Zoom R20, new 16-track portable multi-track recorder

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The Zoom R20 is a compact all-in-one multi-track recorder with 16 tracks, integrated stereo effects, and a touchscreen with DAW-style editing.

In recent years, more and more musicians have switched to pure hardware-based setups. Also known as DAWless music production. Computers off and on the hardware Synths, drum machines … If you want to capture these jams you can often not get around the computer. Because it is fast and cheap. Unless you use dedicated hardware that is capable to record everything.

Many modern, digital mixers have integrated recording functions where you can record the stereo sum or even all tracks individually on an SD card. The disadvantage often, these are often relatively large and cumbersome for quick jams. Zoom today announced the R20, a multi-track recorder that fits in any jam bag. Very exciting for mobile musicians.

Zoom R20

Zoom R20

It is not yet official as it is not yet on the official Europe/US Zoom website. But the manufacturer has released details on its Japanese website, the region where Zoom has its headquarters. The Zoom R20 is a new all-in-one digital multi-track recorder with 16 tracks from Zoom in a very compact format. 8 of the 16 tracks can be recorded simultaneously in 44.1kHz and 16/24bit. The device does not seem to be able to record higher, which is a great shame, especially in 2021.

Two of its 8 eight inputs are XLR 1/4”, while the other six offers classic XLR connectors. Phantom is also available on the inputs 5-8 so you can also connect microphones to it. In addition to its compactness, it is very hands-on. You get for each input dedicated gain control, record arm button, and level fader. Thus, you have everything under control with your fingers, exactly what you want to see in a hardware-focused system.

Then, you have six transport buttons on the right side including click, rew, ff, stop, play, and record. Very few controls but that is due to the touch display.  The Zoom R20 features a 4.3” touchscreen for multi-track editing. The interface is reminiscent of a small portable DAW with your audio tracks display. It offers classic features like split, copy, paste, and more. Of course, you can also move the color-coded regions at the touch of your finger.

Zoom R20

Onboard Effects & More

As in the Zoom L-series, the R20 also comes with onboard studio-quality effects such as a compressor, limiter, 3-band equalizer, noise gate, guitar & bass amp modeling, and a reverb. The limiter gets bonus points, an important feature that the L-series lacks. Very important for jams. Also included are 150 rhythm loops and 18 synth sources, which can be played via MIDI or edited on a piano roll interface on the touch screen.

However, it lacks real MIDI ports, so it will probably work over the USB-C port on the side. The same is also there for using the R20 as an audio interface for your PC/Mac or iOS devices. It operates as an 8 in/4 out audio interface on macOS/Windows while on iOS only with 2 ins/2 outs. Another USB port allows you to connect an optional Bluetooth adapter for establishing a wireless connection to a smartphone and remote-controlling the recorder using the R20 Control app.

Next to the USB ports, you have an SD card slot. The R-20 records onto SDXC cards with a capability of up to 1TB. That should be enough for most jams.

A very exciting device especially for hardware-focused mobile musicians. A downer for me is the 44.1 kHz recording quality limitation. In 2021 I expect higher specs facing the H6 or the H8 “kraken”. Both have been offering higher recording rates for a long time. Nonetheless, a neat portable recorder.

Zoom R20 will be available soon. Price TBA.

More information here: Zoom

Audio & MIDI News

3 Comments

  1. Wow, I’ve been waiting for something like this. More than bluebox, since it has full-fledged inputs, but without having to keep my computer open. Plus I was lucky enough to Jam once with the band in the video so I value their endorsement, even if paid.

  2. Pretty disappointing that inputs 3-8 appear to mic level only.

    Anyone wanting to use more than one synth or drum machine or external micpre is outta luck I guess.

    I liked using my R16 with the direct outs from my live mixer but that’s not possible with the R20 unless you padded it down and converted to XLR.

    The color display is cool if one can realistically edit on it but I’m not holding my breath there.

    Also no MIDI.

    Not sure what they were thinking here… seems like a fail unless your workflow is a couple of DI inputs and a few mics straight in.

    Hopefully it is more robust than the R16 because that one was pretty fragile. Just plugging and unplugging cables and very gentle use killed mine after only two years.

    • 3-8 have line-level so enough for synths, drum machines, etc. You can also activate 48V in case you need the power for microphones.
      MIDI is probably possible via the USB but no MIDI sockets, yes that’s a shame.

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