Zoom Podtrak P4 Review Summary and Rating
Zoom Podtrak P4
This is very close to a perfect podcast recorder.
It loses a few points for durability but gets top marks in almost every other category. The price is great for the features included. The only thing that I would like to see is the ability to record to a DAW in multitrack but at this price point, I won’t be complaining about that.
Zoom Podtrak P4 Review
I’ve been thinking about upgrading my podcast studio as I start podcasting again. I wanted to get an all-in-one podcast recording device like the Rodecaster Pro or the Zoom Podtrak P4 or P8. I decided to go with the Zoom P4 because of the portability and the price point. I’m excited to start using this device to record my new show.
It wasn’t long ago that you needed multiple pieces of gear to produce a good quality podcast.
In order to produce a podcast with in-person co-hosts and remote guests and with audio cart buttons that you and your guests can hear during the recording, you would need to buy a mixer with aux sends, a digital recorder or USB adapter for a computer and all sorts of cables to set up a mixer mix-minus to bring in remote guests.
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it. It was!
Well, it isn’t anymore thanks to new audio equipment designed just for podcasters!
Podcasters don’t need to use gear designed for musicians anymore.
Podcasters have different needs than musicians and finally, there is a category of recording equipment designed with podcasting in mind.
Today I want to review the Zoom Podrak P4 which is the most portable of the all-in-one podcast production gadgets.
Traditional Podcast Equipment Setup:
- Laptop adapter
- Digital recorder
- Cables for mix-minus
- Tablet for sound pad
- Headphone amp
* complicated and confusing setup.
All of this can be replaced with the Podtrak P4.
What makes it different from your typical digital recorder is that it does not have a built-in microphone. You will need to plug in your favorite podcast microphone(s).
You can plug in up to four XLR microphones if you have multiple in-person co-hosts or guests.
Each microphone input has a built-in phantom power switch (for condenser mics or dynamic mics with a signal booster) and volume level control.
If you are using a mixture of dynamic, condenser, ribbon microphones, or a Cloudlifter you can individually control each microphone’s access to phantom power. Some audio interfaces do not have the ability to choose which tracks have phantom power. For example, the UMC 404HD audio interface has a toggle switch for phantom power but if turned on all four inputs have phantom power.
You don’t have to record into a computer as the Podtrak P4 has an SD Card slot, allowing you to record without anything else. But if you want to record into a computer or stream your show online you can do so with the Podtrak P4.
What about remote guests or co-hosts?
Two of the Podtrak P4’s inputs can be used to connect to remote guests.
Input 3 can be used to connect to a mobile phone call and input 4 can connect to a computer via USB for Skype or Zoom calls. You can connect a phone to the Podtrak P4 by using a TRRS cable or by attaching the Podtrak P4 Bluetooth Adapter (not included). A computer can be connected using USB which will allow you to bring in Skype or Zoom calls.
But this is where it gets really cool!
The mix-minus is taken care of automatically.
If you have used a mixer for podcasting then you know that you have to set up what is called a mixer mix-minus in order to prevent a delayed echo from interfering with your recording.
A mix-minus sends all the audio (the mix) to the remote guest minus their own voice. Without a mix-minus, the guests will hear everybody including themselves which makes it almost impossible to have a conversation as their own voice echos back at them.
If you want to see how to set up a mix-minus on a mixer then watch this great video from Michael O’Neal. But if you are going to buy Podtrak P4 or another all-in-one podcast recorder then you won’t need it.
On the Podtrak P4, both input 3 and input 4 have built-in mix-minus functionality which is great because you don’t have to set it up yourself each time.
IMPORTANT – If you use inputs 3 and 4 for remote guests then that leaves you only two XLR inputs for ‘in studio’ guests.
You can have 4 in-person mics, 3 in-person mics, and one remote guest, or 2 in-person mics and 2 remote guests.
4 Headphone outputs with individual volume control are built in to the Podtrak P4.
The Podtrak P4 has four headphone jacks with individual volume control so each in-person podcast guest/co-host can monitor the recording at a volume they prefer.
In previous podcast studio setups, you would need a separate headphone amp to do this. It is cool that the P4 has this feature built-in.
4 Programable Sound Cart Buttons
There are also four sound pad buttons for bringing in sounds during your podcast recording.
The Podtrak P4 comes with 11 sounds already built-in including canned laughter and applause. You aren’t limited to these preloaded sounds and can load any sounds you want. If you have intro and outro music you can add it to the sound pad and play it in the show at the touch of a button. And if you receive voicemail feedback you can set one of the sound pad buttons to play that too.
This is especially convenient if you are live-streaming your show.
