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Old May 14th, 2010, 03:16 PM   #1
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Zoom H4N Line Input

I just received my H4N in the mail today for a dance recital tomorrow. I need some quick help, I've used the 4H in the past so the learning curve shouldn't be that steep. What I want to record line level music the theaters board up in the booth, unattended while I film video else where. I have a 1/4 to xlr adapter with an attenuator to protect against too hot of a signal. My plan is before the show have the board play a sample of music to set the levels and the leave it unattended to record the show. I can then take portions where music is playing and mix it with the recording from my camera in my video editing software.

1. What mode should I use to record mono line level xlr input to one channel?
2. Do I need to select Line input somewhere in the menu?
3. The H4 had a physical switch for preamp gain L,M,H is there an equivalent setting in the menu for the H4N?
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Old May 14th, 2010, 03:54 PM   #2
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You can use any mode when using the line inputs, and you don't need an XLR adapter. The H4n takes 1/4" plugs in the same jack as the XLR. I didn't see a way to tell the unit to expect LINE vs MIC. You choose INPUT with the buttons on the front -- if they're lit up in red, they're active.

The manual is pretty bad but you can find all this starting around page 31.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 04:01 PM   #3
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The only reason I'm going to use xlr instead of the 1/4 is because I only have an inline xlr attenuator the guy who I'm doing the job for said when he filmed last year's recital he needed the attenuator to make the signal work.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 04:11 PM   #4
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Right, but you might not need that. I'm messing with the unit now to see if there's anything about line levels in the menus...

EDIT: Yeah, I can't find anything, either in the menus or in the manual, about setting MIC vs LINE level. I suppose you just plug it in and set the levels.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 05:15 PM   #5
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The XLR inputs assume mic level only. There is no way to change that in menus. Either get an XLR -> 1/4" cable or get a pad on both inputs to take the signal down.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 05:51 PM   #6
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You're probably right, that makes sense. But a look at the website makes me think that when using the 1/4" inputs, LINE is assumed:
Quote:
This is a special kind of connector that can accept two different kinds of plugs. The XLR input has phantom power capability which means that professional quality condenser microphones can also be used, besides regular dynamic microphones. The Hi-impedance standard phone plug input can be used to directly connect a guitar, bass, or other instrument.
and
Quote:
The H4n is the only handheld recorder that features built-in combination XLR/Phone connectors with phantom voltage source capability. With its Hi-Z inputs, you can record guitars or other line output sources such as mixing consoles.
But I could totally be misunderstanding this.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 06:05 PM   #7
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That's basically what I meant. 1/4" is line input. XLR is mic input. This is normal. Video cameras never have 1/4" inputs, so often you see a mic/line switch on an XLR input. Sending line level sound down an XLR path is not otherwise typical sound engineering, but many camera operators, and even many somewhat experienced sound recordists never encounter anything other than an XLR connector.

You have two choices:
1) pad the signal and continue using the Mic (XLR) inputs
2) use the 1/4" inputs

Either method is acceptable practice, but you're probably going to find the 1/4" inputs a more elegant solution. Any decent music store should offer XLR to 1/4" TRS cables, if your sound source is line level XLR out.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 06:25 PM   #8
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I just realized that I assumed, probably incorrectly, that the 1/4" to XLR adapter with pad Pete said he planned to use meant 1/4" at the mixer and XLR at the recorder, when he probably meant the other way around. My bad.

So if I understand correctly, there are four possible scenarios to how to hook this up:

1/4" to 1/4" -- no pad or attenuator needed
XLR out of mixer to 1/4" into Zoom -- no pad
1/4" out of mixer to XLR into Zoom -- use pad
XLR out of mixer to XLR into Zoom -- use pad

Have I got that right?
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Old May 14th, 2010, 06:45 PM   #9
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There are two factors at play - type of connector and type of signal. Don't just blindly equate type of connector with type of signal. That can really mess you up. Either one can carry mic or line level sound.

If you're using a line level signal on an XLR connector, you will have to pad it down to use it with the H4N's XLR inputs. If you convert the XLR cable to a 1/4" plug on the other end, you are working around the problem. You're not changing the padding of the signal, you're just changing the input on the H4N to the one that's actually preset for line level sound. Hope this helps...
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Old May 14th, 2010, 06:48 PM   #10
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It does, thanks. I just got confused because above you said "1/4" is line input. XLR is mic input."
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Old May 14th, 2010, 07:32 PM   #11
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OK, well, I meant on the H4N, that's the way it is.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 10:52 PM   #12
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To clarify in this situation the sound board mixer will be feeding me line level from 1/4 cable. So your saying the H4N will automatically assume line level when using a 1/4. I've read there are two line levels: consumer and professional. So I was trying to be prepared for that, if H4N is consumer line and the board was pro line level it might be too hot.

Line level - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"The most common nominal level for consumer audio equipment is -10 dBV, and the most common nominal level for professional equipment is 4 dBu. By convention, nominal levels are always written with an explicit sign symbol. Thus 4 dBu is written as +4 dBu."

From what I read here H4N took away xlr line capability and line level in consumer not professional.
More issues with my Zoom H4N Recorder.. - DVXuser.com -- The online community for filmmaking

While I almost always use mic level when using xlr my mixer has the ability to send line through xlr. The H4 had a mic/line level switch, I'm surprised H4N took that ability away.

I've had problems in the past with line level feeds from the sound booth of theaters but I'm starting to come to the understanding the reason was pro line level needs to be padded or attenuated to work with consumer equipment that uses consumer line level. To be safe I should pick up a 1/4 pad/attenuator. edit: all the inline pads I've seen go from 1/4 to xlr, which won't work since the h4n doesn't accept line through xlr.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 11:16 PM   #13
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Since I have used this in the exact way you want to, I would pick up the line-mic level attenuator if you plan to go XLR in to the H4n. 1/4" won't be an issue even with the +4, -10 cause the range of level control will easily cover that.
This kind of caught me off guard as I'm used to pro gear using XLR for line and mic and having a switch. (should have read the manual!) Now I'm prepared!
Great little piece of gear but odd decision to not make the XLR's switchable!
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Old May 14th, 2010, 11:21 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post

1/4" to 1/4" -- no pad or attenuator needed
XLR out of mixer to 1/4" into Zoom -- no pad
1/4" out of mixer to XLR into Zoom -- use pad
XLR out of mixer to XLR into Zoom -- use pad

Have I got that right?
You are correct sir!
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Old May 15th, 2010, 12:41 PM   #15
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One thing you should know - live sound operators vary greatly in the gain structure they use. More often than not, this will mean that they do not use the board's meters at all.

What this means to you is... although the mixer is nominally a +4 device, you may be seeing -20db peaks, or less.

Unless the operator came from a recording background...

Just be aware this varies widely, and include some time in your plan for you to adapt as needed to the op's practices. Use your headphones on the H4n during setup, best to be there for sound check to set your levels.
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