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Old December 10th, 2010, 09:03 PM   #1
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Zoom H4n and Shotgun mic problem

I am using a Zoom H4n field recorder with an Audio Technica AT897 shotgun microphone. The problem is that I am getting very weak levels from the microphone. Here is how I have everything configured:

-the AT897 shotgun mic is on a boom pole above the subject (about 2.5 feet away from mouth)
-the mic is connected directly to the Zoom H4n with a 25 foot XLR cable (inserted into the XLR jack marked "1")
-the H4n is in Stereo mode with Phantom Power (48v) turned ON
-I have the low-cut filter enabled as well
-I have to set the REC LEVEL (buttons on the right side of the device) all the way up to 100
-when I look at the levels on the H4n, i see the bar hovering around -24 to -20 (this is when the subject is speaking lines at a normal indoor volume level)

What am I doing wrong? Is there some setting inside the Zoom H4n that I am completely missing? I would really appreciate help with this, as I have been spinning my wheels for days now!
Thanks!
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Old December 10th, 2010, 09:25 PM   #2
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Did you press the 1/2 input buttons (they should turn red)
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Old December 10th, 2010, 09:28 PM   #3
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Did you press the 1/2 input buttons (they should turn red)
Yes, I hit the "1" button which made both 1 and 2 light up RED (the Mic input is no longer lit up)

(By the way, I am recording in 48/16-bit.)
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Old December 11th, 2010, 10:56 AM   #4
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Could it be a faulty microphone? Is there some kind of test I can run to see if the problem is with the mic or the recorder?

Where should the "bars" be hovering when recording dialog?

I appreciate your help with this!
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Old December 11th, 2010, 11:03 AM   #5
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Try another XLR cable, in some instances a seemingly good XLR cable may work fine with a dynamic mic, but will not perform properly with a Phantom Powered mic.

Are you sure you're running on Phantom Power and not a depleted battery? 'Some' microphones need the battery removed to pass Phantom Power... I don't know about the AT897's specifics, so that may not be the case.
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Old December 11th, 2010, 11:31 AM   #6
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Phantom is on and there is no battery in the mic. I have tried 2 cables (both a few years old) and the problem persists. I haven't checked to see if these cables are for dynamic or phantom powered. How would I check that? (i thought any xlr cable would work, the ones i bought are from B&H)
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Old December 11th, 2010, 02:03 PM   #7
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2 and a 1/2 feet is pretty far for picking up normal voices. When you talk into the mic from a closer distance does the mic output drive the recorder level high enough. The mic may not be strong enough without a mixer/preamp to drive the input you are using? Does the H4n have a sensitivity adjustment on the input you are using? Maybe it is set up for a mic with stronger output?
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Old December 11th, 2010, 02:45 PM   #8
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When I put the mic very close to my mouth (less than a foot) the mic is just fine. (Signal is strong enough) But of course that's not feasible for video/film work. The Zoom's XLR inputs are Mic level input only, so they are a fixed sensitivity (i think). I think you are right about the preamp thing, this mic just isn't very sensitive. Are most shotgun mics like this or can i get a mic that doesn't need a mixer/preamp when using a field recorder?
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Old December 11th, 2010, 03:06 PM   #9
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RE: AT897 & Zoom H4N

Search threads on this forum about those two. If I recall correctly, the AT897 is a poor match for the Zoom H4N and I've seen several people post about the AT897 being too quiet when used with a H4N. No solution was proposed as this was a matter of a non-optimal hardware combination.
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Old December 14th, 2010, 03:04 PM   #10
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Okay this is just odd. I had been using XLR to get from the mic to the Zoom. I just bought a really cheap ($8 on Amazon) XLR to Mini Jack 3.5mm cable. Plugged the AT897 mic into the Zoom this way and it all sounds MUCH better (and I get both L and R too) Why would the XLR input sound worse/weaker than the 3.5mm input??
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Old December 15th, 2010, 08:38 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Lewis View Post
Okay this is just odd. I had been using XLR to get from the mic to the Zoom. I just bought a really cheap ($8 on Amazon) XLR to Mini Jack 3.5mm cable. Plugged the AT897 mic into the Zoom this way and it all sounds MUCH better (and I get both L and R too) Why would the XLR input sound worse/weaker than the 3.5mm input??
According to the specs, the XLR minimum sensitivity is -42dBm while the External Mic sensitivity is -47dBm. That means the XLR is less sensitive, ie, requires a HIGHER signal for the equivalent recording level, than is the External Mic jack.
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Old December 19th, 2010, 12:03 AM   #12
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H4N settings

I had very similar findings with my Rode NTG 2. The mini jack is definitely hotter. One thing to check with the XLR inputs is have mono mix down off and you will get more gain on the single chanel.
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Old April 5th, 2011, 11:39 AM   #13
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Re: Zoom H4n and Shotgun mic problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Lewis View Post
Okay this is just odd. I had been using XLR to get from the mic to the Zoom. I just bought a really cheap ($8 on Amazon) XLR to Mini Jack 3.5mm cable. Plugged the AT897 mic into the Zoom this way and it all sounds MUCH better (and I get both L and R too)
Steve - I'm looking at a shotgun mic for similar purposes w/ an H4n. Now that you have a hotter signal, are you happy with the audio?

Thanks, Brandon
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Old April 6th, 2011, 09:22 AM   #14
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Re: Zoom H4n and Shotgun mic problem

The AT897 is a good mic but it has about the lowest output of any mics in this class of shotguns. The AT897 came out when the DVX-100 was a hugely popular camera that had very sensitive mic inputs and the two worked well together.
The H4n does not have very sensitive XLR mic inputs. So if you are using an AT897 I would recommend a mixer or preamp between the mic and the recorder.
Or you could use a much higher output mic, like the AT875R, or the Rode NTG-3 or older AT4073/newer BP4073. The NTG-1 and NTG-2 are a little hotter than the AT897, but with the H4n they would still benefit greatly from a preamp or mixer.
While the mini-mic input on the Zoom is more sensitive, it's not as rugged as the combo inputs and it would be harder to keep the unbalanced cable length to a minimum like you can with a short link from a mixer to the unbalanced 1/4-inch jacks of the Zoom. Once you connect an unbalanced XLR to mini-trs adapter to your mic, no matter how long the regular XLR cable is, the whole signal path is now unbalanced.
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