Options for high quality portable sound recording devices that offer flexible recording formats and quick editing are relatively few, but here's one option - the Edirol R-09. Edirol is a big name in computer music and the soundcard market and, like M-Audio with its MicroTrack recorder, has started to roll out smaller more affordable devices for the home user.
The E-09 is a small form factor, light recorder with great clarity and a useful set of recording features. The price might turn some people off but you pay for what you get, and this is far more than a mic that docks into an iPod.
Measuring just a few inches high and wide, and weighing less than six ounces (with batteries), the Edirol R-09 fits comfortably in a shirt pocket. Its straightforward recording and playback controls also serve the purpose of navigating through the R-09's easy-to-set options.
By pressing the Menu button, you can rename, delete and get information on the audio files. By holding the same button down, you access the R-09's Setup menu where you can set the audio format, format the SD card, adjust the brightness of the display, and other options.
The white-on-black display is easy on the eyes, and you get all the feedback you need. Particularly nice is the responsive, animated level meter. It's crucial to have snappy visual meters so you know that there's no distortion. The useful 30-step input level control enables you to use the R-09 for recording a quiet conversation or a deafening rock concert.
On the back of the Edirol R-09 are four smart features. The first, Ext Mic Type, is a switch to set Mono or Stereo recording, depending on the microphone you're plugging into its 1/8-inch microphone jack - recording from a single channel mic sends the signal to only one side of the stereo field. The Mono setting records the mono microphone signal to both sides of the stereo field so it sounds dead-centre. Thank you, Roland.
The second switch is AGC, or Automatic Gain Control, which, when turned on, automatically adjusts the volume level of the audio during recording so that the level is fairly consistent. This is helpful for recording group meetings, where voices at different distances from the unit's microphone would normally be heard at different volumes. Thanks again, Roland.
The third switch, Mic Gain, can be turned to Low or High. Most recordings can be made at High, but the Low setting is a must for loud environments. While we couldn't get this unit into a venue to record a metal concert, we were able to record in a vehicle with a ridiculously loud car stereo system. The result was surprisingly clear and undistorted. It's in these challenging environments that true quality starts to tell.
The last switch on the back is one called Low Cut. This is the kind of feature that is especially useful in indoor, air-conditioned environments. In our tests, the Low Cut switch eliminated the rumble of an office building's environmental system, resulting in a very clean recording. Thank you very much, Roland.
The audio quality of the Edirol R-09 is excellent. The 24-bit, 48kHz WAV format ensures high fidelity audio for when you absolutely need it. You can fit almost an hour of stereo audio on a 1GB SD card. When you need longer recording times and not-so-high fidelity, you can record as MP3 files.
On a 1GB card, you can fit about 980 minutes of 128kbps MP3 stereo audio. If, for some reason, you need to record longer times, you can use up to a 2GB SD card and knock the MP3 bit rate down to 64kbps. Crazy, but you can do it.
The Edirol R-09 is one of those great products that just might be too expensive for casual use, yet not suitable for the professional sound designer. It's a quality portable recorder for capturing events, meetings, interviews, and podcasts. Andrew Tokuda