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How to use the Zoom H4N recorder with a mixer?
Old 2nd September 2013
  #1
How to use the Zoom H4N recorder with a mixer?

Hey guys,

Not sure I'm on the right forum for this, but do any of you know how to properly use the H4N to record line out (record out) from a DJ mixer or mixing board?

it seems like the signal is way too hot, and the recording is coming out distorted. I've read in some places that you need a 25db pad, in other places a 10db pad, etc.

Do any of you know exactly which pad I need? And can I make do with a Hosa ATT448, which allows me to switch between 20/30/40 db? I am NOT a fan of Hosa products, but they seem to be the cheaper option.

I've also read that it's possible to bypass the pad by just using 1/4" TRS into the H4N. Is this a true statement?

I'm not exactly sure how all this works. Just frustrated that I purchased the H4N after reading some DJ related blogs, but none of them bothered mentioning that I needed an attenuator. Nor have I found too much useful info online about the topic.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Old 2nd September 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
 
celticrogues's Avatar
 

It's been a while since I've done this but I believe that if you just turn the gain on the H4n all the way down, that will get you to where you can use line level devices.

Cheers!
-Mike
Old 2nd September 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
What type of cables?

1/4 unbalanced inputs probably incorporated a pad for line level.
You need RCA-1/4" TS.

If you're plugging XLR into the inputs you're sending line level into a preamp and overdriving it.
Old 2nd September 2013
  #4
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by HawaiiR View Post
Hey guys,

Not sure I'm on the right forum for this, but do any of you know how to properly use the H4N to record line out (record out) from a DJ mixer or mixing board?

it seems like the signal is way too hot, and the recording is coming out distorted. I've read in some places that you need a 25db pad, in other places a 10db pad, etc.

Do any of you know exactly which pad I need? And can I make do with a Hosa ATT448, which allows me to switch between 20/30/40 db? I am NOT a fan of Hosa products, but they seem to be the cheaper option.

I've also read that it's possible to bypass the pad by just using 1/4" TRS into the H4N. Is this a true statement?

I'm not exactly sure how all this works. Just frustrated that I purchased the H4N after reading some DJ related blogs, but none of them bothered mentioning that I needed an attenuator. Nor have I found too much useful info online about the topic.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
As a rule, at least until the recent H6 release, Zoom "line" inputs are consumer level+, too sensitive even for -10 tape outs on most mixers, at least that has been my experience with the H2n, R16, and Q3HD. And there's an active stage ahead of the input level control, so clipping cannot be controlled by lowering input level.

The H4n is even worse, because the 1/4" inputs are actually aimed at "instrument level" for use with guitar pickups, so they're even more sensitive.

So some kind of attenuation is needed between mixer outs and H4n ins. I've used this cheap device: Electronics Plus - Hard to find parts and accessories, available and ready to ship! but some kind of switchable attenuator might be a better bet.

Fran
Old 2nd September 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
I don't have a zoom, but google searching quickly turned up many posts asking the same question as the OP and various answers on the level of attenuation needed just like the OP said.

Not knowing the output of the particular board, the attenuation needed could be pretty pretty much a guess or a matter of trial and error unless someone can nail this down for him.

If the OP is still within the period to return the zoom for a refund, that might be something to consider, too.
Old 2nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by celticrogues View Post
It's been a while since I've done this but I believe that if you just turn the gain on the H4n all the way down, that will get you to where you can use line level devices.

Cheers!
-Mike
Hey Mike, thanks I already tried that, and unfortunately that's not the solution. The signal coming out of the mixer is really hot - if you even slightly raise any of the volume sliders or knobs on the mixer, the signal comes out distorted on the H4N.
Old 2nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manfrensengensen View Post
What type of cables?

1/4 unbalanced inputs probably incorporated a pad for line level.
You need RCA-1/4" TS.

If you're plugging XLR into the inputs you're sending line level into a preamp and overdriving it.
I'll give this a shot. Something tells me that this isn't the solution though. Worth a try. Thank you!
Old 2nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
As a rule, at least until the recent H6 release, Zoom "line" inputs are consumer level+, too sensitive even for -10 tape outs on most mixers, at least that has been my experience with the H2n, R16, and Q3HD. And there's an active stage ahead of the input level control, so clipping cannot be controlled by lowering input level.

