AF’s Weblog

December 31, 2009

Zoom R16: All-Rounder

Filed under: audio interface — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:38 am

Zoom R16 Review

DAW systems are good but you don’t always have a computer by when you feel the rush to record music. Mini studios were created for that purpose: they are practical solutions but not very comprehensive nor ergonomic. That’s why Zoom launched the R16, an hybrid tool you can use as digital audio interface, controller and standalone mini studio. Let’s take a look at the result…

Zoom R16The R16 seeks to reconcile two different worlds: DAW fans who are willing to bear bugs and system crashes to get the utmost versatility and ease of use computer systems provide, and mini studio fans who enjoy integrated, reliable and compact systems at the cost of ease of use and expandability. So, the target user of the R16 is a half nomad, half sedentary musician who needs an audio interface/MIDI controller for his computer in order to comfortably mix and fine-tune his songs at home and a fully standalone and easy transportable recording system. First things first, so let’s begin by unpacking this two-headed beast…

The first impression is good. The white and gray finish provide it a sleek look and the plastic seems sturdy. Its lightness is surprising.  That’s a good point for people planning to take the R16 everywhere with them. This compact interface has nine faders but is slim enough to fit in any backpack. It’s obviously much more bulkier than a portable recorder, like M-Audio’s MicroTrack II or Zoom’s H2, but it offers incomparable recording possibilities! It reminds me a lot of digital integrated studios from Tascam, Roland, Korg, or… Zoom! The plastic buttons and faders feel a bit toyish but you can’t really expect more for the price. Do watch out for the faders because they get loose pretty easily. The R16 is sold with Cubase LE 4, a 1GB SD card and an external PSU. You can also use six AA batteries for 4.5 hours of life (according to the manufacturer’s specifications).

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Zoom strikes a decisive blow offering hybrid technology at a very affordable price. Surely many musicians looking for a portable 16-track recorder, an audio interface and a MIDI controller will enjoy the R16. The R16’s main advantage is that it’s a real standalone product with effects, mics, SD card reader, tuner, and metronome. Nevertheless, we wish it had more headphones or line outputs because It is impossible to provide different monitor mixes to several musicians, forcing you to buy an additional headphone amplifier. The fact that only two mic preamps have phantom power, the headphones and master output level controls are on the rear panel and the documentation doesn’t describe sound card and MIDI controller applications enough might annoy some. But considering the price, such details won’t keep you from trying to get your hands on it. Hats off Mr. Zoom!

Advantages:

  • Three different and complementary applications
  • Eight inputs on XLR-1/4″ combo connectors
  • Battery operation option
  • Effects by the dozen
  • Incredibly light
  • Four-segment LED level meter per track
  • Nice price
  • Nice design

Drawbacks:

  • Only one stereo out
  • Rather ineffective tuner
  • Obsolete ergonomics
  • Average quality of the preamps and some effects
  • MIDI controller application totally ignored in the user’s manual

To read the full detailed review see:  Zoom R16 Review

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