One of the most sought-after devices this year is the R-09 portable recorder from Edirol. It’s got what everyone’s been looking for in an audio recording device: integrated mics, a gorgeous silver case with iPod-like, pocketable dimensions, SD cards for recording, rechargeable batteries you can actually replace when you need to, and some nice extras. The key question: will it fit people’s needs? You don’t want just one review; you want a whole bunch of reviews. And we’ve got them, from readers and authors all around the world who have been testing these recorders on sources ranging from acoustic music to barking dogs to interviews to ambient sound:

Full Reviews

Sandal as portable recorder stand, via Mark in Hawaii. (Lucky bastard!)

OReilly.com: Acoustic musician and author Mark Nelson is back doing field recordings in Hawaii for his O’Reilly Digital Media review, this time with the R-09. (Last time he used the R-09′s main rival, M-Audio’s MicroTrack 24/96; the similarity between the two suggest it’s worth your time to read both reviews. See our previous mention of the Hawaii MicroTrack test for further comments.)

Mark really sums up the device as what it is — a great, portable bargain, with some slight trade-offs in audio fidelity and pro features:

Review: Edirol R-09 Pocket Digital Recorder (Thanks, David!)

The Edirol R-09 is a handy field recorder with some surprisingly sophisticated file-maintenance features. It is profoundly easy to use (once you suss out the buttons), it records to inexpensive media, and the onboard mics do a decent job. Battery life is outstanding. It looks cool, too … It’s not for everyone. Professionals will want higher sample rates, enhanced metering, and more robust mics. But they’ll have to pay a lot more.

Gizmodo: Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds got to take on the R-09 for the gadget mega-blog. You can make NPR-quality recordings, but can you master the soft-spoken, deep intonations? (The time is now thirteen minutes past the hour.)

Edirol R-09 Audio Recorder: Hands On By Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds

Still, if you’re willing to spend in the neighborhood of four hundred bucks, you can make NPR-quality recordings for podcasts or radio shows, or quality concert bootlegs. Not bad for a gadget that fits in a shirt pocket.

F7sound: Michael Oster has an extensive R-09 review, with both internal mic and external “stealth” mic tests (go, bootleggers!), at F7 sound and vision. (Thanks, Sascha!) He’s mostly happy with it, and Edirol quickly replaced a faulty unit when it failed:

It’s tiny (smaller than a microcassette – see below) and records 24 bit digital audio with a sound quality that surprised me in a good way. It’s light even with batteries and should easily fit in a shirt or pants pocket. The only gripe I have so far, and it’s been mentioned on the net via group lists and the like, is the battery cover. The cover, located at the bottom of the device is very hard to deal with and seems like it’s going to break long before anything on the rest of the unit.

Sonic Studios: This manufacturer of surround mics, portable mics, and portable preamps (among other accessories), has written its own extensive review. If you like lots of charts and graphs in your purchasing decision, this is the review for you:

Sonic Studios R-09 Review

Additional good news is both mic/line R-09 inputs have tested adequately quiet and of sufficient bandwidth for at least 16bit depth recording requirements. However, audible improvement for 24 bit depth recording is likely with the addition of high quality external mic preamplifier for lowest noise/distortion requirements.

DAT-Heads Edirol/Marantz/M-Audio comparison: The one tricky bit to sort out is the age-old “which recorder should I buy” question, particularly with M-Audio’s competing MicroTrack posessing such a similar feature set. Stephen Bezruchka, one of the portable recording gurus on the DAT-Heads mailing list, takes his R-09 head-to-head with the MicroTrack and Marantz PMD-660. His major beef with the MicroTrack is poor reliability (in his experience) and the inability to replace the battery yourself; the latter issue sounds like a deal-killer for many, especially since the MicroTrack’s higher digital recording sample rates aren’t really critical in this kind of device.

Edirol R-09 review with comparisons to Microtrack and Marantz

The Roland R-09 is compact, featured, easy to use and may become the one I use the most. It is becoming accessorized to get with the iPod mania, so there is a carrying case with a tripod on the way as well as a microphone stand adaptor to put the unit in its case on a stand to use it as a complete microphone-recorder combo. We are blessed with good recorders to choose from.

