The Zoom R24 (current street price in Finland: 479 €) is a compact and very lightweight, but still quite nifty and versatile unit: The Zoom’s main purpose is to serve as a stand-alone digital multitracker (24 tracks, recording to SD-cards), but it can also be used with a computer as an external soundcard and/or a control surface for an audio sequencer (Cubase LE 5 comes included in the box).
The R24 is ready to go wherever you want to use it, thanks to its ability to run on six AA-batteries, as well as with the included, compact power supply.
This Zoom offers eight XLR/phone-combo inputs, which equals the maximum number of simultaneous recording tracks.
Zoom have kept the R24’s signal routing deliberately spartan and easy-to-use. Each of the inputs is hardwired to its corresponding channel fader and from there on to the corresponding recording track. It’s what-you-see-is-what-you get, basically, but with one important twist. As the R24’s mixer deals with 24 tracks, but offers only eight faders, the unit uses the same type of channel bank system, which larger digital consoles also tend to employ.
There are three fader banks (or fader planes) available for use: 1–8, 9–16 and 17–24. In the context of recording this means that each input signal can be assigned to one of the three tracks corresponding to its fader: Input 1, for example can thus be recorded either on Track 1, Track 9 or Track 17.
The R24’s inputs have been equipped ith slightly different features: Input 1 is ready to take direct signals coming froma high impedance instruments, such as an electric guitar, in addition to line level signals. Inputs 3–8 offers switchable phantom power (48 or 24 Volts), while the signal off the built-in stereo condenser mics can only be routed to Inputs 7 and 8.
But what happens if you want to record more than, say, three tracks of direct-injected guitar? No problem! The very handy Swap-button lets you swap the just-recorded track’s content with any other track you want. This means that while you have to record certain signals to certain tracks, you can then easily free up these tracks for new recordings.
The Zoom R24 is filled to the brim with useful features: Each mixer channel has its own 3-Band EQ section, as well as two sends to the internal send/return-effect units (Chorus and Reverb). An extremely versatile insert-effect section holds a plethora of fine guitar and bass amp models (lifted from Zoom’s own G2Nu– and B2 effects pedals), as well as algorithms tailored to vocals, drums and keyboards, plus the very useful mastering section.
The sound quality on offer is remarkable for a unit in this price bracket. It would be unrealistic to expect high-end pro-quality effects from what is basically a lower mid-price home recording device. But still, it is quite remarkable what quality you get in return for a modest outlay these days!
As the heart of your own studio, the Zoom also makes it possible to build up loop- and sample-based backings. It is also equipped with a decent built-in programmeable drum machine.
Editing, sampling and looping naturally feels a bit clumsy, when you’re used to grafic interfaces and a large computer display. But with a little persistence and some elbow grease you can achieve astonishing results on a unit such as the R24.
And as if the features so far hadn’t been enough already to make the R24 seem like a real bargain, Zoom is supplying Steinberg’s Cubase LE 5 -sequencer in the box, along with a usb-stick filled with great drum loops by Peter Erskine and Big Fish Audio.
The Zoom R24 is a handily-sized and advantageously-priced little 24-tracker, that will be perfect as you personal demo-machine, or for cutting decent recordings of your band’s rehearsals or gigs in a jiffy. The recording can the be mixed and mastered either internally in the R24 or using and audio sequencer (like Cubase).
And if one of your bandmates happens to own his/her own Zoom R24, you can even slave one machine to the other, and record a whopping 16 tracks simultaneously!
Finnish distributor: Studiotec
Street price: 479 €
• weight and size
• ease of use
• can be run on batteries
• internal stereo microphones
• versatile effects
• basic sound
• all-plastic build
• small display