in the RME UFX. To me that is remarkable, and a demonstration of how tech progress has brought high quality audio down to a very accessible price point. Whatever the limitations and problems the Zoom H6 might suffer, it seems very capable of capturing clean clear audio when connected to high quality external mics.

 

Update – High Gain Comparison

A commenter on the YouTube channel mentioned hearing a lot of noise on from the preamps in the H6, then he explained that he was using a dynamic mic with the preamp cranked to 10. I realized that my comparison had left the H6 preamp around 7, so perhaps I was too kind.

I pulled out the mic with the lowest sensitivity in my collection, a Beyer M260 that has been re-ribboned with an RCA ribbon. This is a velvety sounding mic with very low output. I recorded a test tone followed by “room tone” or what passes for silence here in Walnut Creek on a Friday afternoon. The test tone registered 50 dB slow C weighted on my Radio Shack meter – this is pretty darned quiet.

RME UFX Ribbon Sample

Zoom H6 Ribbon Sample

Even with my RME UFX preamp cranked to the max I had to add 2 dB of gain in REAPER to match the level of the Zoom H6 file, so that preamp in the H6 is pretty darned hot. The RME was maxed at 65 dB of gain + 2 in post gives 67 dB from the H6.

At this level, though, the H6 is making a lot more noise than the RME. Not that its audible at normal listening levels, but when the playback is really cranked their is more garbage in the Zoom recording.



This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 at 6:41 pm and is filed under Comparisons, Recording. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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    25 Responses to ' Zoom H6 vs RME UFX '

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    1. stéphane said in post # 1,

      on August 30th, 2013 at 9:22 am

      Hi Fran,
      I’m Stéphane (i wrote you a couple of weeks ago).
      I just saw and listened to your new comparasion test between H6 and UFX, and i stilll can’t tell the difference between both unit pres.
      i tried to make a sort of blind test and i couldn’t really found “who was who”.
      What’s your opinion about both pres?
      a totaly different answer: did you test the h6 as an audio interface in 6 (or multiple) input mode?
      thanks for your test and great guitar playing.
      stéphane

    2. stéphane said in post # 2,

      on August 30th, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Sorry Fran, I just read the answer to my first question at the begining of this page. (i skiped directly from your youtube channel to this mail box without reading your comments).But now i did.
      about the 6 input audio interface capability, i’m still wondering.
      thanks again
      stéphane

    3. Fran Guidry said in post # 3,

      on August 30th, 2013 at 10:49 am

      You can download a program called foobar2000 and the accompanying ABX plugin to do blind tests with the clips that are linked in this blog post. When I did this I was unable to tell the clips apart with statistical significance.

      I’ve tested the 6 channel interface mode. It works fine.

      Fran

    4. stéphane said in post # 4,

      on August 31st, 2013 at 2:02 am

      Hi Fran,
      Thanks for your answer.I will have a look at this Foobar2000 (never heard about it).
      I did the blind test in an old fashion way by changing tracks with eyes closed. I couldn’t tell the difference but that’s right that with your hight gain comparasion, the zoom is more noisy. (so the top woudl be 7 ? in order to have good , cleans result as the ones you made in the first place ?)
      I’m still waiting for the H6 release here in Europe.
      I’m planing to use it for recording small classical formación and choirs, using a decca tree config with my c414 in omni and on each side a couple of Oktava mk 0012 with omnis capsules + the H6 XY for room ambience
      What do you think about this config?
      Thanks a lot again for sharing all your test, advices and experiments.
      stéphane

    5. Kee de Visser said in post # 5,

      on September 5th, 2013 at 3:36 am

      Stéphane, for us Europeans thomann.de is a good source. I got mine 2 weeks ago. Just be careful with the choice of SD card. I bought a 64GB SanDisk SDXC and it produces clicks in the audio, even though it passes the H6 test. I’m trying to find out what the problem is and how to avoid it. The 2GB SD that comes with the H6 seems to be fine.
      Decca tree can sound excellent. It has a nice, spacious sound. I honestly don’t think the H6 XY for room ambience will fit, it’s far to mono-ish in my opinion.

    6. stéphane said in post # 6,

      on September 5th, 2013 at 4:31 am

      Hi,
      Thanks Kee for your advices and for warning us about SDXC cards. i hope there is a way to match a sd card with more than 2gb with the H6.
      i didn’t know the H6 was already available in Thomann. Good to know.
      A last question: when the H6 is used as an audio interface does it run on its own batteries or does it use the computer usb power?
      Thanks a lot.
      stéphane

    7. Fran Guidry said in post # 7,

      on September 5th, 2013 at 8:47 am

      I’ve been using SDHC cards. These are available in capacities up to 32 GB and I’ve experienced no dropouts.

      There have been reports of issues with SDXC cards when used in GoPro cameras, it’s quite a scandal because one of the top manufacturers (Sandisk) recommended by GoPro has apparently been selling premium priced high speed cards that will not actually meet their specifications due to long pauses in the write cycle.

