Hi I have posted before about a gun'n'run feature doc in the middle east. I have decided on a mix/pre with lav and boom, I am still wondering about the H4n as a solid state recorder, the mixpre will output pro line via xlr,

what about the H4n is it consumer line level? If so will I need a (In-Line XLR Attenuator Pad -15dB)

Does the xlr in the H4n only have mic level or will it switch to line? Or will I need to go from Balanced XLR from the mixpre to unbalanced jack to use line level in the H4n, would this be possible?

Thankyou in advance

3 Answers 3


Dan McComb discusses this in quite detail on his website using the H4n and SD Mix Pre He suggests the Pink Noise -25db attenuation cable to lower the gain going into the H4n (has a nice right angle jack). The discussion is in two parts and ends with an audio comparison.


  • wow thanks with this setup i could use a backup mini disc recorder in case the h4n dies in the West Bank Apr 18, 2011 at 18:14
  • I've read the crap out of all his articles regarding the h4n and the MixPre, today, and I was wondering something -- instead of using the tape out -> a pair of unbalanced ts 1/4", couldn't you use the xlr outs to the the ts 1/4"? You'd still have to pad, I think, but it would feel a little less unimpressive. Apr 18, 2011 at 21:54
  • @Dave I think the main reason is the low cable profile using the tape out of the mix pre, as well as keeping all outputs to inputs unbalanced. They tried with the xlr out, but found it overloaded the H4n much quicker before the Mix Pre's limiter kicked in (so you would then have to lower the threshold on the Mix Pre). I think it would be possible with more attenuation and some fiddling with the Mix Pre's limiter threshold. This is mostly an opinion, and would love to hear someone who knew more about this stuff chime in :) Not sure about the impedances though... Apr 18, 2011 at 23:28
  • I thought they were going XLR-> XLR when they tried that. Apr 19, 2011 at 0:15
  • He mentions it in the comments section around March4th on the first discussion Apr 19, 2011 at 1:23

The H4n manual is a bit confusing about this. Additionally, there is nothing in the menus that directly specifies a switch from Mic to Line.

(You can download the manual for the H4n here.)

According to what I've read (never tried it myself), you will need a pad for pro line level. Apparently it can only handle consumer line level and not pro line level.

I'll reference these other threads on the subject, it's been batted around quite a bit.




Paul Virostek


Just to add my view! If you are getting the MixPre then do you really need a recorder with XLR inputs? Why not consider the Sony PCM-M10 or the PCM-D50. They are superior recorders in every way, the build quality is superb (I have the D50 and it's incredible), they have a very sophisticated limiter which is very good and the battery life is phenomenal! (I am still on my first set of batteries after almost 2 weeks of pretty heavy use!!) You can also plug the MixPre directly into the line input of the recorder from the tape output, if you do need to reduce the level the recorder has a 20db pad switch built in.

I did an awful lot of research when I was looking for a portable recorder and for my needs the PDM-D50 was the best choice. If you get the chance to hold the recorders you will feel the quality difference immediately, the moment I held the H4N I knew that I would never buy a Zoom recorder, it's incredibly plasticy and it feels like it will break any second. If you have no backup recorder I would not go for the H4N and look for something that is built from metal.

Good luck with your project.

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