Edirol R-09 digital recorder review page.
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Disclaimer. The opinions expressed are those of Michael Oster and may not reflect that of other audio and music professionals. Your mileage may vary. Just because I like one piece of equipment does not guarantee a thing. F7 Sound and Vision and Michael Oster are not liable for any damage caused by your agreement or disagreement with the following:

Edirol R-09 HR 24 bit WAV / mp3 recorder $450 list - ($399 street) This ultra-portable recorder fits in your pocket, runs on 2 AA batteries and records 24 bit (and mp3) digital audio to SD cards.

Edirol Updates R-09 to R-09 HR:
The company says the new R-09 HR has improved preamps, electronics, and the ability to record at 24 bits / 96kHz.

05/2008 - I did what?
I bought a Sony PCM-D50! OK, I got a store credit (not related to anything about the R-09) and figured I'd check out the updated line of pocket field recorders. After researching and scouring the web for user feedback, that's the recorder I chose. I wrote a review of the D50 as well.

10/2007 - Even more thoughts:
I still use my R-09, but only as a pocket recorder. Both my MIC and LINE INs have failed (long ago - see below). And, I'm still getting emails from other R-09 owners (even from recently purchsed units) with similar problems. So, be careful with your R-09's input jacks. The forum on Taperssection.com has threads on the R-09 and these issues. Though, from what I've read online, Roland has a good track record of repairs/replacements, and I still like my R-09 - if the unit's IN's were reliable, I would highly recommend it. Also, keep in mind that there are now several recorders in the R-09s price range now (see sidebar left).

Week 34(?) - More thoughts:
I've removed my previous comments about purchasing a second R-09. Considering that Edirol/Roland has had numerous issues with the MIC IN and LINE IN jacks (see my references below and visit the many audio and recording related forums online for more), purchasing a second unit would probably land me with a new box that has the same weaknesses. An R-09 with the ability to record from outside MIC and LINE sources is wonderful, but not reliable (at least not 100% or close to it).

But, my R-09 still goes just about everywhere with me - thanks to its internal mics. Yes, the LINE IN and MIC INs don't work - and this seems to be a commonly reported problem with the R-09s in general (at least the earlier models). Too bad Edirol didn't use better connectors. My Sony Minidisc has similar 1/8" inputs that have worked perfectly since I purchased the unit in 2001. Back to the R-09... I even opened up the box and added new solder to the contact points between the circuit board and the input jacks. No luck. I could send the unit back to Roland and pay labor costs to fix it, but I think I'll put that money to better use. The R-09 is still my "go to" pocket recorder because of its size and sound quality.

Week 26(?) - Quick note:
The factory default for the R-09 is set to 16 bit recording. Obviously, you'll want to set that to 24 especially since SD cards are so cheap now. But... when you upgrade your firmware (which is an easy process), the unit resets to 16 bit and screen brightness reverts as well. So make sure that when you do a firmware upgrade you change the recording resolution to 24 bit.

Other than that, my R-09 is working well except for that problem with the 1/8" inputs (see below).

Week 15(?) - Ouch Part 2:
(Please see "Week 4 - Ouch" for more details)

Damn it. While doing a little "stealth" recording in downtown Tampa, the unthinkable happened: the left side of my LINE IN failed! As you may recall, this same thing happened to my MIC IN during Week 4 (see below). Here's my guess at why this happened: The R-09 is a pocket recorder. While "stealth" recording, I put the thing in my pocket as there's no need to carry it by hand. Fine, well my guess is that there was pressure put on the 1/8" jack from being in my pocket and that pressure caused something in there to lose connection, or worse snap a part of the circuit board (I haven't opened the unit up to get a first hand look). Now, only the internal microphones function. I guess that this is my fault, but I think that maybe Edirol could somehow reinforce the input jacks so that this doesn't happen to future units. I mean, the R-09 is a 'field recorder'. Stuff happens outside of the studio and the gear should be able to take a little bit of stress - a little bit.

So my warning is this: be careful with the MIC and LINE INputs. They may be especially sensitive to any side to side stress when a 1/8" plug is inserted, which could cause a connection to go bad. This is just my guess as to what has happened to my particular R-09. Edirol might have already addressed this in later units. Mine is still under warranty and will be making a repair trip soon. More details on the actual damage will come later.

