The Zoom H6 is a great handy 6-track recorder. It can be used stand-alone, or as an audio interface to a Windows PC, Mac, iPad and (undocumented) Android. Recordings made on it are easily digitally transferred to a PC or Mac, to be imported into the DAW or editor of your choice – it is just a matter of hooking it up with USB and copying the tracks.
However, it is not so simple to digitally copy audio tracks into the Zoom – there is no process for this.
Why would I want to do this? Take my current project – I have a stereo backing track, recorded elsewhere, that I want to lay further tracks against. I could do this easily using Audacity on my PC or Tablet, with the Zoom H6 just as an audio interface. But the main track I am recording is going to be vocal, and I don’t want faff about with a computer or tablet while I am trying to sing. Aside from the possible fan and disk noise from the computer, I want as few distractions as possible, so I can concentrate on my vocal. For this, I would prefer to copy the backing track to the Zoom H6, then work entirely within the device, recording repeated vocal tracks until I get it right.
One easy way would be simply to record the track from speaker to microphone, or run a cable from the line-out of my computer to stereo jacks on the H6. But then I would be going from digital to analog to digital, which I don’t want to do.
So this is what you do. You play the recording on your PC, while the H6 is in record mode. Indeed, record it as it plays, but don’t worry about the quality, as we will be throwing out the recording when we have finished. The important bit is to make a recording on the H6 that is the same length or longer than the recording we are copying. Note the Zoom folder number and recording number. Then hook up the H6 as a USB device, and look for the new recording. If you have used one of the standard microphone modules (and why not, they are great), then you will end up with a file called something like ZOOM0006_LR.wav (where 0006 might be any number). You may also have a file called ZOOM0006_BU.wav, which is a backup, and also an indecipherable file called ZOOM0006.hprj.
Now simply delete both the ZOOM0006_LR.wav and ZOOM0006_BU.wav files on the Zoom. Leave the ZOOM0006.hprj where it is. Then rename the stereo file you want to transfer to the same name of your Zoom file – in this case ZOOM00006_LR.wav, and copy it to the Zoom to replace the file you have deleted. Forget about the BU file, we don’t need it.
Here is the important bit. The file you are copying MUST be a .wav file (not mp3, not .ogg), and it must be exactly the same bit-rate and sampling frequency as the Zoom recording. So if your original stereo track was 16bit 44.1Khz, that is what you should have set the Zoom to when you made the dummy recording. The other important thing is – as we have said – the Zoom recording must be as long or longer than the recording you are copying, or your copied file will be truncated. This is all because the .hprj file has a note of the bit-rate, sample frequency and length of the recording.
When you copy the file across and reboot the H6, you will find your original digital recording has taken the place of your dummy recording. It may have a little silence recorded at the end, but we can edit that out in mixing, later.
This all sounds terribly complicated, and the first time you do it it will probably take 20-30 minutes, while you work it out. But once you are used to it, it takes less than 5 minutes, plus the time it takes to make the dummy recording.