Zoom’s R8 promises to be everything you’d ever want to take with you on the go in one device. If they’ve pulled it off, it could be more invaluable in your backpack than even your computer. The R8 is a little bit of everything: stereo recording, multitrack editing, a 2×2 audio interface, an 8-voice sampler (complete with little pads), a drum machine (seriously), an effects box with modeling, a guitar tuner, a metronome, and a MIDI control surface. The big surprise: all of this is compact and lightweight and runs without a wall wart – USB power or batteries will do the trick.

I could talk dimensions, but I like Zoom’s way of describing it: “small enough to fit in a guitar case.”

Basic specs:
Recording and editing. Up to 24-bit, 48kHz recording of two simultaneous tracks. Mix up to eight tracks. Undo/redo. And if you forget your mic, there’s a built-in stereo mic, as we’ve seen on previous Zoom project gear. Record on SD for up to 32GB of space.

Onboard I/O. It’s simple, but significant for something this small: you get two balanced combo XLR – 1/4″ jacks for inputs, phantom power, and one channel has a Hi-Z switch for guitars and the like. Output is on two 1/4″ jacks.

Audio interface and control surface. The I/O and faders and knobs don’t go to waste when you’re connected to a computer via USB; you get 2×2 audio operation, plus a MIDI control surface. (I’m not sure if that’s class-compliant for iOS / Android / Linux, but I’ll find out.) Both the mixing and transport functions are active with your DAW on the control surface side.

Sampler, “rhythm machine.” Sample, loop, time-stretch, and trim samples which you can trigger along with track playback for quick composition. It’s no rival for a full sampler – sampler controls have to compete with mixing and editing controls, and it appears functions like slicing aren’t included – but getting this on a budget mobile project studio is pretty nice. You also get a 10-kit drum machine (or “rhythm machine,” as they prefer to call it), with step sequencer and phrase variations. The drum kit doesn’t appear to function with recorded samples, but … again, come on, your Portastudio didn’t do this, at least not without a separate drum machine plugged in.

Insert and send-return effects and amp models. 146 effect types are included, as well. You can use them to add a quick amp model and effects as you record your guitar, or add them live when the box is functioning as an audio interface.

Utilities. Guitar tuner. Metronome. There’s also Windows and Mac support, USB 2.0-speed file transfer of your WAV files from your sessions, and a footswitch input with optional footswitch accessory. Pop in four AA batteries, and you can run for up to five hours, say Zoom. There’s also a copy of Cubase LE included.

Full specs and features are up on the Zoom Japan site:
http://www.zoom.co.jp/products/r8/features/

Questions for Zoom? Want to see a review – and if so, any requests for how it’s conducted? Let us know.

  • http://www.blah.com Kerm

    I'm excited about this particular product and plan to buy it shortly after it's available… would love to see a review. As a guitar player, I want to record/jam without a computer and then later upload my files to Renoise/Reaper. I don't see the onboard amp models/effects replacing my actual amp/pedals, but it's there for travel I guess.

  • http://keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    Seems like an extension of their portable recorders-slash-USB interfaces (I think at least one of those devices has a simple four-track recorder built in, effects, etc.) — so does anyone know how it will compare to those units price-wise?

  • http://soundcloud.com/puls-n pulsn

    Very cool! A review would be nice.

  • Miguel Marcos

    I'd be interested in knowing just how compatible it is as a control surface (Garageband/Logic, Abelton, etc.).

  • Dan Pat

    This is very cool. I'm in the market for a field recorder and this product would be able to fulfill that niche and a lot more! If it hits the right price point, I'm going to have to pick one up.

  • greg

    Get me a price. That looks sweet and fills what I believe is a huge gap in the market.

  • http://www.peanutismint.com Peanut

    Would love to see a video review of a full song being built using all of the features??

  • greg

    sweetwater's offering 300 bucks.
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/R8zoom/

  • http://soundcloud.com/death-by-media DBM

    Class compliant For the R8/R16/R24 

    Site only seamed to have pdf's and no driver dl … so that maybe a good sign .

    Kinda curious is the 16 and 24 do more than two channels back to the DAW through usb or not too ?

    If these are indeed class compliant and sound good then they might be the best in cost range i/o and control surface for DAW as well as iPad ?    

  • ideletemyself

    Hmm, never thought I'd say this about a 'Portastudio' type device but this thing looks worthy of use! lol… i figured these would go the way of the dino's but with all those features and the price… could be a great piece of equipment for people with basic needs and those wanting to record while traveling.

    I'll echo the requests of reviews or demo of the thing in use though…

  • http://noisepages.com/members/jamesmcn/ jamesmcn

    I would be interested in seeing the computerless workflow. My guess is that it isn't really competitive with $300-$500 audio interfaces, so the main reason you'd want it is to be able to construct tracks away from your main computer. That could be particularly attractive when you just want to turn the computer off and play with your hardware.

