Zoom R8: A mini-recording studio! (With built-in microphones?)
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-06-02)
"There are microphones in this thing? Where? And it's two pounds? Right." That was what I figured until I spotted the two slots on the front of the R8, one on the far right, one on the left. They managed to fit a stereo pair of condenser microphones inside a box that I thought was a little too small for a multitrack recorder in the first place. The microphones do face the user, so you can be there with the group, playing, and editing at the same time while the R8 does its work. Might I add that it'll look good too? This is probably one of the coolest-looking, shiniest, button-laden pieces I've seen from Zoom since they started putting out handheld recorders (which, by the way, are some of the most widely used on the whole market, for a reason).
So let's dig in a little closer on the Zoom R8. It's built from the ground up for capturing audio on-the-go. It combines four production tools in one compact, versatile device. In addition to being an 8-track playback/2-track simultaneous recorder that utilizes SD memory, the R8 is an audio interface, a control surface and a pad sampler.
“The R8 will fit in a guitar case, for a flexible, multi-track solution,” says James Tsaptsinos, Samson’s VP of Sales. “More than ever before, Zoom users have all the tools necessary to create studio-quality recordings on-the-go.” The more I get to look at it, it's another version of the H2 or H4, but with all the sliders and knobs laid out, and still super-portable. I like it so far, and I know I can trust Zoom to put in good quality microphones. Having the connectivity of a mixer is a great add-on too.
The pad sampler took me by surprise as well. It consists of eight voices. The R8’s built-in drum sounds can be triggered using eight pads to assign sounds to each track and create loops. You can also use the unit’s drum machine to create original backing beats, or simply output a metronome for tempo control. Not only does the R8 offer over 500 drum patterns to work with, it also includes a 2GB SD card containing 500MB of drum loops recorded by Big Fish Audio. The Zoom R8 supports up to 32GB SD cards.
Take your R8 into your studio and record additional tracks using its USB audio interface. Then when you’re ready to mix, use the R8’s control surface capabilities to manage each function of your favorite DAW software (the R8 comes with a copy of Cubase E). Choose from over 140 built-in studio effects to enhance your recording and use the pro-quality mastering effects to complete that studio sound.
At 10" wide and 2lbs, it'll fit in your gig bag without being heavy, and at 24kHz/48-bit recording, you should see some great quality coming through the Zoom. I wish it could take more than two inputs at a time (especially given it's 8-track mixing/mastering capabilities), but I guess that's the price you pay for portability. It does include an AC adapter, and Zoom claims a 4 hour runtime on 4 AA batteries. It can even run just on USB power.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured in and around Pittsburgh, at West Virginia University, and Valley Forge Christian College. He only recently began playing bass with recording artist Ben Shannon.
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.