If you have a budget of around $1000 for a new audio recorder, what would you buy? I believe the Zoom F8n and Sound Devices MixPre 6 II are two competitive models that can make you hesitant. These recorders are both worth-buying, but the real question now is: which is better for you? Let’s see what you will lose and what you will gain.
Zoom F8n vs Sound Devices MixPre 6 II
Design-wise, these audio recorders look very different from one another. The SD MixPre 6 II is the smaller and lighter here weighing in at 0.6kg, and you can easily tell the difference from the picture without actually seeing the products. The official dimension of the MixPre 6 II is 36mm x 166 mm x 118 mm (H x W x D) while the Zoom F8n is 54.3 mm x 178.2 mm × 140.3 mm, and the Zoom F8n weighs about 1kg without batteries.
When you take a look at the front panel, you will find the Zoom F8n is more complicated than the MixPre 6 II, and their button layouts are totally different. The Zoom F8n’s panel comes with more buttons and indicators including track indicators, track keys, LED level meter, headphone volume knob and etc. Although the MixPre 6 II only has the basic buttons and 4 channel knobs, its big knobs with channel LED rings actually make this recorder easier to operate than the Zoom F8n while recording. Another advantage of the MixPre 6 II to me is that the display is easier to read, and it is a versatile touch screen.
Input & Output
If we focus on the inputs and outputs, the Zoom F8n is clearly the winner of this game. For people who need to work with many microphones or external audio devices, the Zoom F8n provides 8 XLR/TRS Inputs, and you have 4 inputs on the left side and right side equally. Besides, Zoom F8n allows you to use a Zoom mic capsule with the recorder to add more flexibility.
The Mixpre-6 II, as you can see clearly, comes with 4 XLR / 1/4-inch TRS Inputs and an Aux mic input on the right, so it’s clear that Zoom F8n is more robust and powerful in terms of connectivity.
And I love how versatile the Zoom F8n is when it comes to power options, the Zoom F8n has a standard DC IN connector to connect to the AC adapter. But most importantly, the Zoom F8n sports a built-in EXT DC IN connector with a Hirose jack, which allows you to use an external DC power supply conveniently without buying extra accessories.
The Zoom F8n is also better when you take a look at the outputs. Compared to the MixPre 6 II which has a headphone 3.5mm and stereo output, the Zoom F8n has two TA3 balanced Main Outs for external mixers and processing devices and a regular 3.5mm Sub Out.
However, the MixPre 6 II also has something that Zoom F8n can’t offer (Even though it’s not that important). If you happen to work with a camera with HDMI timecode output, the HDMI TC INPUT Connect on the MixPre 6 II can be helpful.
Recording Quality & Preamps
Well, according to the specs, the MixPre 6 II may sound more competitive in this part as it’s got better analog limiters and preamps, and it supports 32-bit float bit depth. To be honest, there is no obvious difference in recording quality in real life – you probably would not hear any difference after the post-production and editing process. The 32-bit float sounds fancy, but it’s not that useful actually if you work in real recording production. The Zoom F8n would probably do better in ambisonic recording as a field audio recorder. However, if you are going to stick to a recorder that supports 32-bit float, the new Zoom F8n Pro is the one you need.
Zoom F8n has a dual SD card recording feature
Although errors don’t occur frequently, it is always safer when you can record simultaneously on two SD cards. Unlike the MixPre 6 II’s simple backup recording, the Zoom F8n has double SD card slots, which means you will be able to record two discrete recordings on different SD cards instead of copying over an identical track.
The prices of these two audio recorders are close – the Zoom F8n and Zoom F8n Pro cost $1099.99 on Amazon while the MixPre 6 II is available at the price of $1060.
In the current market, you may also find that there’re many second-hand units with lower prices on eBay or Reverb. Buying a used one is also doable as long as the condition of the recorder is decent.
Zoom F8n vs Sound Devices MixPre 6 II – My Verdict
I personally think buying the Zoom F8n or Zoom F8n Pro is a better choice today. The Zoom F8n offers advanced features and connectivity, and you will have more tracks to record at the same time. These two recorders fall into the same price range, but the Zoom F8n has more inputs and outputs, competitive preamp quality, and a safer recording option. It has no huge weakness compared to Sound Devices MixPre 6 II, and I think the Zoom F8n’s real rival is the Sound Devices high-end model – MixPre-10T.