I'm thinking of adding an XLR Y-cable into my setup when I'm only recording with one mic to allow me to have a back-up recording at a lower level. This should be particularly useful when recording sources with a strong dynamic range as they increase the potential for clipping.

I was just wondering if anyone has any expereince with this or currently uses a similair signal chain? From what I've read, with the singal being split only once there wouldn't be any negative effects and if there were these would be minor and not of real concern. Would you agree?

Just for reference, an example of my signal chain would be:

Rode NTG-2 Shotgun
XLR (Y-cable or with Y adapter attached)
2x Zoom H4n XLR inputs - One 'hot' and one at a lower 'safety' level


5 Answers 5


You shouldn't have an issue with one split off of a mic. You should probably use the battery power option on the NTG2 , just to keep things simple. In general, this method will probably work better with a set of higher input impedance pre-amps. That's just a general observation, as I don't know what the input impedance on the H4n is off the top of my head.

Of course, you can always to a quick test record before trying to use this method out in the field. You're not going to damage your mic or the recorder.


I've once rented a Tascam 2-chanel recorder and the rental service gave me an Y-Cable for the reason you mentioned.

Actually it would be really nice to have, but I was (and still am) unsure about what happens once phantom power is applied. I was a bit afraid that it may cause a short-curcuit or something else that would harm the recorder.

  • 1
    that's why i suggest using the battery power option of the NTG-2. you can also by a small phantom power supply to attach to the mic, then split the signal with your y-cable on the output of that supply. Aug 2, 2012 at 14:51
  • The thing with phantom-power is what kept me from trying it myself as well all these years... Aug 2, 2012 at 16:45
  • Hmm Think I best make sure the phantom power is OFF then! I don't have money to burn or mics and recorders to burn out :P
    – Alan Pring
    Aug 3, 2012 at 15:31

Al, it sounds like you're getting a little more serious about recording audio. It may be time to look into a small 2 or 3 channel field mixer - the Y-cable is not a solution most sound mixers would suggest. For a few hundred, not only will you be able to run a safety without possibly messing up your mic or H4n, but your recordings will sound richer from the mixers mic-pre, you'll have limiters to prevent distorting your recorder, and a High Pass Filter to give you more control of the ambience.

Go out and rent a mixer, I think you'll be surprised how much better your mic sounds.

  • @Dean Miles, thanks I hadn't thought about that option, definitely something to look into! Do you have any equipment suggestions? And yes I am trying to take it more seriously so it may be time to up my game!
    – Alan Pring
    Aug 31, 2012 at 9:20
  • Hi Alan, I'd look at the Wendt X2 - I carry one as a back-up mixer on documentaries. It has nice mic-pres, it's easy to operate, solid quiet limiter, a stepped low cut filter that is usable, and it's not that expensive.
    – Dean Miles
    Sep 11, 2012 at 19:09

If you can only use a single mic then the Y-split is a good backup plan for extreme dynamic ranges.

There is sometimes a slight drop in sensitivity when you power a mic by its battery rather than by phantom, some mic manufacturers list the difference. If you want to run the mic off phantom, which is usually the best option, make sure that you get an inline phantom power blocker for one of the split channels.


One thing to remember is that a Y-split reduces the impedance, which effectively reduces the signal by up to 3 dB.


I think its a brilliant idea, however just make sure it doesn't make you lazy. Make sure you don't lose the skill of evaluating and judging a recording sessions peaks.

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