Playing the Angles with the Zoom Q3HD

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

The mics and preamp on the Q3HD deliver a new level of audio quality to lower cost video cams, simply by being as good as today’s average pocket recorder. But I read posts by folks who have the Q but are still frustrated in their efforts to get the sound they hope for in their videos.

I’m afraid that in some cases, simple physics is the culprit, helped along by our experience listening to modern recordings. We’re used to bigger than life sounds and close mic positions because that’s how most pop music is recorded. When we put our Q3HD in a location that gives us a conventional picture of a seated guitarist the camera is usually about four feet from the guitar. That four feet make the sound of the guitar weaker, and allow more of the room sound to intrude. This is called the direct to reflected ratio, and while we need some reflections to make a natural sound, the quick reflections of a small room generally don’t make for a pleasing recording. There’s another important ratio that suffers from a distant placement – the signal to noise ratio. Less guitar signal means we notice the surrounding noise more.

Several people have complained about the low level of the recorded audio and suggested that the Q should provide more preamp gain. But when you consider things for a moment you realize that more gain means more room reflections and more noise along with more guitar, because these ratios are established before the recording begins. So more preamp gain gives the same result as simply turning up the volume on playback in terms of room reflections and background noise.

The real solution is to move the microphones closer to the source. But that’s going to mean our conventional picture loses its head, and its hands. Since the conventional picture won’t work, we just have to get a little more creative, and find a new way of looking at the guitarist. Let’s start by positioning the mics in a good location for the audio, then see if we can find an interesting picture.

I usually use mic stands to position the camera – I have several boom stands, and they give me more flexibility than a typical tripod. I use the Zoom MA2 Mic Stand Adaptor or the Edirol OP-MSA1 to attach the camera to the mic stand. Interestingly, the Edirol adapter costs more and looks much more sophisticated, but the simple stick from Zoom does a great job and is handier in many ways.

I put together a video showing some different locations for the Q3HD using this concept of positioning for audio first. The first is the classic “off the 12th fret” location nearly universally recommended as a starting point for recording acoustic guitar. Actually, I used two variations of this, one below the guitar pointing up, one above and pointing down. From there I moved to the “off the bridge” lower bout position, and finally I tried the “over the shoulder” position that places the mic near the player’s ear.

In the video you can see the locations and quick samples of the audio and video that result from each position. All of these could be improved for both sound and picture by some extensive tweaking, and of course it’s a lot easier with two people than one.

In the process of creating the tutorial I realized I had enough material to put together a music video, a somewhat quirky one but perhaps an interesting project. I decided to try to edit the clips in REAPER, and with a bit of patience I was able to pull it off. I used Cockos LICEcap and the GIMP image editor to create a title, and rendered the results as a 1280×720 29.970 fps .MOV using the FFmpeg libraries. Here’s Waialua Slack Key as seen through the Zoom Q3HD at various angles:

I wouldn’t call the video an artistic masterpiece, but it serves to demonstrate the different angles and differing timbres of the audio captured from different locations. Hopefully it will serve as a bit of inspiration for other folks trying to get great audio and video from their Zoom Q3HD.

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 2:38 pm and is filed under Audio, Guitar, Tutorials, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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    30 Responses to ' Playing the Angles with the Zoom Q3HD '

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    1. JONATHAN COPLEY said in post # 1,

      on March 24th, 2011 at 5:47 pm

      Hey there. I’m from the UK and I’ve been amazed by the time you put in to this site for people like me. After reading most of your content I think I have decided on the Kodak zi8 for video using a zoom h4n for audio. Just a couple of questions or advice I was hoping you could give me. I am guessing the best way to get audio with Kodak is by not running the zoom through it and having the Kodak sensitivity on low? but by doing it all separate? also can I use the file from the zoom and the file from the Kodak in Reaper?. For me it seemed the Zoom and Kodak would work better than the Zoom Q3hd with a preamp then using a good mic just for the fact of the Zoom h4n being more useful for other things like recording demo’s and writing songs where as the Q3hd with an external mic (through a preamp) would have one use… Last question I have is do you have any opinions on what mics to use through the Zoom h4n? I was thinking maybe internal mics on guitar and then a good condenser mic for the voice?. If you could give me any better, cheaper ways of having great audio, good video and also having a little zoom unit that can do other things I would love to hear about it. I’m guessing a good shotgun mic through the Kodak just wont cut it?. If only the Zoom Q3hd had a mic in and not a line in.

