Gear review: Zoom R16 Multitrack Recorder


Gear review: Zoom R16 Multitrack Recorder -

Zoom R16 Multitrack Recorder

The Zoom R16 Multitrack Recorder stands out in the realm of portable recording devices, blending flexibility with functionality to appeal to a broad spectrum of audio professionals and enthusiasts. This comprehensive review will explore its features, usability, performance, and overall value.

Design and Build Quality

The Zoom R16 is robustly constructed with a lightweight, yet durable plastic body, making it ideal for location recording. Its compact size belies its capabilities, as it serves multiple roles: an audio recorder, a DAW controller, and an audio interface. The design is intuitive, featuring dedicated controls and faders for each of its 16 tracks, which makes hands-on operation straightforward and effective.

Features and Capabilities

One of the most notable features of the R16 is its ability to record 8 tracks simultaneously, with a total of 16 tracks available for playback and mixing. It supports recording on SD cards up to 32GB, offering ample space for lengthy sessions. Each track is equipped with built-in effects, EQ, and the capability to support 24-bit/44.1kHz audio quality, ensuring professional sound fidelity. As a matter of fact, I've used it to record 24-bit/96kHz audio with Logic Pro X and it works beautifully.

The unit also offers phantom power on two channels, making it compatible with most condenser microphones. Connectivity is generous, with USB 2.0 for easy integration with DAWs, and a built-in metronome and tuner that add to its versatility in various recording environments.


The Zoom R16 is praised for its ease of use. Its interface is straightforward, allowing even beginners to navigate its functions without steep learning curves. For more advanced users, the R16’s ability to act as a control surface for DAW software makes it an excellent bridge between standalone field recording and studio production. And a wonderful feature is that when you have a second R16, you can pair it up with your other R16 and record 16 tracks at a time.


In operation, the R16 delivers clear, crisp audio quality. The preamps are clean and relatively noise-free, and the device handles dynamic and condenser microphones well. The built-in effects are of decent quality, but let's be honest: you're probably not going to use those.


One of the R16’s key strengths is its portability. Being battery-operated, it can easily be used in field recordings, rehearsals, and live performances without the need for external power sources. This makes it incredibly useful for musicians and producers who work in various locations. The best use case is probably to bring it to the rehearsal room and hook it up to a laptop running a DAW. It's absolutely perfect for that and it will run off USB power, which is a big plus.

Other considerations

There is something important to note about the R16 though, which is that it's not the most recent iteration of the series. There is also a newer R20, which has the benefit of extra phantom powered XLR inputs and a touch screen that makes it much more user friendly to use as a portable DAW. However, the R16 has built-in microphones that record a stereo image, which the R20 doesn't. When recording an acoustic guitar, you're actually pretty well off using the built-in microphones. And the same is true for doing a simple recording of your practice session as a band.

In other words: as a multitrack recorder with basic editing capabilities, check out the R20, but if you're only going to use it as a USB controller into your DAW or you want to be able to record quick demos, the R16's got you covered. Both the R16 and the R20 have their pros and cons, so make sure you do your research.


The Zoom R16 Multitrack Recorder is a versatile and capable device that suits a wide range of audio recording needs. It offers excellent value for its price, particularly for those who require a portable, all-in-one solution for both live and studio settings. While it has a few limitations, such as the limited amount of tracks you have at your disposal, these are minor compared to its overall performance and utility. For anyone looking for a flexible, reliable, and affordable multitrack recorder, the Zoom R16 is certainly worth considering. But be sure to also take a look at the newer R20, which boasts many of the same features.