Connect a Zoom H4n to a Mixer
Why is my audio distorted?
If you’ve ever tried to record a direct feed out of an external mixer into the Zoom H4n, you will very quickly find that it will sound distorted and at most times unusable. You are trying to convert a line level signal from the external mixer to the H4n’s microphone level.
Line level is normally -10 dBV for consumer gear and +4 dBu for pro gear while Mic levels are normally -60 dBu for dynamic microphones and -35 dBu for condenser microphones, so you can see now that a line level signal is always going to be ‘hotter’ than a microphone level signal.
So what now? You need a device or adapter / plug that will convert the line level signals to a signal level that can be connected to your microphone input. The adapter / plug is called an Attenuator and is essentially a resistor that limits the flow of an electrical current in an electronic circuit. I bought mine off eBay years ago for around £20. But who uses eBay these days?!
Watch Video Here:
Note: I show how to record 2 independent mono signals outputting from the same mixer at different levels. If recording your audio is crucial and you cannot jeopardise it, record the same signal twice at different levels and use pseudo stereo plugins in post.
- Update H4n Firmware
Firstly, update to the latest H4n firmware. At the time of writing, firmware 1.72 was released. Update instructions can be found on Zoom’s website here
- Unlink both Mic/Line Inputs
Menu > Input > 1/2 Link
Once updated, unlink the the Mic/Line Inputs so they each have independent record level controls. This is important when recording the same signal at different levels on each channel,; very useful when you cannot guarantee the audio output will be consistant throughout. So you keep one of the inputs slightly higher in level to ensure low outputs from the Mixer are recorded.
You can now adjust the levels of Input 1 and 2 independently.
- Connect Attenuation adapters to Cables (RCA, Jack or whatever cable you plug into the mixer)
Attenuators reduce the volume further if the mixer’s output gets too crazy. I bought the -20dB attenuators adapters so the line-level signal will be reduced by 20dB to ensure the inputs don’t overload.
These adapters come in various attenuations.
- Connect the Jack (1/4 inch) or RCA cables to the Auxiliary sends or Tape Outs of the mixer.
2. Adjust the Auxiliary send master level to get the signal into the H4n.
3. Insert the Attenuators to the ends of the Jacks or RCA cables.
4. Insert the Attenuators into the H4n’s Mic inputs.
5. Switch the H4n on and press the record button.
6. Play something through your mixer. You should see the input levels moving on the H4n.
7. Adjust the recording level of the H4n. Try keep the level below -6bB to allow enough headroom. 7. If you’ve unlinked Input 1/2, adjust these independently keeping 1 input slightly lower than the other.
6. Once the levels look good and are not clipping, record your mixer’s output!
This setup will hopefully ensure your recordings are clean and undistorted.
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Thanks for reading.