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How set up Xenyx 802 mixer and Zoom h4n for podacast/radio sound

Discussion in 'Recording' started by recaster, Sep 25, 2011.

  1. recaster

    recaster Active Member

    Hi everyone! I've been pulling my hair out for hours trying to get a good radio/podcast sound from a Behringer Xenyx 802/1002 (I own both) going into a Zoom h4n. (I'm using a Heil PR40 XLR to the Behringer.)

    Last month I had my settings set up and it sounded great! If you're familiar with podcasts, my sound was similar to Leo Leport. Nice, compressed broadcast sound. But, long story short, I lost the settings that I had set on my Zoom and Behringer.

    I'm NOT a pro. In fact I my previous settings were set up completely by accident, but they sounded great. I'm totally a beginner, and I'm not trying to become and audio engineer. I just want to start podcasting and video voice over and I need a nice quality sound. So, I'm here to ask for help.

    1) I have no idea how to go about setting up my mixer: "level", "Trim", "Main Mix", etc. I've read several introductory articles online and none of them really explain how to start working on a sound boards levels one step at a time. I THINK I'm supposed to start by setting my line/track level to 0 (or "Unity") and my Main Mix to 0 (or "Unity"), and then adjust "Trim" until it sounds good. Is that correct?

    2) Is the "Trim" on my behringer = to Gain, or Sensitivity? Is it best for the trim to be as low as possible, or as high as possible? Should I adjust my Level and Main Mix really high and then set Trim low?

    3) I have no idea what my Zoom h4n "Unity" level is, but I assume that that's where I should start out my settings at and then work from there. The Zoom h4n has an effect called Vocal Pre that has a compression knob that goes from 0-10. This isn't very helpful as I have no idea what 0-10 is equal to. Should I aim to keep this low, or high? I think I'm after a highly compressed sound, but I'm not really sure. The Vocal Pre effect also has a Level option. I assume this is for setting the Level of the effect. Should the level be high, or low? The level goes from 0-100. No indication of dB. So, I'm at a loss.

    4) The Zoom h4n also has a Limiter that I don't entirely understand how to use, but I'm under the impression that a Limiter is similar to a compressor in that it limits the volume to certain dB. It also goes from 0-100. So I have no idea what those numbers indicate in dB. The higher I turn it up the louder my Gain (I think). The less compression of sound I get. I was using this before too.

    5) I'm also worried that the "signal" I'm sending from the Behringer to the Zoom h4n may be hurting the electronic components in the Zoom h4n due to something I read about attenuation, or line level something. (I have very little idea what I'm talking about). Is it possible that the signal I'm sending into the Zoom h4n via a TRS from the Berhinger's Main Out may hurt my Zoom h4n?

    6) In the end I'd like to figure out what sort settings I need to get a good podcast/broadcast vocal sound. I know it's possible because I did it before, on accident. But since I'm a noob I don't know how to replicate it.

    7) I forgot to mention that the Zoom h4n also has a recording level adjustment called Input Level. It goes from 1-100. I haven no idea what purpose it serves, all I know is that stuff gets louder when I turn it up. I don't know if this needs to be set at 0 (or "Unity"). And I haven idea what Unity would be because it just goes from 0-100 and there's no indication of what "Unity" is.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Why involve the mixer at all? I would plug your Heil PR40 directly into the Zoom H4N. That way, there will be far fewer controls to set and the sound quality will be better by not having to be passed through a mixer of that particular make.

    Don't forget also that you can use the H4N as a USB audio interface for your computer and, rather than record the sound on the H4N and transfer it to a computer, actually record the sound directly on the computer using some digital audio workstation (DAW) software such as Audacity or Reaper. One reason I suggest this approach is that it is much easier to view the waveforms live on the computer monitor than using the information on the small H4N screen. You can easily see whether you are too low or too high in level, and make the adjustments to the H4N gain control before you start recording the main take.
  3. recaster

    recaster Active Member


    Thanks for the response. I do know that I could go directly to my PC via the h4n. The only reason I didn't want to do this was because if I have a PC failure during recording, I lose everything. I like recording to units like the h4n because they're much more stable. However, I may end up doing exactly as you say. I'm finding the mixer and the h4n too much to deal with.