As there are only four buttons you need to choose wisely because you can not change the sounds programmed into the sound pad in the middle of a recording.
If you need more, you can use software like Playit Cartwall and send the audio through input 4 via your computer connection.
Zoom Podtrak P4 Sound Pad Play Modes
The Podtrak P4 has four sound pad play modes.
Your sound pads can be set up to play with one-touch or by holding the button down. For example, a laughter or applause track may sound better if you can hold the button for as long as you need it but an intro music track can play through with one touch and fade out with the sound pad volume control. You can also configure the sound pad using pause mode or loop mode. Pause mode allows you to play audio that you can pause, make your comments, and then unpause. This is great for voicemail feedback when a caller has more than one question. Loop mode is perfect for a music bed that continuously plays in the show.
How to Power the Podtrak P4?
The P4 is powered by 2 AA batteries and will last for several hours before needing a battery change.
Your device can also be powered via a USB cable connected to your computer or a battery pack.
Built-in limiter and Low Cut Filter
In the menu under mic settings, you have the option for a low-cut filter or a limiter.
What is a low-cut filter?
A low-cut filter is used to reduce the lower frequencies from an audio signal so you don’t get a low rumble in your show caused by desk vibrations or background noise. It can make your voice less bassy and helps to reduce the proximity effect if that is what you want.
Should you turn on the low-cut filter?
It depends on your voice, recording environment, and personal preference.
Podcasting is mainly vocal recording and a low-cut filter can help as the frequencies filtered out are typically below the human voice range.
Note: A low-cut filter is the same thing as a high pass filter. So if you are told to use a high pass filter you have it built into the Podtrak P4.
What is a limiter?
A limiter will reduce the dynamic range of the audio that passes through it. But unlike a compressor that gradually reduces the signal above the target level, a limiter completely prevents a signal from passing through above the selected threshold.
A limiter helps to prevent peaking and clipping by preventing the volume from ever reaching the maximum threshold for peaking/clipping.
Should you turn on the limiter?
The best thing to do is to try it out and see how it sounds in your recording environment. It shouldn’t hurt your recording although it can introduce some noise in certain situations.
Both the low-cut filter and the limiter can be applied in post-production so if you don’t turn them on you can apply these effects after the fact. There are some advantages to hardware effects but if they are over-applied it can ruin your audio because the effects are baked in.
Experimenting with these effects will help you decide if you should use them.
NOTE: Once you start recording you can’t get back into the settings to adjust your per track effects.
The p4 supports multi-track recording direct to the SD Card. This is awesome as each input and sound pad has its own audio track which is great for multitrack editing.
The Zoom Podtrak P4 gives you 5 separate tracks when recording onto SD Card.
If you have four microphones connected to the Podtrak P4 you will get 4 individual microphone tracks and one sound pad track. To edit in multitrack just bring all these files into your DAW and start editing.
Each track is labeled so you know which track has microphones, phone, sound effects or USB connection Skype, Zoom call, or sound effects.
If you don’t need separate tracks then you can choose the stereo mix WAV file. But if you want a separate track for each person then you will find them in the P4_Multitrack folder.
Why is multi-track recording a big deal?
If you have a separate track for each person on your show as well as a different track for your sound pad, then you can edit each track individually. When someone is someone coughing, you can cut that out and leave the person who is speaking in the mix.
And when your sound pad audio doesn’t line up correctly you can move it or remove it from the mix without affecting the people speaking on the other tracks.
Remember – the Podtrak P4 records in multi-track to the SD Card but does NOT record multi-track to your DAW.
I am glad that the Podtrak P4 has an SD Card slot instead of a MICRO-SD Card slot.
I get why we need MICRO-SD cards in smartphones and other small devices but I prefer standard SD Cards in devices like the P4. They are easier to put in and take out.
The Podtrak P4 supports a wide range of SD Cards brands and capacities.
PodTrack P4 Operation Confirmed SDHC/SDXC Cards (as of December 2020)
|SD CARD SIZE||BRANDS||MODEL NUMBER|
|64GB||SanDisk||SDSDXPK-064G-JNJIP – 64GB|
|128GB||SanDisk||SDSDXPK-128G-JNJIP – 128GB|
The P4 can be used as an audio interface to record to a DAW on your computer or tablet.
When using the p4 as an audio interface it will function as a 2 input / 2 output interface. The P4 does not support multitrack recording to a DAW. This is a bummer but given that you can record on the SD Card in multi-track and then transfer all the files to your DAW, I can live with that. It would be great if it did support multitrack as an audio interface but for the price, I won’t penalize Zoom for that.
Does the podtrak p4 need a cloudlifter or fethead?
