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Author Topic: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music  (Read 2772 times)

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Offline myland

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Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« on: June 29, 2023, 12:39:53 PM »
Hi all,
Upon getting an F6 and testing it in a friend's studio and comparing with his preamps there (nothing fancy) the F6 is picking much more breathing sounds and violin bow noise sounds, putting those sounds almost 'upfront', almost in line with the sound of the instrument. My MOTU M2 interface doesn't do that and I prefer it's sound overall. The mics used were two great sounding vintage ribbons. As a professional classical violinist growing up on old school era recordings, I immediately came to love vintage ribbons.

I guess for going in nature and recording ambience it maybe be great to hear every little bits of sound going on, but F6's sensitivity to picking up these kinds of sounds is not very favourable for my preference. I would have loved if I kept it as F6 seems to be great for my use case when recording on location if it weren't for these things...
On a recent violin/piano recordings/concert in a nice church we recorded with the F8n. I liked it, but obviously I couldn't make a comparison to F6 back to back as I no longer have F6. From a word of mouth, I understand F8n may be Zoom's best location recording device.

Contacting Zoom by mail, for my purposes of serious classical music recording they recommended their F8n Pro, having 'slightly higher quality preamps than the F8 and F8n because they support 32-bit audio'. I am not sure 32-bit addition equals higher quality preamps as seen in F6. I would take 32-bit option for ease of mind, as already tried with F6.

The 3rd option for me would simply be recording into My Motu and laptop (as I did already) and just purchasing a quality external power bank for laptops so that I'm not dependent on cables.
What would you guys recommend?

Thank you very much!

P.S. for everyone interested, a link to one of my recent video recordings made using older generation Zoom R24.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGwm-k8BxNg

Offline carpa

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2023, 09:22:17 AM »
Being a professional classical musician ( pianist) I am very interested in this topic. I've read elsewhere - but don't remember where - that Zoom says F6 preamps are not the same as F8n, but they didn't mention anything about 32 bit, which is a different thing as you  know well what it's all about. In that statement they considered F4, F8, and F8n to have exactly the same preamps, being slightly different in F6.
The portability, convenience and powering options of F6 ( L-mount, without the hassle of other cables or power banks to find a place where to keep them firm and safe) seem to be the best bet out there and probably the difference with other models will be very tiny.

I'd also like to hear some comments about the differences in sound quality of Zoom compared to Tascam (could be the discontinued DR680MKII or the present Portacapture X8); there seems to be no discussion about this, while it is very easy to read about comparisons between Zoom and Sound Devices which is not comparable in terms of price -at least in Italy it costs twice the Zooms. 

Offline voltronic

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2023, 02:59:17 PM »
Another classical pianist here, also choir conductor. I use my F6 for all my recordings, and strongly endorse it. I'm not sure what the OP heard about the F6 preamps that turned them off, but I have zero complaints.

I think (but not 100% sure) that all of the current F series recorders (F3, F6, F8n Pro) use the same preamp circuit.

Here's a couple recent recordings with my DPAs. As classical folks, you probably have a good idea how these mics sound, so if the F6 preamps are doing anything untoward, you'll hear it here.
https://gearspace.com/board/all-things-technical/1397828-apes-choir-too-much.html
https://gearspace.com/board/showpost.php?p=16503671&postcount=10
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Offline Organfreak

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2023, 03:33:11 PM »
Another satisfied user of the Zoom F6 here. Its preamps are very neutral and crystal clear.
I would say the fact that "breathing noise and bow noise" is picked up, is a prove of the recorder quality compared with the laptop/preamp combination.
I do not know about the F8N Pro, but the F4, F6, F8 and F8N all have the same preamps.
The recorded sound picture will be much more dependent of the microphones and where you put them.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2023, 03:38:01 PM by Organfreak »
Mics: Rode NT55, DPA 4090, Neumann KM143
Recorder: Zoom F6

Offline carpa

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2023, 03:37:08 AM »
Here's a couple recent recordings with my DPAs. As classical folks, you probably have a good idea how these mics sound, so if the F6 preamps are doing anything untoward, you'll hear it here.
https://gearspace.com/board/all-things-technical/1397828-apes-choir-too-much.html
https://gearspace.com/board/showpost.php?p=16503671&postcount=10
[/quote]

Very nice recordings! Having never used a 32 bit recorder I have a question. When you are setting levels in 16 or 24 bits you move the according to  the average sound level you're expecting; if you record close a loud source you begin with a low setting or if you are further back or the source is quiet you start higher and then fine adjust according to what to hear. In 32 bit you don't have to set levels; but, is there an "average" level around which a certain sound will be recorded? To be more clear, let's presume we are recording a speaking voice at 6 feet distance or, ar the same distance, a loud saxophone quartet. Will I end up with a very very low recorded signal in the first case and with a "almost all clipped" wave in the second case or there is a rough adjustment I can make before? I understand that we can fix everything in post; my question is just about the average loudness the recorded is set to hear when in 32 bits.  Thanks

Offline Ozpeter

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2023, 06:12:58 AM »


Here's a couple recent recordings with my DPAs. As classical folks, you probably have a good idea how these mics sound, so if the F6 preamps are doing anything untoward, you'll hear it here.


That's deeply depressing... I noticed in the original thread you were worried about an over-bright sound.  I listened and thought, 'there's no top end on this at all!'  And then I downloaded a sample and checked it with spectral and frequency analysis, and saw that there was a vast amount of top end present, and I'm simply no longer hearing it...  Well, in the context of this discussion, it shows how subjective all this is.  I guess it first depends on mic choice, then on mic placement, then on one's ability to hear, then on preamp.  Sigh.

