Troubleshooting Zoom H4

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FireAlarmPoet
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Troubleshooting Zoom H4

Post by FireAlarmPoet » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:34 am

So I recently found to my horror that line-in recordings made on my Zoom H4 came out a weak, distorted mess, as if the recordings were made through AM radio or on a shoebox tape recorder. Looking at the files it seems like they're only getting half of the waveform, the top half to be precise. I don't understand why this happened because it recorded full waveforms just a month or so ago without any problems like it always has.

Things I'm pretty sure I've already ruled out:

- power issue: same thing happens whether I'm using batteries or wall power
- bad cables: tried multiple cables and adaptors of various builds, same results (it should be noted that I normally use unbalanced 1/4" or RCA cables which have up until this point worked perfectly anyways)
- bad source: tried multiple sources, same results
- output on Zoom has died: problem shows up in the wav files so this isn't it
- input/s on Zoom are corroded on the inside: doubtful since the sound is pretty consistent even if I rotate/jiggle the jack around, plus this happens in both inputs
- input preamp/levels on Zoom set too low/high: nope

tl;dr my Zoom is only recording half a waveform for no apparent reason and I have no idea why.
Last edited by FireAlarmPoet on Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Bipolar Fucking Joe
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by Bipolar Fucking Joe » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:46 am

You're using it as a regular mic'? How do the files sound recorded to an SD card?

Listen back to the files on the H4 with headphones, are they clipped on the unit itself or just when you put them on your machine?

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Dyecap
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by Dyecap » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:38 am

Factory reset?

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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by xdugef » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:37 pm

FireAlarmPoet wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:34 am
my Zoom is only recording half a waveform for no apparent reason and I have no idea why.
It sounds like DC offset.

Have you tried recording something basic on it? Please describe your recording setup.

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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by FireAlarmPoet » Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:20 pm

Bipolar Fucking Joe wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:46 am
You're using it as a regular mic'? How do the files sound recorded to an SD card?

Listen back to the files on the H4 with headphones, are they clipped on the unit itself or just when you put them on your machine?
No, I'm recording to the inputs on the Zoom. Mic mode works fine.
They aren't really clipped per se. As I said, imagine recording something line-in to a shoebox tape recorder or broadcasting over a fuzzy AM band: that's how it sounds. This happens during the recording process or monitoring without recording, and it still shows up in the files when opened in audacity.
Dyecap wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:38 am
Factory reset?
Hmm I'll have to look that up. I couldn't find any documentation on it in the manual but there's got to be a way.
xdugef wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:37 pm
FireAlarmPoet wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:34 am
my Zoom is only recording half a waveform for no apparent reason and I have no idea why.
It sounds like DC offset.

Have you tried recording something basic on it? Please describe your recording setup.

The most basic thing I've tried is tapping the tip of a 1/4" cable plugged into the inputs, no fx or anything, and even then the typical "hum" doesn't sound right. I've been using the Zoom almost exclusively to rip tapes so I initially though there was some weird grounding problem, but that's not the case.

I think you're right about a DC offset, the next question is how/if I can fix it, better yet what happened to cause it in the first place.

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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by FireAlarmPoet » Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:44 pm

Alright, so I found out there's no system reset. I updated the firmware successfully to v 2.40 but no dice. Discovered my wall power shuts the Zoom off if moved a certain way so I tried batteries again just to make sure it wasn't the wall power: again, no change. That does beg the question, though, could a power supply malfunction some how mess up the inputs?

I recorded an example of what I'm hearing. This is supposed to be an excerpt of "Woman" by Def Leppard... not that one could tell:

http://vocaroo.com/i/s0qcc5fHgggU

I also tried normalising via audacity, but upon closer inspection the actual waveform(s) isn't offset, more like most of the bottom portion of the waveform is missing or subdued.

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fire
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by fire » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:12 pm

sounds way overdriven, input levels?
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by FireAlarmPoet » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:51 pm

fire wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:12 pm
sounds way overdriven, input levels?
The levels were set so the maximum possible reading would be -6db for each channel. Also each input gain switch was set to low so I doubt it's a levels thing. Especially since I've used these settings before without incident, and even at max levels it doesn't sound nearly this bad, just clipped.

