Zoom R8 recorder – review after using a year

Updated July 2017

…(awesome) briefcase-sized 8 track recorder…!

(16 Jul 2017) I think this unit is actually still available. I originally wrote the review/notes below in 2014 and still use this device all the time.

(Originally written 2014, some modifications in 2017) See the excellent review and photos by Rich Menga; still very good even though it’s from 2013. I’m going to add a few of my own impressions here.

For various reasons I wanted something very small and portable I could use as a songwriting/scratch pad. I looked at several from Boss and Tascam but settled on this unit. It can be actually battery powered with AA batteries; and even supports rechargeable AAs (! which is an extreme rarity.) It runs several hours on fresh 4 AA alkaline batteries.

The recording medium is an SDHC card. It ships with a 2 GB card containing a lot of excellent drum loops, but you can install up to a 32GB card. I copied the loops to the larger card and there is tons on room now for projects and takes. If somehow you fill up a card just put in a new one…they’re not expensive now.

Two mics are built right into the device. They’re obviously not ultra high quality but fine for recording acoustic instruments/vocals.

The audio effects and processing options are very good. In particular, the guitar effects are great. With an electric or acoustic guitar, or a piano and your voice you can create really good tracks.

I cannot recommend this too highly! One of the things I’m finding out is that I’m more likely to record a passing idea when I can boot this up in 20 seconds, plug in my guitar or sing (or even take a voice note!) into it. You don’t even need to set up mics, but can play an acoustic instrument or sing right into the built in mics!Later on when the whole studio is booted I can easily transfer the audio files to Reaper or Live.

The included loops and rhythm patterns are surprisingly good. Not only that, but if you have a collection of your favorite loops, you can use your computer to copy them to the R8 and use them just as you can with the supplied ones! Of course they have to be 44.1k WAVs, but plenty of those fit on a 32 GB SD card.

Real guitar players have dissed the R8’s built in guitar effects, but for my money I never use my Pod or Korg Pandora. I never play live so for my needs the built-in effects are outstanding. Not to mention the bass, clean channel, mic channel and mastering effects.

The display is bright enough to actually see!

Yes, it can be cumbersome to operate (e.g. trim audio files) but for its size you just can’t beat it. I was looking at the R16 but I really have no need for 8 track simultaneous recording. The R16 uses 6 batteries too, and doesn’t have the rhythm unit that the R8 and R16 does.

Maybe it’s just my own personal taste, but I demoted my Line6 PodXT off my desktop (and onto ebay, sayonara) and only use the Zoom to record guitar tracks into my computer. Sometime I’ll use NI Guitar Rig to punch up the processing. The nice thing is that you can record your guitar lead dry while monitoring effects, and bounce the effected part to another track. Then you can import the clean and FX track into your DAW, and add further effects.

Last modified 16 Jul 2017