Beyond those basics, though, this is a very deep unit, especially given the price (around $300 street) and compact size. There are time-stretching algorithms, the control surface section is Mackie Control-compatible, and there are built-in mics so you can capture ideas without plugging in anything.
Here's an example of the attention to detail regarding the inputs. Not only does the R8 have phantom power for the two XLR/line combo ins (with one switchable to instrument), but you can choose between +24V to save power (which works with most condenser mics) or +48V if your mic needs full power. Speaking of power, you can run the R8 off USB, an included (non-proprietary) AC adapter, or four AA batteries.
Given the price, I expected the R8 to feel cheap. Yet the buttons have a positive, solid feel and “click” for tactile feedback (except for the velocity-sensitive mini-pads, of course; note that there are dedicated buttons for the various drums).
And although the faders are only 40mm long they feel smooth, with virtually no “wobble.” Even the included USB cable is over 6 feet long (cell phone manufacturers, take note!). The SD card doesn’t stick out the side, but is safely recessed. Incidentally, if it looks like the unit is covered with fine dust in the photos, that's not the case; rather than being solid black, the case a sort of silver, speckled effect.
Also surprisingly, navigation is relatively painless. With a lot of these units, there can be operations like "To start the metronome, hold down the Volume and Rewind controls, then press the Kick Drum pad." A lot of the ease of use is due to the display, which can contain quite a bit of information.
There are also dedicated buttons to call up functions.
And, the Transport section also offers quite a few buttons to get around a project, and this is also where you'll find a data wheel and the standard cursor navigation buttons.
It's difficult to know where to begin with the R8 as there are so many functions, but we'll begin with evaluating the process of recording some tracks.