The H4n is even worse, because the 1/4" inputs are actually aimed at "instrument level" for use with guitar pickups, so they're even more sensitive.

So some kind of attenuation is needed between mixer outs and H4n ins. I've used this cheap device: Electronics Plus - Hard to find parts and accessories, available and ready to ship! but some kind of switchable attenuator might be a better bet.

Fran
That's what I'm thinking, Fran. I wish there was a place here in Honolulu that sold a switchable attenuator for a decent price - most are around $35+ each. Maybe I'll just buy the Hosa one that I mentioned. ...just trying not to spend too much extra costs just to make this work properly.

Mahalo for your help!
Old 2nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
I don't have a zoom, but google searching quickly turned up many posts asking the same question as the OP and various answers on the level of attenuation needed just like the OP said.

Not knowing the output of the particular board, the attenuation needed could be pretty pretty much a guess or a matter of trial and error unless someone can nail this down for him.

If the OP is still within the period to return the zoom for a refund, that might be something to consider, too.
Unfortunately not. Ebay purchase, and I don't think the seller offered a refund. I suppose I could just get back on ebay and resell, but after fees, I would lose more money on it, I'm sure.

I'd really like to find a solution though, as I really love the device.
Old 3rd September 2013
  #10
Lives for gear
Well, the reviews of the Hosa at B & H photo and video appear generally positive, and it does give you three levels of attenuation to try.
Old 3rd September 2013
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Well, the reviews of the Hosa at B & H photo and video appear generally positive, and it does give you three levels of attenuation to try.
Hosa it is then. Tried RCA to 1/4" TRS about 30 minutes ago and no signal at all??? Hoping the hosa does the trick.



Sent from my Nexus 4
Old 3rd September 2013
  #12
Lives for gear
The 1/4" inputs are not TRS (balanced) according to the manual.

ΒΌ" unbalanced: 480k?, +2 ~ -32 dBu.

No line-level input. For line-level inputs, use an external 20 dB pad (not included) with the connections above.

Or use a stereo DI box.

Or turn down the source.

Or try the built in limiter
Old 3rd September 2013
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Wyllys's Avatar
 

I use my H4 as a back-up recorder when I'm doing audio feeds for video. I use RCA>1/4" cables to connect to my mixer. I have control of the output level from the "2-track out" and also utilize the ARL circuit on the H4.

It works well.
Old 3rd September 2013 | Show parent
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manfrensengensen View Post
The 1/4" inputs are not TRS (balanced) according to the manual.

ΒΌ" unbalanced: 480k?, +2 ~ -32 dBu.

No line-level input. For line-level inputs, use an external 20 dB pad (not included) with the connections above.

Or use a stereo DI box.

Or turn down the source.

Or try the built in limiter
Limiter didn't do much unfortunately. Tried all 3 built in settings.

Turning down the source isn't practical in real world situations - the levels that each channel would have to be in for a DJ to mix at in a club environment are too high. I mean I could mix at home at those levels, but it is really hard to hear at those levels in a club - this particular solution isn't practical unfortunately.

DI Box might be a good solution, however.
Thank you!
Old 3rd September 2013 | Show parent
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
I use my H4 as a back-up recorder when I'm doing audio feeds for video. I use RCA>1/4" cables to connect to my mixer. I have control of the output level from the "2-track out" and also utilize the ARL circuit on the H4.

It works well.
Hi, could you explain this a little better for me?
Are you using a DJ mixer, and if so, which model?

The mixers I usually use are the following:
Allen & Heath Xone 62
Allen & Heath Xone DB2
Pioneer DJM 900
Pioneer DJM 600

Unfortunately none of these have output level controls specifically for the "record out".
Old 3rd September 2013
  #16
Alright, so I just ordered the Hosa ATT448 multilevel attenuators.
I'll keep everyone posted on how it all works out.
Old 3rd September 2013
  #17
Lives for gear
 

The mixer I use has RCA line out jacks, but they're too hot for the H4.

