Review: Zoom R4 MultiTrak Recorder

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Review: Zoom R4 MultiTrak Recorder

Zoom R4 Multitrak
Words by Andy Lloyd-Russell

Zoom R4 MultiTrak Recorder | Dynamic Music | RRP $369

The convenience of a high quality handheld multitrack recording device cannot be understated for the modern day singer/songwriter, content creator, production sound mixer or foley artist. 

Imagine if Paul McCartney hadn’t had the ability to rush down to Abbey Road when inspiration struck, quickly picking up a guitar or jumping behind the piano, the in-house engineer hitting record and voila, another Beatles hit captured just in the nick of time! The all too familiar story of songwriters having a melody, rhythm or whole composition just appear in their mind’s ear like dealing in a radio station for the idea to as quickly vanish and not having the ability to have captured it in time. You may be thinking “heard of Voice Notes buddy?” and whilst this is indeed true, how many of us really get to trawling through those countless Voice Memos and end up recording that track? Like really …? 

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I for one was lucky enough to just start getting into making music just before cassette recorders were deemed lame and making beats on a laptop was the only real way to make music. The process of recording to one track and dubbing onto another, making some feeble attempt at capturing some moment of inspiration was fun, exciting and kept those who enjoyed such times inspired to keep making music. Those were indeed the days. Fast forward at least a decade, and the iconic Tascam Portastudio and alike whooshed back into vogue. And whilst the process of using these classic units is certainly creatively a joy, the awkward size, inconvenience of being tethered to mains power, not to mention the vintage price tag can render them a little redundant when talking convenience and enhancing creative workflow. 

Zoom R4 MultiTrak Recorder

Zoom have been an unrivalled force in field recording and modern handheld recording devices for quite some time, with their H series being the standard for many a musician, content creator and film sound recordist. Looking at a way to enhance the creative workflow of users, the recently released Zoom R4 MultiTrak 32-Bit Float Recorder hits the proverbial nail for those in need of a recording tool that not only captures high-quality audio, but also requiring the ability to bounce down and continue building a track with more layers.

Very much designed as a tactile, hands-on recorder without requiring endless menu diving for simple tasks,  the R4 presents users with an innovative and easy to navigate front panel, with four individual faders dedicated for each of the four tracks you’re able to record onto. Once these four tracks are all taken up but recording isn’t quite finished, a quick balance, EQ and effects treatment (if required) of the current tracks can be done with ease to then conveniently bounce a mix to a virtual 5th track via the bounce button on the front panel. This then frees up the four tracks to continue building a song arrangement, sound design, or whatever content a user is creating. Taking a moment here to reflect on just how powerful this workflow is for a handheld device, it’s genuinely inspired how much this opens up possibilities for users to keep fleshing out ideas for their songs or content, without needing to dive in the DAW realm or otherwise – just a handheld recorder and their instrument or sound source of choice. Which brings me onto the options available for recording into the Zoom R4. 

Connectivity is simple with two combo XLR /¼” jacks available switchable between mic or line level. Channel one can also be switched to the built- in microphone if an external microphone isn’t required or unavailable. Recording instruments directly is also incredibly easy, sounding great straight off the bat, or if a bit more vibe is required, some sophisticated amp sims and preamp models are available on channel one. Add to this the built-in EQ, echo and reverb effects available on tap and you’re pretty well covered without even thinking about plugins or external processors, keeping users immersed in the creative process. If this processing power wasn’t quite enough, the built-in rhythm section of the R4 offers a wealth of 80 available drum patterns ranging from rock to funk, hip hop to heavy metal. These are ideal for simple practice or for enhancing an arrangement. 

The advantage of having 32-bit floating point technology on a handheld recorder is no gimmick but serves real world use and serves as a big part of the R4’s feature set, offering users a safety net from clipping audio, in case input gain isn’t set quite correctly. This is especially helpful when recording in less than ideal environments such as outside where unexpected wind gushes and other loud and unexpected sounds have the potential to ruin a recording by exceeding the dynamic range of the recorder and clipping the audio, something that production sound mixers, location recordists and foley artists will particularly appreciate, as well as musicians and songwriters who take to inspiration in the great outdoors. This technology is of course built-in to the Zoom R4 when used as an 2-in/2-out audio interface when connected to a computer or smartphone. 

The tactility, near endless potential track count (limited really only to the capacity of one’s storage device) and intuitive workflow of the R4 makes it ideal for a wide range of potential applications and user base. For those that enjoy a slightly more old school approach to recording workflow, without needing to dive into a DAW or even be near a computer, the R4 offers just the right amount of control and processing power to keep inspiration fresh and the creative process flowing. Married with high quality audio capture and the ability to mix and bounce and continue creating a fleshed out arrangement, there’s little that can be said the R4 isn’t appropriate for when looking at what a modern day handheld recorder can offer.

For local enquiries, visit Dynamic Music.