The P4 has 70db of gain which is more than enough to power gain hungry microphones like the ElectroVoice RE320, Shure SM7b, or the Heil PR40. There is more than enough gain to use these microphones without an additional boost from a Cloudlifter, Fethead, or simply sound device.
The Podtrak P4 LCD Screen
The Zoom Podtrak P4 LCD Menu
The Podtrak P4 menu is simple and easy to navigate. There are only five top-level menu options:
- Sound Pad
- Mic Settings
- File Transfer
Under the Files menu, you will see all the files that are on the SD Card.
Sound Pad Menu
In the Sound Pad menu, you have the option to change the audio on the sound pad buttons. New sounds can be added to the SD Card and they will show up in the sound pad menu.
Selecting the sound pad menu will bring you to the button select screen where you choose A, B, C, or D.
Once you select your sound pad you have a few options.
- Sound Assign
- Play Mode
- One Shot
- increase or decrease the level of the sound pad volume for the selected button
Note: If you are assigning intro or outro music that you will be fading out it is a good idea to lower the gain level in the sound pad setting so you have more room to fade out the music. Otherwise, it might cut out abruptly.
Mic Settings Menu
The Mic Settings:
- Lo Cut
The only option is to toggle on or off each Mic.
The File Transfer menu allows you to transfer your recordings to a computer when connected to a computer via USB.
The Settings Menu
The Settings menu has the most options…
- USB mix-minus
- LCD contrast
- Battery (to select battery type)
- Auto power off
- SD card
- Card Test
- Factory reset
What I don’t like about the Podtrak P4
I really love the Podtrak P4. As you will soon read, I had to really look hard for things that I don’t like about this device. But here they are…
Noisy recording if limiter is on
I’ve read that Podtrak P4 recordings can be noisy if the limiter is turned on. I sort of duplicated that but it doesn’t seem too bad. I will update this post once I have more experience using the P4 as my main podcast recorder.
Small LCD is hard to read
The LCD is small and that makes it difficult to monitor levels and watch for peaking but given the size of the device that isn’t a real complaint because it can’t really be made any bigger. The LCD light goes off while recording to save battery usage and that can be annoying.
Only records in 44.1 khz and 16 bit resolution
The P4 can only record in 44.1khz and 16bit resolution. This is standard in podcasting but some people will not be satisfied with this. I don’t think the Pro Video Coalition will be happy about this.
Limited Sound Pad Buttons
Because there are only 4 sound pad buttons, I was hoping that when you pause one button it would remain paused even if you press another button. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I would like to be able to stack my intro, segment transition effects, and outro on one button and play, pause, play, pause, etc.
No Multi-Track recording to a DAW
It would be awesome if you could use this device as a multi-track audio interface. But I’ll take the multi-track recording to the SD Card as a consolation prize!
The Podtrak P4 housing is made of plastic so it isn’t as durable as other digital recorders but having heard other podcasters complain about the cheap housing I was expecting it to feel more like a toy. Perhaps because I was expecting it to be worse I was pleasantly surprised that it feels durable despite being plastic.
Cables not included
All the cables required to connect to your pc, phone, and charger are not included.
|Item Weight||4.6 ounces|
|Product Dimensions||10.8 x 11.6 x 2.3 inches|
|Country of Origin||China|
|Item model number||P4|
|Batteries||2 AA batteries required. (included)|
|Customer Reviews||4.7 out of 5 stars 315 ratings|
4.7 out of 5 stars
|Best Sellers Rank||#1,674 in Musical Instruments (See Top 100 in Musical Instruments)|
#4 in Portable Studio Recorders
|Date First Available||August 4, 2020|
Podtrak P4 FAQ
What is the difference between the Podtrak P4 and other digital recorders like the Zoom H6
The Podtrak P4 is not as complicated as most other digital recorders and is easy to use. It is designed with podcasters in mind and you don’t have to set up a mix-minus when bringing in remote guests.
Key differences between the Podtrak P4 and other digital recorders
- The P4 does not have built in microphones so you have to supply your own podcast mic.
- It has sound pads which allows you to play sound effects and intro/outro music while recording
- The device can connect to phones and computers and automatically takes care of the mix-minus
- You can record multi-track to the SD Card and stereo mix to a DAW at the same time
- The P4 has a build in limiter and low cut filter
- This device has four headphone jacks with independent volume control.
- The P4 has a plastic housing and some other digital recorders are metal
Can the Podtrak P4 be hooked up to the USB port on a computer
Yes, you will need a USB-C to USB-A cable in order to connect your computer to the Podtrak P4. By connecting to a computer you can bring Skype or Zoom calls into your recording. You can also use your computer to bring in sound effects, music, and voicemail feedback if the four sound pad buttons are not sufficient.
