Zoom reimagine the stand-alone multitracker for the DAW generation.
To musicians of a certain age, the name Zoom is synonymous with ‘cheap and cheerful’. Most of us have probably owned one of their guitar multi-effects pedals, or a budget rackmount reverb unit: equipment that might not have rivalled Lexicon or Eventide in quality, but certainly offered excellent value for money. In recent years, though, the Japanese manufacturers have been moving steadily upmarket. Building on their affordable H-series of hand-held recorders, they’ve created a professional field recorder, the F8, and their current audio interfaces in the TAC and UAC lines give nothing away to competition from more familiar names in that field. That process continues with the LiveTrak L‑12.
Way back in September 2009 I reviewed a product that could be seen as its ancestor. An innovative combination of multitrack recorder, mixer, fader control surface and USB audio interface at a very attractive price, the Zoom R16 bridged the gap between ‘in the box’ and stand-alone recording. For the first time, a single piece of kit allowed owners to quickly and easily make location recordings anywhere before bringing them back to the studio for computer-based editing, overdubbing and mixing. (You can read that review online at www.soundonsound.com/reviews/zoom-r16.)
There was a lot to like about the R16, and I bought and still own the review model. However, I’ve always felt there was scope for a more ‘professional’ implementation of the same concept. The R16’s capacity to run on six AA batteries meant that phantom power was available only on two inputs, and compromised the quality of its preamps and other analogue circuitry. With only a single stereo output, mirrored on a single headphone socket, monitoring and cue-mixing options were very limited. Stand-alone recording was restricted to 44.1kHz, there was no digital I/O, and metering was basic.
Almost nine years on, the LiveTrak L‑12 looks a lot like that ‘more professional’ version of the R16. Once again, it seems, Zoom’s core aim has been to create a USB device that will work well as a front end for a computer-based recording system, and which can also be removed from your studio and taken to rehearsals, gigs and location venues for stand-alone multitrack recording. It turns...
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