Let’s skip the specs and get straight to the point: this should be a product category. Zoom’s new box is a mixer, audio interface, effects, and audio recorder in one.

And that’s significant, because across genres from electronic to traditional instrumental, people need to do all these things. You need to mix signals. (Now, even electronic musicians are fairly loathe to play with just a laptop and nothing else.) But you also might need to connect a computer. But you might want the mixer to still be a mixer when the computer isn’t there.

And then, above all else, you need to be able to record the damned gig. You know, like, just in case you don’t totally suck.*

And that’s what this is.

It’s a mixer. that can record up to 14 tracks at once, or play 12 tracks at once. (The first two channels are Hi-Z for an instrument, and 1-8 offer 48V phantom power for power.) It’s about as small as it can be but still has full-size connections and actual faders.

It’s a headphone monitor with five outs with mixes you can customize and save.

It’s a click track source with a metronome built in.

It’s an audio interface when your computer or tablet or whatever is there. No drivers needed, so it works with iOS, Raspberry Pi, whatever. Four outs, so you can do 4-channel mixes or a separate monitor mix and stereo to the PA. It works as an A-D converter, too, with latency adjustments.

It’s a recorder. Automatic start/stop. Load projects via USB, or just take the SD slot out. Connect a footswitch if you want to start recording that way.

And it’s got compression and effects. Built-in compression control for 1-8. (Zoom’s compression used to be awful on its early recorders; they’ve fixed that.) And there’s delay and reverb.

So it’s the session recording, mobile recording, practice tool, live performance tool your band / solo electronic act / ensemble needs.

$599. Available in September.

I’ll probably get one. And kudos to Zoom, too, for their video recorders, which similarly understand life for the musician in the age of the Internet.

But if competitors are smart, they’ll get on this category, too. Because I believe it really will be a category. (A 6-channel version of this that fits in a backpack would also be lovely.)

LiveTrak L-12 [zoom.co.jp]

* Actually, I’ve some bad news for you: probably now that you have the recorder with you at all times, you will suck all the time. Seriously. The thing that made those live gigs so great was the fact that some idiot didn’t understand how to use your recorder, or you forgot the batteries, or you didn’t have the right adapter cable.

Then again, be positive. Probably, one day when you least expect it, you will play once more at that level of genius, spontaneity, and innovation, right before you accidentally drop the SD card from LiveTrak L-12 in a river full of piranhas.

There you have it: the LiveTrack L-12. Gee, why don’t manufacturers let me write their ad copy for them?

The competition.

Okay, if you don’t mind carrying your own recorder, there are now many mixers with built in audio interfaces. But probably the nearest rival to this comes from PreSonus. It doesn’t have the track count of the Zoom, or the band-oriented separate headphone outs and various extras. On the other hand, it’s more compact and has the dedicated sends this is missing.

StudioLive AR8

Maybe you’re happy using some other solutions, too. Let us know in comments.

  • Jean-Philippe Huard

    Why is it that none of them ever creates a mixer that sends the fader BEFORE going to the USB?? Is there some kind of witchcraft that stops them from doing so??

  • Apeirophobe

    As for competitors, there’s already the Behringer XR18 if you can live with using a tablet as the control surface (or xtouch). Bonus: you get OSC and midi I/O, 6 aux sends, ultra net, much better scene/snippet/library functionality.

    • It’s an interesting piece, but … that’s not the same as having a dedicated recorder. And given that it’s at the same price, I’d choose the recorder and having physical faders. Once we go this route, there’s a lot of competition … but I was scratching my head thinking of something that’s as simple as mixer/interface/recorder quite like this.

      • Christopher Edmondson

        Here is the version that fits in your backpack. https://www.sounddevices.com/products/recorders/mixpre-6

        • Oh yeah… that I’d put in a different category, *but* … was thinking of writing up this, too. It’s in a whole new class for mobile recording.

          • Christopher Edmondson

            I have one…it kicks butt. Kind of a cliché but a true battery powered Swiss army knife for audio and the preamps sound incredible.

