Zoom F8 and Zoom F4 Audio Recorder Review
A Final Cut Pro X Audio Powerhouse
Zoom’s F4 and F8 audio recorders offer some pretty amazing specifications and can create automatic audio subroles for Final Cut Pro X. When compared to higher-end timecode-enabled recorders like the Sound Devices 744T, which go for $4K and up they are actually a real bargain at $999 for the 8 (with 8 tracks)and $649 for the F4 (4 tracks).
Some key specs:
- Up to 24-bit/192 kHz audio resolution.
- Super-low-noise microphone preamps for professional audio.
- Discrete, locking Neutrik XLR/TRS combo connectors for all kinds of wired and wireless mics.
- Time code generation with 0.2 ppm accuracy (unheard of before in this price range or anywhere close).
- Dual recording on two SD/SDHC/SDXC cards up to 512 GB each
- Metal chassis that feels solid as a rock but weighs in at a very friendly 2.27 pounds.
For a closer look at the Zoom F4 and how it works, check out the official product video:
What truly excites us about the F8 and F4 is their support for iXML metadata. With iXML you can name each track something useful on the Zoom and that name will automagically become a Final Cut Pro X subrole upon ingest into Final Cut Pro X 10.3 and up and can be visualized very clearly via the new Audio Lanes layouts in 10.3. Out of the box, each track is named intuitively enough Tr1, Tr2, Tr3 and so forth.
So even if you do nothing but hit record, you’ll automatically have each track neatly sorted in Final Cut Pro X from ingest through to final mixdown.
The one and only trick is making sure your Final Cut Pro X ingest preferences are set correctly for handling iXML metadata. To accomplish this, first launch the Media Import window with File>Import>Media. Then in the Audio Roles section click the checkbox for Assign iXML track names if available:
So just think of the possibilities. Sure you could leave the Tr1, Tr2 nomenclature intact and be able to see all of those channels discretely in the timeline by activating audio lanes and getting the benefits of track assignments without having to actually organize them yourself. Or you could take it to a whole different level by adding more specificity.
Some suggestions for metadata track configuration:
- Name for characters: Bob, Linda, Narrator, Doc Subject 1, etc.
- Name by Mic Type: Lav 1, Boom 1, Wireless 1, etc.
- Name by mix type: Direct 1, -10dB pad, etc.
The Zooms also allow you to do all sorts of bouncing of individual tracks to others for confidence recording at different pad levels and the like. There are really limitless possibilities and the best part is you can do this directly on the Zoom by editing the metadata via the built-in display. Or if you’re in a bit of a hurry to get into production, you can stick with the default track names and rename them as subroles in batches later within FCPX after ingest.
Finishing with A Zoom
The bottom line is you get an incredible amount of metadata organization with the Zoom F4 and F8 because the iXML from the original tracks to subroles will continue to live on as you edit clips into sequences, nest into compound clips and the like. It’s like having an assistant sound editor working alongside you to quickly group and organize all your tracks— only everything happens automatically.
You can just focus on making good edits and when it’s time to do your exports- you can again use the subroles to quickly make sub-mixes and do exports with precisely the audio you want to hear in your final exports.
We think the Zoom F8 and Zoom F4 are essential pieces of kit for your Final Cut Pro X production package. They’re very easy to operate, record very high quality audio and are perfectly complementary to Final Cut Pro via the iXML to subrole ingest power.