The Best of Recorder Microphones
This guide will tell you what they are, who the major players are, and all about my top 3 recommendations. There’s a wealth of information and entertainment below, including some hands-on videos. Lead on!
What is a Recorder Microphone anyway?
Firstly, a recorder microphone can typically double as a USB microphone, so there’s that. Then they can do so much more.
Recorder microphones can record anywhere without a computer, eliminating computer noise, if you have that problem, and doing so in high quality.
Recorders can be more than just a mic. Many act as an audio interface, taking input from other mics into the mix. They are highly versatile devices loved by professionals.
The most common brands in ASMR are Tascam and Zoom. Zoom is currently stealing the show, with upgrades to familiar models such as the H4n that push it ahead of the competition.
Zoom Recorder Microphones
If you want a “tl;dr” version of the comparison, it goes something like this:
• The H2n is a fantastic microphone that, thanks to the H2n capsule system, is a better USB mic than the H4n (Pro). Unless you really must have XLR ports, the H2n is my first choice.
• The H4n Pro is the first model with XLR ports for those external, high power microphones.
• The H5 and H6 are more potent versions of the H4n Pro, with capsule options more like the H2n, plus they have XLR ports.
My Top 3 Recorder Microphones
I mentioned earlier that the Zoom H4n Pro is a common piece of gear among growing ASMRtists. When I started following Pandora ASMR, it was right there being used as a microphone recorder for a 3Dio. Heather Feather (the legend herself) also uses the Zoom H4n. That seems to be a common use for it, not just for the 3Dio but for microphone matched pairs as well. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the Zoom H4n Pro as a microphone in it’s own right.
So, having just gushed over the excellent Zoom H2n previously, why would you use a Zoom H4n Pro as a microphone? Because it’s versatile. While you can plug microphones into its XLR ports, the H4n is also a good stereo mic in its own right. It gives you options. ASMRtists can use it as a main mic as ASMinotauR will show us. (He is also using a Canon 700D and Manfrotto tripod in this video.)
Thanks to ASMinotauR
Zoom have improved the mic over the years and the 2016 edition is especially silent. Clean, crisp audio for clear whispering without white noise in the background. The different wind guards are also fun to play with. Some like the fuzzy one to give you a kind of head massage, while others like touching and scratching the foam wind guard. Even without a guard, artists find ways to play with it with ear picks and other objects.
Now it’s also super important to go over the Zoom H4n Pro as a microphone recorder. The XLR ports on the bottom of the Zoom H4n Pro allow you to take your ASMR to the next level with professional condenser mics that require phantom power. That includes mics such as the popular 3Dio (the one with the ears). Massage ASMR can show us how he has his Zoom H4n set up with a Rode NT-5 microphone matched pair.
Thanks to Massage ASMR
Overall the Zoom H4n Pro is a beast of a device. Relatively inexpensive, it allows you to record audio out of the box anywhere without an additional microphone or even a computer. It also gives you a clear upgrade path to professional grade microphones that require XLR and phantom power. The Zoom H4n Pro is an investment in your future.
Music, film, something random like ASMR, whatever you like to do, this device has you covered. All this, at a great price. It’s obvious why the Zoom H4n is popular for ASMRtists. The reviews confirm it. You’ll love owning the Zoom H4n Pro.
There’s an official fuzzy windscreen too. Adorable.
So far the Zoom H2n has offered us a versatile microphone recorder and the Zoom H4n Pro has added XLR capability as the headline features. The upgrades to the Zoom H4n Pro in 2016 brought it very close to matching the H5. With the H6 still to come, what could the Zoom H5 possibly offer?
There are numerous improvements on the H5 over the H4n Pro, the most obvious being the capsule system that it shares with the H6.
There are so many features in the Zoom H5’s wall of text that for the extra money over the H4n Pro there’s bound to be something that’s indispensable to each owner.
Of all the reviews, videos and forums I looked through searching for a killing blow that the H5 was going to land on the H4n Pro, I didn’t honestly find one. The 2016 version of the H4n Pro provides the same quality as the H5, yet the H5 has numerous extended abilities over the basic H4n Pro. In the end it boils down to whether you’re going to find value in the extra versatility of the H5. Both recorders are excellent whichever one you go for.
Overall we have something that is much the same as the H4n Pro, with additional features for a little extra money. On Amazon the Zoom H5 is a highly rated device that buyers love, so perhaps the easiest way to decide between them is to check the price.
The H6 is Zoom’s flagship model of microphone recorder. As such it’s probably overkill for the vast majority of ASMRtists, which is why so many buy the H4n Pro. But let’s say for a moment that you might be interested in overkill, because that’s just who you are. The Zoom H6 is a beast and you will love it.
It certainly is versatile and the Zoom H6 is aimed at a wide variety of users. For ASMRtists and YouTube creators it was the sections aimed at videographers and musicians that leapt out.
In particular it’s all that post-production and mixing potential that you’d find useful. You can record with up to six microphones. If you have a spacial audio setup in mind, this is your recorder. To give you an idea of what this magical box of tricks can do, I have the charismatic Ray Ortega here to give you a run down.
(The H4n Pro released in 2016 is much improved over the old H4n that Ray talks about in this video.)
Thanks to Ray Ortega
I went searching for intrepid ASMRtists making use of all this power at their fingertips, yet, so far all I’ve seen has been a lot of ASMR videos that use the Zoom H6 simply as a stereo microphone to tap on (and yes, it sounds great). What hasn’t been tapped is the full potential of the Zoom H6. Perhaps you are the ambitious ASMRtist who will change that.
Overall the Zoom H6 is probably the best microphone recorder there is on the market. Buyers agree. As I write this the H6 by itself is listed as an Amazon #1 Best Seller. It’s highly praised wherever you look. An incredible machine. You’ll love using it.