How do I hear the mix back from the computer/computer audio? Do you only get this feature on the phone port or can you hear it on the four headphone outputs/
You will hear the mix from the USB return on channel 4. You will need to flip the switch below the channel gain knob all the way to the right and the audio from the computer connected to the USB port will record on this channel. You will hear the entire mix on the 4 headphone outputs.
Can you record ‘live’ with the P4?
Yes, you can record ‘live to hard drive’ or stream live with the Podtrak P4.
Live to hard drive refers to a recording style where you do not do any editing and all sound effects, intro and outro music, and voicemail feedback are recorded as if it was a live broadcast. Typically, live to hard drive recordings are not edited and are released to the podcast feed as is.
The Podtrak P4 can also be used to stream your audio live on services such as Clubhouse and other applications.
Does the Podtrak P4 support USB microphones like the ATR2100X or the Blue Yeti
The P4 does not support USB Microphones. The ATR2100X is an extensible microphone though, which means it has both USB and XLR connections. You can use the ATR2100X with an XLR cable. Unfortunately, you will not be able to use your Blue Yeti, unless you have the Yeti PRO, as it doesn’t have an XLR input.
Can the Podtrak P4 be mounted to a tripod?
Unfortunately not as the P4 does not come with a built-in tripod mounting thread. You can mount it to a RAM X-GRIP holder or Smart Phone clamp holder which can be attached to your tripod. So, with an extra piece of gear, the answer is yes.
Does the Podtrak P4 come with USB cables and a power supply
You will only find three things in the Podtrak P4 box.
- the Podtrak P4 recorder
- the quick start guide
- 2 AA Batteries
Other accessories you can purchase.
- USB-C to USB-A cable
- Power adapter
- Bluetooth adapter
- Desktop mount or tripod adapter
- Protective carry case
Can I use my iPhone to connect to my co-host and guests
Yes, you can connect any Smartphone to your Podtrak P4 using a TRRS cable, which will allow you to speak to people over the phone and record your co-host or guest through input 3. You can also do this using a computer connected to the USB port on input 4.
NOTE – Make sure you buy the right cable. It must be a TRRS cable and not a TRS or TR cable. If you get the wrong cable you will hear the audio coming from your guest or co-host but they won’t hear you. A TRRS cable has three rings in the plug.
Another option is to purchase the ZOOM Bluetooth adapter and connect your iPhone or other devices via Bluetooth.
How do I transfer files from the Podtrak P4 to my computer
The Zoom Podtrak P4 uses a full-size SD Card. You can remove the card and insert it into your computer’s SD card reader if you need to. I don’t recommend doing it this way though.
You can transfer your audio files to your computer directly through the USB-C to USB-A cable. In the P4 menu select ‘File Transfer’ and your computer will recognize the P4 as an external hard drive so you can easily transfer the files over to the directory of your choosing on your computer.
Can you use wireless microphones with the Podtrak P4
Yes, you can. You need an XLR adapter for your wireless receiver to plug into the P4.
Can I use the P4 to record music on my computer?
Yes, you can. Any audio you connect to the XLR inputs will record into the computer. But don’t forget that when you switch to input 4 to USB Mode the 4th XLR input is disabled and the USB input is enabled. If you need all four inputs then you can record onto the SD Card and then transfer all the tracks to your computer after.
The audio is recorded into your computer is a stereo file and is NOT multitrack. If you need all the inputs on separate tracks then you have to record them into the SD Card.
Keep in mind that the P4 inputs are XLR only and not dual ports so you’re recording instruments will need to be connected to the P4 with XLR cables.
Can I use the P4 on a MAC
Yes, it is compatible with MAC, Windows, iOS, and Android.
Does the Podtrak P4 come with an SD Card?
No, The Podtrak P4 does not come with an SD Card in the box.
Included in the box:
Does the Zoom Podtrak P4 have phantom power?
Yes, The Podtrak P4 supports phantom power. You have control over each track individually and can toggle phantom power on and off depending on the microphone type connected to each input.
Some audio interfaces like the Behringer Uphoria UMC404HD support phantom power but across the entire device. So if you toggle phantom power on it is on for ALL FOUR microphone inputs on the UMC404HD.
With the Zoom Podtrak P4, you can set phantom power on each track individually.
The Podtrak P4 Manual and Quick Start Guide
The Podtrak P4 Firmware
Final Thoughts on the Podtrak P4
After using this device I think it is one of the best pieces of gear that has ever come out for podcasting. Yes, the Rodecaster Pro has is more powerful and supports multi-track recording to a DAW. But it is also 3 times the price and is not as portable as the Podtrak P4.