    If the drum machine speaks MIDI, that would be even more interesting, because you could do some limited sequencing with the box.

    At that point, you have to wonder whether this is a lo-fi alternative to a MachineDrum + OctoTrack. Clearly it doesn't have the synthesis capabilities of the Elektron stuff, but that would be fine if you've already got a few noisemakers.

  • filtersweep

    Basically the same tech as their R24 and R16 products, yes?  Conceptually they are brilliant jack-of-all trades type devices.  But at this price point, there will be some issues, of course, for "pro" use.  But generally speaking, what a great feature set and price point.  You can read some of the issues with this line here:

    http://www.gearslutz.com/board/low-end-theory/550

  • Hralli

    If you could send channels just to the headphone output it would make a great playback machine.

  • 3lbFlax

    This is very nice, but what would make it a definite buy for me would be regular MIDI I/O and sync. This would make a great partner for synced multitracking with something like a Microkorg or MPC1000, or even a Mopho. I know it'd have an effect on the form factor, but still… is there anything similar people would recommend that includes MIDI without requiring a laptop/PC? My Yamaha AW16G does it all, except the portability.

  • http://institutfatima.org pepezabala

    Why would you want this if you already have a laptop and an audio interface?

  • http://noisepages.com/members/dragonbomber/ DragonBomber

    This is a pretty fantastic little idea for some of us who do not have to have MIDI I/O on board despite that awesomeness. The specs fall within what I would expect for the $300 price point. The 16 is $400 at 24 is $500 Sweetwater so just a bit out of my price range, and honestly I would not be using more than 2 inputs most of the time so it'd be overkill. This newer R8 does have a few slight upgrades compared to its bigger older brothers, and some downgrades obviously.

    Comparing the 8/16/24 a bit and ignoring the obvious extra 6 jacks on the 16/24 I notice:

    * 8 has a control port for foot pad (neither the 16 nor the 24 seem to)

    * 8 uses its USB cable for it AC power cable like many new phones do, the 16/24 both have regular power cables and separate USB cable included. Just need to use one of your extra USB cables laying around if you need to power it via AC and still connect it to the PC.

    * 8 now has the 2GB card, while the 16/24 had only 1GB included. Memory is cheap of course.

    * 8 uses 4 AA, 16/24 both say 6AA (picture shows 4 so it must have 2 more underneath)

    * 8 – 2 lbs, 16/24 – 2.87 lbs.

    * 8 – sample rate 48khz, 16/24 44.1khz

    * 8 does not have the USB flashdrive/large HDD support while both the 16/24 did.

    * 8's width decrease to 10" from the 16/24's 14.8" really will make a difference on where you can use/store the thing.

    * Can still sync 2 R8s for extra channels just like you can with the R16/24.

    Other little differences but I am going to add this R8 to my Christmas/birthday list (forgoing April gifts if I get it in December for both occasions) and hope Santa brings it to me. :D

  • rv

    I used to have a zoom ps04 and always thought people were sleeping on those things creativity wise – 4-track with a built-in drum machine with like 6 kits, a sequencer with both step sequencing live recording options. You could even do stutter and weird effects if you were creative with it. I even played around with a loopback cable to get insert effects on the drums…

    the downside was that the sounds (and everything else about the device) was kindof lofi and amateurish in typical zoom fashion (hiss… kindof dirty sounding converters, transferring stuff to the computer was slow and usually too annoying to get around to), but hey, it has its place (even trent reznor is known for exploiting cheapo zoom gear).

    One thing I wonder what the converters are like on this thing. Not holding my breath. These days, I would probably rather spend that 300 bucks on an apogee one. Less features, but at least I know it will do it well.

  • paco

    This does look very good for recording guitar jams etc. away from the computer – which is very clumsy for guitars. Interesting how more and more people seem to be cluing into the fact that despite computers being powerful, flexible and with all the control surfaces – they're still have a horrible feel for making music and DAWs are pokey to get going with things etc.

    On that note, I'm definitely looking forward to the new digital linn drum as well.

     

  • Peter Kirn

    Yes, absolutely, audio quality remains my question. Convenience and low cost are great, but those get more or less wiped away if you have to deal with the hassle of something that doesn't sound the way you need it to.

  • gonna live forever

    Hey Peter,

    Obviously this is going to be marketed toward people with different needs, but I haven't read about it anywhere yet. Should be out soon:

    http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UFX1604.aspx

    Check out those specs… 16×4 Firewire & USB interface, 16 simultaneous multitrack recording to any USB flash media, and all those aux sends… then price out Mackie's Onyx 1220i for comparison, then apply a little street-price guesswork.. maybe $600-$700?

