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Choosing Equipment from The Workshop

General Purpose with Zoom H4n

The Zoom H4n has built-in stereo microphones, which do a good job of picking up all sounds near by.

To use the Zoom H4n without additional microphones, not connected to a computer:

  1. Turn on the Zoom H4n by sliding the power switch down for about 1 second
  2. On the front, left of the Zoom, under INPUT press MIC - this switches the recorder to pick up from the built-in microphone
  3. Press the REC ● button to start recording standby (you are not recording yet - just prepared to record)
  4. Adjust input level using the rec level buttons on the right side. The loudest parts of speech should be hitting around -12dB
    1. Listen in your headphones to make sure it sounds like you want it to sound. Listen for any background sounds you may be able to turn off.
  5. Press the REC ● button again to start recording
  6. Press the Stop button to stop recording
  7. Press the play button to play it back

 

To use the Zoom H4n as a USB microphone connected to a computer:

  1. Connect the USB cable (included with the H4n) to a computer and the H4n
  2. Turn on the Zoom H4n by sliding the power switch down for about 1 second
  3. Use the menu scroller to select Audio I/F and then Connect
    1. OR if nothing comes up when you plug it in, press the Menu button on the Zoom on the right side, scroll down to USB and select Audio I/F and Connect
  4. On the front, left side of the Zoom H4n under INPUT, press MIC - this switches the recorder to pick up from the built-in microphone
  5. In your computer sound preferences, select the Zoom H4n as the audio input
  6. In your audio program (we recommend Reaper) you can now record directly from the Zoom’s built-in microphone

General Purpose with Zoom H1

The Zoom H1 is also an audio recorder with built-in microphones and is a good back-up option if there are no Zoom H4ns available for check-out. It can also be plugged into your computer and used as an USB microphone.

To use the Zoom H1 not connected to a computer:

  1. Turn the Zoom H1 on by sliding the power switch down for about 1 second
  2. Press the red “record” button (You are recording when the timecode numbers on the display are counting up)
  3. Adjust the input level of the sound with the X/- buttons on the side. For automatic adjustment, set the AUTO level switch to on.
  4. To stop recording press the “record” button again
  5. Use the playback button to listen to files (best with headphones)


 

To use the H1 as a USB microphone connected to a computer:

  1. Connect the USB cable to both the computer and the Zoom H1, with the Zoom off
  2. When “USB Audio” comes up on the Zoom screen, select it by pressing the big red “REC” button
  3. In your computer sound preferences, select the Zoom H1 as the audio input

 

Best Quality Without Computer

Sennheiser e835 microphone + XLR cable + Zoom H4n recorder + microphone stand

 

Using the Sennheiser e835 dynamic microphone plugged into a Zoom H4n makes for an excellent home recording. The dynamic microphone will make voices sound clearer as it doesn’t pick up as much background noise as the microphones on the Zoom recorder do. This method records the sound directly onto an SD card in the recorder, so it does not require a computer.

 

To set-up the equipment:

  1. Use the XLR cable to connect the Sennheiser microphone to input 1 on the bottom of the Zoom H4n recorder
  2. Connect your headphones to the headphone jack
  3. Turn on the Zoom H4n by sliding the power switch down for about 1 second
  4. On the front, left side of the Zoom H4n under INPUT, press 1 - this switches the recorder to pick up from the microphone you connected, rather than the attached stereo microphones at the top of the Zoom (picture at right)
  5. Press the REC ● button to start recording standby (you are not recording yet - just prepared to record)
  6. Adjust input level using the rec level buttons on the right side. The loudest parts of speech should be hitting around -12dB
    • Listen in your headphones to make sure it sounds like you want it to sound. Listen for any background sounds you may be able to turn off.
  7. Press the REC ● button again to start recording
  8. Press the Stop button to stop recording
  9. Press the play button to play it back

When you’re done recording, take the SD card out of the Zoom H4n and insert into a computer to save the files.

Best Quality With Computer

Sennheiser e835 mic + XLR cable + Zoom H4n recorder + computer + headphones

 

Good quality microphones generally cannot be plugged directly into a computer. Instead, use the Sennheiser e835 dynamic microphone plugged into a Zoom H4n connected to a computer. The Zoom H4n acts as an audio interface and allows you to record using the microphone directly into an audio editing program.

 

To set-up the equipment:

  1. Use an XLR cable to connect the Sennheiser microphone to input 1 on the bottom of the Zoom H4n recorder
  2. Connect the USB cable (included with the H4n) to a computer and the H4n
  3. Turn on the Zoom H4n by sliding the power switch down for about 1 second
  4. Use the menu scroller to select Audio I/F and then Connect
    • OR if nothing comes up when you plug it in, press the Menu button on the Zoom on the right side, scroll down to USB and select Audio I/F and Connect
  5. On the front, left side of the Zoom H4n under INPUT, press 1 - this switches the recorder to pick up from the microphone you connected, rather than the attached stereo microphones at the top of the Zoom (picture at right)
  6. In your computer sound preferences, select the Zoom H4n as the audio input
  7. In your audio program (we recommend Reaper) you can now record directly from the microphone attached to the Zoom

Best Quality with Two Microphones

You can connect up to two microphones to the Zoom H4n, whether you’re using a computer or not.

If you’re connecting to a computer, follow the steps above but in your audio program, set up two audio tracks to record. One should have the input set as left and one should have the input as right. This way you’ll record the audio onto two separate tracks.

 

General Recording Tips

Choose a quiet setting
Ideally you want to be in a quiet, secluded, and sound-proof room. If you have to be outside, stay away from roads, dogs, mowers, etc. Record all audio in the same room - elements in rooms like carpet, ceiling height, and windows will make each room sound unique.
Wear headphones
Headphones help isolate the audio, helping you catch any problems in your narration or audio.
Place your microphone strategically
Don't be too close or too far away from the microphone. The appropriate distance between your mouth and the microphone is 6 to 12 inches. This prevents "popping" noises and heavy breathing in your recording. If you sound thin and distant, get closer to the microphone.
Check your levels
Your microphone levels should never peak into the red during your test. The optimal point for your microphone levels is just below the red.

Speak clearly and articulate your words
Remember to speak conversationally, as if speaking to a friend. Sit in a chair and sit up straight. Sound confident!

Listen to the audio playback
Always listen to the audio you recorded to make sure that the audio levels are okay. If you find yourself lowering or raising the volume on your speakers, you will probably need to start over. 

Record high audio quality
When you're recording, always record .WAV files at 16-bit, 48 kHz. Do not record .mp3s or other compressed audio.

For information on creating an audio project from start to finish, check out the Audio Project Guide. The guide covers everything from editing techniques to audio script writing tips.

  Audio Project Guide