14, Sep 2005 04:07
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Cognition Audioworks label
[Andrew Duke, Foal, Clinker, Granny'Ark]