I like field recording both in city and nature environment and have a question:

I've been using Zoom h4 with its internal mics and really like it. I tried three different types of external mic on Zoom H4 and I found the same problem: Too low volume.

First, I used rode NTG-2 through xrl on Zoom H4 and I found the volume is too low. I could hardly hear it, even though the phantom +48v was on and mic was powered. I googled on it and found that some people were mentioning about the same problem on this combination and necessity to have pre amp/mixer to Zoom h4 when using external mic. But I found most of the pre-amps/mixers are pretty expensive, a lot more than Zoom H4 itself. So I'm wondering what would be an alternative solution.

I also had same volume problems when using a piezo mic with the 1/4" jack on the Zoom H4. It sounds too weak whenever I am working with the piezo. Instead of the Zoom H4, I use my laptop with software, which is connected to m-audio recording interface. In this way, sounds are captured in better way.

Same problem when using hydrophone mic, which I bought quite recently. The volume is not that extremely low, but even though with phantom power on, I think sound is not loud enough to record, especially in a calm river.

Does the zoom h4n have this problem? Is it better in terms of using external mic?

Any advice or recommendations are appreciated.


  • Paul leyland where is that in the menu? I cant find it. Thanks
    – user3435
    Feb 16, 2012 at 11:35

9 Answers 9


stuff an AA battery in the NTG-2 and turn off phantom power. how does it sound?


You are having the exact same problems that I have had in the past. I think the main issue you are running into is the fact that the inputs into the H4 (both 1/4" and XLR) are -10dB high impedance signal meant for a guitar level input.

Zoom is not quick in their marketing material to mention this fact. Its not until the last specifications page in the manual is that fact revealed. I have almost the exact same gear you have listed (Zoom H4 + Rode NTG2) and have the same issues. I have even tried a hydrophone with similar results.

I went a step further and purchased a Sound Devices MM-1 portable preamp to boost the level. Plugging the hot +4dB line level low impedance output of the MM-1 into the inputs of the H4 completely overloaded. Level mismatches and impedance mismatch makes for poor sound. Only after buying a -10dB pad and inline impedance adapter have I come close to getting a good level. It just adds too many stages to the recording chain and less portability to make it very worthwhile.

I am none to happy with Zoom on the decision to make the 1/4" inputs be guitar level not mic level.


I use a H4 with an NTG-2 all the time and have no problem with levels. Have you made sure that the software gain is turned up. Remember there is the basic hardware gain switches on the side, but also a more fine gain control in the software. I also recommend that you only work with battery for phantom power as the h4 put a high pitch squeal in the signal path which makes it next to useless.


My range of experience with the H4N isn't huge, but i've recorded into it with an Oktava MK012 and a little homemade contact mic, and the level was just fine. What you describe, if it's a common problem, just isn't acceptable, even in a piece of "prosumer" gear. I'm sure people have been trying this, but maybe if you express enough dissatisfaction to Zoom customer service, they could help with an upgrade.

Best of luck!


You may have tried this, but try using phantom with the wall adapter plugged in --- something may have gone wrong with pulling the extra volts from the double A's (or whatever battery size it uses)


Dear all, thanks for all answers sincerely. I found ChrisEngineAudio's reply quite helpful. I took some days out with zoom h4n + ntg 2 for field recording (birds, waves, winds, etc) and i was quite satisfied with volume level of results. So now i assume zoom h4n has better preamp function than zoom h4 and I'm going to sell my zoom h4 and buy used zoom h4n.


hi bruce, thanks for reminding me of software gain. I knew about its use but can't remember whether i adjusted it right when i used external mic. I'll give it a try again.

  • How did you go?
    – Bruce
    Feb 2, 2011 at 9:19

Just thought I would join in here. I had the same problem Bruce is right but it is the level setting in the input menu. You click on it if you bring the cursor to the track you want to adjust and the move the jog wheel left or right you will see a very very small indicator move left or right to adjust the level if you set this to approx -6 it should be fine.


yeah you're using 1/4 which the zoom thinks are instrument, use XLR take out the battery and use zoom 24volt instead of 48 phantom (in zoom menu) save on battery. recommend Stamina mode too, yeah I know it's 24/44.1 no problem.

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