As far as I'm concerned, using a zoom microphone for run and gun filmmaking is a no-brainer because my crew (usually consisting of one or two people on audio) can capture clear sound without wasting a lot of time on set-up. I could even go it alone if necessary since the equipment is lightweight and portable. It's also simple to transfer the audio file for editing. And if I use my camera's sound to sync the two, it's easy to integrate the zoom microphone footage with my video footage.
The concept behind any set-up with a zoom microphone is omnidirectional sound capture. If you want to grab quality audio while you're on the move, then a zoom microphone might be what you need, as well. Plus, there are lots more ways to use a zoom microphone, and there are models to suit most situations.
Zoom Microphone Comparison Table
What Is a Zoom Microphone?
In addition to being a type of transducer configuration, Zoom also happens to be the brand name of a well-known and reputable manufacturer of lightweight, portable, recording devices that incorporate built-in multi-directional microphones.
Zoom microphones are essentially mini recording studios used for filmmaking, interviews, live music events, podcasts, concerts, lectures, and in pretty much any situation where good clean audio is a priority.
The system records sound from three points: left, right, and center, otherwise known as X/Y recording. Zoom microphones can capture audio that can be isolated and output as mono, stereo, and surround sound.
Zoom iQ6 iOS Lightning X/Y Microphone
Here's a clever microphone for your iPhone or iPad. Essentially, the Zoom iQ6 turns your phone or pad into a handy device for field recording, without having to make a considerable investment in equipment.
The Zoom iQ6 and the newest iQ7 use Apple's lightning adaptor to enable the device as a plug and play. The company claims the lightning extended adaptor is useful in that it makes the connection accessible enough to plug into your i-equipment even if your phone or pad is in a protective case.
You can use this Zoom microphone with audio apps that support input from other sources too, such as your camera, iMovies, or Instagram.
A free app is included that allows you to turn your i-product into a mini recording studio by enabling you to edit your sound file and add effects without having to use any additional equipment.
The lightweight and portable Zoom H1n microphone is a step up from its predecessor, the H1, which is no longer in production. However, the H1 microphone can be found on clearance for under a hundred at Best Buy, as well as Amazon and other online outlets.
The improvements with the Zoom H1n include an upgrade to its casing, which gives it a more substantial and professional feel. It also has a USB port and a cage around the microphone to protect the instrument from damage as well as cutting down on unwanted noise. We recommend using an additional furry or foam windscreen on all microphones to muffle background noise and wind further when it's an issue.
Like the original H1, this little beauty also offers up to 10 hours of continuous recording time, and 90-degree x/y microphones that make recording simple in a variety of settings. One-touch button control makes it easy to use, and the monochromatic LCD means that you'll be able to read the meters even in bright conditions. Musicians will find this handy field recorder works well for demos too, and with a line out for headphones, you can listen while you record.
The onboard limiter and low-cut filter reduce unwanted noise and offer clear recording up to 120 dB SPL. Additionally, the H1n Zoom includes playback speed control, extensive over-dubbing, and a built-in audio syncing slate generator; not to mention a mic plug-in in case you want to use a lapel or directional microphone.
Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
Zoom's H4N PRO microphone has an ergonomic rubberized body. Thankfully, they didn't use the cheap plastic housing that we heard about with the Zoom H1n.
This model offers four-channel recording, with upgraded X/Y stereo microphones that handle up to 140 dB SPL and can get low at minus120 dBu EIN. There are two XLR ports for additional microphones, and you can record straight to an SD or SDHC card up to 32 GB.
Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
The X/Y microphones, housed in a shock mount that uses a rubberized material, isolates the microphone configuration from the H5 body to cut down on vibration and noise from the instrument. You can attach this Zoom microphone to your DSLR camera with the addition of Zoom's Hot Shoe mount.
There is a line out for headphones and another one to use on your video camera or other devices. Additionally, the USB port can be used as an audio interface for your laptop or iPad.
Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder
This one actually came before the Zoom H5. The Zoom H6 is the first portable recording system to offer interchangeable input capsules, which switch out as quickly as a camera lens. For example, you can attach this microphone to your DSLR or video camera with a hot shoe mount, and exchange the X/Y stereo system with the shotgun mic attachment to achieve directional recording for dialogue.
The stand-out feature for this model is its extra large, two-inch display screen. It can take 128 GB SD card, and it offers six tracks of simultaneous recording.
How Zoom Compares
We didn't locate a worthy comparison for the Zoom iQ6, mostly because Zoom is unique and working to put out a product that is compatible with newer model iPhones and iPads. For this reason, the iQ6 and theiQ7 stand out as the omnidirectional microphone for your i-devices.
Likewise, few devices match the versatility and portability of Zoom microphones.
TASCAM DR-22WL Portable Handheld Recorder
This TASCAM has the zoom microphone set-up that includes X/Y stereo mics and also comes with 2.4GHz Wi, used for streaming playback and transferring files.
The scene dial presets are handy for a faster setup. TASCAM DR-22WL uses a micro SD, SDHC, or SDXC card; up to 128GB. It also has the option of a USB port for transferring files.
TASCAM DR-40 4-Track Portable Digital Recorder
Adjustable mics and four-track recording are the highlights of the TASCAM DR-40. Unlike the comparable versions of Zoom microphones, there aren't any "capsules" to exchange with the built-in microphones.
Features that make this TASCAM unique are the XLR mic or line inputs, and the internal mics are adjustable from XY to AB position. It also includes microphone preamps with phantom power and can record up to 96kHz with 24-bit resolution. The DR-40 uses SD or SDHC cards up to 32GB.
To Zoom or Not to Zoom
The Zoom microphone stands up to its competitor as an inexpensive way to capture clear, crisp audio. From field recording to in-studio sound, Zoom has a microphone that does the job and does it well. The company is a go-to for audio production and consistently puts out unique and functional equipment.