I use this: 1 - 17.50 - 10-105 - STEREO AUDIO LINE LEVEL ATTENUATOR-FOR 1 STEREO
SOURCE-USES RCA PLUGS & RCA FEMALES-RANGE 0 dB to FULL INPUT SIGNAL LEVEL (200 to 400 millivolts)

From Electronics Plus - Hard to find parts and accessories, available and ready to ship!

If you search for 10-105 it will take you to the page where you can see a photo. I like it, since it has a knob to adjust the levels to whatever is necessary from full off to full on.
Old 3rd September 2013
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Wyllys's Avatar
 

You could also use a small "mix pad" type of mixer to feed the H4. That would give you a variety of input options, the ability to control the send level to the recorder and a way to add additional inputs to the recording without relying on having enough of the proper inputs on the DJ mixer.

If your DJ mixer doesn't have some kind of balanced out, the in-line XLR pads require some kind of "kludge-cable" which may or may not serve.
Old 3rd September 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
Booth monitor outputs could be used if your not using them for monitors. Then you have volume control.
Old 3rd September 2013
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by piper View Post
The mixer I use has RCA line out jacks, but they're too hot for the H4.

I use this: 1 - 17.50 - 10-105 - STEREO AUDIO LINE LEVEL ATTENUATOR-FOR 1 STEREO
SOURCE-USES RCA PLUGS & RCA FEMALES-RANGE 0 dB to FULL INPUT SIGNAL LEVEL (200 to 400 millivolts)

From Electronics Plus - Hard to find parts and accessories, available and ready to ship!

If you search for 10-105 it will take you to the page where you can see a photo. I like it, since it has a knob to adjust the levels to whatever is necessary from full off to full on.
This looks like a much more elegant solution. Wish I waited a few hours until you posted this... Unfortunately I ordered the Hosa XLR attenuators last night. Let's see how that works out, and if it doesn't I will definitely give this a shot.



Sent from my Nexus 4
Old 4th September 2013
  #21
Lives for gear
You could try calling customer service to cancel your order if they haven't shipped yet.
Old 4th September 2013
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
You could try calling customer service to cancel your order if they haven't shipped yet.
Not an option as I already have the item and found out about this problem while doing a recording.

What I find appalling is that the various sites that mentioned how great the H4N is supposed to be for recording mixes all fail to mention that I need some sort of pad. Had I known this, I obviously would have opted for a more suitable device.

Oh well....

Sent from my Nexus 4
Old 4th September 2013 | Show parent
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Wyllys's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by HawaiiR View Post

What I find appalling is that the various sites that mentioned how great the H4N is supposed to be for recording mixes all fail to mention that I need some sort of pad.
Nope.

It's not the H4 that's lacking. It's your particular situation, not the gear.

All the models you listed DO actually have output level controls. You just have to connect it up properly. Manfrensengensen had it right in post #19. Use the "booth outs" to connect your H4.
Old 4th September 2013
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
Nope. What you failed to take into consideration is that a "DJ mixer" is a special purpose tool not designed to have more than a couple of outputs for mains and perhaps monitors.

In live sound mixers, anything above the absolute entry level has some kind of level control for a variety of alternative out-feeds. Heck, even an 8 channel powered head has a separate level control for feeding a stereo recording mix.

It's not the H4 that's lacking. Your DJ mixer would likely over-drive a whole host of recorders. It's your particular situation, not the gear.

And even then, I believe that several of the models you listed DO actually have output level controls.
Agree with u on just about every point. My beef is with the recommendations to use this particular device if it's not the best one for the purpose. I mean I could have just stuck to recording on my laptop, which always worked fine, or buying the tascam dr-05 which is much cheaper. Anyway, too late to do anything about it but find a solution. I do partially take blame for not researching the device more and not blindly taking recommendations from people who specifically said the H4N was excellent for recording from DJ mixers.

Regarding output control on "record out" - unfortunately none of the mixers I listed, which are (or were) top end dj mixers at some point or the other, have level control specific to the record out feature. The Xone 62 does have an aux out with level control, but that particular mixer isn't always used. I need to find a simple solution that works for all the mixers I listed and potentially others that I haven't.

In any case, you've all been very helpful, and I think there are two options here that I'm taking a serious look at. I really appreciate everyone's input and assistance.




