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Old October 24th, 2009, 12:11 AM   #1
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Zoom H4N question

I was doing some tests with my Zoom H4N and discovered that the mini plug mic IN has significantly more gain then the XLR IN. This was with a dynamic mic, no phantom or plug in power used. Just a straight XLR to XLR cable for the XLR IN and a XLR to mini for the mini IN.

Any idea why and any reason not to use the mini in besides mini plug reliability and unshielded cable?

Thanks
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Old October 27th, 2009, 12:43 AM   #2
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Zoom h4n

Anyone have an answer? I could not find anything in the manual.
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Old October 27th, 2009, 06:27 AM   #3
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First of all, let me say I haven't used an H4 or an H4n so my answer is speculation. As to whether the mini input has any other drawbacks, it's hard to say without a schematic but depednding on where that extra gain is coming from, the higher sensitivity of the miniplug might mean that you're likely to record more internal preamp noise as well as more signal from the mic. All in all, if the signal level at the XLR input is sufficient for recording, I'd go that route. Gain just to have gain is not always a good thing.
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Old October 27th, 2009, 10:49 AM   #4
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Well just so you know the XLR inputs on the H4n are mic level, and the 1/4 inputs are Line level. So if you're taking a board or instrument feed then use the 1/4 inputs for safety's sake.

It might have to do with the fact that the XLR inputs are setup to take a hotter feed, like from a board. So the signal is padded down slightly on input.

I also don't know why the 1/8 has that much more gain than the XLR inputs.
But I would ask, why one woudl want to use the 1/8 inputs over the XLR 1/4 inputs. As these inputs are balanced and more secure anyway than a 1/8 input. Also I woudl rather use the onboard mics than a /8 plugged in mic.

I can see using the 1/8 with the XLR inputs, for four channel recording. But for anything else I would stick to using the onboard mics with XLR feeds for four track recording. It was nice that Zoom gave the option of a 1/8 input. But for my needs I can't see myself using it.

I use the Zoom in this manner:
Dual XLR inputs with pair of mics (or board feed and mic) + onboard mics for four channel recording.

XLRs by themselves for 2 channel recording

Onboard mics by themselves for 2 channel recording.

I use several different mics from dual pair of Dynamic SM57's, pair of Rode M3 condenser mics, matched pair of Rode NT5 condenser mics with 48v phantom, or even of Rode NT3 Hyper Card mics.

For any 1/8 mic capability I use smaller recorders like my Marantz PMD620. Usually for lav micing purposes.

I'm not saying that using the 1/8 inputs on the Zoom is wrong, but why would you be using it when you have 2 balanced XLR 1/4 inputs anyway.
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Old October 27th, 2009, 07:42 PM   #5
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H4n

Thanks guys for the response.

I first noticed it when I was recording with my Rode NTG -2 with the XLR input, and I had to push the gain up to near 100 to get the levels I needed, I thought the battery was going dead. So I did a quick switch over to my Rode Video Mic plugged into the mini jack. I only needed to set the gain to about 60 to get the same levels. I did not try the phantom power at the time, but as it turned out the battery was fine. When I got back home I did the tests.

Just did some more tests. Using an AKG 3700 dynamic mic. With XLR to XLR cable gain set to 90, peaks coming up to about -12. With XLR to mini input gain set to 75 peaks coming up to about -12. The noise floor was about the same on both, maybe a little more with the mini cable.

With the XLR input and the gain at the same 75 the noise floor was much less than the mini input. The other thing I noticed was with the mini input was that recording sounded much thinner almost tinny.

So something must be going on with the pre amps. The only reason I would use the mini input with the extra gain would be for an interview, because I had to be 1" from the mic to get that -12 level and for an interview that would be a little like sticking the mic in the interviewee's face.

Thanks for the help,

Tom
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Old October 27th, 2009, 07:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
I don't know why the 1/8 has that much more gain than the XLR inputs.
But I would ask, why one woudl want to use the 1/8 inputs over the XLR 1/4 inputs. As these inputs are balanced and more secure anyway than a 1/8 input. Also I woudl rather use the onboard mics than a /8 plugged in mic.

I can see using the 1/8 with the XLR inputs, for four channel recording. But for anything else I would stick to using the onboard mics with XLR feeds for four track recording.
I have done some tests on this unit.
1) the XLR in is significantly noisier than the 3.5mm in. This may / may not matter for many uses, to me it is very important.
2) in inbuilt mics are handy but far from great quality, BTW for 4 chan use, 2 chan's are the XLR/ 1/4inch the other 2 chan's are Inbuilt mics/3.5mm socket.
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Old October 28th, 2009, 12:41 AM   #7
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Did you have phantom power turned on? It's a setting in one of the menus (either off, 24v, or 48v). It seems strange to me that you would have to turn the gain up to 100 on the XLR inputs. I have not had the same experience, but am using lav mics so that might have something to do with it.

Otherwise, I would say use whatever sounds better to your ears. I have also had the experience that the 1/8" jack sounds cleaner, so I use that most of the time. XLR works fine, but with phantom power turned on the battery drains a lot faster. If I'm only doing a short cable run (i.e. a few inches from a wireless receiver), I'll use the 1/8" whenever I'm only using one mic.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 08:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Lundsten View Post
I have done some tests on this unit.
1) the XLR in is significantly noisier than the 3.5mm in. This may / may not matter for many uses, to me it is very important.
2) in inbuilt mics are handy but far from great quality, BTW for 4 chan use, 2 chan's are the XLR/ 1/4inch the other 2 chan's are Inbuilt mics/3.5mm socket.
The XLR being noisier might have to do with the fact that it's not a line input, but rather mic.
If you want cleaner audio form the ports then try using the 1/4 inputs instead, as these seem to be setup to be Line In inputs.

Why Zoom did this is a mystery to me. But it might have something to do in that they seemed to think that the 1/4 inputs would be used by musicians plugging into the unit, like guitar players.

At least that's the impression I got from reading the crappy manual.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 05:24 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
The XLR being noisier might have to do with the fact that it's not a line input, but rather mic.
Both the XLR's & the 3.5mm in are mic inputs. I was not interested in testing the 1/4" In's.
I have just looked up my test notes. I used the max gain which is only 47dB, BTW, the A weighted EIN is a pretty poor -108dB. BTW I had the phantom power off. This ruled the unit out for my needs though I did a quick listen with no measurements taken of the 3.5mm in (PIP off) & was quieter & yes had more gain available too. As I was testing the unit at a dealer's I didn't want to outstay my welcome as there was no-way i was going to buy it.
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