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Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot

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Kesten Migdal
Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot
on Jan 25, 2012 at 5:49:39 pm

Hi - Audio noob here. I recently was at a private event concert and the audio guy managing the event let me plug my Zoom H4N directly into his board. When people were speaking at lower levels, the audio was fine. When the dance music was turned up, or when a musician took the stage, my levels would be way too hot. I even turned down the levels on my Zoom to the lowest possible setting (something like 0.4). A professional TV crew was there too and also plugged into the board, but they somehow had decent levels. (Sorry, I would elaborate on what equipment they had, but I don't have the details.) Is there any way to get decent levels on my Zoom in situations like this? I'm hoping there's another adjustment on my Zoom aside from just turning the levels down.


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Eric Toline
Re: Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot
on Jan 25, 2012 at 6:07:27 pm

You were getting a line level signal from the board/mixer that you plugged into a mic level input. You have to match output level to input sensitivity.

Eric


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Jean-Christophe Boulay
Re: Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot
on Jan 25, 2012 at 6:15:24 pm

Hi Kesten,

What was probably happening there is that the recorder was set up for Microphone level and the board was feeding it Line level. I'll skip all the technical stuff to get to the nitty-gritty; line level is much hotter than mic level.

In this situation, it was up to you to adjust. There really isn't anything the FOH guy could do about it. Being a cozy studio dweller, I don't have any field experience with the Zoom H4N but I'd be surprised if there wasn't a menu option or switch to set the input level to Line. Regardless of equipment, this is surely what the TV crew did. If you're set on the wrong input level, no amount of input trimming will get you out, as you've discovered, as the difference in level is much greater than the adjustment range most input trims give you.

Basically, before you plug into a sound source, you must know what level standard (mic or line) is going to come out of it and adjust the input sensitivity on the recorder/mixer/amp accordingly.

IHTH,

JC Boulay
Technical Director
Audio Z
Montreal, Canada
http://www.audioz.com


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Ty Ford
Re: Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot
on Jan 25, 2012 at 8:37:24 pm

And to follow up on what JC said, there's mic, -10 consumer line and 0, +4 or +8 professional line level.

I ended up feeding a consumer CD recorder a few years back with RCA jack inputs and was very happy to have my Sound Devices 442 mixer because it has switchable mic, -10 and line level outs.

PS, you can never tell what a board output jack will be giving you. And you always want one that's pre-fader. That way, if the faders are moved on the console, it won't change your feed level.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Audio Forum Leader


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Kesten Migdal
Re: Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot
on Jan 26, 2012 at 1:34:26 am

Thanks a ton for your response. I'll read up on the manual and test it out in my next situation and report back.


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Peter Groom
Re: Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:40:12 am

Just to add.
Amazingly on a zoom, there ISNT a menu switch between mic and line levels. I found that a 1k tone at -18bdbfs from a line level source means the zoom has to be reduced on the input controls to o.7 on the scale of 0-100.
Amazing i know. But that is what creates the correct recording level without distortion or overs.
OFcourse dont expect a FOH engineer to have any calibrated tone to give you, or even mix to that reference level, but that gets your zoom into the right area for a line level feed. 0.7.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Bill Davis
Re: Zoom H4N Straight Into Mixer, Levels Too Hot
on Jan 28, 2012 at 6:59:36 pm

Kesten,

Look up "audio pads" online.

Buy a pair of 30 db pads for your Xoom. (they are barrel shaped connectors that plug into the mic inputs on one side (or to a cable feeding the mic inputs if you don't want the actual adapters hanging off you're recorder), and accept your signal line on the other - and reduce the signal strength from line to mic level.

They're relatively cheap and solve this problem instantly.

Good luck.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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