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Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N

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Steve Crow
Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 28, 2010 at 5:27:17 pm

I've been having a problem lately with the Zoom H4N when I'm connecting the output of a wireless lavalier mic to the Zoom's XLR connection at the bottom. The issue is that the recording levels are down to about -30db - I can raise them up in post which works fine but I also notice that I am having trouble really hearing the talent through my headphones attached to the Zoom when recording.

These two issues must be related.

I think I may have accidentally changed some setting on the Zoom recently since I didn't have this bad an issue before.

How do you guys make sure you get better recording levels from the Zoom, I'd like to get a -12db signal recorded (with no clipping of course)


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John Frey
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 28, 2010 at 6:23:55 pm

Do you monitor the output level of your wireless transmitter and the input level of your wireless receiver via headphones? Did you accidentally change the record levels of your Zoom? I know these are obvious details, but...

John D. Frey
25 Year owner/operator of two California-based production studios.

Digital West Video Productions of San Luis Obispo and Inland Images of Lake Elsinore


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Steve Crow
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 28, 2010 at 6:35:06 pm

Well, yes I have the headphones attached to the Zoom so I would say that yes I am monitoring the recording levels on the Zoom itself (not the output of the Wireless receivers)

However, the input levels were set to 37 which might be too low, so I just changed them to 51 which I read somewhere today is a good setting....let's see how this impacts the issue....see your suggestion wasn't too obvious at all.


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Jonathan Ziegler
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 28, 2010 at 6:37:56 pm

I'm no sound expert, but I've used the H4n.

First, make sure you have the correct mic selected - You want input 1/2 if you are recording from a mic. I'm assuming you are recording using an XLR input and not a 1/4" jack. If it's a 1/4" jack, it may not be well-powered and may need amplification.

Did you adjust the recording level on the side?

Did you set the "level" in the menu?

If you've set levels and gain and the mic is still really quiet, replace batteries in the mic (if the mic is self-powered) and the Zoom or plug in with the adapter. Also, make sure you have phantom power ON if the mic needs phantom power.

Don't forget to check your COMP/LIMIT settings: You can try COMP2 for vocals and Limit1, too. Also, try auto-leveling. If the everything works fine with auto-leveling, you need to adjust your levels manually. If it still doesn't work, it's not the levels, it's the mic or something outside the zoom.

Hope this helps!

Jonathan Ziegler
http://www.electrictiger.com/
520-360-8293


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Steve Crow
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 28, 2010 at 6:54:32 pm

"Did you set the "level" in the menu?"

The only level adjustment I could find via the menu was auto level which I have set to "off" however I did just now adjust up the recording level on the side up to 51 which I am hoping will solve my issue.

I will report back with results!

Thanks everyone for the input!


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Doug Beal
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 28, 2010 at 11:28:25 pm

press the "red" light on the correct channel you are using for input. that will bring up the dialog to set input level. the +/- level set is on the same side of the device as the menu wheel.
You need to be in 4CH mode for the external lights to be on

Doug Beal
Editor / Engineer
Rock Creative Images
Nashville TN


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Phil Balsdon
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 28, 2010 at 8:24:14 pm

Steve is this a problem with only the wireless mic or is it a problem with all mics?

If it's just with the wireless mic compared to a hard wired mic you may need to make the adjustment in the output levels of the wireless receiver.

I'm afraid I'm still using the older H4 but manual adjustment of levels is available separately in both channels there, I wouldn't have thought they would have left that out of the newer version. The menu system in the H4 is very complex though, I hate going in there to change things.

Cinematographer, Steadicam Operator, Final Cut Pro Post Production.
http://www.steadi-onfilms.com.au/


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Bill Davis
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 29, 2010 at 3:00:35 am

Just to try and clarify a bit more...

You have at least FOUR gain adjustment points in this kind of an audio chain.

The wireless unit on the talent has to be set to properly CAPTURE the sound (Gain setting #1) and then it has to properly modulate that signal onto the carrier and OUTPUT it at the proper level for transmission. (Gain setting#2)

Next, the Wireless RECEIVER must capture that signal properly - and demodulate it into an OUTPUT (Gain setting #3) which is then sent to the INPUT of your Zoom H4n which must be set to receive at the proper level (Gain Setting #4)

Now the more professional your wireless rig, the more control you'll have over this with level controls available for at LEAST 3 of these 4 gain stages. (there may NOT be a control at Gain setting#2 since that is often pre-set at a fixed level that the receiver is expecting.)

