Zooming Towards My Next Album

Over the past two years, I've been saving my loonies and toonies to get my home studio up to scratch and start recording my next album. Linden Tree near the Water was recorded entirely in Audacity on a creaky Dell desktop running Windows XP. That desktop has since died, and my current computer lacks the firepower needed to run a DAW (digital audio workstation). So, I've gone old school and bought a standalone 24-track recorder. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Zoom R24.

I say "standalone," but really, it's only so if you want it to be. The R24 is also a sampler, drum machine, DAW control surface (a Cubase LE download is included) and computer audio interface. It comes with built-in condenser mics, a metronome and a chromatic tuner. Oh, and it's a powerful effects processor to boot. And did I mention the included USB stick and its 1.5GB of drum loops? That's an incredible array of features packed into a unit that's maybe 15 inches across.

I'd been researching multi-track recorders for well over a year, and I chose the R24 for a few reasons: one, its staggering versatility; two, the number and variety of onboard effects (267, with room for 123 custom patches); and three, I've sampled the Roland TD-11K drums I used for my last project and can play and record this kit on the R24. No other recorder will let me do that save for the Zoom R8, my unit's bare-bones cousin.

The R24's bundle of goodies is, frankly, a steal at $670 Cdn ($500 US). Now, think about that. Especially if, like me, you've been recording at home since the early '80s. My first Tascam 4-track cost well over $800, I believe, and we're talking 1983 dollars. Its recording medium was cassette tape—cutting-edge at the time—and the "effects" section consisted of a few EQ knobs. These days, the quality of recordings you can produce on the cheap is astounding. If your budget is seriously limited, for instance, the R8 retails for $400 Cdn ($300 US) and shares essentially the same architecture as the R24.
I bought my unit a couple of weeks ago but am keeping it under wraps till Christmas Day. It's been a tough year, and I want to cap it off with the ultimate present to myself. In the meantime I've been doing my homework, watching online tutorials, reading the manual and generally getting a leg up before I begin in earnest.
The plan is to record 10 covers to start with. Covers are more fun, and I've chosen an eclectic bunch that should acquaint me with most of the R24's capabilities. And I figure that by the time I've recorded, mixed and mastered those, I'll (hopefully) have made all the mistakes it's possible to make and can apply that learning to my own material.