Review & test of ZOOM U-44 and U-24 – universal USB audio interfaces from the Japanese manufacturer of recorders

By the number of possibilities ZOOM U-44 does not have equal competitors. This is a completely new class of devices. It is hardly possible to find a 4×4 audio interface of such compact dimensions. And certainly such an interface can not easily be taken in hand, connect to it a high-quality microphone capsule and record, for example, on the iPad. In conjunction with ipad, you get a modern advanced recorder, with a huge screen and an endless number of applications, with any advanced processing, and for very affordable money. The only thing you need is a Camera Connection Kit or a Lightning-USB Camera Adapter, but most iPad owners already have one, it’s not a problem.

ZOOM U-44 и U-24

The appearance of the interfaces is very similar to a mixing console, so you do not need to explain how to use the device. Unlike the mixing console, there are two specific controllers: the balance of monitoring between the computer signal and the inputs, and the second DAW signal balance between outputs 1-2 and 3-4.

ZOOM U-44 & U-24 – price. Where is the best place to buy?

The recommended retail price of the ZOOM U-44 is about $ 199,99, ZOOM U-24, respectively, $ 149,99. The package includes a USB cable and Ableton Live 9 Lite. At this cost, you can order them on Amazon. I would not recommend ordering anywhere else except on Amazon. Since you are less likely to find cheaper, and if you do not take into account the fact that Amazon is probably the most reliable online store and it very often provides free shipping.

ZOOM U-44 Technical Specifications

Analog inputs: INPUT 1/2
Connector Combined XLR / TRS connectors

(XLR: 2 hot / TRS: TIP hot)

Gain 0 – 43 dB
Input impedance 2.6 kOhm (MIC IN), 1.1MΩ when Hi-Z is enabled
The maximum input level +2.7 dBu (MIC IN) / + 20.7 dBu (TRS IN)
Phantom Power +48 V
Analog Input: MIC IN
Support for microphone capsules Zoom XYH-6, MSH-6, SGH-6, EXH-6, SSH-6, XYH-5
Analog Output: MAIN OUT L / R
Connector TRS (unbalanced)
Maximum output level +10 dBu (at 0 dBFs)
Resistance at the output 330 Ohm
Analog Output: LINE OUT 1/2
Connector RCA (coaxial)
Maximum output level +8 dBu (at 0 dBFs)
Resistance at the output 1 kΩ
Analog Output: Headphones
Connector Standard stereo jack

30 mV x2 (at 32 Ohm load)

Maximum output level +10 dBu (at 0 dBFs)
Resistance at the output 33 Ohm
Digital Input / Output: S / PDIF Optical
Connector TOSLINK
Supported sampling frequency 96 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 48 kHz, 44.1 kHz
Digital Input / Output: S / PDIF Coaxial
Connector RCA (coaxial)
Supported sampling frequency 96 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 48 kHz, 44.1 kHz
Frequency response At 44.1kHz: ± 1.5dB: 20Hz – 20kHz

At 96kHz: ± 2dB: 20Hz – 40kHz

Equivalent input noise -119.5 dB (IHF-A) at 43 dB, 150 Ω load
Number of audio channels Record: 4 channels

Playback: 4 channels

Sampling frequency 96 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 48 kHz, 44.1 kHz
Audio bit depth 24 bit
Interface USB 2.0
MIDI IN/OUT 5-pin DIN jack
Power Source Powered by USB 2.0 (Type B)

Zoom AD-17 DC 5V (Micro-B) network adapter

2 double-A batteries (4 hours of operation with phantom power off)

Power consumption A maximum of 5 watts
Dimensions (L x W x H) 198.8 x 92.3 x 42.7
Weight 310 g

The range of applications of new products is as wide as possible. If you just need a compact USB sound card, then the choice is obvious, this is the U-24 model. If you need to use the device in different situations, even as a stand-alone converter, with digital inputs and outputs, all this can be found in the older model, U-44.

