zoom h3-vr review - decibel peak

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Reason Studios Reason 11 Review

That's why I wrote this Reason Studios Reason 11 review.

Editor's Rating:

The Zoom H3-VR… It’s the most affordable ambisonic microphone on the market.

The best part is that the Zoom H3-VR is also a recording device and has an integrated ambisonic decoder. In other words, it’s the best all-in-one solution for ambisonic recording.

Just in case you’re not familiar with ambisonics

The Zoom H3-VR (like all other ambisonic devices) records what some refer to as 3D/360-degree/VR/Binaural audio.

They’re essentially the same thing (with small variances), but I encourage you to listen to an example HERE just to get an idea of the possibilities.

I have to say… It’s one of my favourite devices for field recording.

Keep reading if you want to hear what I like, don’t like and what applications I recommend the Zoom H3-VR for. I’ll even explain some of its more complicated features.

Alright, let’s get started…

What I like about the Zoom H3-VR

Before even purchasing it, I liked the Zoom H3-VR for its affordability.

It made the world of ambisonic/spatial recording accessible for those that didn’t want to spend $1000+ on an ambisonic microphone.

I was also impressed that the ambisonic decoding was done on-board.

However, Zoom also provides the Zoom Ambisonics Player for further decoding.

zoom h3-vr review - zoom ambisonics player

For example, you can import your ambisonic (type-A) files and convert them to the output (type-B) of your choice. Here’s what you have to choose from…

  • Stereo
  • Binaural
  • 5.1 Surround
  • Custom L/R

In other words, the Zoom H3-VR is the ultimate all-in-one solution for spatial audio.

It’s also one of the most energy-efficient devices I’ve ever used. The rechargeable AA batteries I use last 11.5h+, so I can leave it on without worrying too much.

It can also be powered via a USB battery.

What I DON’T like about the Zoom H3-VR

To be honest, I don’t have much to suggest in regards to improvements…

The Zoom H3-VR is an incredibly well-designed piece of hardware, but I have to admit that it’s quite tiny… It can seem like the buttons are difficult to access at times.

Also, I personally find that the record button is awkward.

The foam windscreen that’s included is nice, but just keep in mind that it won’t protect your recordings against the outdoors. I recommend THIS windshield or a sock (seriously, it works).

zoom h3 vr 5
Just cut one of your old socks and the trick is done!

You’ll also need to remember that the Zoom H3-VR uses micro SD cards.

If you have a nearby shop it’s not so bad, but just remember to add a micro SD card to your cart if you want to use it right out-of-the-box on DAY 1.

Other than that, I have nothing bad to say about the Zoom H3-VR!

BEST WAY to use your Zoom H3-VR

I assume that the Zoom H3-VR will be your first ambisonic microphone.

Maybe you’ve never used one and don’t even know HOW to use one.

It’s pretty simple though… Think of the Zoom H3-VR as a point-of-view. It replicates what you hear using its tetrahedral microphone capsule.

That’s why the BEST place to position the Zoom H3-VR is on your video camera.

I use a hot shot microphone clip and mount it on my Canon EOS Rebel 100D.

zoom h3 vr 4

I even take it a step further and connect the Zoom H3-VR’s line-out to my camera’s mic input.

So, I basically take that out into the field with me along with my DJI Ronin-M gimbal to capture ultra-realistic footage featuring spatial audio created with the Zoom H3-VR.

You won’t believe how immersive it is until you HEAR IT FOR YOURSELF.

That being said, the Zoom H3-VR is the BEST WAY to increase the production quality of your rig.

Even if you don’t end up using the audio, it’s still fun to listen to!

I don’t recommend the Zoom H3-VR if you want to focus on specific sounds though. It’d be impossible to remove ambient noise, that’s when you’d use a shotgun microphone.

In other words, the Zoom H3-VR is designed for AMBIENT/SPATIAL recording.

Different options for Ambisonic recording (Type-A)

I thought I’d take a minute to explain the different recording modes on the Zoom H3-VR.