    I've been playing with my mixer and h4n for at least 8 hours and I haven't been able to figure out how to get a good compressed professional broadcast sound. I've done it before so I know it's possible, I just can't figure out what my settings were!! Highly frustrating.

    I did try inputing the Heil directly to the h4n and into my Mac. I couldn't get the sound I was looking for so I gave up. However, I should probably keep trying until I can get the right sound.
  4. recaster

    recaster Active Member


    Also, there are two different ways to input the h4n to my Mac. I could use the USB interface, but that will only give me limited control for compression effect. If I use the line out (headphone) I can get away with more control over the Vocal Pre Amp's compression effect.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Don't use the headphone out -> line input route, as this will degrade the audio considerably. The recommendation I made did specify using the H4N as a USB interface.

    However, one thing I assumed, prossibly erroneously, is that you would follow good practice and record the audio straight (no compression, no equalisation), and then apply any needed functions in post-processing using the DAW software. In this way, you can retain the original ("dry") track and not have to re-record if you screw up in setting the compression parameters or other effects. I'm in no way denigrating the H4N, but a good DAW such as Reaper has a better range and control of effects (including compression) than can be packed into a handheld device.
  6. recaster

    recaster Active Member


    Thanks for the input. I'll start playing around with that. I've been listening to the Podcast Answer Man (Podcast Answer Man) and basically going by what he says. He has the best sounding podcast I've ever heard. He uses a Heil PR40 > Mackie Mixer > Behringer MDX 4600 > Edirol digital audio recorder. The audio already sounds good at that point, but then he runs it through the Auditions broadcast multiband compression. He sounds fantastic. I was just attempting to mimic his workflow. However, if you think I can get a good sound by going through the h4n as a USB interface and processing in post then I'll give it my best try.

    I'll let you know how it turns out.

    Thanks for the advice. I truly appreciate it!!
  7. recaster

    recaster Active Member

    I know I can still get a great sound the way I had it set up before. I had a very low noise floor and a great compressed sound. The problem is that I don't really know anything about mixing. I don't know how to replicate that.
  8. recaster

    recaster Active Member

    I've been trying to use my h4n as a USB interface and the sound is just really poor. I don't know where the problem lies. The ambient noise is to high. My h4n and Audition are both hitting -25 to -15db on their respective level meters. Unfortunately I have no idea whether the h4n is using a vocal preamp when it outputs via USB. Roswell, you probably know the answer to that.

    Anyway, even with post-production broadcast multiband compressor and adaptive noise reduction it doesn't sound good. It just doesn't sound compressed enough. It doesn't have that tight sound that broadcast vocals should have.

    Thanks for your help thus far. Any other suggestions?
  9. recaster

    recaster Active Member

    Well, I finally figured out my settings. It's not perfect, but it's good enough. Post production processing will help. Part of the problem was that I was making the noob mistake of having my levels turned up way to high. Thanks Boswell.
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yes, that's the explanation! A UFO incident!

    Glad you got it sorted out, though. I suggest you get comfortable with recording directly into the computer and then when you have a feel for the H4N settings that work you can expand to recording to the H4N memory. Leave the B* mixer out of it.

    The H4N is a surprisingly good little recorder, but is slightly tricky to get it running in its sweet spot. I have one and often use it for simple stereo recordings where transporting large bits of gear and running power leads would be a no-no.
  11. recaster

    recaster Active Member

    Yeah the h4n is really tricky.

    Yeah the h4n is really tricky. I still don't have it dialed in exactly. I may just end up buying a real compressor and eventually I'd like to get a Mackie mixer. Right now I'm going Heil > Behringer > h4n > Mac/Garage Band. That might not be optimal but it's working for me. Without the effects in Garage band the sound is just ok. I can send Garage Band's audio out to Screeny (for screencasts/voice overs) using a little (free) app called Soundflower.

    Thanks for your help Boswell. I really appreciate it.
  12. recaster

    recaster Active Member

    I think I'm going to sell my equipment and buy new stuff. I just can't get the sound right. It sounds all muffled, not clear, crisp, and compressed like radio. I'm looking into something like the Joe Meek 3Q. A solid preamp, compressor, EQ.

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