  • http://routeit.noisepages.com gbsr

    i would tell you all to stay way away form zoom's products. i got the r16 interface/porta/recorder thing by them and it a: adds 1.83ms to the input signal by default, no matter if it's used as an interface or not, and b: the builtin effects can only be used in 44.1 samplerate. it c: shuts itselfs down on occasion/changes samplerrate (driver issue, with the latest update), it d: leaks audio from a channel onto another channel and finally e: the builtin effects can only be used one at a time, meaning that they are useless in a live performance, since you can only apply one internal effect instead of one per track. 

  • Jonah

    The only keeping it from perfection is the lack of a digital in. Well, that and the lack of editable drum samples. :)  

    In a review I'd like to see how hard is it to move audio from the computer to the r8 for use in standalone mode. I hope it would be practical(i.e. quick and easy) to load a bunch of projects that I edited on the computer on the r8 for (rough?) mixing. Or even parts of tracks. I could see a lot of use in loading 8 drums tracks on to it and working on that without any distractions.

    I'd bet that if you run line level audio into the r8 the sound on sub-1k devices is indistinguishable, but regardless if you purely loaded the r8 with tracks from multiple songs you wanted to mix down that you had previously edited on the computer there would be no loss of quality at all. 

    I could also see it being a convenient way to test mixes out on different speakers. You could even get a 1/8th to tape adapter for old cars that don't have straight audio in. It would be faster and more flexible than burning CDs and a heck of a lot less wires than a laptop+audio interface combo. 

    Also, do some stress testing by throwing it around a bit.  :)

  • shim

    for $300, if the convertors are not crap this will definitely make it into my workflow. but i will be looking over the manual for any gotcha features that may be lurking, prior to purch. oh zoom, you so crazy.

    i've been searching for a device to write on that will allow me to spend a lot more time away from the computer for demoing and more improv based work. the menu heirarchy/ease of use and sound are the 2 big concerns. it's got enough features, despite the lack of midi that would get 2/3 of the job done. if it delays the input it's garbage tho'.

    btw: i like how units like this inspire a lot of workflow details, great comments here.

  • http://durkkooistra.com durk

    96 would have been better – Too bad since the h4 and up do have 96kHz. With resampling becoming more important in music these days (instead of being a mostly sound design affair) it would have been logical imho.

  • http://www.flamencochuck.com Chuck

    Zoom really blew it with this unit; one should be able to use his own samples with the sequencer. Roland did it (almost – no midi) right with the BR-800, which carries over the Toneload function (and its neat pc editor).

    But the GT-10 effects in the BR-800 are excellent indeed. Save your money and get the BR-800….

  • Bobby

    Zoom R 8.

    Does the unit have full reverb functions ?

    I am thinking for laying down vocals..Can vocals be recorded with reverb or is the facility only available at mixdown ?

    Can I record a Stereo backing track from an external CD source to 2 tracks of the Zoom R.8 ( In Stereo )

    I plan to use this unit for recording stereo backing tracks from an external source to 2 tracks of the Z R 8.  and then adding some overdubs.  

    Thanks,

    Bobby. 

  • Jan

    This unit seesm to be perfect for me: Although I appreciate all the things I can do with my DAW, it's distracting and keeps me away from the things I really want to do, which is music. If I could use this thing to lay down some tracks and have an easy tool to construct a song (or just have fun with it), then transfer the tracks to my DAW via SD card and use the R8 as a control surface – then I could get rid of my tape deck workflow, which has certainly a nice all analogue feeling to it and is a lot of fun but also has the drawbacks of an analogue workflow.

    If this unit can keep its promise and is not packed with features one would never want to use when just playing, the R8 could be my next purchase.

  • sparx

    Just paid 319.00 Canadian for mine. Amazing for what you get. I had a zoom 802 cd, and think this is much better.

  • http://www.jimmiritzreitzler.com Jimmi RITZ Reitzler

    I for one love the old portastudio ( the Beatles did a lot with 4-track & if you had 2 it was ping/pong fun).But now you have to get every thing onto the computer.In the old days you would just mix down to 2-track and have that pressed to a record.Know most stuff is on a site of some type.I think I could use this B-U-T from what I've read they left out the Manual.Whats up with that? Why can't someone just put something out that both old school and gear heads can use.

  • Mmcdaid9

    Hi — Could I import wav files from my H2n Zoom mid-side recorder at 44.1 Khz/24 bit to the R8, to be able to add further multi-tracks to?

  • Diaxiros

    I have the ART prochannel mic preamp,and a condenser mic.I want to record vocals and karaoke play backs that i find them in the internet.Can i make this with the R8?

  • http://www.facebook.com/idragosani Brett McCoy

    I’d like to add that the MIDI control surface functionality (using Mackie protocol) now works in Linux (at least it does on Ubuntu Studio 12.04). I have only tested on Ardour 2.8.12, but just simply connect the MIDI output port of the device to the mcu port in Ardour (using qjackctl or similar). Worked without any further configuration.

    • Daniel X

      do the drum pads transmit midi?

  • Surface Samplers

    Thanks a lot for a gathering of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great supply.

  • VoffeeFlush

    Do a review plz