Similar in many ways to the Zoom H6, there are two main differences to note: (1) the H5 does not come with the mid-side mic option, and (2) the X-Y stereo mic on the H5 produces a subtly different type of sound than the X-Y stereo mic on the H6 (see below).
You get on-board microphone preamps so there will be no need to boost the gain later on — meaning you’re already getting high-quality sound from the start. As any experiment will confirm, the H5 blows any phone audio out of the window. No more iPod recordings please!
At the same time, there are demonstrable differences within the recorder capacity too. You can customize the quality of the MP3 all the way up to 320 kbps – a process that creates progressively larger files (the same 2 min recording shifts from 4 MB to 12 MB). Also, you have the options of recording in WAV format. Larger still in terms of file size (e.g. 22 MB), WAVs are nevertheless considered ‘standard’ for professional quality audio. Record a passing car in MP3 at 96 kbps and then WAV at 24-bit. Play it on your iPod. You will notice the difference.
With the H5, you get an X-Y stereo mic, but it’s slightly different than the X-Y stereo mic on the H6. As you can see from the images, the X-Y has two little mics facing each other. What this does is produce a stereo effect, ‘centering’ the sound via two directional mics placed 90 degrees to each other. The X-Y stereo mic on the H5 is particularly well-suited to recording very loud sources (like a jet engine from 200 feet away, or a rock concert). It also has shock-mounted mics, to minimize vibrations and handling sounds.
You will quickly notice a lot of “stuff” on the front and sides of the H5 (essentials for the display of any high-quality recorders!). Especially worth taking note of here are the headphone jack (left side) and SD card slot (right side). You need an SD card in there to record anything (Bret has these at the office; or you can use the one in your digital camera once your format it). And you need headphones for… yeah. The bottom also has combo input jacks which accept XLR connectors, so you can ultimately plug in a condenser mic to this thing for added recording depth (not essential for first time users).
When recording, hold the H5 as you would any kind of searchlight, with the mic facing toward the object in question. Be sure to constantly monitor the audio levels on the input to ensure that you aren’t creating clipping or other distortion effects (unless you want to!). These can be gauged by the fluctuations of the ‘energy bars’ which should not ‘hit’ the right side of screen in most situations.