January 6, 2017 at 10:07AM


What's the best cable to use when recording audio from a sound board/ mixer to a zoom h5

Hi Guys me again

We've been doing wedding films for a while now and have been recording audio straight from the dj's mixer. Lately have been running into distortion problems like the volume is way too much but its levels will be around -12 even when recording. Have been using the 3.5mm aux to RCA cable ,is there a way to take care of this issue like changing the cable or using an xlr instead or a 1/4 inch jack input i read somewhere saying it has some sort of "limiter" if its the right word. Any help


Cables don't have limiters. RCA cables are "unbalanced", meaning that they have only a source and a drain wire, making them more susceptible to electro-magnetic interference. A 3-wire solution (positive and negative source and a drain wire) protects against this because any distortion that affects the positive source is negated by the negative source, and vice verse (hence the term "balanced").

Different mixers can have different output levels and different DJs can have gain staging issues almost anywhere in their board. The best solution to your problem is to become familiar with the ins and outs of the various DJ mixers you encounter and be able to trace the gain stages from input to final output to verify that nowhere along that chain is there a condition that greatly amplifies the signal in one stage (creating the distortion) and greatly attenuates it (making it look reasonable) in another. Don't be surprised if you find you are being fed a signal that's going through some magical DSP "auto-limiter" that crushes your signal without a visible volume knob. That magical limiter might even be part of your Zoom if you turned it on by accident.

But it's almost certainly not the cable.

January 6, 2017 at 10:52AM


So in simple terms getting an xlr splitter and plugging the mic direct to the zoom H5 would be the best solution since we do not have someone who's dedicated to monitor the audio. What do you think

Prosper Kunyetu

January 7, 2017 at 5:05AM

My response was not about having somebody monitoring the audio throughout the event, but rather having somebody validate that the audio coming from the board is not ridiculous. It requires spending 15 minutes with the DJ ahead of the event. It's not about you proving you are smarter than they are, and it's not about just rolling over and taking whatever they say is true. It's about telling them what you need and having the knowledge to validate that all the inputs, routing, and outputs is giving you an expected result. If you don't start there, then any split from any point in the board is suspect and you are back where you started--which is suspicious audio.

Michael Tiemann

January 7, 2017 at 1:23PM

Some thoughts...

So, if the audio is peaking, but the levels appear to be fine, then maybe: the signal was limited before it got sent to your device; or the DJ is changing the levels through the night; or you're not setting your levels low enough for the loud parts of the evening, but were basing your settings on the quiet parts. It's best to use headphones, so you can hear what you're actually getting, and not just rely on the visual level indicators.

Some solutions: (1) record a second channel at a lower volume; or (2) if you have time, work through with the DJ to find where the problem is (but you may find that you don't have time and/or many DJs are uncooperative); (3) run up to your recorder just after the speeches start and double check the levels; (4) figure out some way to monitor the levels on your camera -- you could try doing wireless transmission from DJ to your camera, and recording in camera (or on some sort of intermediary device).

If you have to make a choice, set the levels for the speeches, not for the music (can always replace the music in post if you have to, if it's a popular song). If it's a band or whatever, obviously you'll need to also record the music well.

The second thought is: depending on how much you care about audio, maybe you shouldn't rely on the DJ's system. There's plenty of stuff that can go wrong with it. For instance, all of the following has happened to me, and it's just the tip of the iceberg:
-- Even if the volume is fine, the sound could be dirty (could be any of the links in the chain between the source and you).
-- You might not have connected the cable correctly.
-- The DJ might decide to unplug your device in the middle of the evening or cut the feed to it.
-- The speaker might not know how to use a microphone properly (might speak with microphone turned off, or wave it around at waist height).
-- You might run out of batteries.
-- You might run out of card space (particularly if you accidentally record to internal memory rather than SD card).
-- There might be frequency interference.
-- You might have made some other change to your recorder settings that you shouldn't have (like using omnidirection mics instead of XLR input, or activating the switch for phantom power or whatever).

So, given that it's an uncontrollable live event, a possible solution is to have as many backup sound sources as possible. The following are some methods (and all of them have their own problems):

-- Plug into back of soundspeaker rather than into DJ;
-- Point recording device at soundspeaker (ideally, a dynamic microphone);
-- Put lapel mics on the people speaking at reception (you'll only need two -- because then you can swap them out to whoever's speaking next as each person finishes speaking... or if you really want to mic everyone, take a minimum of five, right, because FOB, FOG, bridesmaid, groomsman, groom);
-- Attach recording device to handheld microphone (could well be visually unattractive depending how you do it, but has saved my bacon more than once);
-- Conceal recorders near where people are speaking from (not great sound, but likely better than on-camera mics).

January 8, 2017 at 7:50PM

Adrian Tan

Thanks Adrian sounds like you've been in my shoes exactly, everything you said I relate and makes sense. I think recording for speeches is the best way to go.

Prosper Kunyetu

January 11, 2017 at 9:25AM

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