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Old February 9th, 2011, 04:22 PM   #1
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Article: Choosing a field recorder - Zoom H4n or Sound Devices 702?

Just sharing a new blog post, including some of my thoughts on choosing a class of field recorder for dual-sound, along with a few comparisons between the Zoom H4n and Sound Devices 702 (and similar models), primarily geared towards the audio newcomer and video/HDSLR user.

Phoric Films Choosing a Field Recorder Zoom H4n or Sound Devices 702?
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Old February 11th, 2011, 02:00 PM   #2
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Great article

Great write up about the Zoom and 702. I'm currently using a zoom H4N with Sennheiser G3 lav and Rode NTG-3 for documentary type stuff. It's a great portable and lite kit. The NTG-3 sounds great with the zoom but I'm looking to pick up a portable phantom supply since phantom on the Zoom really eats batteries.

I saw in your article you use a G3(G2?) with the Zoom. Do you have any advice on getting the best signal out of the G3/Zoom combo? For normal interview type recording I'll set the transmitter around -21db or -18db depending on the speaker and then set the receiver AF out to -6db and the zoom input to around 30. This seems to produce a clean signal but the levels seem very low when brought into FCP. Is there something else I could be doing to optimize the combination?

Thanks,

Scott
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Old February 11th, 2011, 02:48 PM   #3
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"I'll set the receiver AF out to -6db and the zoom input to around 30."
Is the Zoom set to mic level. The receiver's AF level setting of -6dB may be to hot for the Zoom's low headroom input stage. I generally set the AF setting of -18dB, which is usually more than adequate to drive my SD mixer or recorder @ mic level. The G2/3 portable receiver's AF output, even set at max., won't drive a +4dB line input.
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Old February 11th, 2011, 03:32 PM   #4
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I'm running the Sennheiser into the H4N at mic level using the Senn XLR cable. Setting the AF to -18db and bumping the Zoom input up to 65 did sound a bit better. I guess I was thinking I should have as hot a signal as possible going into the zoom to avoid using the Zooms noisy preamps. At the above settings I still get a pretty good deal of background hiss from the Senn. Maybe I'm just expecting too much out of it.
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Old February 11th, 2011, 03:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Reineke View Post
Is the Zoom set to mic level
Therein lies one of the limitations of the Zoom, since the H4n does not have the option to switch between mic/line level. The XLR inputs are Mic-level only.

I suppose you could experiment with using the 1/4" TS inputs which are "instrument" level, for recording straight from guitar pickups, keyboards etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Bellefeuille
Do you have any advice on getting the best signal out of the G3/Zoom combo? For normal interview type recording I'll set the transmitter around -21db or -18db depending on the speaker and then set the receiver AF out to -6db and the zoom input to around 30. This seems to produce a clean signal but the levels seem very low when brought into FCP. Is there something else I could be doing to optimize the combination?
Just takes lots of experimenting. Try setting both to something like -12dB as a starting point, and adjust the transmitter as needed to a level that avoids distortion depending on whether your interview subject has a loud or soft voice. In my room if I have both at -12dB and the H4n level at around 50% then it sounds fine.

And of course, make sure you're not sending Phantom power to the G3 receiver (causes noise) and record in 24bit so you have more headroom to adjust levels in post.
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Old February 11th, 2011, 03:50 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Scott Bellefeuille View Post
At the above settings I still get a pretty good deal of background hiss from the Senn. Maybe I'm just expecting too much out of it.
I have a feeling that since you're also using the NTG3 then you have Phantom power turned on. This is a no-no for the G3 and as I stated above will cause noise and popping.

The H4n doesn't let you individually switch Phantom on/off for each input. It's either all on, or all off. So for using your G3 with your NTG3 at the same time, you'll have to turn it off and use a external Phantom power source in-line to your NTG3.

Either that or you're just experiencing one of the downsides to wireless. Try switching frequencies to see if you find a clearer channel, and staying away from any sources of EMI interference.
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Old February 11th, 2011, 04:12 PM   #7
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Pulling the NTG-3 out of the equation and killing Phantom power was one of the first things I tried (going to be picking up a Denecke PS-1A for powering the NTG-3). Also tried switching frequencies on transmitter and receiver. I also just tried running the G3 into my Apogee preamp and directly into computer and it's still fairly noisy. Again I may just be expecting too much from an entry level wireless system. I'll keep experimenting.

Thank you all for the replies and I apologize for slightly hijacking this thread since the discussion should really be about Ed's excellent overview of the H4N and the 702!

Scott
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Old February 11th, 2011, 07:49 PM   #8
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Quote:
Therein lies one of the limitations of the Zoom, since the H4n does not have the option to switch between mic/line level. The XLR inputs are Mic-level only.

I suppose you could experiment with using the 1/4" TS inputs which are "instrument" level, for recording straight from guitar pickups, keyboards etc.
a simple adapter cable consisting of an L-pad (2 resistors) built into an XLR jack would be simple solution.
Uneeda Audio - Build your own attenuator pads
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Old February 12th, 2011, 11:48 AM   #9
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Nice article Ed. Thanks for taking the time to write it up and share. I'm looking forward to your article on the Sound Devices 302. I love that lil mixer. One thing that might improve this article, if I may offer a suggestion, would be to add an additional sentence or two on why the 302 is in your bag. More specifically, how it would benefit the user with either the H4n or the 702. As a reader, I'm intrigued like "Tell me more about that!" and wanting more. Well, maybe that's the tease to keep us all in anticipation :)

Again, nice job, very cool with the photos and real-world use. Stop by the studio again next time you're in town, the AF100 is something you'll definitely want to explore hands-on.
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Old February 12th, 2011, 02:13 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Guy Cochran View Post
Nice article Ed. Thanks for taking the time to write it up and share. I'm looking forward to your article on the Sound Devices 302. I love that lil mixer. One thing that might improve this article, if I may offer a suggestion, would be to add an additional sentence or two on why the 302 is in your bag. More specifically, how it would benefit the user with either the H4n or the 702. As a reader, I'm intrigued like "Tell me more about that!" and wanting more. Well, maybe that's the tease to keep us all in anticipation :)

Again, nice job, very cool with the photos and real-world use. Stop by the studio again next time you're in town, the AF100 is something you'll definitely want to explore hands-on.
Thanks for the comments Guy! I've been meaning to stop by and visit sometime.
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Old February 18th, 2011, 10:31 AM   #11
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Good article Ed!

Mentioning the size of the two (dimensions) and weight would also help in emphasizing why you prefer the Zoom during treks.

Cheers,
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