ZOOM U-44 и U-24
ZOOM U-44 и U-24
The most unexpected thing is that under the protective cover of the U-44 there is a proprietary connector for connecting removable microphone capsules Zoom, released for advanced recorders H5, H6. Inside the U-44 are proven high-quality preamps, as in the above models of recorders. Of course, XLR inputs support + 48V phantom power, which means that you can connect any professional microphones. Recording can be done in any format, up to 24 bit 96 kHz.
Power can be carried out from both removable batteries, and from a standard 5V micro USB adapter. Approximately 4 hours of operation are achieved when powered by two AA alkaline batteries, but the battery life also depends on the volume. In addition to standard batteries, you can use NiMH batteries.
Input number 1 has a Hi-Z switch, which turns it into a guitar one, which allows you to launch special applications for guitarists in your computer or in the iPad. Both inputs have an indicator of signal presence and overload occurrence. Green – signal, red – overload. There are MUTE illuminated buttons for quick disconnection of channels.

ZOOM U-44
The interfaces are very light, because their body is made of plastic. Covering soft-touch seems very pleasant and will not let the device slip out of the hands. At the same time there are no sticking handles for which you can accidentally hook your hand – the regulators are recessed or covered with protective walls.
ZOOM U-24
Outputs 4, i.e. 2 independent stereo pairs. The main scenario of use: 1 pair MAIN – speakers, 2 pair – headphones. RCA connectors allow you to connect any kind of equipment, including a DJ.
You will not find the control panel at the interface after installing the drivers. This is not required, because everything is controlled by hardware handles. You can call the ASIO panel with a buffer selection. The minimum size is 64 samples.
ZOOM U-44

Device: ZOOM U-44 ASIO Driver

Features:

  • Input channels: 4
  • Output channels: 4
  • Input latency: 578
  • Output latency: 824
  • Min buffer size: 512
  • Max buffer size: 512
  • Preferred buffer size: 512
  • Granularity: 0
  • ASIOOutputReady – supported

Sample rate:

  • 8000 Hz – not supported
  • 11025 Hz – not supported
  • 16000 Hz – not supported
  • 22050 Hz – not supported
  • 32000 Hz – not supported
  • 44100 Hz – supported
  • 48000 Hz – supported
  • 88200 Hz – supported
  • 96000 Hz – supported
  • 176400 Hz – not supported
  • 192000 Hz – not supported
  • 352800 Hz – not supported
  • 384000 Hz – not supported

Input channels:

  • channel: 0 (In 1) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 1 (In 2) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 2 (In 3) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 3 (In 4) – Int32LSB

Output channels:

  • channel: 0 (Out 1) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 1 (Out 2) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 2 (Out 3) – Int32LSB
  • channel: 3 (Out 4) – Int32LSB

As can be seen from the diagnostics, there is support for any modes, including 96 kHz.
We tried to disassemble the device to look at the stuffing. Traditionally for ZOOM, inside several printed circuit boards. We have a feeling that for the reliability inside the case is covered with glue. So we could not determine the marking of the applied transducers, but the stuff is completely analogous to that found in the H5 and H6 recorders.

RightMark Audio Analyzer test report

Testing device [ASIO] ZOOM U-44 ASIO Driver
Sampling mode 24-bit, 44 kHz
Interface ASIO
Testing chain External loopback (line-out – line-in)
RMAA Version 6.4.1 PRO
20 Hz – 20 kHz filter ON
Normalize amplitude ON
Level change -0.1 dB / -0.3 dB
Mono mode OFF
Calibration singal, Hz 1000
Polarity correct/correct

Summary

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB
+0.05, -0.06
Excellent
Noise level, dB (A)
-98.9
Excellent
Dynamic range, dB (A)
99.5
Excellent
THD, %
0.012
Good
THD + Noise, dB (A)
-74.9
Average
IMD + Noise, %
0.014
Very good
Stereo crosstalk, dB
-91.0
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %
0.043
Good
General performance
Very good