      Fran

    8. Kees de Visser said in post # 8,

      on September 5th, 2013 at 11:21 am

      I’ve done more testing today with the SDXC card and it seems that the clicks only happen at 48 kHz sampling rate. Most clicks at 24bit mode, much less at 16bit. The 44.1 and 96 kHz testfiles of over 20 min. don’t show any clicks. I’ll try to dig further asap.
      @Stéphane: The h6 switches to usb power as soon as you plug the cable. Very handy ! There are also rather cheap usb battery packs on the market. They can be used as an external energy source.

    9. Kees de Visser said in post # 9,

      on October 6th, 2013 at 12:36 am

      Zoom replied to my problem with a new firmware 1.10. I haven’t had time to test it yet, but it’s supposed to solve the 64 GB SDXC card issue.
      http://zoom.co.jp/products/h6/software/#software348

    10. yoram said in post # 10,

      on October 6th, 2013 at 7:00 am

      hi

      I am thinking about moving away from computer based to hardware based recording. I will do my recordings using either the H4n or h6 and do the mixing and mastering using the computer. My question has to do with the bottom line: Will these devices produce pro results, like using a pro preamp and a pro software or are they incredible for the price you pay…. I play acoustic instruments and sing but also use synth etc. I use a great Rhode mic. If they will do a pro job, then should I be happy with the H4n or should I go for the h6. I usually play alone and occasionally with one more guy. Will I get a better results using the 6h?

      I will appreciate any input on the matter because we live in an era where great and pro can easily turn into great and pro considering the price…. and you will be greater great and greater pro if you pay more… Are they good enough to produce a cd? Thanks a lot. Yoram

    11. Fran Guidry said in post # 11,

      on October 6th, 2013 at 7:08 am

      Yoram, thanks for stopping by. I wish I could give you a definitive answer to your question, but I feel that it is impossible. What is great and pro for me may be mediocre and amateur for you, I’m afraid.

      But speaking just for myself, I would (and probably will) use the H6 to record a solo acoustic guitar CD. I would not use an H4n if I had a choice. In fact, I bought one when the H4n was first released, but returned it.

      I think you would agree that the UFX is a pro device, so hopefully you can listen and judge for yourself based on the clips I’ve created comparing the UFX to the H6.

      Fran

    12. yoram said in post # 12,

      on October 12th, 2013 at 12:35 am

      Thanks a lot for your response

      I have been reading a lot of great reviews on the h6 and it seems that it is the first handheld recorder that does the job. I would probably purchase it with the extra XLRs but without the two extra mics. I will use some great sounding mics (Rhode etc). One more thing… I wish to thank you…. since i bumped into your site i started playing around with different guitar tunnings… THIS IS FUN! So thanks for your work. I really appreciate those who do such a service to people

    13. Fran Guidry said in post # 13,

      on October 12th, 2013 at 6:43 am

      I’m glad you’re enjoying alternate tunings.

      In another comparison I tested the XY mic module from the H6 vs a Rode NT4 stereo mic. I thought the Zoom mics were very competitive to the Rode mic.

      The XLR module will not provide phantom power so it will only be useful with dynamics and self-powered condensers.

      Fran

    14. on November 3rd, 2013 at 8:10 am

      […] dat haalt, dus ik ben enigszins terughoudend die cijfers te accepteren. Er is nog meer testnieuws: Zoom H6 vs RME UFX | Homebrewed Music Als ik de gegevens juist analyseer heeft H6 een ruisvloer van -65dB bij maximale gain-instelling, […]

    15. RS Field said in post # 15,

      on November 23rd, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      can you do overdudding with the H6 like with the zoom 4N when the latter is in ‘multitrack mode’?

    16. Fran Guidry said in post # 16,

      on November 23rd, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      There’s a very limited overdubbing capability. Each track is “attached” to its input source, so you can record on the XY mics, but your overdub must be on one of the XLR/TRS inputs. Or vice versa. Here’s a link to the manual: http://www.zoom.co.jp/download/E_H6.pdf‎ Page 35 discusses overdubbing.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Fran

    17. Stéphane said in post # 17,

      on December 5th, 2013 at 2:52 am

      Stéphane said in post # 12,
      on December 5th, 2013 at 2:44 am
      Hi Fran,
      Congrat again for all your tests.
      I have just a couple of questions about the H6 regarding is capabilities as an audio-interface.
      – can we use the h6 transports buttons to control transport on our DAW?
      Pressing rec on the H6 would activate rec in cubase for exemple?
      – i guess you already answered that question , but what is the lowest latency the device can accept? 32/64samples?and what does it looks like in ms.
      -last question: can we direct monitoring in a DAW with the h6?
      Thanks a lot for your help Fran.
      Stéphane
      I apologize for posting this in 2 differents thread but i was not sure were to post it.

    18. Jimi said in post # 18,

      on March 6th, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      thanks for this test!
      the h6 is not bad at all, with the guitar tests, I found the UFX preamps to be deeper sounding, and the H6 more flat.
      still, the h6 preamps are much better than the h4n ones. They are fine for many recording tasks

    19. Adam Rafferty said in post # 19,

      on May 22nd, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Fran – thank you!