In expensive rigs, you'll have a mic sensitivity setting pot (potentialometer) for gain setting #1 typically on the wireless transmitter. And you'll have a "sensitivity" setting (the gain of the reception) on the wireless receiver. And finally, you'll have the INPUT LEVEL bars on the Zoom H4n. In less expensive units, these might all be INTERNAL settings that you can only adjust by accessing the software or firmware through menus.

To achieve the best sound, you have to set a GAIN STRUCTURE on this system, exactly as you would in order to set on on a mixer channel strip or any other audio chain.

First, set the WIRELESS MIC TRANSMITTER to output the proper level. Next, set the WIRELESS MIC RECEIVER to capture the incoming signal and output it at the proper level. AND FINALLY, set the Recorder's gain controls to RECEIVE the wireless receivers output signal properly.

IF YOU SKIP ANY OF THESE STEPS or if something like a weak battery, a bad antenna connection or a failing component fails to deliver the signal properly at ANY stage of the signal - you're NOT going to get optimal results.

So go back to square ONE. Start at the MIC. Set it's level properly - then go through the gain stages one by one.

That's the ONLY path to consistent good results in any audio chain. Period.

Good luck.



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Michael Locke
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 29, 2010 at 5:20:27 pm

Hey Steve, et al: Late on the post, but Zoom just released firmware (V1.7) to independently adjust the two XLR inputs. http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/download/software/h4n.php Don't know if that makes a difference with one lav, but it's much better with lav/boom. More adjustment, but more control. Hope this helps...ML


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Steve Crow
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Nov 29, 2010 at 5:31:55 pm

Wow, thanks Michael!


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Lee Boot
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Jan 13, 2011 at 10:31:00 pm

I updated my H4n to v. 1.72 but still can't find the way to adjust mic 1 and 2 independently.

turning chaos into more chaos every day like clockwork


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Anna Castiglioni
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Dec 4, 2012 at 12:32:40 am

I can't seem to find any way at all to adjust my gain level on my H4n Zoom. I am told in previous version this was a simple button on the side, but doesn't seem to exist anywhere on mine, button or menus. My noise to sound ratio sucks, and with thing I should be getting pristine sound. I was told by an audio guy to have mic level 76.

He said: "there will be two gain stages, one is analog mic signal and one is digital post analog gain
you want to turn the analog mic signal up as high as possible and the post digital down"

Please any help would be appreciated. This thing is near worthless if I can't fix the noise. Thanks.


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Steve Crow
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Dec 4, 2012 at 1:25:05 am

I think this brief tutorial video will help you

Steve Crow
Crow Digital Media
http://www.CrowDigitalMedia.com


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eugene sarigumba
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Jul 19, 2015 at 8:39:46 pm

i'm using the sennheiser ew 100 g3 series. i have the transmitter set to -12db, the receiver to -12db, and the H4N to 77 input level. It sounds pretty good to me. The levels on the H4N are ranging from -30db during silence and -12db to -3db when i speak. I'm no expert so i don't know if -3db is enough headroom for post. Plus these settings are me just in my room testing. Numbers might be different in different surroundings i would assume. personally i'm going to use this as my base point, and if i need higher/lower input, i'll adjust the input level on the H4N. Is this wrong?



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Keith Miller
Re: Getting Correct Levels on Zoom H4N
on Jul 27, 2015 at 1:42:28 pm

I've had the same problem with my h4n.

I've got the new firmware and can adjust inputs 1 and 2 separately, however, even with zoom gain set to 100 I get such horrible signal to noise that it's barely usable.

I'm using two mics: Rode Videomic Pro and AT-3350 wired lav mic. Both are 3.5mm TRS jacks I am converting to XLR with a converter cable.

I've scoured forums and found many H4n users suffer from this roadblock. Apparently XLRs are not that sensitive and TRS cables are not that hot. Maybe someone can fill in the fine details on this point...I saw the exact dB specs on both somewhere and the difference is--I think a loss of maybe -10 dB if I remember right. You'd think you could easily just boost this in post but by that point so much noise is already picked up it's too late in the chain.

Here's where I'm stuck: How to remedy.

There's a great demo by JuicedLink showing how irrelevant the h4n is if all you're trying to do is get high quality signal to tape.

I'm sold on this and will bypass my zoom in the future to write audio directly to the dslr and avoid the post audio sync circus. However the JuicedLink box costs $399.

What about using a direct box instead of my 3.5mm to XLR cable adaptor? Apparently these knock the signal up to the necessary line level for XLR input.

Do I need the preamp or the direct box to boost my signal to the zoom? Thanks!


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