by Cory Allen
Update: I have edited this entry based on feedback from Glenn and Howie at Zaxcom. Specifically I have removed quotes from a memo considered confidential between Zaxcom and their dealers, as well as some corrections to some of Cory's feature depictions. My changes are indicated by [brackets].
Glenn Sanders hand delivered our first shipping Nomad to Gotham earlier today, but it was somewhat of a mixed blessing. We knew that not all of the recorder's advertised features were completed, but our request to Glenn that Zaxcom openly show on their website the specific features that were missing (and their anticipated implementation dates) were met with reluctance.
[Instead, we were told that it is 100% the dealer's responsibility to inform their customers of the machine's status and that Zaxcom will not be posting this information on their website.]
So, below is our first attempt at fulfilling our responsibility. Our senior tech Cory Allen spent a few hours with the shipping Nomad, and discusses its brilliance, its flaws, [and] its missing features.
Your comments and questions are always welcomed.
[Please keep in mind that firmware updates will be be forthcoming to add these features.]
Sincerely,Peter SchneiderGotham Sound
Today Gotham Sound received a visit from Zaxcom honcho Glenn Sanders, accompanied by our first production Nomad available for purchase. Since it's unveiling in April at NAB, the Nomad has been advertised with a full set of features that hope to make it the choice field recorder/mixer for a variety of productions:
This article is a first-look at the Nomad as it is now, and will be followed by a full "Put It Though Its Paces" review. I have toyed around with a pre-production demo of the Nomad, and with the arrival of the first production unit, I am happy to report that it is real. But does it deliver what it promised?
It indeed has all of the inputs and outputs as promised in the pictures, and they all work. There certainly is something to be said for fitting all of those chassis-mount XLR connectors onto such a small box, sparing the user from the hassle of adapter cables. It is remarkably light and compact for such a capable device. Unfortunately, the small form factor forces the screen down to a size unfit for the amount of information it needs to display. A small line of text cycles between the remaining recording time and mirror status, and you cannot monitor the recording levels while seeing what position your gain trim is set to.
You might look at the Nomad and think that it's similar to other Zaxcom recorders, or even other field recorders in general. However, the user interface is a far leap from any other device used in production audio. There is no touchscreen and there are also no [per-channel] dedicated controls for input gain, panning, or even pre-fade listening. Instead, all of these have been placed inside a layer of software control or a menu accessible by a minimum of two button presses. Some other controls are hidden in nested sub-menus. The allows for enormous flexibility and customization at the expense of speed and accessibility.
As of today, there are still many advertised features missing from the Nomad. Some are big-ticket selling points such as the ZaxNet IFB audio broadcast, timecode broadcast, and transport control broadcast functionality, as well as Auto Mix and Airmail (files sent over Wi-Fi). Some aren't crucial to operation, such as the User Preset Memory Store and Recall functionality. Other absent features like metadata entry and the external USB drive functionality [are more crucial].
But for all of its quirks, it is still impressive. The custom input-to-track, -output, -headphone, -mono out, -tape out, and -secondary headphone busses routing grids make for seemingly infinite custom routing options (even if pre- and post-fade are represented with easily confusable P and X ). Once the absent features are ushered in with new firmware updates (or possibly factory installations), it looks like this really will be a killer recorder/mixer, just one that will take some getting used to.
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