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ecently I have bought a zoom h4n with a Canon EOS 6D. Together with the zoom h4n I have bought the zoom dslr pack too. I connected the zoom's line out to the 6D's mic in and set the manual audio configuration on the 6d. Then I ajusted the gain of the zoom at around -12dB and the gain on the 6d to one step up from the minimum left. The issue is that the audio recorded on the video file of the camera is REALLY low ( cannot hear anything ). Maybe that cable in the zoom's dslr pack is not right for this task? Any suggestions?

  • Im not sure I understand this. You bought a portable recorder to use with a camera, but you're still recording to the camera, not the recorder? And you're basically using the H4N as a microphone pair? Why wouldnt you be recording on the H4N? If you're not recording to the H4N at all, you would probably have been far better off getting microphones and a preamp instead. – sxa Feb 27 '14 at 10:02
  • @sxa My setup is like Azden Mic ---> Zoom H4N ---> Camera. Does this clarify my setup? I seem to have a problem when sending the sound from H4N to the camera (through a jack cable included in the zoom dslr pack). – apac Feb 27 '14 at 15:30
  • If you have the sensitivity on the 6d set to near the minimum, wouldn't it be expected that you'd get barely any signal? Perhaps, I'm misunderstanding you. – AJ Henderson Feb 27 '14 at 17:15
  • I converted sxa's comment from an answer since it didn't really answer the question, and I also slightly edited Apac's comment to make more sense in that context. – Warrior Bob Feb 27 '14 at 19:37
  • @AJHenderson the fact is that I limited the gain on the 6d to get the better audio quality from the zoom ( I suppose that's a correct best practice [ read on some forums] ) but with my headphones I can hear a perfect audio coming out from the zoom. I don't know why the eos 6d isn't getting the same audio – apac Feb 28 '14 at 17:37
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You are using an attenuating cable to make it so that the headphone signal output of the H4n will drop to the line input level your DSLR expects, however you are confusing gain and sensitivity. Gain is an analog means of boosting a signal. It is increasing a signal beyond 0dB signal and uses something called a pre-amp to increase the signal strength.

Instead, you have turned down the sensitivity of the 6D thinking you were telling it not to apply gain to the signal, but instead you are cutting all the signal strength. Another possibility is that you may have read feedback from people who were trying to use a non-attenuating cable to insert a line level signal direct in to a mic level jack. This produces low quality and would require a very minimal sensitivity to try to salvage the signal.

The attenuation cable you are using is the much better quality way to deal with the impedance mismatch and you should simply turn up the sensitivity on the 6d to a normal level, which should give you a good signal level on the 6D.

The main things you want to avoid to maintain signal quality is ensure you have a strong signal at every part of the audio chain, but you don't want to ever clip and you don't want impedance mismatches and you don't want to artificially gain if you can avoid it. The attenuation cable counteracts the impedance mismatch, you should send out of the H4n no higher than 0db, but you should only reduce the level if it is resulting in clipping or having to turn down the sensitivity on the 6D too much. Then you should set the sensitivity on the 6D to avoid having clipping issues and ensure strong signal strength.

Update: I may be partially incorrect on how the camera actually processes things as OwenM pointed out that ML reveals that it appears there is a pre-amp in the camera. That said, Having the level all the way down is still applying a reduction in signal strength or sensitivity that you don't want. You just don't want to be applying unnecessary gain to the signal (which would also amplify any noise and introduce some new noise.)

  • Thanks for your answer. I have tried your tips and actually all works properly. Thanks a lot to have clarified me the differences between gain and sensitivity. Nice answer, really! Unfortunately I cannot give an upvote to your answer ( min 15 of reputation ). – apac Mar 6 '14 at 15:45
  • @Apac - thanks, no problem. Hopefully you'll stick around the site and have more reputation soon. Accepting the answer gives rep anyway. – AJ Henderson Mar 6 '14 at 15:50
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The cable included in the pack you link to is an attenuated cable - that means it is designed to reduce the Zoom's output from headphone/line level to the mic level input that your camera is expecting.

Because the cable is doing the reduction, you will probably need to leave the gain on the camera at its normal setting for a directly plugged in microphone and/or adjust the gain on the Zoom so it is peaking higher than −12dB. One good thing to try is setting your camera up with Magic Lantern. You already have adjustable gain on the camera, but ML will add amongst many other things on camera audio meters so you can see the levels that your camera is recording, not just the levels the Zoom is picking up.

I assume you have seen advice on the likes of YouTube to set the H4Ns gain for about −12dB, and reduce the camera to virtually no gain. Good advice, but for people who haven't paid for a specific ATT cable. The ATT cable should give better results than trying to fudge the same effect by adjusting gains everywhere.

  • thanks for your answer. Actually I got that advice as you said. I checked out Magic Lantern and actually it seems really good ( but it seems it will replace the canon default menu, is that right? ). Thanks also for the cable advices.. Have you got any ATT cables to suggest? – apac Feb 28 '14 at 17:33
  • No, ML adds an extra menu system (accessed through the trashcan button on the 550D) but still leaves the standard menu in place... It is also an on load extra, meaning you can set it up on some sd cards but not others! The ATT cable you have should be fine once you have corrected the gain settings on the zoom and the camera – OwenM Mar 1 '14 at 7:10
  • @AJ Henderson (sorry, I can't comment on your answer or the question, <50 rep!) re Gain vs Sensitivity: ML shows settings as Analogue Gain (default +23dB for mic in, var between 0dB and +32dB) and separate L and R Digital Gain (default +10dB, variable 0dB to +36dB). As the input is marked for Mic In (not Line In) it would seem reasonable that a gain is applied to the input by the camera. (NB, if someone can move this to where it should be, I'd be grateful!) – OwenM Mar 1 '14 at 23:58
  • I installed magic lantern: really nice tool. Thanks a lot for the suggestion :D – apac Mar 6 '14 at 15:46
  • @OwenM - I missed your comment until now, it could be that they do have a pre-amp after all. Not sure what controls when it is used of if it is just an automatic response curve. – AJ Henderson Mar 6 '14 at 15:54

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