I purchased a Zoom h6 for recording sync sound for my movies. I am using a Røde ntg 3 shot gun mic., using phantom power.

Recently I recorded some ambient sounds for my short film. I found that the volume levels are low; I'd kept the gain levels between 5 and 6

I then tried normalizing the tracks using zoom H6, but couldn't find much difference.

Based on the instruction manual I tried keeping the levels around -12 db.

How can I improve the levels?

I have a sound devices single channel pre amp. When I use this pre amp and use Zoom h6 only as a recorder, sound quality is slightly better, but using them both will be very cumbersome on location.

I prefer to use a simple set up – a shot gun mic with Zoom h6.

  • Bear in mind that a shotgun is almost the worst mic for most situations recording ambiences. In a distributed sound field, sounds from all around you hit the mic off-axis, getting filtered and mangled. This on top of the fact that you're getting a mono recording, which comes across as pretty lifeless for that kind of thing. I'd actually recommend using the XY capsule over the NTG3. Unless you're recording a specific point source.
    – Igid
    Mar 8, 2018 at 9:50

4 Answers 4


While recording ambience sounds in Zoom h6 I have found that I generally have to keep the gain near 8-9 , for situations like general traffic and cityscape 6-7 usually works considering that one is recording in a generally noisy environment. Again when I have tried recording in villages, I really have to push up till 10 sometimes as these places are very quiet. But then, you can also increase the gain from the Menu, then go to Moniter mixer and increase the gain from there.Now you can increase the gain from the knob if you want to, so your recording level should be optimum. hope this helps :)


With a limited dynamic range - which you will often find with recording backgrounds and atmos - you can increase the gain on the recorder, but you will simply find yourself increasing the level of microphone and preamp-self-noise along with the limited signal that you are recording.

There is no recommended setting - other than to recommend you use your ears and eyes. Simply record to a level where you are modulating the recorder adequately - leaving yourself enough headroom to deal with peaks without clipping. Always keep the recorder at a constant level during a take - don't try and change gain mid-take or the recording will not be useful.

You will definitely get a better result with an MM-1 on board, as this will likely be a much quieter preamp with less self-noise.

However, I would say that mono backgrounds are of limited use other than as "atmos" or "room tone" for smoothing out edits. You would be better served with a spaced-microphone setup or M/S for recording backgrounds/atmos.


Recording levels of H6 should be kept under 6 even for quiet sounds. It depends what kind of sound source you are recording. For loud sounds/loud speech I'd say NTG3 directly to H6 is OK (I have the very same setup). For quiet sounds/whispering you can benefit from using your external preamp. Always keep your recording levels with some headroom left and do normalization or compression in the postproduction.


When you say "I then tried normalizing the tracks using zoom H6, but couldn't find much difference.", does the track contain microphone/stand setup noise, a synchronization clap or even the moment you switch on phantom power?

The loudest sound on the recording will determine the amount that normalization raises the volume, as it only does so until the loudest sound is at maximum volume. As a result, normalization only makes sense after editing the material to the stuff you actually want to retain.

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