Using Zoom H4n Line Inputs

I have been doing a little bit of live sound work of late and some of this work has required me to record the session off the desk, not problems I have a Zoom H4n and you would think it should be up to the task as it is…. nope….

Turns out that the Zoom H4n line inputs are just that, line level inputs at -10dBm, which means that if you send and Aux out from a professional sound desk it will be way too hot, since the level out of the desk would be +4dBm when the meters read 0dBvu. This is exactly the same problem I recently had with a CDJ and U46dj sound card. So the solution is to drop the output level send to the Zoom… oh but hang on, you need to work out how to actually connect to the line inputs as this is not immediately obvious. The line inputs are connected to the 6.5mm TS connectors, which are centred in the middle of the XLR’s at the bottom of the unit. Unlike most XLR/Phono combo jacks the XLR and 6.5mm plug are not connected to the same pre-amp. The XLR  part is set to mic level, -60dBm and is a balanced connector, but the 6.5mm TS socket is line level, -10dBm unbalanced….. errrrrr wot! No +4dBm pro level…..

So once you have figured that out you can plug a couple of 6.5mm TS jacks into them, but in order to get the levels right you will need a couple of attenuators. I just received 4 of these -15dBm attenuators that connect in-line with an XLR cable, and with the addition of a few other bits from my kit I am set to go. If you do the maths you will figure out that a -15dBm attenuator will give 1dBm of headroom in this case. I was a little disappointed to see that I could not easily (ie: on ebay) get these from an Australian supplier, I generally buy small things like this online as I find that real stores rarely carry exactly what you are after and they need to order it in anyway!  So, I was forced to order them from the UK, normally I would get this sort of thing from Swamp, but they don’t seem to carry attenuators either…. come on guys!

So now that you have all your plugs connected you will need to set the record level on the Zoom. I found that this bit did make some sense, it seems that when the record level is set to ‘1’ that is in fact unity (0dBvu) for -10dBm input… nice…then every ‘0.1’ drop is -3dBvu… also nice…

So there you have it, how to get this thing going and working nicely with your kit… now go and start recording!

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