  • Stéphane Picher

    Dam’, are you sure there isn’t a zero missing at the end of that price?

  • Will

    Would love love love to see more stuff like this. Been looking at older stand alone digital recorders to use for both live mixing and recording purposes.

    As a mixer for live use, this is a little underwhelming. Mainly that pan and basic EQ are shared controls and there’s no right-this-second way to see your pan or EQ settings across the mixer at once. They might have a tiny screen for it but we all know how those go when you’re in the middle of a set…

    What’s very cool and rare to see is all of those discreet mix outputs—labeled for headphones but they could presumably be set up as 5 discreet FX sends—a boatload for something this size/price. But then you run into the same ‘see-right-now’ problem since the faders are repurposed for building those send mixes (vs dedicated aux knobs). As soon as you adjust the send for a given channel and switch back to ‘Master’ your faders no longer represent your mix.

    For both pan and sends at least, a lighted encoder per channel would really help. Those could also be repurposed for EQ per channel ala older Roland/Yamaha digital mixers. Main thing is that they update in real time and give you a way to see X for all channels at once.

    As a stand alone multi-tracker, I wonder if this will fall into the same trap other Zoom products have fallen into: too many features for one box which leads to tons of menu interactions and no single use case fully realized.

    This is reading sour. I think this thing is cool and I appreciate Zoom’s dedication to price:features. Going to have to try this one in person though.

    • Jyoti Mishra

      If you’re interested in older recorders, I have an Akai DPS24 Mk2 and can highly recommend it. Dunno if they come up second hand much, though, people tend to hold on to them.

  • Karlis

    Very skeptical towards this regarding sound conversion, preamp and general build quality. I’ve run across 2 independent units of the Zoom UAC-8 which were just awful in all of these areas, with uneven frequency response in the ins and outs, preamps that stop functioning, adat that doesn’t work with other big name interfaces and drivers that are very sporadic in their performance.

    The Zoom H4n has been a classic on the go recorder and has proven itself from time to time that there can be a cheap solution to location sound, but I stay reserved to this as it has a ton of features, moving parts and potential flexibility issues that seem to hover around this low pricetag.

  • AdB3

    Lovely idea, nice layout and I very much want something like this….
    But I’d be very hard pressed to choose it over a Behringer XENYX UFX1204 or better UFX1604

    • Blue Monster 65

      Have you used either of these? I keep getting interested, but then back away as they’re from Behringer and I have a hard time getting around that. How do they sound? Build quality? Etc.?

      • Neil

        I’ve got a 1604 and no problems so far. The WAV recording to a USB drive works perfectly.

        • Blue Monster 65

          Thanks for the info!

          • Robin Renwick

            I am not sure about the smaller form mixers from Behringer, but i recently used a Behringer X32 for a very complex feedback/experimental music project.

            I was amazed by the ease of use, flexibility and versatility of the machine. It has a 16 channel interface I/O, that can be used simultaneously.

            Can’t comment on the longevity of the build quality, as it was used for one project – but the thing seemed sturdy enough.

          • Blue Monster 65

            Thanks for your reply, too! I’m familiar with the Soundcraft digital boards, but I’ve yet to spend any time on the Behringer ones. They seem fairly similar in their approach, though.

  • Tony Scharf

    Give me inserts and a external send returns and this would be my dream machine!

  • Daniel Arena

    The PreSonus ar12 also does basically everything this one does as well, and is possibly even a bit cheaper. Very cool box but I wouldn’t trust it in a backpack – I have serious doubts about how much light wear the thing would cope with. It’s otherwise amazing though.

    • Dave O Mahony

      Hey Daniel – truthfully I know very little about these things as I was looking more towards the XR-18/iPad for the future myself but, can the Presonus multi-track or is it just stereo (when stand alone)? That would be a big advantage for my use.