Sent from my Nexus 4
Old 4th September 2013 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
Wyllys's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by HawaiiR View Post
Agree with u on just about every point. My beef is with the recommendations to use this particular device if it's not the best one for the purpose. I mean I could have just stuck to recording on my laptop, which always worked fine, or buying the tascam dr-05 which is much cheaper. Anyway, too late to do anything about it but find a solution. I do partially take blame for not researching the device more and not blindly taking recommendations from people who specifically said the H4N was excellent for recording from DJ mixers.

Regarding output control on "record out" - unfortunately none of the mixers I listed, which are (or were) top end dj mixers at some point or the other, have level control specific to the record out feature. The Xone 62 does have an aux out with level control, but that particular mixer isn't always used. I need to find a simple solution that works for all the mixers I listed and potentially others that I haven't.

In any case, you've all been very helpful, and I think there are two options here that I'm taking a serious look at. I really appreciate everyone's input and assistance.




Sent from my Nexus 4

My apologies. I edited my post to correct the information and to get rid of a bunch of unclear stuff.

Please read my edited post. You can, in fact, connect any of the listed mixers to the H4 via the "booth out" jacks which have separate level control.

Post # 19 gave this same information.
Old 4th September 2013
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
My apologies. I edited my post to correct the information and to get rid of a bunch of unclear stuff.

Please read my edited post. You can, in fact, connect any of the listed mixers to the H4 via the "booth out" jacks which have separate level control.

Post # 19 gave this same information.
No worries.
Using the "booth out" isn't an option, unfortunately, as DJ's need to use it for monitoring purposes. If I only needed this for recording my own sets at home, for example, this suggestion would work perfectly.

Sent from my Nexus 4
Old 4th September 2013
  #27
Lives for gear
Well, try it and report your results. It might help someone else who's having similiar problems.
Old 4th September 2013
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Well, try it and report your results. It might help someone else who's having similiar problems.
Absolutely. I'll try to do a test run tonight with the booth out on the Pioneer 600 and Zone 62 tonight. As soon as the Hosa attenuators come in I'll test and post results as well.

Cheers!

Sent from my Nexus 4
Old 4th September 2013
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Wyllys's Avatar
 

Back again...

The RCA "record outs" simply follow the master out, so whatever level you use there is what they will see.

How hot are you running the main masters? If you're running "into the red", the solution is to not run it so hot. Among sound providers who work with DJ's, it is a common opinion that DJ's are not happy unless everything is driven to the max, lighting up every red light to get more volume out of the system. I hope this is not your case.

If you run your DJ mixer at "0" on the master meters, does the record out still over-drive the HR? This may or may not be what's happening for you, but it is another possibility that when run above "unity" your DJ decks are capable of putting out signals stronger than most recorders are designed to handle.
Old 4th September 2013
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
Back again...

The RCA "record outs" simply follow the master out, so whatever level you use there is what they will see.

How hot are you running the main masters? If you're running "into the red", the solution is to not run it so hot. Among sound providers who work with DJ's, it is a common opinion that DJ's are not happy unless everything is driven to the max, lighting up every red light to get more volume out of the system. I hope this is not your case.

If you run your DJ mixer at "0" on the master meters, does the record out still over-drive the HR? This may or may not be what's happening for you, but it is another possibility that when run above "unity" your DJ decks are capable of putting out signals stronger than most recorders are designed to handle.
The night of the recording I did, the levels were not consistently in the red. The DJ's that were playing stayed out of the red for the most part.

However, upon testing last night, I found that the signals are hot even at low volume levels. The mains would have be way to low (I'm talking about 3-4 on both line and master), and it is impossible to mix at those levels at a club. No DJ in their right mind would agree to do such a thing.

Regarding "booth out" - if you wanted to use this to record (say you're at home and don't need separate monitor level control), you would also need to keep the levels at 2 or 3 to get anywhere near a clean signal to the H4N. You would also need to keep the input signal on the recorder between 10-20 to record anything audible. Also worth noting that there is very little wiggle room - any slight adjustment in volume causes a distorted signal. Can this solution work? Yes, for home applications, where 1) you don't need monitor level control and 2) you can be extremely careful about your volume levels, I suppose it can. In the real world, no.

Sent from my Nexus 4
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