Whether this is your first podcast or your fifth, there’s something you need to know about podcast production: there’s always another way to do it.
You don’t have to use a USB mic and a MacBook while you Skype with your friend; you can use hardware that helps with audio recording, production, and filtering all at the same time and reduce your post-production efforts.
The Zoom H5 is basically a one-stop shop for everything you need to record a podcast. It has enough inputs for a two-person show, PC connectivity, and a durable, quality chassis to live through the inevitable bumps and bruises that it’s going to face. Let’s talk about it and show you why it’s still so popular today.
What is Zoom H5
You can record audio, bring in quarter-inch lines to record music, and basically do anything you want as far as recording audio is concerned. It’s a versatile machine, now let’s see what it can do.
- User Friendly Design: The H5 is simply built for everyone. If you’re new to podcasting or audio capture in general, it can seem pretty daunting to approach all of this, which is why the Zoom H5 is so great. Everything you need to access is right on the front and side of the device, and the buttons and configuration are straightforward. There’s no crazy hoops to jump through just to learn how this thing works.
- Highly Durable: You know what happens a lot during audio and video production? Accidents. There’s awkwardly-shaped equipment that you have to position in weird ways, and stuff tips over, hits the floor, and gets broken. Thankfully, the Zoom H5 is ready to withstand just about anything you could imagine throwing at it. If you don’t want to worry about your recorder’s durability, the H5 is right up your alley.
- Highly Portable: The H5 is arguably more portable than a laptop, and brings ridiculous levels of quality that a smartphone can’t handle. It’s lightweight at just 1,8 lbs, and that’s something that can’t really be beat. Even when you take a look at the alternatives we mention later on, they’re bulkier and weigh a bit more without adding any user friendliness (at least, compared to what the Zoom H5 and H6 can bring to the table).
- Built-in Microphones: You can use both built-in mics to capture audio with minimal interference. They’re not the greatest microphones that exist, but if you use them in small spaces with basic soundproofing (lots of objects in a room, carpeted floors, etc.), you can go pretty far with these.
- Long Standard Battery Life: There’s a stipulation in the cons section, but otherwise this uses two AA batteries and really gives you a lot of life. While it’s a powerful little machine, it doesn’t suck the life out of your batteries (though it’s always a good idea to keep some spares nearby).
- Only Works up to 32 GB: You need an SD card to pop into the Zoom H5 so it can actually have a place to store all of your clips. WHen you record in WAV (which you should be doing for a podcast), you eat up a lot of space fairly quickly. SDHC only goes up to 32 GB and that’s the highest card that it supports. You can do a lot with 32 GB, but you also have to stay on top of your usage for long, interview-style podcasts. You don’t want to run out halfway through. It’s recommended to regularly pull your SDHC data onto your audio editing PC or Mac, and keep a spare card in case you run out of room on your current card.
- The More, The Less Merry: If your SD or SDHC card is nearly full, formatting your recordings to the card can take a long time. You could be done recording your podcast and still wait 10 to 30 minutes for the entire thing to finish writing to your card, depending on your format. It’s not the best at writing to an SD card, that’s for sure.
- Bad Battery Life (Phantom Power): The Phantom Power mode is a huge battery drain, which we don’t believe was by design. If you have to use this mode, just know that it will suck the life out of your battery. The only time this is good is if you’re power cycling your Zoom H5, but otherwise it’s a hindrance on performance and usability.
- Zoom H6 is a Better Choice: How is an upgraded version of the same device a con? Because the Zoom H6 wipes away all the other cons on this list without being a ridiculously high jump over the cost of a Zoom H5. We recommend the Zoom H6 if you know what you’re doing and know your podcasting career will be a long one, otherwise you can look at some alternatives below that might save you money compared to the H5.
How to Use Zoom H5 for Editing Podcasts
You can edit on-the-fly, which is one of the reasons the Zoom H5 is a fan favorite of podcasters both big and small.
You can use the edit feature to dub over footage, so if there’s serious issues with minute 47 of your podcast, you can backtrack to that section in your recording and dub over it to replace that audio.
It requires some creativity, but it’s better than messing around with everything in post-production. That’s more versatility than you get with most audio interfaces on the go, but it’s not the only “edit” feature. While it’s not as big of a deal, you can edit file names from within the Zoom H5 menu.
This can help you with organizing your recordings, especially if you record separate tracks and want to put them together later. It’s important to know which goes first in the lineup. Nothing’s quite as frustrating as digging through improperly named files in post production and wasting time figuring out which is which.
Which DAW to Use
The only DAW that you need to think about other than the default one is the USB audio interface mode, which does exactly what you think it does. The organization doesn’t change by all that much, so it’s recommended to use and get used to the default DAW that comes with your interface.
Zoom H5 Alternatives
If the price tag on the Zoom H5 is just a bit too much right now or the interface isn’t quite as user-friendly as you would have liked, don’t worry. There are some alternatives in the same realm as the Zoom H5 for you to try out instead.
- MOTU M2: The MOTU M2 is a DAC-styled recording device that uses USB-C to connect to devices. There’s a great deal of control and plenty of options for you to view in real time on the front panel. In fact, the user interface is probably why people flock to this instead of the Zoom H5 since the audio quality output can be similar.
- Scarlett 2i2: It’s a compact, easy to use device that won’t mess up your sound quality or leave you wanting for more. The 2i2 interfaces don’t offer the same utility, but it’s only by a fraction. You can get much of the same mobility and near identical quality comparable to the Zoom H5. The price is often 40-45% lower than the H5 based on the last few years of data we could find, however it’s important to note that the Scarlett 2i2 is better for solo podcasting than dual-channel podcasting.
- UA Volt 2: It may not be the most impressive audio interface that exists, but it is versatile. Mobility is down, but so is the price. You’ll find that the quality is comparable to the Zoom H5, but it just doesn’t quite feel the same. It’s power in a much bulkier package, which can be off-putting and daunting when you already have other medium-sized equipment to deal with during a new podcast.
Your Next Recorder
By all means, plug in your own microphones and go at it, but if you’re strapped for cash you can also use the built-in microphones. The Zoom H5 has a little bit of everything, and if your production isn’t catering to 3 or more guests in the same track, you don’t need to upgrade it to the Zoom H6 anytime soon.