Edirol/Roland have been producing electronic audio equipment for decades, so it is not unexpected that they are one of the first to produce a lightweight pocket sized recorder that won't break the budget. The R09 is one of the cheapest hand-held digital recorders available, but does it stake up with other units on the market?
The R09 was the first digital recorder I purchased shortly after they were released. Previously I had used a portable DAT unit for all my location recording. The DAT weighed in at around 5kg and was the size of a large book, by comparison the R09 is closer to 200 grams and fits in coat pocket. These two factors alone were a huge step forward in location recording. The R09 also uses SD memory cards as storage media. This is now the format I use with all my current devices. Its ease of use/reuse, low cost and quality makes this media format one of the best advances in recording in years.
The device itself is compact and quite well designed the interface is easy to use with standard play, stop and record buttons. The LCD display is a little small but does manage to pack in all the needed information and is also back lite when receiving inputs. The built in mics are actually quite good, but like most microphones require some screening when used in an environment with wind. The one main area where the R09 falls down is its lack of balanced inputs. It does have mini jack inputs for both line in and mic in, but the lack of an XLR input prevents this unit from being used as a serious recorder int he field. I do however carry one on me at all times as a backup or to allow for opportunistic recordings. (And I have captured some excellent material because of this)
The build quality of the R09 is a little on the light side. It is entirely plastic and feels hollow to hold, while an aesthetic feel is not a necessary requirement of such a device I think it would inspire more confidence as a field unit if it was a little more robust. Compared with other hand-held units it is also very light on accessories in its basic form. When I purchased the unit it came with just the unit, a manual and a USB cable. Other hand-helds on the market include cases, power supplies, wind shields and other accessories as standard, so could perhaps be seen as better value for money.
Tracks: 2 (Stereo)
Signal Processing: AD/DA conversion: 24 bits 44.1/48 KHz
Memory Card: SD Card
Audio Inputs: Internal Stereo Microphone, Mic Input (Stereo miniature
phone type) Line Input (Stereo miniature phone type)
Audio Outputs: Phones (Stereo miniature phone type)
Nominal Input: Mic Input -36 dBu, Line Input 0 dBu, Digital out connector
(optical miniature phone type)
Input Impedance: Mic input: 20k ohms, Line input: 17 k ohms
Frequency Range: 20 Hz to 22 KHz
Display: 120x64 dots OLED display
Power Supply: AC Adaptor, Alkaline dry battery AA type
Battery Life: Playback: approximate 5.5 hours, Recording:
approximately 4 hours
Current Draw: 360 mA
Width: 63mm 2-1/2inches
Depth: 102mm 4-1/16inches
Weight: 0.1 kg 6 oz
As I mentioned previously I now carry the R09 with me almost everywhere. This is not because it is the best recorder I own but because it is the smallest and most convenient. having said that if I didn't think it was capable of reliably recording a range of potential material when I needed it to I wouldn't use it. One of the biggest issues I have with all current digital recorders is the amount of time they take to go from power on to being able to record. 15 seconds may not seem like a long time, but when something dramatic is happening in front of you, sitting watching your recorder boot up, say "hello" and take a quarter of a minute to be ready it can be extremely frustrating. I really wish all the makers of these units would have an emergency "crash start" mode that enabled the most basic record function but was up and running in 5 seconds. The R09 was also more expensive than some better equipped unites that were released around the same time.
In the real world
I purchased the R09 when I was living in Japan and as a result I captured a range of material using this unit. Like any device the proof is in how it deals in the real world.
Northern Japan, Ninnohe bullet train station. I was waiting for the Shinkansen to Tokyo when I realised there was an express due to pass through within the next few minutes. This was a great opportunity to capture a Shinkansen at speed. They do reduce speed from their maximum 250kph when passing through a station, but not by a lot. This would still have been travelling at over 150 kph at the time. The recording speaks for itself
Small and lightweight
Good battery life
No Balanced inputs
Very few accessories included
Lacks features for its price