There comes a time in the life when we feel an uncontrollable urge to self satisfy a certain need. I had tried long to avoid it, hoping that somehow I would be able to get someone else to do it for me, that somehow I could avoid shelling out money for it and even have someone do it for free. Alas, patience did not win this one as I could no longer wait to for that insatiable urge to be satisfied. There comes a time where we as musicians must finally learn to do it on our own… and what better way to record ourselves than with a home multitrack recorder! While this may not be the setup RCA Records uses for their artists, today’s multitrack recorders have benefitted greatly from that inexplicable magic the government likes to keep calling “technology” and unbeknownst to the simple masses, there’s enough of that magic here to fly us to the moon!
Essentially, today’s multitrack recorders are no slouches and many have much more fidelity and power than any professional setup did in the eighties, and while research has yet to find and bottle the talents of producers such as the Beatle’s George Martin and Quincy Jones, there are plenty of programs and plug-ins out there which makes any sort of real talent unnecessary! Musical talents though are still recommended for optimal playback enjoyment, especially if people are around. For those of you looking for a great feature filled 16 track recorder under $400 that doubles as an interface controller when paired with the proper program, look no further than the ZOOM R16.
The Main Features
Eight dual inputs for professional grade recording
The ZOOM R16 is essentially and eight simultaneous track recorder that can either work (very well, I should add) on its own or even better when paired with a DAW program via a PC or MAC. I say eight simultaneous because although the recorder can record up to 16 individual tracks for playback with the help of track swapping, it actually has eight physical dual XLR/quarter inch inputs, complete with individual volume and gain controls as well as two ports with optional phantom power in case you happen to have a condenser mic handy. Those dual inputs (meaning with each you can use either an XLR cable for use with a mic or a standard quarter inch for your instruments) come in handy in case you’re planning on doing a bit of full drum kit recording the professional way, complete with the minimum of six recommended mics.
Plenty More inside the Package
The R16 uses your standard SD card which is expandable up to 32 Gb. That translates into roughly over a hundred hours of recording. Even better yet, you can connect your standard USB flash drive and drop your files effortlessly which makes transferring songs while the recorder is live that much easier, since constantly removing the SD card will require the system to suspend and reactivate.
You have your standard quarter inch headphone input jack to hear your masterpiece which should come as no surprise to those familiar with music equipment. For the newbies out there, don’t freak out that your headphones at home will assuredly not fit. Just go to any music store and get a quarter inch jack input. They should be no more than a few dollars if that, unless you spring for the gold plated kind (and yes, those exist).
Each track has your standard professional LED meter bridge to let you check out how much signal is being sent along with a clip light, handy for letting you know when your signal input is over the limit.
Plays Nice with Computers and Each Other
Connect to digital audio workstation for optimal control
Besides working perfectly as a standalone recorder complete with its own pair of condenser mics and plenty of in-system effects, half the magic comes when you hook this baby up to a computer via the bundled in software or your favorite DAW (Digital Audio Workstations such as ProTools, Logic, etc). Now things are beginning to look a lot more elite, as the intuitive feel and processing power of a computer work masterfully along with all the benefits of a fully featured recorder combined with a studio prowess of the DAW program. The best feature by far is the ability to use the R16 as a controller for the program, meaning no more mixing with a mouse! Digitally place whatever track you want to a corresponding number on the recorder and your essentially working like the pros, on an actual-factual mixing board!
With a bit of DAW know-how, you can effectively record and master 16 track songs on the fly, and in fact many, many more when you incorporate the recorders ability to combine any two tracks as you see fit.
Not only that, if you happen to have another R16 lying around, connect them via USB and you’ve got yourself 16 tracks of simultaneous recording and 32 tracks of playback, great for all of you Dewey’s out there who definitely need a few more didgeridoos.
Form factor wise, the R16 is about the size of a 13” netbook, albeit a bit longer, although not nearly as thick and heavy, meaning it will fit into most backpacks and gig bags without much added weight. Being such a lightweight, you have the option of using these things called AA batteries (six of them) when not plugged into an AC which will give you a respectable five hours of continuous recording, plenty of time to go find an extension cord.
If you’re the kind of person that loves to mess around with a lot of extra features, the R16 has plenty to like. You have your standard fully controllable metronome, chromatic tuner, compressor, over 100 guitar/bass/vocal studio effects and even two built-in condenser mics that are actually a lot better than most would think. For all you film makers out there, the R16 is a great way to connect your boom mics and have complete power as well as the advantages of the live LED meter bridge for precise signal control.
The R16 features 16/24-bit/44.1kHz linear PCM recording in WAV format, meaning CD-quality sound in a computer friendly package, so no more looking for OGG and MIDI converters through shady online sites.
The R16 will Satisfy
What more can you need? You’ve got eight combination inputs, two built-in stereo condenser mics, two phantom power ready inputs, a slew of in-system effects, tools and filters, tremendous functionality with DAW programs, a luggage friendly size, optional battery power and all for less than $400! All in all, this is not only a great recorder for those looking with something a bit better than an entry level machine or the built-in one on your phone, this is a great recorder for anyone, unless you’re George Martin or Quincy Jones, then it’s just alright.