      I too am a fingerstyle player, and I own a Roland Octacapture – nice sounding preamps, but I am considering the H6.

      I was interested in the H6 because I need to record in a gypsy like fashion, ie.- I am always looking for a good room, and can’t really set up a studio with treatment. Hotel rooms and bedrooms are often good places to get a dry, (non – early reflection) sound.

      Setting up the laptop, external hard drive and the interface is extra hassle – and of course if the laptop & HD are churning anywhere nearby, that’s more noise…so quickie setup gets even more complicated.

      I plan to record with a few different condensers and a DI line from the guitar and then blend.

      So the grand question (just for reassurance, you pretty much answered here) …

      In your estimation, can the ZOOM be good enough for a fingerstyle guitar CD?

      I did listen to your next post with the Beyer RIbbin mic…the H6 did have more noise, so that’s a concern….

      Your thoughts? Thank you. THis is th eonly post I could find with an H6 vs Interface shootout. Bravo!

      Adam Rafferty

    20. Adam Rafferty said in post # 20,

      on May 22nd, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Sorry for the typos. – AR

    21. Adam Rafferty said in post # 21,

      on May 22nd, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      One more question. The XLR capsule – are those combo jacks, i.e. can I do the guitar DI line in there, if I’d like to use the 4 on board inputs with mics requiring phantom?

      Thanks again.

      Adam

    22. Rodrigo Tavares said in post # 22,

      on October 4th, 2014 at 6:10 am

      Hi Fran, just read your RME/Zoom H6 comparison as I am thinking of upgrading to a dedicated interface.
      My initial plan was to get a AKG C414xls for acoustic instruments and a Sm57 for a guitar cab to go with the H6 and get more flexibility. Then I saw a AT4050/ Apogee Duet 2 bundle for a good price and wondered. In your view, in case you are familiar with this stuff, what would be the more relevant upgrade: from the Zoom H6 to the Duet 2 or from the AT4050 to the C414xls. I will be recording mostly acoustic and electric guitars and voice. Thanks again and congratulations for this channel. Best, Rodrigo.

    23. Fran Guidry said in post # 23,

      on October 4th, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Rodrigo, I have never used any AKG C414 model nor have I used any Apogee product. So I have no way to advise you that’s meaningful.

      I would expect the Apogee to match the performance of the UFX, so I would expect a quality difference (self noise) between the H6 and the Apogee, but only you can judge if the difference is significant to you.

      Fran

    24. Rodrigo Tavares said in post # 24,

      on October 4th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Fran, thanks again for taking the time to respond. I guess I will be keeping the Zoom and look for some good general purpose mics to go with it. The H6 sounds good enough in your tests. I am thinking about the AT4050, KSM32 or TLM-102. Have any experience with these? Best, Rodrigo.

    25. Fran Guidry said in post # 25,

      on October 4th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      I have used an AT4050 a fair amount, and also have a Shure KSM44. I like both of them just fine.

      Fran

    Leave a reply






    About the Blog

      Howdy, my name is Fran Guidry and this is my Homebrewed Music blog.

      I play Hawaiian slack key guitar and recorded my solo acoustic CD at home. Most of the recording information I find on the internet seems focused on bands, drums, multitracking, and so on but my main focus is recording solo acoustic guitar. Lately I’ve been enjoying video recording along with audio, so that shows up in the blog as well.

      I’m also a guitar nut. I love big ones and little ones, handmades and factory guitars, cheap ones and expensive ones. So I’ll be sharing the fun of exploring guitars as well, along with the challenges of amplifying acoustic guitars for live performance.

      Welcome!

    Philosophy

      My recording philosophy is pragmatic, skeptical, not super critical. After all, the performance is by far the most important component of a track, and every aspect of any recording is a matter of taste.

      But I do like to know “about stuff.” Back in hifi days I learned about double blind testing. I learned that we humans can easily hear differences that don’t really exist. The more I’ve learned about our human auditory system, the more I’m skeptical of what people say they hear, especially if they claim that a particular microphone or preamp or cable has some magical property.

      I’ve only been recording since 2001, and when I started I found the usual places on the internet. I sought advice and accepted it, thought I would improve my recordings by using more expensive equipment. It didn’t work.

      Two things that did seem to lead to better recordings were experience and room treatment. Getting an appealing sound is the combination of many small details, and learning those details only comes from experience. Amd the sound of the recording space is obviously a big factor.

      I’ve only recorded seriously using digital technology, but I remember trying to record rehearsals and gigs back in analog days. I don’t have any nostalgia for analog recording and playback systems at all. I think even low end digital systems can capture marvelous recordings. So when I look at gear, I look for good specs: low noise, broad flat frequency response, wide dynamic range, low distortion. I’m not interested in colorful components, mics and preamps with a sound, I want the sound to be the sound of my guitar.

      But the last word is that I’m just learning and I hope you find something useful in my posts.