Once again, Zoom raise the bar for high‑quality, affordable handheld recorders.
In 2019, Zoom brought us the world’s first location recorder that offered 32‑bit floating‑point recording, the F‑6. This revolutionary technology removes the need to optimise recording levels in real time, so is of particular benefit to inexperienced users or those working in situations where levels can’t be controlled or predicted. Other Zoom models (and other manufacturers) soon adopted the same technology, and the latest to do so are Zoom’s new MicTraks, reviewed here.
A range of low‑cost, portable audio recorders, the MicTraks — the M2 stereo recorder, the M3 stereo on‑camera recorder, and the M4 four‑channel recorder — share common features, including the F‑series’ dual‑converter 32‑bit floating‑point recording technology. Powered by AA batteries (two in the M2/M3, four in the M4) or over USB, they record directly to micro‑SD cards (up to 1TB SDXC) and can serve as USB mics when connected to Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android devices. While the M3 mounts directly onto a video camera’s hot shoe (see ‘Rule Of Three’ box), the M2 and M4 resemble large stage mics and are clearly intended for handheld use.
The M2 MicTrak is a stereo recorder, with integral microphones protected under a large open‑mesh plastic grille. It’s 221.5mm long, with a 62mm diameter at the grille reducing to 30mm at the base, and with batteries installed weighs just 204g. Included accessories are a furry windshield, a large plastic mic‑stand clip (with 3/8‑inch thread adaptor) and several Quick Tour guides in different languages. The guide is sufficient to get up and running, but a detailed online manual provides useful background and details of many facilities not mentioned in the guide.
Arranged in a coincident 90‑degree X‑Y format, the mic capsules were designed specifically for the M series and give a wide stereo recording angle (SRA) of around 180 degrees. A summed mono recording mode is also available. One advantage of 32‑bit floating‑point recording is that there’s no need for a manual gain control — the M2 can cope with anything up to a whopping 135dB SPL — so there isn’t one.
The M2’s body is made of a shiny, smooth, black plastic, designed to minimise handling noise, and the top surface is dominated by a small monochrome 96x64 LCD screen. Buttons below select mono/stereo recording, activate a high‑pass filter (off, 80, 160 or 240 Hz), and scale the waveform when the Home screen is showing. When the Menu screen is activated by a button on the right side panel, the buttons navigate the menus and adjust parameters.
The transport controls on top form a quincunx with the large red record button at the centre, and fall easily to hand. Operation is logical and familiar, and all the expected functions, including a 2s pre‑record buffer, can be found easily in the simple menu. A knurled...