H8 Handy Recorder £375
Format PC/Mac, mobile recorder
We do love gadgets that can enhance your computer music-making experience, and this latest gizmo from Zoom looks, on the face of it, to do just that, with a side helping of just about everything else! The Zoom H8 is touted as a field recorder, multitrack recorder, podcast recorder and even an audio interface. As such it could well be a jack of all trades but does seem to have the specs to back up just about all of the claims.
First you can treat it as a 24-bit/96kHz USB audio interface that offers up to 12-tracks of simultaneous recording. To go with this you get four mic XLR inputs (with phantom power), a mic capsule and two XLR/TRS combo connectors. You can record everything to SD card or straight to your computer.
You get three different modes or apps to help the device carry out its various tasks. The Field app allows you to set record levels for all the inputs; in the Music app you get more of a standard mixer environment to adjust levels of inputs which can include, keyboard, guitars and microphones (you could even record the individual parts of an entire band should you wish and mix it all down with volume and pan data); and then finally Podcast mode lets you record from up to four external mics (plus inputs from the supplied XYH-6 XY mic capsule), with four extra ‘Sound Pads’ for playing those essential jingles and music snippets (there are 13 to choose from to start with, and you can add your own files easily).
Other features include a metronome, punch in/out recording, effects and EQ in the Music app and effects in the Podcast app plus markers and auto recording in the Field app.
Mention must be made of the excellent colour touch screen which enables most actions to be made with the deft swipe of a finger and all very intuitively.
Honestly we’re surprised at how impressed we are at the scope of the H8 which seems to turn its expertise to any recording task. You might well pay this asking price for a decent audio interface, but with the apps you get a whole lot more besides. Then there’s around 13 hours of battery life which adds a great level of portability to the concept, although the H8 is way bigger and bulkier than many field recorders and too big for most pockets. Otherwise it’s weirdly brilliant.
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