Reader Reviews

Our first reader impressions have received a number of responses from other R-09 early-adopters, with sound samples linked from comments. (More impressions and sounds from the impromptu mini-blog r09.ocbka.org.)

Here are some typical responses:

I’ve used mine for 3 days, recording nature sounds, interviews, â€Å“testâ€Â? soundbytes of traffic, aircraft, sirens, and a live concert in the park. I am AMAZED at the quality, and the sensitivity of the internal mics. -Jim Flannery

I’ve been trying it out for a couple of days, and it’s really nice sounding. The display is also very bright and easy to read. Too bad it lacks phantom powered tele ins though. The M-Audio Microtrack 2496 offers that. -Matt

For more reader reviews, ranging from the informal three-line response to an extensive list of pros and cons, see the 55 comments on the original R-09 story.

Lessons Learned

Reliability is an issue on all of these devices, presumably because of the size and some readers being early-adopters. Edirol seems to have the best track record, though, both in terms of reliability and speedy replacements, and has the added advantage of being able to replace the battery yourself if there’s a problem (something you can’t do, notably, on Apple’s iPod line).

One important note: be very careful when buying memory cards. My current preferred brand is SanDisk; their cards have been extremely reliable and are available at some still-fantastic bargain prices.

Some readers have complained about a slight hiss when recording low levels. This seems to be related to the internal mic, so your best bet is to plug in a better external mic.

48v phantom power is not available on this unit. I was erroneously told it would be on the show floor at NAMM by someone from Roland (can’t remember if it was a product specialist or PR, so I won’t cast blame), before the unit began shipping. But if you’re really serious about plugging in external mics, a preamp seems like the way to go anyway. While I can’t vouch for quality, Sonic Studios has a fascinating portable pre that looks like it’d be perfect for the R-09 and other small recorders:

Sonic Studios portable mic amps

Thanks to everyone who sent in that barrage of tips, questions, and comments. Keep them coming, on this and other products you care about!

Edirol R-09 product page

  • http://www.batmosphere.com David Battino

    Wow! Thanks for that comprehensive roundup, Peter. One bit of information that came out during my fact-check for the O'Reilly review: upcoming firmware will double the R-09's memory capacity. Your comment about add-ons is prescient as well. I believe we'll see a bunch of handy attachments for the R-09.

  • http://ocp.pt.vu ocp

    Now I'm waiting for the Boss micro BR and Zoom H4 portable multitrackers reviews. They are to be released any time soon.

    Nice to read these reviews anyway!

  • Chris Thompson

    I had almost given up on "streetsampling" because my minidisk was so frustrating to use on the fly. this thing is exactly what I had been hoping for. The soft hiss at low volumes is probably the only downside – other than that I couldn't be happier.

  • cobalt

    I used the R09 to record a live performance a couple months ago. I picked up a pair of mini stereo omnidirectional mics at the Sound Professionals (www.soundprofessionals.com), which worked great. Those mics do benefit from the internally provided power (3.5V or something like that) of the R09, although a pre-amp would do even better. One issue with using the R09 in a dark room is the blazing red light emanating from the record button when the unit is recording. Otherwise, it's a nice little unit.

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  • http://www.sascha-neudeck.com sascha neudeck

    there is another interesting competitor:

    Fostex FR-2LE

    http://www.hhb.co.uk/hhb/uk/products/detail.asp?I

    http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?Ca

    but it should ship in december.

    greetings

    sascha

  • http://www.rolandreinke.com roland

    How does it compare to the M-Audio MicroTrack?

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  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    The R-09 LCD is NOT viewable in daylight. Found a molded clamshell case solution to both protecting the deck AND providing an effective daylight viewing hood. See this on R-09 review page at: http://www.sonicstudios.com/r-09revw.htm#case

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    I use both R-09 and Microtrack decks for field recording. Have a short sleeve vest to easily carry these decks and several sets of windscreened stereo-surround mics everwhere I go these days.

