Zoom's highly portable R16 multi-track recorder
By Tim LeFevre
June 29, 2009
Multi-track recorders allow home users to get professional results on a budget and Zoom Corporation takes this a step further with the versatile and truly portable R16. The diminutive R16 rolls a 16 track recorder, audio interface and control surface all into one. Perhaps the most notable feature is the ability to record to an SD memory card (supporting up to 32GB on an SDHC card). Not only does this add to the R16 portability credentials, but also avoids the pitfalls of hard drive crashes and associated problems.
Zoom Corporation CEO, Masa Iijima says the company has learned a lot from its past multi-track recorder models – H2, H4n, HD8 & HD16 – and has bought together the important capabilities of those models with the design of the R16.
Offering combination XLR-1/4 inch inputs, the R16 has the ability to record up to 8 tracks simultaneously (with 16 track playback). Recordings are sampled at 44.1kHz in a linear PCM format with a 16 bit depth. An option of 24 bit recording becomes possible when interfaced with digital audio workstation software. Combine all that with the fact that the R16 can run on 6 AA batteries and it’s use for field recording and live performances becomes quite apparent. Recording say, a whole drum kit is easier than ever and Hi-Z inputs allow you to plug a guitar or bass directly into the R16. There’s even low noise pre-amps with phantom power on two channels for your mics. Once you’ve recorded a few tracks, you can use the 100+ built-in effects to tweak them. Among the effects on offer are a number of amp simulators designed to get just the tone you’re looking for. There’s also mastering effects like pro-quality compressors and enhancers. Built-in stereo condenser mics also make it easy to “sketchpad” ideas or record location/ambient room noise for mixes.
Connecting the R16 via USB to your laptop or desktop computer allows you to interface with digital audio workstation software of your choice (or the included copy of Cubase LE 4), eliminating the need for another external audio interface. The R16’s onboard effects can also be applied as you lay down tracks on your computer.
While programs like Cubase LE 4 employ the power of a computer to assist with the recording and mastering process, they obviously lack the tactile feel of an external controller. Connect the R16 via USB to your computer and mixing with a mouse will be a thing of the past. Being a portable device aimed at the domestic/semi-professional market, Zoom could have easily saved themselves a few dollars in the production of the R16 by using rotary trim pots in place of slide faders. Implementing rotary trim pots would also make it more portable than ever, but usually makes mixing a little clunky, less intuitive and diminishes the tactile feel. The decision to use slide faders and other features like the LED meter bridge suggest Zoom have really thought the R16 through and not made economies that may have let the product down.
The Zoom R16 also doubles as a USB storage device, offering drag-and-drop file transfer. To further increase it’s capability you also have the option of linking two R16’s together via USB (master/slave configuration) catering for up to 16 channel simultaneous recording. At an RRP of USD$399.00, you may want to pick one (or two) up for yourself!
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