ZOOM R16 by doodude
I recently have had the desire to do some recording with my band and improve out demos. There are 4 of us and I didn't want to layer tracks, so something with at least 8 tracks was necessary. I also didn't want to spend more than around $500 on the recorder itself. With the widespread use of DAW's, the portably studios (even the high end ones) have really come down to a reasonable price so I considered many, such as the Boss/Roland VS recorders, Korg D3200, and the Tascam portastudio. When I weighed everything out, I decided the Zoom R16 was worth a try. So here's a breakdown of the features that sold me on it:
- 8 tracks simultaneous recording with the ability to layer 8 more tracks
- Records to wav format
- ability to select 44.1 and 48kHz sample rate at 16 or 24 bit. Ability to sample at 96kHz when using it as a recording interface (who really cares?)
- Will act as a Mackie emulator in many DAW packages including reaper, cubase, cakewalk, and others. This includes all the automation with sliders (non-powered) and for transport
Effects and gizmos
- Reverb, EQ, and chorus adjustable per track with ability to fine tune reverb and EQ settings. FYI, this was one of my biggest concerns as I wanted to use the Zoom at gigs and it doesn't have effects sends/returns. The reverb sounds good.
- Has a variety of effects of insert effects including some mastering effects. I just use compression on a pair of drum mic channels.
- phantom power on 2 channels (switchable for two channels together, i.e. not just 1 can be powered)
- built in condenser mics if you're realllly trying to keep it simple. Actually work pretty well for getting ideas down.
- 4-led level indicator on each input and the main output
- silent and reliable data storage on an SDHC card
- portable, compact, only 4 pounds and surprisingly sturdy!
- can run off of AA batteries for several hours.
Here are the drawbacks:
- preamps are OK but not fantastic. A mic preamp can cost as much as this unit does, so that shouldn't be a big surprise.
- no MIDI. Apparently there's some workaround to this with the R8 and R24
- Actually editing on the machine itself is not very easy to do, but why would you do that instead of with your PC and DAQ software (comes with Cubase LE)
- no individual channel outputs. For gigs, I wish it had this so that we could adjust the monitor levels differently from the mains. Our solution has been to turn down the bass levels on the monitor EQ (our PA has a separate monitor EQ) to keep the monitors from distorting.
This unit is very easy to use as a recorder. I take it to practices and gigs and run everyone through it (3 vocal mics, 2 drum mics, guitar, bass, and keyboard). When I'm done for the night, I pull the recordings off my SD card onto my DAW, load each track individually along with my typical effects plugins and start editing. That part is simple... the DAW has a learning curve, but that can't be blamed on the recorder. I've had it 4 months and the cons I've listed above are all that I can come up with. I bought it knowing that I could return it if I didn't like it (as opposed to a used portable studio from ebay) but clearly I was not diappointed in it.
If you're looking to get into recording and editing on a DAW but value portability and simplicity of the recorder, look no further. This machine allows me to setup and record in a few minutes and I can deal with the editing later. It's also been a good introduction to DAQ and editing as it has many of the features that you'd have in a full studio when combined with a DAQ package.
A couple random tidbits that I think might be useful to some people
- when recording, you can turn the insert effects to play wet but record dry so you hear what you want, but can have the original signal to work with on your DAW
- It fits in a laptop case (15.4" monitor)
- You can add a second R16 to it and record 16 tracks simultaneously
Rock on and have fun making music.