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Edirol R1

******************** I have the R1, and have used it a little. My purpose in getting it was, not surprisingly, its small size and simplicity. I'm somewhat satisfied, but at this stage I find I'm returning to my Marantz 670 (also a compact flash recorder, but much larger). The preamps seem decent, perhaps better than a lot of MD recorders, but I haven't done any formal testing on them. They are definitely not identical to the 670, but I haven't used the R1 for anything demanding yet. And may never do so... The R1 is a pair of ducks, as Groucho might say. It's 90% what I was expecting, but what's missing or wrongly implemented makes it almost useless for me. Since the product descriptions give a pretty good idea what the R1 is all about, here's what I would have liked to know BEFORE I bought one. 1. Metering is vague and inadequate. It's a dim LCD bargraph with slow response, and no peak indication of any kind. Perhaps Roland figured that having a limiter obviated any need for peak displays, but obviously nobody recording in the field would think that. The minimum for me would be a signal-present / clipping dual indicator LED, visible from the top end of the case. Instead, after starting to record, you press the display button a couple of times and get a vague low-res bargraph that doesn't even hold peaks, so it's close to useless. It's a bit like shooting photos on film without a light meter -- you can do it if you're very familiar with the lens, the light, and the film. No help from the technology here. 2. Power is supplied by either two AA batteries, for a couple of hours, or by a wallwart supply. A "couple of hours" is way too short for any peace of mind, and there is no batterly level indicator of any kind, so you're left to your own recollection of how the current batteries have been used so far. When using a battery-powered external preamp I found that the R1 line inputs produced a nasty 60Hz buzz when operating off the wallwart. Perhaps I can find a way around this, but it looks like if I want to use line in, I have to run on AA's. Resigned to this, and not really minding the idea of pure DC power sources anyway, I slapped together a holder for two D cells and plugged it in. Perfect -- at least 8 hours of recording without mains. But there's a glitch. When the external power drops even a LITTLE below 3V, the R1 stops recording. This doesn't happen with the internal AA's, which obviously fall well below 3V towards the end of the 2 hours, but the power jack seems to be very sensitive to voltage sag. So instead of 2 D cells, I'll have to build a larger supply with a regulator, which wastes power, and takes more space, etc. Disappointing, but not nearly as disappointing as the discovery that when the external power DOES sag, the R1 just shuts off dead -- whatever file it was writing on the CF card is tossed. That, to me, is seriously lame, especially considering that a "field recorder" is abundantly likely to experience power glitches and other power issues. 3. Built-in microphones are provided for non-critical stereo recording. Great! But they're about 1.5 inches apart, with nothing to suggest there was any interest in stereo separation. Might as well be one mic, as far as I can tell. Worse yet, the mics are extremely well broadband coupled to the plastic R1 case, so you get a full-spectrum of handling noise just by lifting a couple of fingerprint whorls off the surface of the case. I experimented a little with a soft styrofoam C-shaped baffle that I slid onto the case between the mics, and got something approximating a coincident pair stereo recording, but it's still only useful if the entire unit is completely untouched during recording. 4. Since you can't use the unit hand-held without using external mics, due to the handling noise, and since the preamps aren't any more silent than you'd expect, you're likely to want to put the R1 down while recording, or at least stuff it in your pocket (it's pocket-sized, after all). But the input level control is on the side, protruding in the usual edge-on pot knob style, so it's highly likely to get rolled this way and that during pocketing. OK, I'll stick the R1 on the mic stand with the ... well, there's no mounting facility anywhere on the case. A 1/4 x 20 camera thread socket would have been nice, or something molded into the plastic, or a lanyard ring even. There's also no external case, although I hear Roland makes one you can buy separately. 5. Mic power is provided, but it's not Phantom; presumably it's the less specified approximately 10V used in some MD recorders? I don't know -- all my mics that use external power use 48V, so I haven't gone deeper. The user interface is a 5 out of 10. Some controls are nice, and some are cheesy. The display LCD is dim, and the backlight, though often needed, doesn't help enough in a lit environment (in the dark it works fine). And who wants to use the backlight with only a rough idea of battery life? The battery door, which perforce must be opened and closed a LOT if you're doing much recording, requires an unconventional push, slide, tilt, and swing motion that feels like it could easily break the hinge. So I don't know what Roland really had in mind for this puppy. It seems like a perfect field recorder for grabbing sounds -- just stick it in somebody's face and interview away -- but for the deafening handling noise. It seems like a pure WAV recorder (or MP3, to their credit), but doesn't seem to like line in from a good pre, at least not when using their own power supply. And 2 hours on AAs, with no indication of recording time remaining, is not much usable time. I just returned from an indie location shoot, and sound was "rolling" at least 3X the actual take time, which would mean that 2 hours is effectively about 30 minutes of take. I hate to diss a nice new hitech product like this -- it's so CLOSE to what I want -- but if I could have found anything better I would have returned it. Unfortunately, these kinds of deficiencies are born of designers not actually USING a product in the field, like real users, and there's no guarantee that the M-Audio or the new Marantz are going to work any better. I was surprised that sound quality ended up being one of the last things to even worry about -- if the R1 could really be USED in the field, I'd put up with a below-average preamp. I hope this hasn't been too rambling -- but it's my initial impressions after a month or two trying to find ways to make use of this little investment. I'm surprised that there aren't two or three "bare bones" flash recorders already, designed specifically for pro field use, robust, easy, and fun for consumers as well. Ironically, the HHB flash mic is an extreme example of how trivial a decent flash recorder could actually be -- if only it were available without the mic! ac Allen Cobb a@acobb.com http://acobb.com http://shakespeare.acobb.com http://timbreproductions.com -----Original Message----- From: phonography@yahoogroups.com [mailto:phonography@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Andrew Duke Cognition Audioworks Sent: Friday, September 09, 2005 12:56 PM To: Phonography list Subject: [phonography] comments on R-1 and MicroTrack requested Anyone using Edirol's R-1 http://www.edirol.com/products/info/r1.html or M-Audio's MicroTrack 24/96 http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/MicroTrack2496-main.html ? I *still* haven't decided on what portable recorder I should buy (budget around US $500) for field recordings. These two look promising. If anyone has used these or has opinions, they're appreciated. Thanks. Andrew -- Andrew Duke scoring/sound design/source http://andrew-duke.com Cognition Audioworks label [Andrew Duke, Foal, Clinker, Granny'Ark] http://cognitionaudioworks.com ***********************
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