    I like using both these decks, but for different reasons. The R-09 seems a better designed and implemented recording device.

    R-09's thoughtful system and features makes for easy powering and operating. Microtrack has powering reliability issues with that 'lock'd away' lithium battery, and deck operations are still a bit 'quirky' with very slow responses, but consistent in working OK.

    So for doing 24bit/44.1-48K wav recording, the R-09 is my choice deck, and it's a pleasure to use anywhere, especially now that I have see the display in daylight with that view case mentioned a few weeks ago.

    For having higher bandwidth ability of 88.2/96K sample rate .wav recording, the microtrack has no 'as-compact' equal, and for this I like using the Microtrack deck.

    Recent recordings done with both these decks (free)at:
    http://www.sonicstudios.com/mp3.htm

    "Roseburg Air Show" (Microtrack)

    "Rolling Thunder" 1 & 2 (R-09)

    "Platt I" Nature Sounds(R-09)

    "July 4, 2006 Illegal Sutherlin Fireworks/Gunshots" (Microtrack)

    Also http://www.sonicstudios.com/mp3_2slp.htm
    "Mile Post Eight" Group (Microtrack)

    "Hotqua String Band"(Microtrack)

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    Edirol recently posted firmware update v1.10 for the R-09 which mostly shipped with v1.03. Most significant improvement is this deck can now format 4 GIG SD flash, particularly suited for the new SDHC flash cards with capacity potential to 32 GIGs!!!

    Transcend, Sandisk, and Toshiba have announced 4 to 8 GIG SDHC types, and already shipping cost of Transcend's 4 GIG SDHC card (newegg.com) is ~$10 more than regular 4 GIG SD so no reason not to have latest SDHC protocol flash for this deck.

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    Some recent reports of 8 gig SDHC cards NOT working very well. After 2 GIG, then hundreds of small 2,000 byte audio files in several reports, but filling up 2 GIG first, and then start new recording again allowed at least one user to make 8 GIG seamlessly fill correctly with a series of 2 GIG capacity audio files.

    Roland responded saying ONLY Panasonic 4 GIG SDHC was tested last year, but no other make or capacity choices at that time, AND NO official approval of any other SDHC make or trying over 4 GIG capacity.

    I'm just now starting the process of testing 4 and 8 GIG Transcend SDHC cards to see what works and what doesn't at fastest 24 bit, 44.1/48K wav recording mode.

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    Tested both 4 & 8 GIG Transcend SDHC flash to find NO problem with 4 GIG, but 8 GIG will not auto span without fault unless at least 1.6 GIG worth of files already exist before next 2 GIG size file will auto span without producing hundreds of small 1-2kbyte files and stopping with error message. So for those who record large files that exceed 2 GIG size, best to use 4 GIG card. If traveling and recording smaller than 2 GIG individual files, then 8 GIG will work fine and is most convenient.

    Panasonic has announced intention to release 16 GIG size SDHC card in next two months.

    Roland is releasing new R-09 firmware version 1.20 this week than might help deal with auto-span fault, but specifically does not fix this problem, but adds user ability to specify

  • Mar

    Hey guys,

    I'm not sure if this is a workaround with version 1.20 of the firmware, but I just read the addendum for version 1.2 and it says that you can limit the max size of recorded files to 64MB, 128 MB, 256 MB, 512 MB, 1 GB, and 2 GB.

    "Max File Size

    Sets a limit on the size of the file generated during recording.

    Use this to prevent long MP3 recordings from becoming too large to be read by some software,

    after the data has been converted to WAV.

    When the song being recording reaches the specified size limit, the R-09 closes that file and continues

    the recording in a new file." That last sentence in my opinion is the best part about this! So you should be able to record up to the largest supported card ( 8 GB) and still record as much as you need to without any problems.

    The best part of this feature is that a new file will be created I don't have a 8 GB Transcend HC SD but I was wondering if someone with version 1.20 of the firmware could try setting the max file size to 2 GB and see if the 8 GB problem 1-2k file size problems still persists. If there are no small files, I will definitely purchase one soon!

