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Old April 13th, 2015, 11:12 AM   #1
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New Zoom H6, am I missing something?

I fired up a new Zoom H6 yesterday. There is much to like, and a couple of things I donít like. First someone please tell me if there is AGC on this thing and I am missing it. I sure canít find it if itís there.
I donít like AGC. I do all of my primary recording in manual, I back up with AGC. I am very big on backing up audio. I do a lot of live events. You will never see me here posting ďhelp dude, I have no audioĒ. Those posts blow my mind. One of the roles I wanted the H6 for is a back up device with AGC. A bomb proof emergency backup track that hopefully never gets used. It has the tools to do that but not with AGC.

Let me make the 12db back up track clear too. It only backs up the left/right inputs where the onboard mics attach, not the four XLR inputs. Fortunately I bought the XLR module because I wanted a six track recorder. I tie into mixing boards regularly; I donít have a lot of need for the mic capsules. So, to record the safety track I would have been limited to the onboards without the XLR adapter.

The Zoom web site and the manual imply you are supposed to use the compressor/limiter to boost low signals. First of all a compressor is a poor substitute for AGC. It is a compressor, it is not AGC. Then when you go to the comp/limiter settings the consumer side of the device rears its ugly head. There is no ability to set your own limiter value. In fact what there is is six presets with consumer names on them like vocals, concert, studio. If youíre going to use a limiter or compressor you better know what the thresholds and values are. Those values are not even in the manual. Fortunately I found them in Ty Fords excellent review of the H5. He says they are in the H5 manual but I could not find them in my H6 book. I just started this yesterday; again, maybe Iím missing something. The limiter thresholds range from -12db to -14db, assuming they are the same as the H5. I am confident enough in my ability to ride a gain that it is not unusual for me to record a little above -12 when I can. Itís a good thing I found the limiter settings. I put a lot of effort into my audio.

So, would someone please embarrass me and tell me it has auto level control and I am missing it? I assumed all of these new recorders would come with a basic function like AGC. I bought Zooms flagship model and apparently I am wrong? I am going to keep testing and getting my head complexly wrapped around this thing. I found the pre amps to be reasonably quiet if you donít push them too far. The 20db pad allowed it to take the line signal from my Mackie mixer without trouble. The line out on the H6 is consumer -10db. A little low for the line input on my cameras but doable.

One super cool thing about it. For AC power it takes 5V mini USB. Imagine that. Just think of how easy our kits could be if more manufactures would allow all of transformer devices to be powered from a laptop, phone charger, or USB battery.

Steve
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Old April 13th, 2015, 01:59 PM   #2
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Re: New Zoom H6, am I missing something?

I have the H4n and used it for backup too for live performances. I never found AGC that useful. Any loud noise will cause it to reduce its gain and remain at that level for the duration. That noise could happen while handling the recorder, audience member coughing, etc. This can render the audio nearly useless. I prefer to set it manually safely below the anticipated peak. That is also imperfect science but at least you have some control over. I couldn't say if Zoom has continued this implementation of AGC but I wouldn't be surprised.
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Old April 14th, 2015, 04:23 PM   #3
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Re: New Zoom H6, am I missing something?

Hi Pete,

Your not describing auto gain control (AGC). I don't know what you have there? The downside of AGC is just the opposite. Since it trys to make sure you get everything recorded at the same level it sounds the worst at the low levels because it raises everything to the same level. In other words, if all is quiet, it can take your noise floor all the way up to -12db or whatever mark it is set for. And of course it brings the spikes down to that same level, not good ether. Far from a perfect world, but OK for an emergency back up. My primary manual recordings are almost always good, but audio is far to important not to have it backed up.

I would look at your unit and see if you have a limiter or compressor enabled?

Steve
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Old April 14th, 2015, 04:47 PM   #4
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Re: New Zoom H6, am I missing something?

Pete is describing the way the H4n reacts when it is in auto control.

So you are both right: That is the way the H4n works, but yes that isn't really what happens with most "traditional" AGC circuits. It's a common complaint with the H4n that it operates that way.

I have an original H4 and an H4n, but since I never used either in auto mode I can only comment on what I've read about how they react.

I haven't used the H6 at all, so I can't comment on it.
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Old April 14th, 2015, 06:35 PM   #5
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Re: New Zoom H6, am I missing something?

Hi Jay,

Thanks for the info. I am fine with the H6, it will do everything I need it to. I was just surprised it does not have something as simple and standard as an AGC circuit. Maybe the complaints about the H4 are why they left it out altogether.

Really it blows me away because I have done this stuff for long enough I remember when it would have taken a rack of components to do what it does. The hardest part of using it is programming through a 1 1/2" LCD screen when I am used to a console with faders and knobs ;) ;) :0

Steve
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