One of the most intimidating and confusing events in the life of the budding young musician is that tentative first step into an actual, semi-professional rehearsal studio. The dim-lit, dank, decades old grime on the walls sets the mood as you approach the ancient PA system and its gummed up faders. The task defeats many but once you do get the ‘test one-two’s to emanate from the charred speakers, then comes that lasting feeling that maybe this music thing does suit you after all. That first amplified victory is enough for many to maintain a hunger for mixing and recording via channel strips and preamps to varying degrees of success for decades thereafter. Zoom has, for a long time, been the go-to company for portable devices that aid and abet this addiction. Their latest creation, the LiveTrak L-12, sees them expand this logical approach to everything-to-everyone status.
On first glance, the L-12 is a pretty standard offering. It is essentially a 12-channel mixer comprised of the usual eight mono and two stereo strips designed to get your whole band to pass through the eye of a needle. It’s a super compact unit with all the three-band parametric EQ shaping, phantom power in groups of four, individual compression, and in-built effects you’ve come to expect from such workhorse units. Peek beneath the hood, however, and it reveals itself to be much more. Realistically, Zoom have taken their flagship handheld recorder, the H4, and expanded it to include just about every morsel of functionality ever wished for in rehearsal situ.
Boasting some of Zoom’s cleanest preamp stages to date, the mixer itself not only drives speakers but doubles as a DAW interface as well as being ready, willing and able to store your jams on board when the groove catches you unawares. You have at your behest five individual monitor mixes, user preset setting snapshots for lightening fast recording set up, quick-punch overdub function, and any number of other studio tricks primed to make demoing and live recording a breeze. The idea is that it’s a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to make the most out of their space the moment the instruments come out. Instead of trying to recreate the energy later, the L-12 lets you fire up the record engine whenever and wherever the mood strikes.
The success and failure of any unit that promises this much is purely and simply whether or not it delivers on said promises. As a simple live mixer, it certainly rises to the occasion with everything laid out as straightforward as is to be expected. As a quick recording device, however, Zoom have really hit the nail on the head as far as making one of the more complicated aspects of the creative process relatively plug-and-play. There is little to no fiddling around once you know your way around the controls, bringing the idea of simple and effective demoing closer to flick-of-a-switch reality.
In a day and age where bedroom recordings and clandestine production techniques are more widely proliferated than ever, it stands to reason that a company like Zoom should bridge the gap between the successful tinkerer and the seasoned studio expert. The L-12 is not just another tool for those in the know, but rather a way for anyone and everyone’s most spontaneous ideas to pass from conception to actuality. It’s not rocket science, it’s rock’n’roll, and it should, would and could happen to anyone.
Hits and Misses
Simple yet effective distillation of mixer/recording hub functionality
They are yet to bring out a 24 and/or six channel version