Zoom’s R8 promises to be everything you’d ever want to take with you on the go in one device. If they’ve pulled it off, it could be more invaluable in your backpack than even your computer. The R8 is a little bit of everything: stereo recording, multitrack editing, a 2×2 audio interface, an 8-voice sampler (complete with little pads), a drum machine (seriously), an effects box with modeling, a guitar tuner, a metronome, and a MIDI control surface. The big surprise: all of this is compact and lightweight and runs without a wall wart – USB power or batteries will do the trick.

I could talk dimensions, but I like Zoom’s way of describing it: “small enough to fit in a guitar case.”

Basic specs:
Recording and editing. Up to 24-bit, 48kHz recording of two simultaneous tracks. Mix up to eight tracks. Undo/redo. And if you forget your mic, there’s a built-in stereo mic, as we’ve seen on previous Zoom project gear. Record on SD for up to 32GB of space.

Onboard I/O. It’s simple, but significant for something this small: you get two balanced combo XLR – 1/4″ jacks for inputs, phantom power, and one channel has a Hi-Z switch for guitars and the like. Output is on two 1/4″ jacks.

Audio interface and control surface. The I/O and faders and knobs don’t go to waste when you’re connected to a computer via USB; you get 2×2 audio operation, plus a MIDI control surface. (I’m not sure if that’s class-compliant for iOS / Android / Linux, but I’ll find out.) Both the mixing and transport functions are active with your DAW on the control surface side.

Sampler, “rhythm machine.” Sample, loop, time-stretch, and trim samples which you can trigger along with track playback for quick composition. It’s no rival for a full sampler – sampler controls have to compete with mixing and editing controls, and it appears functions like slicing aren’t included – but getting this on a budget mobile project studio is pretty nice. You also get a 10-kit drum machine (or “rhythm machine,” as they prefer to call it), with step sequencer and phrase variations. The drum kit doesn’t appear to function with recorded samples, but … again, come on, your Portastudio didn’t do this, at least not without a separate drum machine plugged in.

Insert and send-return effects and amp models. 146 effect types are included, as well. You can use them to add a quick amp model and effects as you record your guitar, or add them live when the box is functioning as an audio interface.

Utilities. Guitar tuner. Metronome. There’s also Windows and Mac support, USB 2.0-speed file transfer of your WAV files from your sessions, and a footswitch input with optional footswitch accessory. Pop in four AA batteries, and you can run for up to five hours, say Zoom. There’s also a copy of Cubase LE included.

Full specs and features are up on the Zoom Japan site:

Questions for Zoom? Want to see a review – and if so, any requests for how it’s conducted? Let us know.