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Gotham's Initial Impressions of Zaxcom Nomad

Gotham Sound

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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].

To The Jwsound Community:

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.]


Peter Schneider

Gotham Sound


\Initial Impressions of Nomad

by Cory Allen

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:

  • 6 Analog Mic/Line Balanced Inputs, 4 Analog Line-Level Returns/Inputs, and 8 AES Inputs for a total of 16 Inputs Busses, all able to be custom routed to any Disk, Output, and Headphone bus.
  • Up to 12-track recording on two mirrored CompactFlash cards, plus recording on an external USB flash drive/hard drive. Additionally, the external USB port can be used to record MP3 transcription, or send files over Wi-Fi.
  • Internal ZaxNet IFB Transmitter for IFB audio broadcast, timecode broadcast, and Zaxcom transmitter transport control broadcast.
  • Auto Mix functionality.
  • Dual A/D converters per mic input providing a claimed 135 dB dynamic range, dubbed Never Clip.

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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I've felt for a while that this baby is trying to be all things to all people.

Therefore I expect that something else will follow it which has learnt this lesson the hard way.

I got a SD552 instead of the 788t cl8 combo for this reason. I find the SD552 complicated enough to show others as proved this week. If you ask me simplicity is a word missing in the design brief of the Nomad, but it's pretty important when working outside in the cold/wet/heat/stress/rush etc.

And personally I think releasing things unfinished is a serious business mistake.

The competition are probably laughing themselves silly with glee about these missing features.

Not that I'm anti Zaxcom. This machine just doesn't appeal to me in the way a Deva would if it had a few more inputs. I just want a device to do one thing really well. That's what the 552 does and I would keep that and like t add a large count recorder like a Deva but with a few more inputs.

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Not sure what can be seen on the display panel, tho I guess there's a lot of information.... And from there can't see it's going to be better than the 788

One wonders what the rush was to bring out the Nomad before all the advertised functions were implimented? Will not make for happy campers.


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As you probably know I've been beta testing Nomad, so I am fully aware what Nomad can and can't do. Granted some of the features of Nomad, that makes Nomad different than other mixer /recorders, are not available yet. But given that Nomad is a fully functioning mixer / recorder. And I've been successfully mixing and recording it for quite a bit of time now. Features like Zaxnet, Automix, Airmail and the USB drive are nice features, and while it would be nice to have them right now, the lack of them hasn't stopped me from using Nomad. The meta-data entry is right now partially functioning but it is being worked on as a priority, and as of a conversation I had with Glenn about this yesterday, I probably will be receiving a software update to make this fully functional either later today or sometime tomorrow.

I know Zaxcom has been wrestling with the fine line of when to release Nomad. Do you wait till all the bells and whistles are done to release? Or do you release it when it is a functioning machine and the user can update the features with a simple software update? The release has been pushed back several time, as many of you already know. But Glenn and Zaxcom figured that this is the right time. Any updates to turn on new features will require a software update and no hardware updates or changes will be necessary.

In my opinion dealers and Zaxcom alike should make the customer aware of what features are working or not working yet, and it should be up to the customer to take Nomad in its current form or wait till the features they want are available.

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The moment it comes to Sweden (and I have the money) I'm buying it. I don't care how many features are missing right now, it's going to rock when all of it's there.

Look at the iPhone 4S. Its primary selling point (SIRI) is only functional in three languages (and what about accents?) They're releasing it anyway cus people will buy it nonetheless. Noones complaining.

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I dunno... I am not a fan of releasing something lacking key features. Delays can be solved by keeping a lid on the product until it's closer to being complete. Adding some un-promised extra features down the road, like linking machines and sound reports and auto-mix (788T), is a real treat. Failing on promises, and the seemingly endless introduction of "better" products, is really what has kept me away from Zaxcom, even though I am now more able to afford them.

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" Is the update achievable by firmware or the unit has to be sent to the factory? "

" would first be sold to the customer, then have a recall request "

just ask any RED ONE owner... >:D

But that's different though... They would have to update the whole sensor and have it switched. But the case with the nomad (at least that's what they tell you of course) is that it's interiors are the same on all the "models".. So it would just be... weird if they'd have to be sent back to factory. Weirdness

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As many have, I too have been waiting for this machine....

After waiting, watching, reading and listening, it looks like I will wait a number of months to let the situations get worked out before jumping in.... I feel pressure to push it out... since April...

The Nomad seems very nice, and I like what I hear and see, but also wonder, why not simply a 788 and a CL-8? This option keeps screaming in my other ear.... I have used 744ts for years and like the machines...

We'll see how this all shakes up..... I keep going back and forth.... funds are sitting and waiting.... I just need to pull the trigger....

Thanks Gotham..... even more flustered.... enjoyed your take on things...

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" wait a number of months to let the situations get worked out before jumping in. "

This remains a popular option for many folks... not everyone wants to be the first early adopters, and this is true in lots of situations...

Even after any beta-testing phase, when getting a significant number of units out into the wild, there are often additional issues (small, medium, and large) that seem to come up, and get resolved; thus many folks like to take a wait and see approach

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All dealers are getting their units this week with the same notification. So that it is not the same as the past Zaxcom equipment releases. This time, instead of having the public do the beta testing, Zaxcom actually had long trials of real world beta-testers, like Jack. As is the case wilh all software driven products, some bugs will only be found through the first round of Nomads sold. Although the Nomad existence was eventually "leaked" early, it was kept in total secrecy for over two years. Even I didn't know, just Jeff Wexler and a small handful of others who didn't blab (like I certainly would have).

Deva got so much flak for adding more features over time, for this release, Zaxcom is offering it only to customers who are willing to buy units while waiting for more features to come later. It's their choice to wait and purchase the Nomad later or buy one now. That seems pretty fair since it's all up front.

As with the Deva, I'm sure there will new features added along the way that are not even a gleem in Glenn's eye now. This already happened with the "never clip" feature that was just added to the list a couple weeks ago as a potential addition to Nomad.

John Coffey

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As I understand it (and have now done 6 or more times with the beta software) - the upgrade is simply a file, that you copy onto a CF card, then power on the machine whilst pressing the '*' key. The machine then goes into upgrade mode and it takes about 3 mins to sort itsself out. All of my upgrades (including 2 this week, maybe 4 in the last week) have been faultless.

The software is coming together swiftly, and the imrovements have been considerable, even in the last few days.

I am not actually working much this week and next, but I really am at a point now where I'd be pretty happy to take my Nomad out to work.

The Neverclip business really is quite cool - I have had a few good goes at 'breaking' it, but to no real avail. As I understand it there are 2 A to D's for each IP, one before the mic amp and the other in the usual place after the mic amp. Clearly the one before the mic amp is working with a much lower level, and is unlikley to ever clip. The system looks at the levels off the A to D that is after the mic am (in the usual place) and if things start to get too hot, then it switches to the other A to D (the one before the mic amp) but adds the same amount of gain as the mic amp would do. This effectively (if I understand this correctly) extands the range of the IP channel to about 135dB. I hollored and shouted at my IP and simply couldn't get it to break up or square off. It seemed pretty amazing to me.

Features are being turned on on an almost daily basis, so things are really moving fast. The Nomad that I received two weeks ago is a totally different machine to use as compared to the one I have now!!!

Kindest regards to all,

Simon B

Kindest regards,

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