    2. Ary said in post # 2,

      on April 18th, 2011 at 12:14 am

      Dear Fran, really nice work.
      Have you tried live feeding from the Q3HD? Does it do it via the AV output, and what about hdmi? Because if it does, it would be an excellent solution for skype lessons, q3hd + usb capture card (rca plugs) + tripod or mic stand = easiest setup ever for quality plus movility.
      Best Regards,

    3. Fran Guidry said in post # 3,

      on April 18th, 2011 at 9:44 am

      Sorry, no live feed capability in the Q3HD. I agree, that would be a tremendously cool upgrade, along with a high quality mic pre. I guess they had to save some features for upgrades.


    4. KillarneyMusicClub said in post # 4,

      on April 22nd, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Fran. Thanks for taking the time to answer our query. Tried the q3 again in a good lighting setting and uploaded it through windows live photo gallery and we got our best results to date. Thanks for your advice

    5. Geoff Manasse said in post # 5,

      on May 15th, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      What a wonderful combination of being entertaining, useful, and nice all in one place.
      Your points about mic placement combined to make multi-position video gave me ideas for recording and video plus I really like that song.

    6. Fran Guidry said in post # 6,

      on May 15th, 2011 at 11:15 pm

      Geoff, I’m glad you got some useful ideas from the videos. And I’m even happier that you enjoyed “Waialua Slack Key.”


    7. Brian Dunard said in post # 7,

      on May 16th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      Wow what a great video! The one thing that I think I noticed is that each position has it’s own sonic signature and emotes something slightly different from the guitar. As soon as I started to really get into the sound the camera angle would switch and it would take a second to readjust to the sound. Once my ears adjusted with my brain I would pull something different from it. I have tons of nice mics in my studio but I’m on a search to get some stereo omni’s for the very reason I have loved hearing a lively sounding acoustic on my zoom and tascam handheld recordings….theres something about the sound of it that I like much better than a single cardioid facing the instrument. The only LDC I have really enjoyed on acoustic is a C12 or ELAM 251 and not the reissues. Thanks again for a great post!

    8. Fran Guidry said in post # 8,

      on May 16th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      Hi, Brian,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I agree with you about the way the differences impact the ears. Each one sounds odd and “wrong” until the brain shifts gears. I’m fascinated by the human auditory system and the tricks our ear/brain play on us.


    9. Mike Clement said in post # 9,

      on June 8th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Many thanks for the videos published on Youtube and the information on this site. I have found it very informative and the music pleasurable. I have just ordered a Zoom Q3HD and will be experimenting with differnt options. Again many thanks. Mike

    10. mymydex said in post # 10,

      on August 29th, 2011 at 6:09 am

      Sir i have a question
      there is now a new version
      do i need to update this q3hd
      or just leave it that way
      Thank u once again sir God blessss
      i enjoy viewing all your video information to help us
      Thnk u once again

    11. Fran Guidry said in post # 11,

      on August 29th, 2011 at 11:14 am

      I have always installed the Zoom firmware upgrades when they are released. I’ve never experienced a problem with these updates.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.


    12. mymydex said in post # 12,

      on August 29th, 2011 at 6:25 pm

      hello sir how are u?
      hope u r well……
      sir i have a question
      i bought first q3 and when i looked into your videos about q3hd i buy it
      but the thing is in my q3 which is i give it to my brother
      when i put 1/8″ Stereo phone jack i hear the mic with my earphone……………….
      but when i try to put in my q3hd i did hear a thing like the q3
      is this because of the settings
      cos actually i did buy my q3hd just this afternoon…
      and iam from spain……………………….
      thnk u in advance sir u are so kind God blesss
      A good health 4 u

    13. mymydex said in post # 13,

      on August 29th, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      sir one more thing
      pls can u tell me the best settings
      that u actually use
      in a good video and sound quality
      thnk u in advance
      sorry for inconvenient

    14. Fran Guidry said in post # 14,

      on August 29th, 2011 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks for visiting. You are correct, there is a setting that turns the monitor on or off. Here is a link to the Q3HD manual, you can download it in several languages.

      I use 44.1/16 PCM for my audio. For video I generally use 720/30 in order to make editing easier and because I think the low light performance is a small bit better in 720. But I have used 1080/30 on occasion, when I was intercutting with other cameras or if I want to pan the picture in post production.

      The only way to determine best settings is to experiment, but with digital that is easy and cheap. Shoot a lot and delete the ones that don’t work for you.

      Enjoy your video.


    15. mymydex said in post # 15,

      on August 30th, 2011 at 5:08 am

      Thank you sir,….. i appreciate it
      i did on the settings thnk u thnk u
      God blessssssss
      Have a wonderful day

    16. Luis Cabrera said in post # 16,

      on October 9th, 2011 at 1:24 am

      Thank you very much for this website, it really helped to clear my mind about which camcorder to purchase. I bought the Q3HD few weeks ago and I am very happy with both the image and specially sound quality, however something keeps happening which is worrying me and as Im sure Im doing something very basic wrong wanted to ask you if you could help me.

