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Author Topic: Zoom H3-VR first impressions  (Read 363 times)

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Offline WiFiJeff

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Zoom H3-VR first impressions
« on: November 12, 2018, 10:55:35 AM »
I took it out for a spin on Friday, after printing out the manuals (only a Quick Start guide was included in the box, the rest is online) and also downloading the Windows software for the player/editor which they finally posted Friday morning.  I used it as a backup for my main piano rig, I wanted to see how it did for real sound in a tough comparison, not for any of the gee-whiz virtual reality stuff the marketing youtube videos show.

First off, it seems rather fragile.  I worry that the buttons on it seem easy to break or jam.  I didn't get to read the 120 page manual before setting up, but the H3-VR is a piece of cake to operate, I was doing 4 tracks at 24/96 (A or B format, FuMa or Ambix). It records 2 GB interlaced files with seamless splits every 1/2 hour.  I recorded about 3 hours, NiMH AAs (2 of them) down less than 1/3 way judging by the recharging info on my Powerex charger. 

My main recording was done with Josephson C617s with LD caps (Gefell) on a Jecklin Disc towards the tail of the piano, this is my goto piano setup and even after 7-8 years I still amaze myself with how great they sound.  Nothing is coming close to this.  I chose to use FuMu B format for the Zoom, since this gives WXYZ files I can handle like the WXY native channels on my Josephson C700S.  I will have to try a comparison of the H3-VR with the C700S soon.

The Zoom software lets you convert any of the ambisonic formats to stereo, binaural, or some custom mix you can pick by fooling around putting your ears anywhere with their sound field sphere.  If you record only stereo tracks you can also do 24/96 but recording binaural is limited to 48kHz.  When you convert a 24/96 ambisonic recording to binaural you also get a 96kHz file but I think it's only really 48kHz there, the room I was recording in has a motion detecting acoustic signal at about 32.77kHz that I can see in the ambisonic files and also in the conversion to stereo that is not there in the conversion to binaural.

The sound I got on the stereo and binaural files was decent, also the Blumlein files I got from mixing X and Y channels, but all were lacking the bass richness of the C617s.  With the C700S I occasionally take the Blumlein XY mix and mix in a low-passed W (omni) signal to pick up missing bass.  With the C700, this works nicely because the W is a LD omni cap with good bass response; for tetrahedral ambisonic mics with cardioid caps W is a virtual mic omni made from cardioids. The low-passed W track on the Zoom helped things a bit, but this is not going to replace my C617s.  The Core Sound Octomic claims response to very low frequencies, there may be an Octomic in my future.

Although I hear the C700S is better, I really can’t tell by how much.  Here are two samples, any feedback is welcome on how the two stack up.  I can’t recall any small backup recorder (even the Nagra Lino) doing as well.

https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/5YwhznwNWB

I will be trying the Zoom out later today recording a lecture, I will fool around a bit trying to make a shotgun pattern in post to track the speaker.  The software that lets you put yourself at different locations is really very cool and has a very high wow factor, I understand why they are marketing it so heavily.  I also just got a Zylia 19-mic (all omni) sphere, that looks like it has a steeper learning curve, at least for how I want to use it.

Jeff



Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Zoom H3-VR first impressions
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2018, 02:30:12 AM »
Thank you so much for this test and your notes.

First - just before the Schumann Op 133 No 1 begins in the Zoom recording, and in the first couple of bars of that work, there's the most weird artifacts - the transients at the start of each note are rolled off, so each one kind of fades in, like a badly executed edit crossfade on each note.  I'd be interested to hear whether you can account for that!

As for the overall comparison - yes the Zoom lacks the bass weight of the Josephson.  But at the price, it's pretty remarkable!  I haven't tried applying a little eq at the bottom end but that is probably an option.  Comparing just the first minute of the two files reveals to me a somewhat more rounded, smoother sound in the Josephson.  The Josephson stereo image is perhaps wider. 

Really, this is in line with reasonable expecation of this comparison, but the sound from the Zoom seems to me to be punching above its price.  I guess another comparison would be to compare with something at the other end of the scale, eg a Zoom H2N, which is about the closest device on the market so far (multiple built in mics recorder at low cost, albeit without anything like the capability of the H3).  That would help in determining whether the actual mic sound of the H3 is really a significant step forward for Zoom, or whether they have simply used similar capsules in a more complex attached recorder.

Offline WiFiJeff

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Re: Zoom H3-VR first impressions
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2018, 10:02:59 AM »
Thanks for your impressions.  While I edited (lightly) the C617 recording in iZotope Rx, the Zoom was not edited and I'm not sure what you are picking up, though I do think the room reverberance is more notable in the Zoom. 


The test yesterday of voice recording was a success (I don't do much of this, so maybe my standards are low).  I ended up exporting a simple stereo mix, after playing around with moving the virtual lecturer and her music examples around the space and comparing binaural and custom L/R mixes.  Both voice and music were amplified with two separate speakers.  I was worried about setting levels, but had no clipping problems (I had the limiter turned off).

I'm not sure how levels work on the H3-VR.  The single knob has a scale of 1 to 100, for the amplified lecture I set it around 50 which luckily worked.  I had a better sound check on the piano recording, where at a reasonably close range (and pianos are loud) I generally set my recorder for the C617 (a very hot mic) at +12-15 dB, and for "normal" SD mics like Schoeps at around +30 dB.  I ended up setting the Zoom knob way low, around 2-3 whatevers, and adding another 3 dB or so in post to bring it roughly up to the C617 recording.  I could see problems with using the Zoom for really loud amplified music.


Jeff

Offline noam

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Re: Zoom H3-VR first impressions
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2018, 08:27:24 PM »
On speakers: The file labeled BlumleinLPOmin1 has a much richer sound overall (I assume this is the Zoom? I am completely confused by the description of the setup). It has deeper bass, richer overtones throughout the range and it picks more acoustic cues, so there is more sense of specific localization and more space around the notes. The file labeled c6171 sounds (very relatively), well, the complement of all the above - less detailed, less space, etc. I don't hear any weird artifacts in either recording (and don't even understand the description of same).

Different playback equipment and room variables explain 99% of the difference in impressions. My equipment: Oppo 205 directly into Channel Island power amps through the balanced (3-pin) stereo audio outputs, into PSB Synchrony 1 speakers, in a large room.

For the sake of completeness, I compared using Sennheiser HD 6xx headphones from the Oppo's headphone output. I heard the weird artifacts that Ozpeter mentions on the file labeled BlumleinLPOmin1 (so this is the Zoom), and I finally understood Ozpeter's description of the artifacts (his description is weird because the artifacts are weird), and it's accurate - the headphones definitely gave me more information. But I also heard a smidgen of them on the file labeled c6171, but just a smidgen.

The rest on headphones was exactly the reverse of the speakers' impressions - the file labeled c6171 was better, richer, more bass, etc on headphones. This contradiction between the headphones and loudspeakers impressions annoyed me so much that I went back and forth from one file to the other, with the result that I was just more annoyed and couldn't reach clear conclusions with headphones. I hate headphones.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2018, 09:28:17 PM by noam »

Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Zoom H3-VR first impressions
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2018, 06:59:45 AM »
A reasonable pair of headphones is a good substitute for a superb pair of speakers, I'd say - I think we differ here! >:D

 

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