Roland R-09HR High Resolution WAV and Mp3 Recorder Review 
Home Theater Accessories Acoustics, EQ & Room Tuning
Written by Andre Marc   
Monday, 15 November 2010

About a month ago I set out to record one of my favorite bands, The Clientele, from the soundboard, during a local club gig.  I brought my Sharp Minidisc recorderand had the sound man give me a line out, and I was ready to go. Or so I thought. To my horror, when I got home, I found out the minidisc had failed and the audio was fragmented and distorted. I decided I was done with optical recording media. I then set out to find the best cost effective solution for recording live events and archiving old analog recordings from cassettes and reel to reel tapes. There are a number of solutions out there, from pricey, pro level broadcast quality gear, to hand held, lightweight gadgets that use flash memory or small internal hard drives.

The history of home base recording products goes back to the late 1950's. Studer Revox, the iconic European audio company brought to market a line of reel to reel tape recorders that allowed home enthusiasts to archive radio broadcasts and vinyl, or to make recordings of their own with a microphone. The late 60's saw the coming of the portable cassette recorder, which blew minds back then as some serious cool technology. Sony turned everything around with their Walkman line of product in the late 70’s. Microcassettes followed by consumer grade CD recording decks, DCC (Digital Compact Casette), and DAT (Digital Audio Tape). Minidisc soon followed, but new technology came along in the late 90's that would eventually make all the formats above obsolete. And that was computer based storage systems and flash drives.

The technology spread quickly as the price of storage kept getting cheaper, and hard drives kept getting smaller and more reliable. The iPod, though not widely known as a recording device, is a shining example of all the events outlined above converging to create a product that could not even be imagined 20 years ago. Products from Tascam, Zoom, iRiver and others came around that allowed recording enthusiasts the ability to record in resolution greater than analog tape, with no moving parts, that allowed for portability. Eventually, on board editing capabilities, computer interfaces, and expandable storage won the day. Within the past few years, high resolution recording features were added, specifically, the ability to capture data at 96 Khz, and at 24 bit word lengths, greatly empowering the amateur archivist.

Roland Front

This brings us to the subject of this review, the Roland/Edirol R-09HR WAV and Mp3 recorder. The product was, up until a few months ago, marketed under the Edirol brand, but Roland has decided to consolidate. With Version 3.0, just recently released, Edirol no longer exsists. As you will see in the coming review, the R-09HR (the HR stands for High Resolution) has an amazing set of features and works well under a variety of conditions.

The R-09Hr is about the size of a deck of cards. It has both mic and line in inputs. The mic input can be used with a powered or passive microphone, if you choose to not use the built in stereo microphone. The line in jack accepts an 1/8th inch mini connector. There is also a headphone (and line out) jack with an internal volume control. Lastly, as far as physical connectivity, there is a supplied USB cable for direct connection to a computer. A small, nicely laid out remote control is also provided, an unexpected bonus.

The unit is supplied with a power adaptor for wall plug in or can accept AA batteries. All data is recorded to an SD card. The R-09HR can record in Mp3 at various bit rates, and in uncompressed WAV files at sampling rates from 44.1 Khz to 96 Khz. It is easy to hear the difference between these two sampling rates. 96 Khz offers more depth, detail, and natural texture. If you are recording voices at a conference, a meeting, or in conversation, lesser quality will not make much of a difference at all.  But if you are recording musical events, the higher sampling rate is a no brainer. The only penalty you pay is that higher resolution eats up way more storage space. You can also choose between 16 bit and 24 bit quality. Again, the same as above applies. 24 bit is way better.

Top View

I decided to put the R-09HR through its paces with a project I have had on hold for a few years now, which was the digital conversion of 40 year old reel to reel tapes recorded by my father in  Maine and New York in the late 60’s. My father was a technology fiend, and an early adaptor at that. He purchased a Revox A77, one of the most famous pieces of high end audio equipment of the last 50 years.  Revox was known for its precision engineering and building components that lasted decades.This was his second Revox reel to reel deck, and around that time hr would record many live FM broadcasts, especially live classical concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic, featuring legendary conductors and performers, and some that would go on to iconic status. Some of the tapes had been in their boxes for decades, last unearthed to transfer to cassette in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

The A77 is in pretty remarkable shape, considering its age. Besides a few dings, it works flawlessly. I had made one prior attempt to digitize some of the tapes, with an HHB CD recording deck. I was not 100% satisfied with the results, feeling I could do better. There the slightest digital “haze” that seemed to find its way into the transfer. Most listeners would probably not hear it, but I was being hyper critical as I wanted to preserve these tapes in the best possible quality, knowing there only so many plays left in them, due to stretching, flaking, and overall deterioration.

