This article review is mostly about the Zoom SSH-6 (stereo) shotgun microphone (with mono mode), and partially about the Zoom H5 recorder. It’s also about how I have been using these two Zoom products together with the (previously reviewed) ModMic 5 head microphone and the RØDE VXLR+ to create an extremely powerful yet compact in-field interview kit. I had already been using the H5 recorder with external microphones for about a year. Now, with the addition of the SSH-6 and the VXLR+, it has become even more useful, efficient and portable. Read and listen ahead 🙂
The goal and the evolution for informal field interviews
My goal for informal field interviews was —and continues to be— to have a compact system with the ideal final audio quality for a pre-recorded show which will be post-produced/edited.
Stage 1: The early years
In the early years, I would use a single handheld interview microphone to be pointed back and forth between interviewer and interviewee, even though I was completely aware of the compromises that can bring, either with an omnidirectional (too much extraneous background sound) or directional model (one individual becomes inaudible or distant during inevitable interruptions). This stage used a handheld microphone connected to my smartphone, where I would record mono 48 kHz WAV.
Stage 2: Slight advancement
Why the Zoom H5 and not some other portable recorder? Because I found it to be the lowest cost multitrack model with both acceptable preamps for certain dynamic microphones without a pre-preamp (like a Fethead, B&H link) and direct discreet gain adjustments for each input. Lower models I evaluated had unacceptable preamps and required going into a menu to adjust gain. I also liked the option of adding a physically-attached shotgun later.
Still, carrying the Zoom H5 recorder with two separate microphones, cables, a table stand and isolating headphones was too cumbersome.
I reduced that complexity of the setup somewhat when the head-mounted ModMic 5 (illustrated above in my article about THU, Trojan Horse was a Unicorn, reviewed here, Amazon link) as one of them. The Zoom H5 is modular and accepts different capsules at the end. I never used the included stereo microphone capsule as a microphone. However, I did use it to connect the ModMic 5 directly to that capsule’s 3.5 mm input with bias voltage (“plugin power”) and connected the other microphone(s) to the Zoom H5’s XLR input(s). But it was still to much stuff to carry around.
Stage 3 (what I am using now), thanks to the RØDE VXR+ converter and the SSH-6 (stereo) shotgun microphone (with mono mode)
The RØDE VXLR+ converter (reviewed here, Amazon — B&H) and later, the Antlion Audio XLR Power Converter (reviewed here, Amazon link) finally allowed plugging the ModMic5 into one of the XLR inputs of the H5 recorder, which fortunately freed up the proprietary docking connector to be used with a shotgun like the SSH-6 (stereo) microphone (Amazon — B&H), which can also be set to record dual mono, which is what I have been doing. (The VXLR+ and Antlion Audio XLR Power Converter not only convert the audio signal. They also convert high-voltage phantom power to the much lower bias voltage, aka “plugin power”.)
The above photo was shot in a Coral Gables/Miami, Florida tea house after the recording you’ll hear below. During the recording, I had the SSH-6 pointed directly to Memo Sauceda’s mouth. Memo Sauceda is an award winning Mexican actor and voiceover talent (located in Miami, Florida, US) who has joined me on a few episodes of BeyondPodcasting. The ModMic 5 was recorded as monophonic WAV 48 kHz/24-bit, and the SSH-6 was recorded as dual mono WAV 48 kHz/24-bit, since the Zoom H5’s current firmware doesn’t allow recording it in true mono. In post production, I used Auphonic’s multi-track crossgating, filtering, dynamic compression and leveling (see My multitrack crossgating audio workflow to eliminate crosstalk) before editing in Hindenburg Journalist Pro (covered in several articles) and then encoding MP3 and adding tags with Fission.
Chetmortenson92’s stereo recording
Although my interest in the SSH-6 is primarily for recording the interviewee in mono, after seeing and hearing Chetmortenson92’s comparison and exhaustive tests, I was only interested in the SSH-6 for its versatility, especially due to its proximity in price to the mono-only version sold by Zoom. It would be silly for me to attempt to recreate what Chetmortenson92 produced in stereo, just as it would be silly for him to recreate what I did in this article, the essential related linked articles, and in BeyondPodcasting episode 6 itself.
About the Zoom SSH-6 stereo shotgun microphone with mono mode
The ≈US$150 Zoom SSH-6 stereo shotgun with mono mode (Amazon — B&H) is unique since it has a proprietary connector which allows it to attach to certain Zoom products, including the Zoom H5 (which I have owned and used for about a year, Amazon — B&H), H6 handheld recorders, Q8 camcorder, U-44 audio interface, larger F4 and F8 multiTrack field recorders, as well as the ECM-3 extension cable for Zoom microphone capsules.
I like the built-in potentiometer to adjust its gain. The pickup pattern is hypercardioid, and it’s a mid-side stereo shotgun with mono mode.
The SSH-6 includes an artificial hairy windscreen (“dead cat”) to reduce wind noise.
Conclusions: what I love and what I would change
In its price range, I believe that the Zoom SSH-6 (Amazon — B&H) has no equal, given its versatility, quality and capability to be physically attached to a handheld recorder like the Zoom H5. I know that some people will discard it since it only works with certain Zoom products, but I find the physical modularity with the recorder a benefit.
I have more to say about the Zoom H5 recorder (Amazon — B&H). I still believe that it is the best audio recorder in its price range. However, i do hope that Zoom will offer a firmware upgrade to the existing H5 to allow for true mono recording from the SSH-6 (and other modular microphones Zoom offers for it) to save 50% space and bandwidth (in the case of uploading a raw file). I also hope that Zoom will eventually release an upgraded H5 (i.e. H5n or H5 Pro) with 2 improvements: one in the preamps, and the other in the headphone amplifier. The current headphone amplifier in the H5 includes noise that fortunately does not end up being in the actual recording. This is not any unique detail in my own H5 unit, but one experienced by many H5 owners. Experience is required to understand and believe that certain noises heard from the H5’s live headphone output is unlikely to be in the final recording. I believe that Zoom can improve both the H5 preamps and in the H5 headphone amplifier in this exact handheld size and form factor and price range. But while Zoom still only offers the current H5, it’s still my favorite recorder in this this exact handheld size and form factor and price range. You can hear the end results in BeyondPodcasting episode 6, above in this article, or at BeyondPodcasting.com.
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No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units, including Antlion Audio, RØDE and Zoom (the SSH-6, not the H5). So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur , BeyondPodcasting or TuNuevaRadioGlobal programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs. Allan Tépper’s opinions are his own.
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