Review: Zoom PodTrak P4 and P8

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Review: Zoom PodTrak P4 and P8

Words by Sam McNiece

Dynamic Music | Expect to pay: P4 - $499, P8 - $1,049

Podcasting has come a long way in recent years and nowhere is this more evident than in the plethora of high quality podcast specific microphones and mixer/interface/recorders hitting the market of late.

Gone are the days when podcasters had to make do with equipment primarily designed for music: the modern podcasting production suite is well and truly its own thing, having more in common with small-scale broadcast than it ever did the art of music making, and the medium is all the better for it.

Explore all the latest microphone, mixer and headphone reviews here.

Long heralded as the number one choice for field recording, video work and the like, Zoom was well ahead of the curve with this gradual shift towards podcast specific hardware.

The release of their extremely powerful crossover music/content suite, the LiveTrak L8, was testament to this, showing off the brands capabilities in the podcasting space and becoming a favourite among podcasters the world over, but this was only a sign of what was to come.

For many, the new PodTrak P4 and P8 are the realisation of what Zoom had hinted at with the LiveTrak L8’s podcasting abilities – a versatile, flexible multimedia device designed specifically with podcasting in mind.

All the features we’ve become accustomed to are here with these portable devices, showcasing low noise, high gain inputs and multitrack recording as well as a host of other key features that are sure to pique the interest of anybody dipping in a toe into the rapidly growing medium.

Both the P4 and P8 feature 70dB worth of gain on each mic input, and all channels have access to phantom power. This means you can use basically any mic you’d like, including demanding low output mics such as the SM7B, with ease.

The P4 has four mic inputs and the P8 has eight, and there’s headphone jacks with dedicated level controls for every mic input, ensuring that everyone’s mix matches the impedance level of their headphones.

Unique to this device is USB and TRRS connections, allowing you to connect an external call via your phone or computer for remote participation in your podcast. There is support on both recorders to use Zoom’s BTA-2, to connect your phone via Bluetooth.

It’s worth noting that recording through these two connections on the P4 will take up a channel in place of the mic inputs, whereas the P8 has dedicated channels for these. On all external phone calls, there’s also a mix-minus option to prevent feedback impacting your guests and your recording.

Controlling inputs on the P4 is done via the trim controls for each channel and low-cut and limiter switches are within the menu. The P8 has added functionality with the trim controls accessed via the touchscreen along with the low-cut filter, a combination compressor/de-esser and tone control which either accentuates or dulls the highs and lows in opposition from each other.

Along with these features, the P8 also has eight faders for mixing your podcast in real time. This is also possible on the P4 by adjusting the trim knobs live, but its compact design accommodates for more of a set and forget mindset.

Speaking of live mixing, muting and unmuting panelists is easy with devoted buttons for each channel. The P8 additionally has ON AIR buttons which when deactivated mean that the audio is not recorded or outputted to your stream but still comes through in the headphone mixes.

This is useful for getting mic levels right without your audience hearing ‘one, two, one, two’ repetitively and not outputting unrelated chatter during pre-recorded content.

Both units feature multitrack recording which is a huge win at this price point and the P8 allows you to edit on the device via the touchscreen.

Features such as fades, trim, normalisation of volume and the ability to add background music will surely be enough for anyone using this device as intended as a podcasting hub. All your recordings will be saved to an SD card and both units support up to 512GB card size and can be accessed directly from the USB port.

Using the customisable pads on both units, you can channel your inner shock jock. Pre-load via USB and trigger sound effects, background music or even a previously recorded interview straight from the device and adjust the volume of all the sounds at once with the provided knob.

In line with Zoom’s all terrain approach to audio, all of these fantastic elements can be enjoyed without a wall outlet or wired power supply. Both units can be used with AA batteries or external usb power packs, and if you’e recording for long periods of time, these PodTraks will switch from USB power to battery power without skipping a beat – neat.

But hold on Dr. Podcast: maybe you’d like to use this device to record things directly to your DAW, seeing as your computer is right there in front of you?

Well my friend, the good news is you can do that also. The P4 also acts as a 2I/2O interface while the P8 boasts a sizeable 13in/2out which will be more than enough for most users. iOS class compliance comes standard and means a seamless plug and play experience for all Apple devices.

All in all, both of these PodTrak units from Zoom are incredibly powerful and affordable options for podcasters in all levels of professionalism. The P4 is better suited for small scale operations where portability is key while the P8 shines with its level of flexibility and onboard editing capabilities.

Find out more about both units via Zoom’s product page. For domestic enquiries, get in touch with Dynamic Music.