Zoom R16 Portable Recorder Review

Zoom R16 Recorder.  Interface.  Controller

Zoom R16 – a truly portable, stand-alone recording system that functions as a recorder, audio interface and controller.  Coming in at just under three pounds, the Zoom R16 is a sleekly sturdy, well-made piece of machinery designed by the fine folks at Mackie to deliver recording versatility to roving, musical souls like you and me.

What I’ve imagined is a compact, rugged little box that accompanies me to band rehearsals and outdoor gigs.  If I need phantom power, I can power up right through my laptop via USB, plug a condenser microphone into one of eight analog inputs, and run the signal from my R16 interface directly into a DAW on my Mac or PC.  Very cool scenario – I’m using the R16 to capture that Motown sound by doing a room recording in my bathroom using the Zoom’s built-in microphones. With six AA batteries in tow, I can power the R16 for up to 4 hours – more than enough time for me to stack harmonies and record them right onto an SD / SDHC card inside the R16.  If I’m feeling particularly mighty on any given day, I can double my load to six pounds, carry and synchronize two R16s for simultaneous 16-track recording capabilities.

It’s almost magical.

Zoom R16 Connections

Zoom R16 Portable Recorder Connections

Considering its small size and light weight, Zoom’s R16 is packed with great features.  It has eight analog inputs and eight stereo outputs, a single ¼-inch headphone jack, two built-in microphones, phantom power capabilities on tracks 5 and 6 (or you can just stick to dynamic microphones) and the option to be USB, battery or AC powered depending on your needs and preferences.  You can set the first analog input to a high-impedance mode to DI guitars and basses, or use the 2 built-in microphones in lieu of the last two inputs if you so desire.

Zoom R16 Stereo Microphones

Zoom R16 Portable Recorder Built In Microphones

The R16’s layout is pretty attractive as well.  Each of the eight channels is equipped with faders, a rotary knob and a four-segment LED meter.  A red master fader separates the channels from the menu panel on the right side of the unit. A text-based LCD screen displays your menu options.  Cursor buttons help to navigate through the menus.

The R16 records either 16-bit or 24-bit audio files with a sample rate of 44.1kHz.  The unit comes with a 1GB SD card as is compatible with both SD cards (up to 2GB) and SDHC cards (up to 32GB).

Zoom R16 Portable Recorder Memory Card

In use, the R16 works pretty intuitively.  It’s easy to use – simply connect your sound source and you can hear the mix directly from the R16 using either the stereo outs (for monitors) or through your single headphone out.  Navigation is pretty easily understood, but there are lots of options on the menu panel. When you want to record, you simply arm the channel on which you wish to record, press Record and Play.  There’s a built-in metronome and instrument tuner.  Both are relatively straightforward and the metronome offers a couple of different click sound options.  The rotary knob above the master fader lets you adjust the volume of the metronome click in comparison to the overall volume of your mix.

Zoom R16 Portable Recorder Top

The R16 is a quiet machine, which certainly is a bonus when you’re doing room recordings.  You have the option to enable up to 99 automated and manual drop-ins for longer recordings (like live gigs).  The R16 is a clever device in that it answers the desire for the portability and flexibility of a stand-alone unit while still addressing the necessity of having a product that’s also designed to work with a DAW, unlike its rival, the Tascam DP-03 Portastudio.  It plays up its strengths and depends on your PC or Mac to cover its weaknesses.  Clever product design.

Zoom R16 Portable Recorder USB

For the money, you’re getting a pretty great value on a versatile and comprehensive piece of recording equipment for your home or project studio.

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