For this evaluation, I purchased a Kimber Kable GQ mini silver & copper hyrbid cable. It is normally sold as an iPod cable, with a 1/8 mini jack at one end and phono plugs at the other.In this case I upgraded to the WBT-044, which are super German made connectors.  I connected everything up, adjusted levels, selected 96 Khz, 24 bit quality, did some testing to find the peaks, and hit record. I also used the built in limiter, which prevents the incoming signal from red lining the meter. The first piece I dubbed was a recording of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, led by George Szell. This performance, recorded specifically for FM broadcast in 1967, has probably not been heard since, although Szell released a commercial recording of the piece on Columbia records. When I listened back I was utterly astonished at how the Roland captured the relaxed, analog sound of the tape. It had preserved the soul of the performance, and was a massive leap over my earlier results when going to 44.1 Khz and 16 bit with the CD-R deck.

I transferred 3 more reels of tape and was thrilled with the results each and every time. But that was just the beginning. The R-09HR has on board editing capability that allows you to split, join, and move the WAV files. While very handy, I preferred to transfer the data to my Mac Mini and edit with Audacity, a shareware program available for download and commonly used by amateur audio enthusiasts. After splitting the tracks, naming the files, and exporting the final “masters” to my external hard drives, I listened back using my Logitech Squeezebox as the interface through my CIA VDA-2 24 bit DAC, which I reviewed here, (LINK) and was extremely  pleased with the final results. To pass the final product along to friend, I was able to down sample to 44.1/16 bit with iTunes. I must comment that converting down from 96 khz/24 bit sounds much better than a native 44.1/16 bit recording. It’s a bit like shrinking a picture down packed with megapixels as opposed to creating a low resolution version of something that already was compromised.

Front layout view

I also decided, for the heck of it, to make some recordings with the built on board microphones. We usually go to the local farmers markets a couple of weekends a month, and there are always talents musicians performing to promote local gigs and to sell self produced CD’s.  I asked a local performer, Todo Mundo, and Latin flavored acoustic rock ensemble if could record a tune or two. They obliged and I when I got home to check out the results I was very impressed. The recording preserved the vibrancy of the performance. Due to the limitation of the internal mics, there was a flatness to the soundstage, but a high quality external microphone would certainly yield results that would satisfy even the most demanding enthusiasts.

Conclusion:

I was utterly knocked out by how easy the Roland R-09HR high resolution recorder was to set up, use, and record with. The recording quality of the line in jack was stellar, especially with a high quality cable like the Kimber GQ mini. The built in microphone, while usable, offers convenience, but any serious archivist will want an after market mic. But for recording spoken word, meetings, or demos, the on board mics are way more than sufficient.

Once you have made your recordings, it is easy to edit the tracks, and create a professional quality final product. I know I did. I was able to preserve the integrity of high quality, vintage reel to reel recordings with a minimal amount of effort.  I only wish I had the R-09HR a few years ago, when I was more active in recording, and for when the Clientele were in town, as they played a stellar show. Going forward, I now have a hassle free, fail safe way to make recordings that far surpass CD quality, as I have decided to purchase the review sample.

Brand



Roland R-09HR
Street Price: $280
www.roland.com

Specifications



Tracks: 2 (stereo)
Signal Processing: AD/DA conversion: 24 bits, 44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz
Recording: Stereo only WAVE - 44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz, 16/24 bits - MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) - 44.1/48 kHz, 64/96/128/160/192/224/320 kbps
Playback: WAVE - 32/44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz, 16/24 bits, MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3)- 32/44.1/48 kHz, 32 to 320 kbps or VBR (Variable Bit Rate)
Memory Card: SD Memory Card (SDHC format compatible)
Size: Width 62 mm (2-1/2 inches), Depth 113 mm (4-1/2 inches), Height 27 mm (1-1/16 inches)
Weight: 174g (0 lbs. 7 oz.)

Reviewer Equipment



CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox 3
DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply
Tape Deck: Revox A77, Edirol 96/24 WAV recorder
Amplifier: McIntosh MA6600 integerated
Speaker: Audience 2 + 2, Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cables.






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