Zoom Podtrak P4 – The king is dead. Long live the king.

We sporadically create podcasts here at IT Babble and for the past six years, the device of choice has been the Zoom H6. A piece of technology that has never failed me (how often can you say that about any tech). I’ve used it as a USB microphone, to record voice overs for tutorial videos and of course for podcasts and as a mic in the field. It has been great and I have a deep appreciation and love for the H6. So why the sudden shift?

Money and such

This is a pretty simple exercise here. I was able to sell my H6 for $250 on eBay and purchase a brand new PodTrak P4 for $150 on eBay. I already had the microphones and XLR cables for the PodTrak so I was pretty well equipped to make this switch and pocket a $100 in the process, so it was a pretty easy decision.

What do I gain?

The PodTrak is a great device specifically designed for podcasting. It makes it super easy to hook everything up and get recording. One thing that is great about the PodTrak over the H6 is that there are four headphone jacks.

So everyone involved in the recording can hear what they will sound like with everyone else. It makes balancing out the volume levels of the speakers a lot easier.

Also, there it is easy to use a mix minus setup for phone calls or someone joining in through a video conference app. In short, the mix minus allows for their audio to be recorded by the PodTrak and also allows the people on the phone call/video conference to hear your audio as well. To turn this on you simply toggle a switch or go into a quick menu setting and just enable it. It’s pretty awesome. The H6 can do this but it is a bit of work. Here is a good explanation from podcastgym.com.

Muting people during a recording is also a nice touch. There are times when a guest may need to get up and walk away from the mic. Rather than capturing all the noise of taking off headphones, pushing a chair out and walking away you will want to mute them. The H6 does not have this ability. You can achieve it by turning their gain to 0, but it is way easier just to push a button which is exactly what you do on the PodTrak.

The feature that I am really excited about are the soundpads. There are 4 buttons on the PodTrak (labeled A-D) and when you press them it will play a pre-recorded sound. The PodTrak comes with 12 different sound effects that can be assigned but you can easily add your own. Also, you can change how the buttons behave. For example, if you press a button it could just play the entire sound or you have it so you have to hold the soundpad down to play the clip, or you can press the sound to start the clip and then press it again to pause it.

Finally, and this isn’t a hardware feature or anything, but it is dead simple to use. The H6 is pretty simple but if you wanted to plug multiple headphones into it, well there was usually other equipment and some hoops you may have to jump through to accomplish this. Also the H6 is very powerful and more versatile than the PodTrak. It has its own built in mixer, you have lots of control with different filters that you can apply to different channels and more! The PodTrak in comparison is just so straightforward. The menu is not a deep, branching set of options, it really is as simple plug everything in, turn it on and hit the record button to get going.

It’s not all rainbows

The PodTrak P4 is a great device, but it is not all unicorns and rainbows here folks. Do you know what is included with the PodTrak? Check out the image below:

SD Card? Data cable? Am I missing something?

Nope, that’s it.

I was really hoping there were two more items. I wish it included an SD card (even if it was a small one) and I really think it should included a short USB cable so you can connect it to a laptop/computer so you can transfer data to and from. Also a data cable would allow you to connect to a computer for capturing the audio from a video conference.

This isn’t something I am terribly angry about, but it is something that makes it a more complete solution right out of the box.

Also, I lauded the simplicity of the PodTrak but that simplicity has a double-edged sword. It can limit sone of your options. Having some basic mixing options would be nice.

For students

If you want to add podcasting to your class and have a little classroom money, then go for it! This is easy enough to use even for third/fourth graders. The cost is pretty doable too:

Also, if you are familiar with Zoom equipment then you know how well built these devices are. The Zoom H6 is a tank of a device and while the PodTrak is not as “tanky” as the H6 it is a really well built device. If it got dropped once or twice I wouldn’t be too worried about it. Also I was expecting the PodTrak to be smaller than the H6, (not sure why). As it turns out, it is roughly the size of a PS4 controller which isn’t too bad.

I’m looking forward to doing a more thorough walkthrough and review of the PodTrak P4 which is coming quite soon.

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