      I have the 2 GB card and relatively fresh batteries, however after few minutes of starting recording it switches off by itself… If it isnt the batteries i though perhaps on the 2GB there isnt much storage as i though, i tried to erase all the clips I had, but still, after couple of minutes it goes off. I have bought a 16GB SD card and bough more Alkaline batteries but I am really worried that there’s something wrong with the camera, do you have any tips which may help me please? Many thanks!

    17. Fran Guidry said in post # 17,

      on October 9th, 2011 at 8:10 am

      I’m sorry to hear of your difficulties, Luis. I really don’t have any tips or ideas, except to hope that your new batteries and/or memory card will solve your issue. If the new batteries don’t fix the problem I would definitely return the unit for repair or replacement.


    18. ellika frisell said in post # 18,

      on February 4th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      Hello! Happy if anyone can help! I try to upgrade my firmware for the Q3HD. Downloaded the latest and put a copy on the SD card , but when I try to upgrade I get Error . Also the version is 1.00-Ver 8.81! But when I downloaded it the version was 1.15. I have tried many times and the same thing happens all the time.

    19. Fran Guidry said in post # 19,

      on February 4th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Well I must admit that the instructions I found at this link were pretty terrible indeed.

      1.15 is the correct download. You need to unzip the file to extract the .bin file inside the .zip file. Then place that .bin file in the root of your memory card. Then follow the power-on routine.

      Hope this helps.


    20. Sheila Tyre said in post # 20,

      on March 21st, 2012 at 9:38 am

      Hi, I too have enjoyed the videos…
      We recently purchased the Q3HD and noticed it shutting down
      after a few minutes I will check the batteries.
      My question is the video does not seem clear to me a little
      cloudy do you think it could be the lighting?
      Thanks for the help,

    21. Sheila Tyre said in post # 21,

      on March 21st, 2012 at 9:38 am

      I meant the recording is not clear…

    22. Fran Guidry said in post # 22,

      on March 21st, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Hi, Sheila,

      If your video is not as sharp as you would like, more light is an excellent thing to try.


    23. Hans said in post # 23,

      on November 26th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Hi again Fran,

      I just bought the Zoom Q3HD and after the first couple of tries, I’m pretty happy with it. I would like to ask you though, if you can tell me an easy way to increase the volume on the recorded file? I have the volume set to max when I’m recording but thought that there might be a way to raise the volume a bit when I’ve got the file on my pc. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot. And preferably freeware if it is possible.

      Thanks a lot for your help,

    24. Hans said in post # 24,

      on November 27th, 2012 at 7:03 am

      Oh, and I should add that I have tried the “Clean & Power” mastering effect that comes with the Q3 (in the HandyShare package) and it does help a lot- I would just like to push the volume it a little bit more.


    25. Fran Guidry said in post # 25,

      on November 27th, 2012 at 9:06 am

      Hans, I haven’t used HandyShare but I was inspired by your previous post to look for a free solution to the problem. I actually shot a little video demonstrating Audacity and Avidemux, two free programs that can be used to adjust the audio of a Q3HD clip without recompressing the video. As soon as I finish my writeup of the procedure I’ll put up a new post and put the video up on YouTube.

      But basically, you can add FFmpeg video libraries to Audacity which makes it possible to edit audio from a video clip. You can adjust the volume, EQ, compression, reverb, etc., then save the audio as a new file. Then open the video clip in Avidemux, bring in the modified audio file, and join the modified audio to the original video and create a new output file. It’s quick, easy, powerful, and free. So stand by for the tutorial, and thanks for the idea.


    26. Hans said in post # 26,

      on November 27th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Fran,

      That sounds absolutely awesome! Thank you very much for doing a tutorial. I will certainly be standing by for it.


    27. Fran Guidry said in post # 27,

      on November 27th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

      OK, it’s a little rough around the edges, but here’s the blog post: and here’s the video of the process:


    28. Hans said in post # 28,

      on November 29th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks Fran!

      I will go check it out and try the method as soon as I can.


    29. Sats said in post # 29,

      on March 7th, 2014 at 3:14 am

      Hi Fran,

      I’ve been following your videos. I’ve recently purchased a Zoom Q2HD as the guys told me it was a more recent model than the Q3HD, with mid-side mics etc. Also it was right within my budget.

      I record in a ‘loft’ sort of room – 6.5 feet in height by 22 feet in length and 15 feet in width. I have not yet been able to find a sweet setting on the mic gain, audio setting (auto > solo or auto>off). Even when I set the mic gain to max (10), it just doesn’t seem good enough. Also, the guitar sound seems muffled and not clear.

