The original R-09 was reviewed in Tape Op #63. The new HR version adds 24-bit, 96 kHz recording capability as well as numerous improvements to function and form-factor. It's always a good sign when I pack up a review unit for return and realize that I never even opened the manual. I quickly found even the most obscure features of this well-designed, pocket-sized recorder thanks to its intuitive menu structure, clear nomenclature, and lightening-fast operating system. The R-09HR's hardware is equally as pleasing; the rubberized non-slip surface, the crystal-clear OLED display, the bright Peak and Record LEDs, and the controls' tactile feedback make the R-09HR a joy to use. There are even handy toggle switches on the back for Low Cut, Mic Gain, Limiter, and other useful functions. Extras like a desktop stand and a tiny wireless remote add to the R-09HR's facility, as does its use of SD/SDHC storage and no-nonsense USB 2.0 support. Best yet, the R-09HR sports a tiny monitor speaker eliminating the need for headphones when performing simple playback checks. All of this adds up to a pocket-friendly recording solution that you won't have to think twice about while you're fumbling around in a dark club, wrestling with guitar cables at band rehearsal, or when inspiration hits and you don't want to put down your instrument. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the R-09HR's built-in
electret condenser microphones is not stellar. Granted, it's a handheld recorder, and many users will use it to record reduced-bit-rate MP3 files. But even while capturing 24-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV files, the R-09HR's mics sound relatively lo-fi compared to my modest home recording setup of two cheap Marshall condensers through my TASCAM FW-1884's mic preamps. That said, the R-09HR's recordings do not suffer from noise or other obvious digital artifacts, so depending on your standards, the R-09HR will certainly be adequate in many live situations. I was also able to achieve much higher fidelity by feeding signals directly into the R-09HR's convenient Line and Mic inputs.
Despite the shortcomings of its mics, the handy R-09HR will certainly fill many niches. If you're a band looking to archive rehearsals without fumbling with headphone cables, a bootlegger who doesn't mind a bit of grit in your live recordings, a luddite podcaster who hates "fiddling" with recording gadgets, a songwriter looking for an easy way to catalog ideas, a student wishing to discretely record lectures, a music fan looking for portable CD-quality audio playback, or a blue-suit who wants to record your power meetings, the R-09HR is for you. ($450 MSRP; www.rolandus.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.