Week 13(?) - No excuse for not getting that sample:
How amazing is it to have a 24 bit, battery powered recorder that fit's in your pocket? Well, if you're like me (and you love recording - or are addicted to it) then you're pretty damn amazed. 10 years ago, I'd have to sling a DAT recorder and microphones AND preamps (because DAT preamps sucked). Oh, and there was no way all that would fit in a pocket. Does the R-09 sound better than a porta DAT with premium external preamps and wonderful external microphones? Well, no, but it sounds damn good and it costs far less than my porta DAT rig circa 1998. I'll still buy a second R-09 just to have as a backup to my first one (which has yet to be replaced due to that "MIC IN issue" (see below) - UPDATE 3/20/07 - I changed my mind about purchasing a second R-09. I purchased a higher-end recorder - a Sound Devices 702 - which is much more expensive, but virtually bulletproof (this was ultimately to replace my DAT and/or Laptop setup and had nothing to do with the R-09).

The world is full of wonderful sounds!

mike oster with the Edirol R-09 recording a waterfall in Oregon. August 2006

Weeks 7 and 8 - The Show Goes On - Hardcore Field Recording:
Despite my attempts to get a replacement R-09 in time for my vacation, the high demand for these little recorders meant I'd have to go with what I had. Still, the left channel of my MIC IN was not working at all. The only way to use an external microphone with this R-09 was to get some kind of battery powered external preamp. Also, we're at "security level orange" which means that everything that gets carried on an airplane is under intense scrutiny (and for good reason), I've got to keep my gear package light and make sure it gets through airport security in one piece.

I solved the external preamp issue by purchasing a small box from Sound Professionals that runs on a single 9v and sends "plug in power" through a stereo 1/8" cable to a stereo microphone. I used 2 external microphones while I was in Oregon: an Audio Technica AT-825 (with an XLR 5 to 1/8" stereo adaptor cable) and the tiny Sony ECM-DS70P. I also used the R-09's internal microphones which, despite the left channel being about 2dB louder than the right (this is how the unit has functioned since I got it - only with the internal microphones though), gave me decent results.

So here's where it gets hardcore.... I spent a week on vacation in Oregon and recorded just about everywhere I went. From airports and aircraft interiors to rainforests and salty, dusty Pacific beaches. I even dropped my R-09 (by accident, of course), onto a nice bed of river rocks, which left a scuff on the unit and put it into a temporary coma. I thought I'd killed it actually. A 3 foot fall directly onto a pile of rocks! But, it must have been a miracle because after I removed and then re-seated the batteries, the R-09 emerged from its coma and was back to working just as it had before. OK, I guess I was lucky, because where was I going to find a replacement in the middle of Nowhere, Oregon? Exactly.

During the week of recording, I got dust and sand all over the unit. Sweat and moisture too (I was recording very near waterfalls and also in a misty rain on Mt. Hood at 6500 feet with temps in the mid-40's). There's dust behind the glass cover of the OLED screen that I can't get out. Dust in the battery / SD compartment (which I did get out). And scratches and scuffs on the R-09's exterior. I wasn't trying to be abusive or anything, this is just what happens during a week of wilderness hikes and vacation travel. So far, this little recorder has held up well under the rigors of field recording in some harsh conditions.

Below is a picture of my R-09 right after it was delivered (I cleaned off the afterbirth). After 2 months of use, it's not so pretty now.

Edirol R 09 digital recorder review

Week 4 - Ouch!:
Everything was going great and the R-09 had quickly become an integral part of my setup when... suddenly... no left channel on any external microphones! Bummer. I thought it was my microphone, which has taken a beating these last few years. But, the mic worked fine in the MIC IN on my minidisc. Also, I tried another stereo microphone on the R-09. Same problem - right channel fine, left channel dead. LINE IN on the R-09 still works fine and so do the internal microphones. So, part of my recorder has failed in less than a month. Roland says it's under warranty (though making good will have me sending mine to a "repair center" and waiting), but the place that I purchased it from is willing to send me a new one (when the next shipment arrives) in place of this one. COOL!

I'm just kind of surprised that I had a problem so soon.

Week 2 update: I've had a little more time with the R-09 and here's some of my thoughts....

I'm more comfortable with the battery cover now. I think it still could be designed better, but I also think it will hold up a little better than I first anticipated. Battery life is good with standard alkalines. The hiss from the internal microphones doesn't really bother me except on the quietest of sound sources. My 'left' internal microphone seems to be about 2 dB hotter than my 'right' microphone (which may not be consistent with all other R-09's). It's easily compensated for in post production so it's not too much of an issue.

Overall, I love the R-09 and carry it just about everywhere. 5 years ago, I would have killed to have a box that did all of this as small as this and that costs what this one does. Thanks Edirol!