Here’s what you’ll have to choose from…

  • FuMa
  • AmbiX
  • Ambisonics (Type-A)
  • Binaural
  • Stereo

Now, let’s explain each one to understand the differences…

FuMa (Ambisonic)

Also known as Furse-Malham, it records audio using the W-X-Y-Z sequence. It’s not as commonly used as AmbiX nowadays.

It’s considered “ambisonic” and can be manipulated to be integrated into VR environments.

AmbiX (Ambisonic)

Also known as Ambisonic Exchange, it records using the W-Y-Z-X sequence. It’s the most commonly used ambisonic convention.

It can also be used in VR applications.

Ambisonics (Type-A) (Ambisonic)

This is essentially Zoom’s own ambisonic convention.

It’s used to manipulate your ambisonic audio using the Zoom Ambisonic Player.

Binaural (Stereo Binaural)

Binaural recordings are essentially 3D stereo recordings.

The three-dimensions of sound are recorded to create an immersive experience when using HEADPHONES. In other words, it’s like a “print-out” of an ambisonic recording.

I don’t personally recommend recording in binaural, you can always convert your audio to be monitored this way and/or do it in post-production.

Stereo (Standard Stereo)

Stereo is just like the good ol’ stereo you’ve always known.

If you want to use the Zoom H3-VR as a conventional stereo sound recorded, that’s what it’s for.

BUT… Why would you want to?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Zoom H3-VR

Here’s what most people have asked about the Zoom H3-VR…

Does the Zoom H3-VR use an SD card?

NO. The Zoom H3-VR uses a MICRO SD card, unlike the other H-series sound recorders.

How long does the Zoom H3-VR’s battery last?

The Zoom H3-VR’s battery life depends on the type of batteries you use.

If you use 2x rechargeable NiMH batteries (what I recommend), you’ll get about 11.5 hours of battery life per charge.

How do you use the Zoom H3-VR?

The best way to use the Zoom H3-VR is to mount it to your video camera using a hot shoe microphone clip.

It sounds best as an ambient microphone taking the point-of-view of the viewer.

I recommend using a windshield for outdoor-use, the included foam screen isn’t sufficient.

Summary: Zoom H3-VR Review

I have to say, the Zoom H3-VR is one of the most impressive NEW devices of 2021.

It’ll significantly upgrade the production value of your rig without breaking the bank. It’ll add a new dimension of depth to your content while creating an immersive sensual experience.

Ambisonics is the way of the future, so I definitely recommend the Zoom H3-VR.

It’s best for sound designers and videographers but believe it or not, it sounds GREAT on certain musical instruments like drums and percussion.

In other words, anything that you’d record in stereo.

That being said, you can also use the Zoom H3-VR to record your entire band/ensemble and it’ll be 3D without you needing to learn how to mix spatial audio (covered in THIS ARTICLE).

The Zoom H3-VR opens up a world of possibilities!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments. Also, remember to join Decibel Peak on Discord and to support us on Patreon if you enjoy our content.

Thanks for reading, now let’s take our sound quality up a notch!




2 Responses

  1. Dear author,

    thank you for this review. I am looking for a new recorder to record outdoor soundscapes like a forest at night and I am torn between this Zoom H3-VR and the Zoom H4N Pro. I am concerned about the mic quality: Has the H4n better microphones (because it’s “pro”)? I am interested in binaural recording, but I am not sure how more microphones will help. We only have to ears and our headphones only have two speakers — will using more microphones really help?

    Best wishes,

    1. Hey Martin,

      I’ve used the H4n Pro and cannot recommend it for its onboard microphone. It’s not suitable for outdoor recording.

      If you’ll be plugging a shotgun microphone into it, then it’ll be fine. However, I still personally prefer working with the Zoom H6 over the H4n Pro.

      In regards to binaural recording, I’ve written many articles on the subject.

      The Zoom H3VR is quite impressive though. I use it all the time and it’s become my go-to microphone for ambient outdoor recordings.

      Hope that helps, thanks for reaching out!

      – Stefan

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