I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve been shopping again for toys.
I’m going through a fairly creative time at the moment, and have both been writing some new material and arranging other folk’s material. I’ve recently bought some new instruments that are challenging me (in a good way), and have been doing some music with others, in particular, my friend Annie.
But when I get around to wanting to record something, either for practice/rehearsal purposes, or a wider audience, my enthusiasm has been waning. This is because my recording kit – a Roland VS-1680 – is simply old. It still works fine, and records brilliantly; 8 channels at once, and 16 channels in total. But it is the size of a small suitcase, and has no simple way to transfer recordings for editing on computer. It can be done, but it is a pain in the arse. It is certainly not something that you could use to whip up a quick demo in an hour.
While looking at potential solutions to this – including one that makes your PC pretend to be a SCSI hard disk (the VS-1680 only supports SCSI peripherals), I realised that for the money it was going to cost, I could buy something new.
Enter the Zoom H6. Not a new product – it has been around for over a year – but a lovely little hand-held multi-function device.
At its most basic, it is a hand-held recorder, with an audio quality better than my old VS-1680, 16/24 bit, 44.1/48/96 kHz. It arrives with two microphone modules to choose from – an XY mic, and a Mid-Side mic; there are also optional extras of a shotgun mic and an XLR/TRS input module (more on that later).
The recorder also has 4 XLR/TRS sockets, all with phantom power capability. Recording to an SD card, it will record either WAVs or MP3, in WAV mode it can either take all 6 channels down to a single stereo recording, or it can record all 6 tracks separately (the XY/Mid-Side as a stereo WAV, the other inputs optionally as 4 mono WAVs or 2 stereo WAVs).
That optional XLR/TRS input module I mentioned earlier? That replaces the attached microphones with two additional XLR/TRS sockets (not phantom powered), which means you can take 6 different sound sources. I’ll probably get one of these, eventually.
In addition to using it this way, as a stand-alone recorder, it connects (of course) by USB, and can be used as a 6 channel digital audio interface for either Windows or Mac, allowing me to have it as a sound source for any DAW I choose to use.
Given that I was originally contemplating this VS-1680 connectivity kit for about 220 quid, not including VAT and import tax; and also was looking to pick up a performance-quality USB microphone for my laptop; this solves both my requirements for just £280. It seems the logical way forward, to me.
I could recoup over half the cost by selling the old VS-1680, but I don’t think I am going to. I still like its ease of use, and it is possible that one day I’ll come up with an ingenious way around its drawbacks. For now, it can be packed in its case, and consigned to the loft.