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Roland R-09HR High Resolution WAV and Mp3 Recorder Review Print E-mail
Monday, 15 November 2010
Article Index
Roland R-09HR High Resolution WAV and Mp3 Recorder Review
Evaluation Process

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.


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