Zoom F6 Field Recorder Announced – Record in 32bit Without Even Setting Levels

Last year at NAB  Zoom has launched the F8n, a professional-grade multitrack field recorder with great build-quality and advanced features like the Look-Ahead Hybrid Limiters, Zoom’s AutoMix, great preamps, timecode in/out and lots more. Now the Zoom F6 field recorder sports the same preamps as the F8n did, with the added benefit of being able to utilise dual A/D converters and record in 32bit, instead of standard 24bit, thus making setting levels and clipping a thing of the past. Information is somewhat limited at this point, but here’s what we were able to find out.

Zoom F6

The Zoom F6 is not as big in size as you might think. In fact, it’s tiny!

The Zoom F6  has six  XLR-inputs and features the same very low noise-floor preamps found in the Zoom F8n (−127 dBu EIN). There is a line-out, a headphone output with a tiny volume wheel and  a timecode in/out (again this is the same as in the F8n. Not continuing the similarities the F6 only has a single SD card slot. Powering the Zoom F6 should be rather easy, given all the options the unit offers: the F6 can either be powered by four AA batteries, USB-C or an L-Series  battery, for which their is a built-in mount on the unit’s backside. The front of the unit  is dominated by six faders, a tiny yet informative LCD and three main buttons to controle recording and playback. The unit can also be connected to Zoom’s Bluetooth adapter and will work with Smartphone app interface as well as Zoom’s F-Control panel. The Zoom F6 will record 6  tracks, as well as a  stereo mix, so 8 channels all in all.So far so good. The Zoom F6 seems like a nice little six-input recorder.

Dual A/D converter and 32bit float

Now this is where the Zoom F6 really shines. Without going into too much detail, the way the dual A/D converters are set up, it will be nearly impossible to clip the recordings coming off the Zoom F6 – meaning the the preamp just won’t clip. That by itself is a great feature to have. But additionally, this virtually non-clippable sound will then be recorded in 32bit float, instead of the long-time industry standard of 24bit.

Zoom F6

While 24bit can have  great audio quality there is one inherent problem: louder volumes will be recorded at better quality than lower volumes. In practice this can translate into a situation that many of us have encountered before: You record at a set gain level, and then the person starts whispering. Now you’d have to raise the gain, introducing noise. But with a 32bit recording everything would be recorded at the same quality level, no matter the volume, due to the immense dynamic headroom. On the other end of the spectrum, clipping would be really hard to achieve even you tried it on purpose and even if something clipped on output, you could bring it back down in post, similar to how highlight recovery works with RAW video: the spectrum of data recorded is larger than the available output range, that you can push the signal around more easily.

Zoom F6

The Zoom F6 is also supposed to be able to record 32bit float to all of its tracks, while also recording 24bit files as backups simultaneously. You can also choose to only record 24bit and use the Advanced Look-Ahead Hybrid Limiters, known from the Zoom F8n.

In May we should see some more detail on the Zoom F6 emerge, together with some information on pricing. The unit should be available during the latter parts of  June according to officials from Zoom.

Are you excited about 32bit float recording and getting your hands on this ground-breaking new field recorder by Zoom? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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 Andreas Paleologos
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Andreas Paleologos

Very interested in this. What’s the reasoning behind the XLR only inputs though? No more XLR+1/4″ combo jacks? Do they take up too much depth? Is their strive for compact the reason?

Guest
Have Yeahs

The F4 doesn’t have XLR/TRS combo jacks either, and I doubt the F8 does. So… what do you mean by “no more?”

Other that that, your depth idea is probably a good guess.

Guest
Have Yeahs

Whoa, I was wrong. Just checked my F4 and it does indeed have combo jacks. I never noticed because I only use XLR.

Good call-out.

 Alexander Boboschewski
Member
Alexander Boboschewski

whats about Timecode?

Guest
Have Yeahs

It has timecode in/out right there in the picture. He also mentions it.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer a BNC connector; it’s a cheesy 1/8″ jack that’s not going to be reliable.

 Shawn Convey
Guest
Shawn Convey

In theory could I use that 1/8th jack out of the F8 and into my BMPCC 4k which I would also be planing on sending a F8 mixdown to and everything would be in sycn with TC? eliminating the need for say a tentacle solution?

Steve Oakley
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Steve Oakley

The problem with this unit is its size. its just way too small. you couldn’t dial a mix up with it if you wanted to because the knobs are so close you’d for sure hit the other knobs. Ditto the F8 that I checked out. if you are a child or have small hands this might work for you, but for an adult, never mind one with big hands, wearing gloves outside in the cold, this would be pure hell to attempt to operate. if you can’t operate is with gloves on, its too small. its just that simple. even in fast moving sitiatioons where you are booming you want to be able to feel the right fader w/o bumping another. its the one total fail of zoom products, too small !. for anyone wanting a better idea on the size of this, its close to a full size sony 970 battery….

Guest
Have Yeahs

I have an F4 and think the size is perfect. It has high-quality power and timecode jacks and room to access things. But looking at this thing, I agree with you that it looks extremely fussy to operate.

The F6 is also a major downgrade in at least a couple of key ways: The external power is now limited to USB-C, which is a flimsy, non-locking, and unprofessional connector to use for power on a mobile device.

Then there’s the combo in/out 1/8″ timecode connector. Also flimsy and unprofessional.

Some brain-dead and disappointing decisions here.

Bill LaRue
Guest
Bill LaRue

The fiddly nature of the fader knobs is pretty well a non-issue, since the 32 float schema means that you don’t have to adjust the knobs during a session. In fact, Zoom claims that you could set the knobs anywhere and you will always get a file that is workable in post after normalization. This would mean that when booming or working with gloves you wouldn’t ever need to touch the knobs. The recorder is also linkable with the F-Control if you absolutely can’t resist tweaking while recording; ditto for the iPad app that does much the same thing. That said, all that gear might be a bit much to handle when booming…

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