No time for cute stories? Scroll down to the TL;DR section at the bottom.
Earlier this year, I purchased the Zoom H6 portable multitrack audio recorder for outdoor film shoots. And it was great. Out of the box, it comes with four XLR (microphone) inputs, four 1/4″ inputs, two detachable microphones (an X/Y and another called a ‘mid-side’ mic), and a stereo 1/8″ input on the X/Y mic attachment. It will record up to 6 tracks at once.
When the time came that I needed some lavalier/lapel mics for a shoot, I found the best low-priced lav mic in production, the JK Mic-J 044, by watching a bunch of youtube low-priced lav mic test videos. They’re around $30 each, depending on which input you get with them. You can get them with the 1/8″ mono TS output, the 1/8″ TRS out, the TRRS (for plugging into phones), the mini-XLR, and a few others. I ordered one of the TRRS models, as well as 4 of the 1/8″ TS output models. It is important to note that these do not include wireless packs. They are just the mic with about a 3 foot cord on them. If you want wireless, you have to buy those separately from someone else, and they are not cheap.
I can’t tell you how excited I was when they arrived. I opened one up, plugged the TRRS model into my phone, and, BAM! It worked. And it sounded just as great as it did in those youtube videos. Next, I took out one of the 1/8″ TS models, added an adapter to turn the 1/8″ into a 1/4″ out, and plugged it into one of my Zoom H6’s 1/4″ inputs.
Aaaaaand… nothing. No sound. After some googling, I read that you have to turn on the ‘plugin power’, which is a lower voltage version of phantom power, meant for lav mics. So, I turned plugin power on.
I opened up another one of the JK Mic-J 044 lav mic packages, just to make sure I didn’t have a faulty mic in the first package. I plugged it in, and got nothing. Either I had a whole batch of bad mics, or there was a compatibility issue between the JK Mic-J 044 lav mic and the Zoom H6 recorder.
To make sure the H6’s 1/4″ input was working, I grabbed an old $20 lav mic from my closet. Guess what? The mic worked. So, the H6 was working.
I also tested the mics by plugging one into the stereo 1/8″ input on the side of the X/Y mic attachment that comes with the Zoom H6. This input is wired differently than the XLR / 1/4″ inputs on the sides of the H6. It worked! That’s great and all, but, if I just settled there, I would only be able to use one of the lav mics at a time, when I needed to be able to use 4 or 5 at once.
I grabbed the mic manufacturer’s website (JK Microphones) off of the back of the mic package to see if their site had any info about them not working with the Zoom H6 recorder. Nothing. So, I emailed them from their site.
Next, I went through several weeks of writing back and forth with them trying to figure out what the problem was. They were extremely nice, and genuinely wanted to figure out why this combination was not working. After all, it’s not just in a company’s best interest to work with customers, but even moreso to make sure their products are compatible with the widest possible field of gear that they can. And they didn’t want to alienate everybody who owned a Zoom H6.
JK even mailed me a bunch of other mics for free so I could test them with my H6. First, they sent me 4 of the 1/8″ TRS output models, thinking that maybe the H6 only accepts TRS and not TS. These didn’t work, either.
Then, I looked up the wiring diagram for the H6 inputs and shared it with JK. They found that their Mic-J outputs were wired differently than the H6 inputs. So, they made a couple of differently wired TRS models, and sent them to me along with some 1/4″ adapters that seemed to work on their end. And, once again, they didn’t work.
I had all but given up at this point, resigned to the fact that I might not be able to use these great sounding $30 lav mics with my H6, and I may have to spend a ton of money on high end lavs instead.
Then, I discovered a youtube video about using lav mics with the H6. The guy in the video said that the H6 only accepted XLR inputs, and that 1/4″ outputs would not work with it. This was incorrect, as the H6 comes stock with combination XLR / 1/4″ inputs. Further, I had already proven that the 1/4″ inputs work with another one of my older, lower quality lav mics. But, I kept watching. He mentioned buying the Rode VXLR adapters, which are adapters to turn 1/8″ or 1/4″ outputs into XLR outputs. I happened to have a few of these from an earlier experiment. So, I tried it out.
It didn’t work. But, one thing that the guy in the video didn’t mention was whether he had turned on phantom power or plugin power. So, I tried plugin power. Nothing. Then, I tried phantom power on 12 volts. Eureka! It worked.
So, the culmination of months of experimentation ends with finding that plugging the JK Mic-J 044 (1/8″ TRS model), into a Rode VXLR adapter, then into the Zoom H6, with plugin power turned on at 12 volts, is the magic combination.
Here’s how to make the JK Mic-J 044 lav mic work with the Zoom H6 recorder:
- Get the JK Mic-J 044 lav mic (1/8″ TRS model) from Amazon. (If you already have another lav mic that won’t work with the Zoom H6, make sure it’s TRS, and proceed to the next step)
- Get a Rode VXLR adapter (1/8″ to XLR) from Amazon, or wherever they’re selling it.
- Plug the lav mic into the VXLR adapter.
- Plug the VXLR adapter into one of the H6’s XLR inputs.
- Turn on “Phantom Power” for the track you want to record on, and set the voltage to 12 volts.
- Click the corresponding button to the input that you’re plugged into.
That’s it. The m@!4*&#F@(#*r works.
Above: JK Mic-J 044 lav mic plugged into a Rode VXLR adapter, in turn plugged into the Zoom H6 recorder.