      I’ve dabbled a bit with the handyshare software settings, increased volume, gain etc, but to no avail.

      I was hoping you’d be able to help me. My primary aim is to get some good recordings for my classical lessons and which might also be of future use. To give you an idea, here are some of my videos so far with the Zoom Q2HD:

      I’d appreciate your inputs.


    30. Kurtis Greiner said in post # 30,

      on September 16th, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      Sats and Fran, you both are horrible, sorry that is a joke lol, actually Sats your playing brought me to tears, really! It really did. Dont know why but it was very heartwarming. I wish someday to play as good as you and to Fran, you really are one helluva talented audiophile and musician as well , as you have also brought me down crying. Both your styles are really sweet to the ears, can listen to both all day. I originally came here because I want a Zoom camera. A q2hd because its only 85$ with a coupon I have and 2 year warranty. The q4 is just way too much at 255$ with my coupon. I don’t want to do editing, just acoustic of my drums, guitar, keyboard, and harmonica and post straight to YouTube or maybe lesson sites etc.for feedback from users. I already have a HD dslr but it has no mic inputs and audio quality has a lot to be desired on these cameras and my Samsung mobile phone has a great mic app with pcm recording and 44.1 quality and works really great with accurate sound from my drums, cymbals and harmonica which are great tests. I cannot afford more than the 100$ and don’t want to mix seperate audio and video so I wanted an all in one ready to go unit for cheap with decent video but great audio. Not to much to ask. After many reviews it seems many are looking for a 3,000$ setup in a under 200$ package. Really, if I want more, pay more, simple as that. I think I will be quite happy being in front of a q2 or q4, if the price was right but isn’t for me so q2 all the way. I’ll let you know how it really works out in a few weeks when I can get one. Sound is what matters, video looks coolon these and grainy or soft is not a big issue, and wide angle fish eye is also cool sometimes. Its about having fun, not trying to shoot a true studio quality album or movie with these things. Once people understand that, and are good with that concept of just getting accurate, or at least as close to accurate sound and whatever bonus video that is included in that recording is just perfect. Q2 q3 q4 All will be just fine, and even shooting non HD is not an issue again as audio is always foremost. Sorry for being long winded. Both of you keep up the great work. Remember, in life there are pros and cons to everything from people to cars to video camcorders lol. Get SOMETHING, anything that works, play, have fun, share. If it can be heard and is a fair representation of what you intended to come out, that’s all that anyone needs or wants to hear. As it is, no ones ears are the same and tons of editing by me, may need to be edited by another and so on and so on so anything close should be close enough. Bye for now, God Bless, Kurtis

    Leave a reply

    About the Blog

      Howdy, my name is Fran Guidry and this is my Homebrewed Music blog.

      I play Hawaiian slack key guitar and recorded my solo acoustic CD at home. Most of the recording information I find on the internet seems focused on bands, drums, multitracking, and so on but my main focus is recording solo acoustic guitar. Lately I’ve been enjoying video recording along with audio, so that shows up in the blog as well.

      I’m also a guitar nut. I love big ones and little ones, handmades and factory guitars, cheap ones and expensive ones. So I’ll be sharing the fun of exploring guitars as well, along with the challenges of amplifying acoustic guitars for live performance.



      My recording philosophy is pragmatic, skeptical, not super critical. After all, the performance is by far the most important component of a track, and every aspect of any recording is a matter of taste.

      But I do like to know “about stuff.” Back in hifi days I learned about double blind testing. I learned that we humans can easily hear differences that don’t really exist. The more I’ve learned about our human auditory system, the more I’m skeptical of what people say they hear, especially if they claim that a particular microphone or preamp or cable has some magical property.

      I’ve only been recording since 2001, and when I started I found the usual places on the internet. I sought advice and accepted it, thought I would improve my recordings by using more expensive equipment. It didn’t work.

      Two things that did seem to lead to better recordings were experience and room treatment. Getting an appealing sound is the combination of many small details, and learning those details only comes from experience. Amd the sound of the recording space is obviously a big factor.

      I’ve only recorded seriously using digital technology, but I remember trying to record rehearsals and gigs back in analog days. I don’t have any nostalgia for analog recording and playback systems at all. I think even low end digital systems can capture marvelous recordings. So when I look at gear, I look for good specs: low noise, broad flat frequency response, wide dynamic range, low distortion. I’m not interested in colorful components, mics and preamps with a sound, I want the sound to be the sound of my guitar.

      But the last word is that I’m just learning and I hope you find something useful in my posts.