    Thanks in advance

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dri

    I think its about time we definately grab a heap of these decks and test them out in our act Segue. Im actually currently lugging a 4RU gator flightcase around simply for the 3RU Tascam DA-20 DAT inside to record our sets, and my tried and tested and previously much loved rig of Sony MD recorder with a Rode NT3 hypercardiod condensor (with Xlr to TRS going into a 1/4" to 1/8" TRS adapter when i realised im terrible at soldering 1/8"!!!) has given up the ghost like most MD's from the 90's would be doing by now. At least the ones that have been in use around the most amusing parts of eastern europe.

    There-in lies the problem… will it stand up to the day to day abuse of the field recordist? At this price point id rather a sturdier build then 96k, especially when we're talking SD cards, given the increased space needed to accomodate this rate. If i ever go back to actual larger volume recording for foley or sound design then as much as solid state appeals, its going to be HDD based.

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    R-09 newest firmware 1.20 does NOT allow 2 GIG automatic file spanning on 8 GIG SDHC card unless at least 1.6 GIG from previous file(s) already exists on the card, then next 2 GIG will auto-span correctly.

    4 GIG card has no problems spanning to next 2 GIG file. Although new 1.20 firmware allows users to set lower auto-span file size, this does not fix spanning problem with 8 GIG.

    Input jack on more recent R-09 runs now glues down still-wrong type of input jacks without locking mechanism to PCB board. This glue is flexible type meant to be easily removed is repair in that area is needed.

    However, this type of repairable glue does NOT hold well enough to prevent jack from tearing up circuit pad, just like before, if enough 'normal' stress on the jack from owner's choice of connecting plug is experienced.

    Yes, using very low profile right-angle input plug with very flexible wire does help reduce chance of breaking the glue-PCB solder connection, but this is still occurring as I've experienced if not very, very careful with inserting, using, and removing input plugs.

    So I continue to use my R-09, even after having to repair the circuit board damage with first removing all traces of the 'repairable glue' fix, repairing the torn circuit trace, and THEN gluing down both jacks with special 'plastic welder' PERMANENT epoxy that will NEVER come off or be removable if deck needs repairing in that area. This is not a good situation, and Roland should be ashamed of continuing producing this otherwise EXCELLENT deck with such a flaw that is avoidable if using the correctly designed input jacks IN THE FIRST PLACE!

    Product recall to really fix this, and/or unlimited parts/labor warranty extension on the input jacks breaking seems the right thing to do at this time.

  • http://www.911blogger.com Yarrow

    WARNING!!!

    Do NOT use SD cards over 2GB with the R-09. The SD spec apparently only allows up to 2GB for SD, and companies like Transcend who make 4GB "SD" chips are apparently using some kind of kludge which may or may not work with various devices.

    To be clear: I am NOT talking about the new SDHC standard, but the original SD standard. I have not yet tried SDHC cards, but other users like Leonardo (above) are apparently having success with at least the 4GB.

    I bought a Transcend 4GB SD card, formatted it in the R-09, then happily recorded my friend's concert the other night, as well as a couple of hours of after-party banter at the hotel.

    The next day I put the card into my card reader, but my computer reported it as un-formatted. I put it back into the R-09, and it also says it is un-formatted.

    I am deathly afraid to even try repairing the file system at this point, since when this happened before, when I was using the 4GB as a thumb drive, repair was "successful" but resulted in a card with zero files on it, and zero were recovered successfully (I thought this was a fluke, that time, and it did not involve the R-09)

    I may just have a bad card, but if you do a search for discussion of 4GB cards you will find that anything labeled as "SD" (not SDHC) that is over 2GB is out-of-spec for SD and may be unreliable.

    Bottom line: only use SDHC for capacities over 2GB.

    I hope this post saves someone some grief.

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    Yarrow's experience seems rather unique with at least 1.10 or most recent 1.20 firmware installed, and likely a defective flash card is at cause?