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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4

Post by fire » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:14 pm

maybe power starved, or some fucky internal fail, sounds bad, good luck
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4

Post by timdrage » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:32 am

Some of these recorders have 1/4" inputs which are actually mic level not limited be! So it will kind of work but be prone to weird distortion even with the digital level turned down and not apparently clippiblng.. and / or impedance issues

So it might be something to do with that

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Misomusist
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4

Post by Misomusist » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:14 am

If you've tried it with multiple sources, both balanced and unbalanced, and you are saying that the bottom half of the waveform is literally missing, that means somewhere in there is a balanced amplifer and only one half of it is working. You are missing all the bottom information.

If this is happening using both 1/4" and XLR and internal mics, then it would suggest it's far enough down the chain for you to be royally screwed.

A DC offset, like fudge suggested might be an easier fix, you would have the whole waveform, but it's moved up off center, in that case maybe you could compensate by lowering the recording level, so that it fits in the space it has, and running a DC Offset remover (Audacity has one I think) after the fact. Or you know opening it up and fixing it, which may be difficult to impossible.
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by xdugef » Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:26 am

FireAlarmPoet wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:44 pm
Alright, so I found out there's no system reset. I updated the firmware successfully to v 2.40 but no dice. Discovered my wall power shuts the Zoom off if moved a certain way so I tried batteries again just to make sure it wasn't the wall power: again, no change. That does beg the question, though, could a power supply malfunction some how mess up the inputs?

I recorded an example of what I'm hearing. This is supposed to be an excerpt of "Woman" by Def Leppard... not that one could tell:

http://vocaroo.com/i/s0qcc5fHgggU

I also tried normalising via audacity, but upon closer inspection the actual waveform(s) isn't offset, more like most of the bottom portion of the waveform is missing or subdued.
You didn't answer my previous question about your recording setup. In the above recording of "Woman" are you connecting the laptop outputs directly to the H4 if not then what are you connecting to it exactly?

Have you tried different cables?

I'm not convinced there is a problem with the H4.

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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4

Post by crochambeau » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:24 am

Screen shots of your wave form when open in a DAW might also be helpful.
I have no suggestion for software.
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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by FireAlarmPoet » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:34 am

xdugef wrote:
Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:26 am
FireAlarmPoet wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:44 pm
Alright, so I found out there's no system reset. I updated the firmware successfully to v 2.40 but no dice. Discovered my wall power shuts the Zoom off if moved a certain way so I tried batteries again just to make sure it wasn't the wall power: again, no change. That does beg the question, though, could a power supply malfunction some how mess up the inputs?

I recorded an example of what I'm hearing. This is supposed to be an excerpt of "Woman" by Def Leppard... not that one could tell:

http://vocaroo.com/i/s0qcc5fHgggU

I also tried normalising via audacity, but upon closer inspection the actual waveform(s) isn't offset, more like most of the bottom portion of the waveform is missing or subdued.
You didn't answer my previous question about your recording setup. In the above recording of "Woman" are you connecting the laptop outputs directly to the H4 if not then what are you connecting to it exactly?

Have you tried different cables?

I'm not convinced there is a problem with the H4.
In the sample, I'm recording from a 1990's Sony 5disc home CD player, from the phone out to a 1/4" cable into the Zoom (I can't remember if the Zoom was set to record in stereo or mono in this case).

I have used various different cables: 1/4" patch, longer 1/4" cables, RCA with 1/4" adaptors, etc.

Will get DAW screenshot when I get home. Also might try recording something off my noise setup; my tape deck/home audio config. Is in a different part of the room than my noise setup, and the former has admittedly had a history of electrical anomalies.

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Re: Troubleshooting Zoom H4 only recording half of waveform

Post by xdugef » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:01 pm

FireAlarmPoet wrote:
Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:34 am

In the sample, I'm recording from a 1990's Sony 5disc home CD player, from the phone out to a 1/4" cable into the Zoom (I can't remember if the Zoom was set to record in stereo or mono in this case).

I have used various different cables: 1/4" patch, longer 1/4" cables, RCA with 1/4" adaptors, etc.

Will get DAW screenshot when I get home. Also might try recording something off my noise setup; my tape deck/home audio config. Is in a different part of the room than my noise setup, and the former has admittedly had a history of electrical anomalies.
Well that should be fine but of course a headphone out is not the same as a line out. I'd definitely would want to connect it to a line out of a tape deck or some other device to be sure I'm not blowing out the levels on the input.

I have an H4 that I don't use anymore but I never had this problem with it. I had to take it part once because the battery contacts got corroded or something.. there's not much to taking it apart. I also upgraded the firmware on it at some point and that reset the settings in it so you might consider doing that.

https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field- ... #downloads

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