      • Daniel Arena

        internal recorder on the PreSonus only records the stereo master bus as 2-track. but as an interface you get post-preamp pre-eq feed of 12 or 14 tracks or something. I think it has two tracks with inserts and a couple of aux buses as well (but no compressor per-track).

        • Dave O Mahony

          Thanks for taking the time Daniel! I think if the Zoom can multitrack, and most importantly if the sound quality is there (but Im almost expecting that these days) I’ll be very interested in this for gigs and recording.
          Thanks again!

        • Joris Visser

          Stupidly the PreSonus also only records multitrack with its own software (Studiolive) and not with other DAW’s.

          • Daniel Arena

            That’s not true. It exposes a full set of inputs over ASIO and works flawlessly for me in Reaper on Windows.

          • Joris Visser

            Ah, that’s good to hear, sorry for the misinformation then. Multiple sources on the internet declare the AR mixers to only multitrack-record with presonus software. What is your opinion on the fader quality of the AR-12?

          • Daniel Arena

            maybe it was a limitation at launch but was later fixed? either way, works great for me.

  • Will
  • Tom Whitwell

    The record section shows everything that’s wrong with this kind of hardware – imagine peering at that tiny LCD screen while fiddling with a push encoder and prodding the tiny menu button. The Behringer UFX1204 (on the left) has a very different approach…

    https://llllllll.co/uploads/default/original/2X/2/26c070305d819b1983914c94a533f72df8154ecc.jpg

    • Robin Parmar

      So a three-digit display is better than a hi-res OLED that can actually tell you something? I don’t get it. And generally you’d only be in the menu for setup. The mixer has hardware controls for all the essential stuff. So, a lot more hands on than the usual multitrack recorders people are already used to.

      • The poor color contrast on the new Zoom as opposed to the clearly laid out buttons on the Behringer…

  • I want Korg to do a new version of the Zero8 and then I will be happy. Nothing comes close to this old Zero8 for having an audio interface mixed with a truckload of midi control 🙂

  • Charlie Cowper

    Can anyone tell me if the internal recorder would record each channel post eq, post send and fader? All previous style units don’t seems to allow you to burn in your actual mix, only recording the dry signal.
    Have I explained myself correctly? Any info on this would be much appreciated.
    I’ve been a longtime user of the korg D888.
    THanks.

    • Charlie Cowper

      @peterkirn 🙂

    • Will

      I dunno about the individual tracks but this will also record the master while recording the individual. You’d get your mix captured there at least.

  • Charlie Cowper

    I wonder if the footswitch start-stop could be controlled via CV? 🙂

  • Florian Krause

    I wish some company would build such a mixer with a proper audio
    interface built in (i.e. low latency, support for high sample rates…).
    I am still hoping for Mackie to release a recording mixer based on the
    VLZ line…who knows…

    • Nicola Larosa

      Sampling frequencies higher than 48 KHz are a swindle and a waste, don’t ever use them.

      • Florian Krause

        For playback, yes. But we are mainly talking about recording here of course.

        • Nicola Larosa

          Same thing. Bit resolutions higher than 16 bit are useful for production, but higher sampling frequencies never are.

          • Florian Krause

            When talking about 192 KHz, you are right. There is no reason to use this for either playback or recording.

            There are, however, good arguments for recording higher than 48 KHz:
            https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-why-882khz-best-sample-rate-recording

            And there can even be made an argument for playing back higher than 48 KHz: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15130667

          • Nicola Larosa

            The Sound On Sound article only references outdated technical problems.

            The Hacker News comment contains a lot of name calling and one interesting sentence: “conducted blind tests between 96KHz and 44.1KHz audio (for people who were shocked to immediately notice differences)”.

            I am aware of no reproducible, and reproduced, double-blind tests that prove those claims. Do you know of any?

          • Florian Krause

            Not sure what you mean with “outdated technical problems”.

            As far as I understand, most double-blind tests only compare different playback sample rates of the same material (recorded at high sampling rate vs. down-sampled version of the same), but not two different recordings (with matched microphones) with low and high sample rates. Do you know any of these? That would be very interesting to see.