R-09 main Points:
* Quality 24 bit (!) recording in a tiny package.
* Watch out for the battery cover - it could break if you're not careful.
* Has internal microphones that make decent recordings - but be careful when using them as they pick up anything that touches the unit (like button pushing or moving your finger).
* Very easy to use.
* Field recordists, sample freaks, and other people like me should never leave home without the R-09!

I've had my R-09 for 2 days at the time of my writing this, and I've made a few recordings with it; some with the internal microphones, some with external (stealth) microphones, and some via the LINE IN with professional microphones and preamps. Here's my take so far:

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 (WRONG! see Week 4 above).

r09 battery door accesses SD card and USB also. Be careful! A note about SD cards and the R-09:

I've found very little specific information on which brands and speeds of SD cards are recommended for the R-09. So far, I've used 3 cards successfully: a 2 gig Sandisk Ultra II, a 2 gig "blue" Sandisk, and a 512 mb Dane-elec (which I'm guessing is a "normal speed" SD).

Transfer speeds via USB to my Mac Powerbook have been a little over 2 Mb per second.

Yes, the folks at Edirol warn you right off the bat with instructions on how to properly move the cover, but come on? It should have been designed better. I've only opened this thing a few times (very carefully), and I'm scared that it's not going to last (I hope I'm wrong). If it does go, fixing it in the field would require the old "gaff tape across the bottom" method which I used on my pager some 10 years ago. It worked, but it didn't always work and I could see the "gaff tape" method failing too (which it did on my pager many times). OK, maybe Edirol will supply us with new - better designed ones. Or maybe we could buy spares from our local (or mailorder) gear supplier at a reduced price - say $5.00? Meantime, I'm going to be extra cautious with the cover and I highly recommend that anyone who purchases the unit follow Edirol's instructions to the letter.

OK, now that that's out of the way.... This is not a "professional" unit, but it records with a very respectable sound quality at 24 bits (the only way I've used it so far). I made a few quick recordings using the internal condenser microphones and they sounded very nice beating out similar recordings that I had made earlier with a minidisc and those I had made with the iRiver IFP-899. I know, both minidisc and the iRiver record "compressed" audio (ATRAC for the mini and mp3 for the iRiver) so it's not a "fair" comparison.

The R-09's internal microphones produce nice recordings at 24 bits and I wouldn't hesitate to use them in something like a podcast or even in a composition where the recording was layered with other elements. However, the internal mics produced nice recordings, but the stereo spread was a bit limited and there was a slight "hiss" which should only be noticeable when recording very quiet sources (not a deal breaker).

For round 2, I made recordings using my "stealth microphones" that I plugged into the MIC IN on the R-09 and used it's plug in power and internal preamps for the microphones. If you don't know which microphones I'm talking about, they are tiny omni condensers mounted in a headphone set. They look like headphones, but they have microphone elements in them. More info on my "stealth mics" is here. These recordings had an improved stereo spread and less "hiss" as well (again, not saying that the "hiss" from the internal microphones was too noticeable). Now, I'm really impressed. There was a dramatic improvement in sound quality from the R-09 with these microphones compared to the iRiver 899 with the same microphones. Yes, 24 bit WAV versus 320kbps mp3, it's not fair. Right.

To be even less fair, I hooked up my Grace Design Lunatec V2 preamp to the LINE IN of the R-09. Kick ass! Combined with Earthworks QTC-1s and then with an Audio Technica 825, I recorded some ambience outside my house. Now, I'm very happy! Yes, I think I can retire my portaDAT! Obviously, the Grace/Earthworks front end really upped the recording quality. It better have, as the preamp costs around $1500 new and the microphones were around $1900 (though you can get the Audio Technica 825 for around $400).

Edirol R09 next to a microcassette recorder/player

So, after 2 days, I can sum up the R-09 as:

Very small - fits in my pocket,
Excellent 24 bit uncompressed recordings especially with an external preamp and professional microphones.
Careful with the battery cover.
A 2 Gb SD card gives you about 2 hours of 24 bit / 44.1k recording time.
If you're into making field recordings or podcasting "on location" - get your order in fast because these things are in short supply.

Visit the Edirol website for more info - www.edirol.com

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In addition to the Edirol R-09, you may want to consider the following recorders: (prices are list as of 10/3/07)

M-Audio Microtrack II - $499.95
Zoom H4 - $499.99
Zoom H2 - $334.99
Fostex FR-2 LE - $799.00
Sony PCM-D-50 - $599.95
Korg MR-1 - $899.00
Marantz PMD620 - $549.99
Olympus LS-10- $499.00

* I have excluded non-24 bit capable recorders and those over $1000 US list price.

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