  • http://www.library108.com Uddhava das

    Firmware : 1.20

    Mem card : Transcend SDHC 8 GB, Class 2

    Have big problems with my recordings.

    I recorded 19 WAV files and two of them are "corrupt"… But they do play on the R-09.

    Strange.

    When i want to transfer them on my computer i get the same error "The parameter is incorrect". When i get this error then none of the files will transfer anymore.

    I tried it on 3 computers, all the same result. I ended up using a Mac to get most of the files of. But two of them cannot be transferred…

    So it might have to do with the 8 gb or SDHC, but i cannot confirm this.

    i tried a normal sd card (2 gb) and did not have problems yet.

    Anybody out there with the same probs?

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    There is a FILE FIX utility associated with 1.20 update. Instruction on how to use this and newer R-09 features is found inside the newer v1.20 update zip file. Read the R-09v120Addendum.pdf (versions for PC/MAC)for how to fix files while inside the R-09 that seem corrupted.

  • http://www.myspace.com/vimanaboy Yarrow

    Transcend sucks. Avoid Transcend.

    My co-producer bought a 4GB Transcend SDHC card and after recording an interview for a couple of hours got a card error message. Now all her files are corrupt and her recordings are un-salvageable by any trick I know (R-09 File Fix, recovery software, SoundHack, etc)

    See here for others with data corruption with this card:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?…

    I have been using a 4GB Sandisk SDHC card since my last post with zero problems.

    Forget Transcend if you care about your recordings.

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    I am now recommending Sandisk Ultra II SDHC as still working very well FOR EVERYONE.

    It does seem Transcend SDHC is now causing problems not experienced before. Likely latest runs are using different controller IC or something like this and now this product is getting infamous.

    Some SDHC general information at: http://www.kingston.com/flash/pdf_files/MKF_1127_

    And some background on how a card manufacturer changes or alters a standard product to maybe not work anymore as seems happened to Transcend SDHC without posting any notice whatsoever at: http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?c

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    More recent production runs of R-09 seem now to be applying a very thin clear 'not-flexible'adhesive that's visibly covering the input jack solder pads and a small area of the surrounding PCB circuit board.

    While glue over the pads does spread out stresses placed on these from plug input, this alone is not enough to keep the board from being torn or damaged as before. However, although NOT visible, the underside of the input jacks seem to have the same treatment of adhesive as the jacks now seem firmly seated to not move anymore when plugs are inserted.

    So just 'maybe' Roland has finally fixed the input jack shortcoming with a good solution?

    Time will tell if these jacks are now going to last as they should with normal care and use.

    Still suggest being careful as ANY minijack as these are not meant to withstand straight-in jacks that get hard cord tugs or hard knocks from accidental roughness.

    Using right-angle plugs with low profile/small strain relief size and lightweight flexible wire (like those normally found on lightweight headphones) is good practice that minimizes stresses and prolongs minijack's service life.

  • zorro

    Why do you guys talk about and try to use cards bigger than 2GB?

    I bought recently the R-09 (with firmware ver. 1.20 installed). In operating instruction it is clearly stated that you can use cards SD up to 2GB. Ain't no bigger.

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    Roland just released new firmware version 1.30 that does test to fix problems with file spanning using 8 GIG SDHC

  • http://www.sonicstudios.com Leonardo

    No word as yet if problems using newer manufactured Transcend cards is solved with this update.

    I have updated the R-09 review to reflect new firmware v1.30 refinements. See this at http://www.sonicstudios.com/r-09revw.htm

  • Seversound

    I recently bought a R-09 and am interested in updating the firmware if necessary when it arrives to 1.30, which I understand supports up to an 8GB SDHC Card. My question is about the faster speed SDHC cards. SanDisk makes the Ultra II and the Extreme III. Which of these these 8GB cards work the best and is the card reader recommended?

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  • http://hubpages.com/hub/edirol-r-09hr dauntless

    Just wanted to say what a well written review you put together even though its a bit old. Nice work.

    The new 09-HR is even better!

    dauntless