Offline morst

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2023, 03:33:02 PM »
That's deeply depressing... I noticed in the original thread you were worried about an over-bright sound.  I listened and thought, 'there's no top end on this at all!'  And then I downloaded a sample and checked it with spectral and frequency analysis, and saw that there was a vast amount of top end present, and I'm simply no longer hearing it...  Well, in the context of this discussion, it shows how subjective all this is.  I guess it first depends on mic choice, then on mic placement, then on one's ability to hear, then on preamp.  Sigh.
Check your tone controls on your playback system?! Maybe treble is turned down?
(I was a little sad and maybe angry when I found out I can not hear 11kHz anymore... I used to be able to hear 15,750 Hz from TV monitors...)
https://toad.social/@morst spoutible.com/morst post.news/@acffhmorst

Offline voltronic

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2023, 09:42:03 PM »
com/board/showpost.php?p=16503671&postcount=10[/url]
Very nice recordings! Having never used a 32 bit recorder I have a question. When you are setting levels in 16 or 24 bits you move the according to  the average sound level you're expecting; if you record close a loud source you begin with a low setting or if you are further back or the source is quiet you start higher and then fine adjust according to what to hear. In 32 bit you don't have to set levels; but, is there an "average" level around which a certain sound will be recorded? To be more clear, let's presume we are recording a speaking voice at 6 feet distance or, ar the same distance, a loud saxophone quartet. Will I end up with a very very low recorded signal in the first case and with a "almost all clipped" wave in the second case or there is a rough adjustment I can make before? I understand that we can fix everything in post; my question is just about the average loudness the recorded is set to hear when in 32 bits.  Thanks
[/quote]

The short answer is that it doesn't matter. All is fully recoverable in post, even if you're average level is -50 dB or +50 dB.

Longer answer:
To be clear, this is only possible with multiple auto ranging ADCs feeding a 32-bit float recording system such as found in the newest Zoom M and F-series, Sound Devices MixPre-II, new Tascam X series, and Stagetec consoles and converters.

In practice, the gain on the F6 is fixed, but the final recorded level written to the file is adjustable. Everything is done post-ADC in the digital domain.

What I do is to set the trim pots to +20 dB for my most sensitive mics, and +30 or +40 for less sensitive mics. This is where I find I need to do less level adjustment in post to normalize. I sometimes have a little (or a lot) beyond 0 dBFS, but I don't care because it's all recoverable. But I don't need to do any of that; it's just for convenience.

So don't even worry about your recorded level. The only thing you need to care about is not overloading the input stage, but you're only going to do that recording very loud music with very sensitive (hot output) mics. WiFiJeff on this forum has used his F6 with Josephson C617s without issue, and those are just about the most sensitive mics out there.
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Offline WiFiJeff

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2023, 11:45:57 PM »
That gig went away with Covid.  I'm really hoping it will be back in the fall with the return of the weekly concert series.  I also hope my F6 won't take too much reconditioning.  I just did some DAT transfers from pre-2005 DATs using a Sony 500 that hadn't powered on in nearly 20 years, and there were no issues on the two or three dozen DATs I worked on.  Mics might need some attention, though.

Jeff

Offline 2X2

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2023, 05:30:49 AM »
motu m2 is a great interface and does in fact edge the F6 in measurements

as always things that will make a major difference in your recordings:
mic selection
mic placement
not screwing up and having a catastrophic failure (+1 for all-in-one units)

things that will make a noticeable difference in your recordings:
preamp and recorder model

things that will typicall y have an insignificant difference in your recordings:
recording level (provided its not over)
32-bit vs 24-bit (or even 16 bit with proper levels)

voltronic will testify that his F6 has potentially saved multiple recordings where he couldnt set or monitor levels. F6 is a curious beast, somewhat purpose built for 32 bit. i run mine at 24-bit but at the end of the day the trim on each channel is a few levels deep in the menu and it takes a bit of time to purposefully adjust the trim. if you are using mics with widely varying sensistivity on different inputs at different gigs, 32 bit is certainly a blessing

Offline carpa

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2023, 11:31:49 AM »


What I do is to set the trim pots to +20 dB for my most sensitive mics, and +30 or +40 for less sensitive mics. This is where I find I need to do less level adjustment in post to normalize. I sometimes have a little (or a lot) beyond 0 dBFS, but I don't care because it's all recoverable. But I don't need to do any of that; it's just for convenience.

This is what I wanted to know; so, if I understand, there is a rough level you'll expect and set accordingly.

Offline marcb

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2023, 08:13:08 PM »
Has anyone been able to confirm with Zoom that the F6 and F3 preamps are the same as the F8n pro? It seems that way based on performance descriptions but I think some are still unsure (myself included).

Offline voltronic

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2023, 01:26:22 PM »
Has anyone been able to confirm with Zoom that the F6 and F3 preamps are the same as the F8n pro? It seems that way based on performance descriptions but I think some are still unsure (myself included).

You could email their technical support. I have always found them to be quite responsive.
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Offline marcb

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Re: Zoom F6 vs F8n pro vs soundcard+laptop for classical music
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2023, 05:14:21 PM »
Has anyone been able to confirm with Zoom that the F6 and F3 preamps are the same as the F8n pro? It seems that way based on performance descriptions but I think some are still unsure (myself included).

You could email their technical support. I have always found them to be quite responsive.

Good suggestion! Zoom responded in 8 min. “The pre-amps used in the F3, F6 and F8n Pro would be the same.”

 

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