          • Aaron Lazansky

            Tell that to Richard Devine…. lol

          • Nicola Larosa

            Not sure how that’s relevant, and interacting with an unusable Flash website in 2017 is kind of hard anyway. 🙂

  • Robin Parmar

    After the success of the F8 and F4, it seems Zoom really aren’t fooling around.

  • Mike harper

    The Allen & Heath QU series consoles can work as mixer, DAW controller, and Audio Interface with the Built in USB B port on the back. Also use a flash drive or USB hard drive to record stereo or up-to 16 track multi-track.

  • Pete Sandbach

    Behringer UFX 1204 & 1604. Multichannel USB or FireWire audio interface, Multichannel recorder to USB stick (although minimal editing in the unit itself, but perfectly capable of recording a gig), and capable mixer to boot. I love mine!

    • Aaron Lazansky

      With this UFC unit, Can you record multiple tracks & then mix them later? Or can you render out each track so you can mix in a daw? Curious….

      • Pete Sandbach

        You can. If you record onto USB stick you will have a folder with 16 individual wav files, one for each channel and 2 for the stereo mix.

        The channels can also be assigned as inputs on a DAW of your choice.

        Playback from usb is restricted to the stereo mix only as far as I can work out so there’s no editing onboard.

  • viridisvir

    Funny. I’m in the market for an interface lately and have been a little shocked by some of the issues reported for Focusrite and PreSonus boxes (quality of the preamps for the former and driver issues for the latter.) Was also looking at the Steinberg UR22mkII for its iOS compatibility… Also shocked by how well reviewed the Behringer models are. I keep thinking there has to be a catch.

    Anyway: this Zoom review is just adding to my confusion.

  • hellojeffreyjames

    Keith McMillen K-Mix has been out for a while and is a very good 8 channel interface/mixer/control surface. This zoom is probably the first device that will give it a run for its money, but the Kmix is still wonderfully small, powerful, indestructible, has built in FX (with per-channel DSP parameters, not just wet/dry), can be a midi control, and has midi i/o expansion options, surround mixer capable, and can run off one of those usb cell phone battery chargers.
    https://www.keithmcmillen.com/products/k-mix/

    • CUCKOO

      I second that. The K-mix is a serious alternative. But the reverb I find useless. And I’ve on many occasions also had trouble with low level distorting vocal recordings on the K-mix, where on the Zoom H6 the levels are good and it doesn’t distort… and sounds more detailed for some reason? Very interested in checking this thing out.

      • hellojeffreyjames

        have you checked out the Zoom LIVETRAK L‑12 yet? I am thinking about selling my K-mix to get one. It’s a bit more traditional (aka vulnerable to coffee spills), but maybe they succeeded in areas where kmix seems to have a little trouble? I’d love to see a video about it. Maybe Zoom will send you a test unit?!

  • Fastguitars

    There seems to be no review of this device that specifically states you can record to SD, internally, one track at time, and build your song this way till all 12 trks are used
    It seems to be one more unit that is designed as “all at once” only recording of all tracks.
    I guess, eventually, someone is going to find out and mention it in their review.

  • Nicola Larosa

    I like this mixer a lot, but two things bother me with it.

    The absence of solo buttons is inconvenient, but can be worked around using a monitor mix.

    However, it looks like the reverb doesn’t go to the monitor mixes, and since it doesn’t have a separate output, that cannot be worked around. Only having dry monitor mixes is going to make rehearsing with headphones rather unpleasant.

  • CUCKOO

    Wow, you have no idea how many years I’ve been searching for this exact device! I’m using the K-mix which I think counts as an alternative. It doesn’t have internal recording, but it does have a MIDI mode. Super excited to learn more about this thing!! Great pricing!

  • mrrafs

    Testing my K-mix out live next weekend…

  • Darnell Stewart

    I think the concept is amazing but there needs to be a mix mode … A mode that brings tracks back through the board for mixing via usb