ZOOM U-44 Frequency response

ZOOM U-44 Frequency response

Left
Right
From 20 Hz to 20 kHz, dB
-1.09, +0.07
-1.32, -0.15
From 40 Hz to 15 kHz, dB
-0.08, +0.07
-0.27, -0.15

ZOOM U-44 Noise level

ZOOM U-44 Noise level

Left
Right
RMS power, dB
-97.8
-98.1
RMS power (A-weighted), dB
-99.1
-98.9
Peak level, dB FS
-83.4
-82.9
DC offset, %
-0.0
-0.0

Dynamic range

ZOOM U-44 Dynamic range

Left
Right
Dynamic range, dB
+97.7
+97.9
Dynamic range (A-weighted), dB
+99.0
+99.2
DC offset, %
+0.00
-0.00

THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

ZOOM U-44 THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

Left
Right
THD, %
+0.0126
+0.0128
THD + Noise, %
+0.0134
+0.0139
THD + Noise (A-weighted), %
+0.0169
+0.0173

Intermodulation distortion

ZOOM U-44 Intermodulation distortion

Left
Right
IMD + Noise, %
+0.0145
+0.0151
IMD + Noise (A-weighted), %
+0.0100
+0.0104

Stereo crosstalk

ZOOM U-44 Stereo crosstalk

Left
Right
Crosstalk at 100 Hz, dB
-95
-97
Crosstalk at 1000 Hz, dB
-88
-91
Crosstalk at 10000 Hz, dB
-68
-71

IMD (swept tones)

ZOOM U-44 IMD (swept tones)

Left
Right
IMD + Noise at 5000 Hz,
0.0262
0.0270
IMD + Noise at 10000 Hz,
0.0402
0.0410
IMD + Noise at 15000 Hz,
0.0588
0.0601

When measuring the input to the output, we obtained the total parameters of digitization and playback. Separately, the results will be a little better. So, only for the exit we got 0.007% distortions. The parameters are quite typical for inexpensive devices. A relatively large amount of distortion is obtained at the maximum level of all regulators, this “accelerates” the signal-to-noise parameter to the maximum. In reality, during operation, there is no such high distortion, because we actually measure on the verge of overload.
The interface sounds good, no worse than its competitors for this price. The headphone amplifier is made very powerful. In all professional models of headphones, everything is audible. The quality is sufficient for on-site recording and for a sound track to video. For studio recording, of course, the interfaces of the ZOOM UAC and TAC series are more suitable. These interfaces use better transducers, 120 dB signal / noise, and there will be more performance for the studio.
We recorded the sound from the microphone input U-44 to the Neumann TLM102 microphone. We compared the quality with other microphone preamps. The sound of ZOOM interfaces can be called neutral, smooth, without any color and saturation. The gain level of the preamplifier is not very large, but it suffices.

ZOOM U-44
We are asked to test interfaces in sequencers and editors, so we publish real screenshots. We did not encounter any problems when working with the licensed version of Cubase 8.5.
ZOOM U-44

Conclusions

ZOOM has a lot of experience in creating professional equipment. In the interfaces ZOOM U-44 and U-24 there are so many things that can not be understood right away. Of course, you do not need to use all the functions. First of all, these are inexpensive interfaces, designed for a long daily operation. They are so tightly and securely assembled that we could not completely disassemble them even using a screwdriver. One of the most interesting ways to use the U-44 is to connect the capsule and record without a computer, directly to the iPad or transfer the signal to some other device. There are so many ways of using that all the use cases do not even immediately come to mind. If so many functions are not required, you can always save a little money and buy a simpler model U-24.

ZOOM U-24 video review

ZOOM U-44 video review

Summary
ZOOM U-44 and U-24 - review & test of universal USB audio interfaces
Article Name
ZOOM U-44 and U-24 - review & test of universal USB audio interfaces
Description
Detailed review & test in RMAA of ZOOM U-44 and U-24 - of universal USB audio interfaces from the Japanese manufacturer of recorders. Video reviews. Price
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