REVIEW > ReCoRdeR Roundup
• MIDI drum pattern construction kits for creating
• Excellent amp models and effects
arranged by genre and instrument.
• Eight tracks of audio, plus up to 64
“V-Tracks” for additional takes.
tracks per channel), along with independent
pan, level, 3-band EQ, reverb, and solo/mute
for every channel, it’s unusually broad and
deep for something its size. The effects and
models are solid sounding, and they’re logically laid out into preset groups by both genre
and instrument. I especially dug the Surf,
Fuzz Rock, Liverpool, and Progressive patches.
Given the BR’s practical uses, Boss has made
some smart choices here, too. It was pleasantly
surprising to find pitch correction and harmonization among the vocal effects, a slew of
decent mastering effects, plus simulators for
making your electric guitar sound like a bass
or acoustic guitar. Now that’s a real-world,
recording-on-the-go stroke of genius.
When Boss first unveiled the Micro BR in
2007, it was the kind of device that everyone
wanted to get their hands on—a sleek, sexy,
and incredibly portable hand-held 4-track
recorder with effects and amp models, easy-to-
arrange drum machine patterns, and an MP3
player, all in a footprint not much bigger than
a guitar tuner. Last summer, Roland introduced
the first top-down update of the BR, with the
decidedly modernized BR- 80 ($299, street),
which adds a built-in split stereo mic, 8-track
recording, more and better-organized effects
and models, and the new eBand mode, which
makes the BR- 80 a handy practice tool for
jamming with MP3s while having control over
playback pitch and tempo. And just for the
record, it’s still one sexy looking machine.
Boss, Micro BR- 80, Street: $159,
By most accounts, the Zoom H4 stereo and 4-track recorder was a serious slam-dunk when it was released in 2006, and the updated H4N ($299, street) trades on its predecessor’s avvy design while adding some cool extra features—a built-in mono speaker, a bigger, more readable display, a “stamina” mode to extend battery life while stereo recording, and an XY 90/120-degree built-in mic arrange- ment that Zoom argues makes for better cen- ter source intelligibility, a wide stereo field, and reduced phase issues. What’s more, the audio specs have improved with the H4N’s digitally
controlled preamp. In addition to stereo and
4-track modes, the H4N now adds a “4CH”
mode that allows for simultaneous recording of
two separate stereo pairs—use the built-in mics
for one pair, and the two phantom-equipped
• Rugged, shock-resistant build, XLR
inputs, and high-quality stereo mics.
• Bright, readable LED display and easy
• Four-Track mode with bounce capabilities and onboard effects.
recorder and its stereo imaging is excellent,
on par with many more expensive devices.
The H4N is even easier to use than its predecessor, with a scrolling and menu system
that becomes second nature after a few hours
(though you might want to do some deep-breathing exercises for those first few hours).
One place where the H4N clearly hasn’t
grown up, though, is in its amp models and
effects, which haven’t changed a lick since 2006.
Those models were never earth-shattering to
begin with, frankly, and it’s hard to understand
how a major upgrade to this product would
have overlooked such a significant part of the
unit’s appeal. Here’s hoping the next H4 features a major overhaul of the guitar and effect
presets, with vastly improved sonics, patch organization, and far more options. A more inspired
rhythm brain would be a nice touch, too.
XLR/phone jacks for the other, and then mix
the signals in surround or dual stereo.
The mics themselves are a clear step up
from the H4, and the rubberized, shock-resistant build is heavier and tougher.
The H4N compares well to a proper field
Zoom, H4N, Street: $299,