Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Edirol R-09HR Update

Back in 2006, Tim Locke and Engadget spotted a new recorder from Edirol. We were disappointed in earlier models which had rather insensitive microphone inputs leading to far too much hiss.

David Zantow in Wisconsin tells me Roland, who make Edirol, have just updated the R-09 digital recorder to the new R-09HR model. It was shown a few days ago at an audio show in Frankfurt, Germany. It now includes a wireless remote control and reports tell us that they have addressed the hiss and shielding issues that plagued the original R-09.

The new specs says

- 24-bit/96kHz linear PCM high-resolution, low-noise recording
- Newly developed Isolated Adaptive Recording Circuit (I.A.R.C.)
- High-grade, high-sensitivity stereo condenser microphone built-in
- Records to SD or SDHC memory card (Up to 8 GB)
- Compact, hand-held body for convenient portable use
- Wide view-ability on large OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display
- Preview speaker built-in
- Wireless remote controller included
- High-speed file transfer via USB 2.0 connection to computer
- Cakewalk "pyro Audio Creator LE" wave-editing software included

Small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, the R-09HR has a new tactile feel that is easy to grip. It also has a user-friendly OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) graphic display for easy operation. The large display provides a wide view with easy-to-see level meters, peak indicators, and additional recording information onscreen. A built-in preview speaker allows instant playback of the recorded sounds —no headphones required. With the included wireless remote controller, transport functions can be accessed from a distance. Style wise, you either love it or hate it.

The R-09HR can connect to computers via USB for importing/exporting audio files. It supports Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0) mass storage so file transfers are quick and convenient. Included with the R-09HR is Cakewalk's pyro Audio Creator LE software —a perfect companion for WAV/MP3 audio file editing. With pyro, the R-09HR package becomes a complete recording solution suite, from recording to CD-burning.

A wide variety of optional accessories are available for the R-09HR, including: Cover/Stand Set (OP-R09HR-C), Silicone Rubber Case (OP-R09HR-S), Carrying Pouch (OP-R09HR-P), Microphone Stand Adaptor (OP-R09M), Stereo Microphone (CS-15), Carrying Case (CB-R09S), Roland Stereo Headphones (RH-300) and Roland In-Ear Headphones (RH-iE3).

The guys from SoundOnSound in the UK, have posted a video shot at the Frankfurt Messe

Most significantly, the new device is capable of recording 24-bit WAV files at 96kHz, where the predecessor was only equipped to record at rates of up to 48kHz. But there are other improvements that make it even more appealing.

Edirol say that both the internal and external construction of the device has been improved over previous models. Externally, there's a new, brighter screen and it's got a much more robust, rubberised shell. What's more, the battery/USB socket/SD card access arrangement has changed, with the battery compartment on the back rather than on the bottom, which will come as a welcome improvement to existing R09 users.

Internally, the circuitry has been improved to lower the noise floor, and there are new, better mics fitted in the same arrangement as with the original R09. There's even a built-in speaker, which lets you listen to recorded audio without the need for headphones or portable speakers. All that is missing now is news about the final price.

David adds the he's getting along fine with his old Edirol R-1 with a 2 GB card. "I never use it portable so I prefer it on the larger side anyway."

Korg MR-1

This blog already lists several MP3 players with built-in voice and line recording capabilities--but they never seem to offer everything we want in a portable recording device....usually they have a noisy/hissy performance on speech. CNET reports the Korg MR-1 (US$899) handheld audio recorder lives at the opposite end of the spectrum, offering a dedicated portable recording solution with incredible recording flexibility and audio quality.

Measuring 4.75 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.8 inch deep, the Korg MR-1 has the chunky feel of a first-generation iPod. Five well-spaced buttons dot the mirrored face of the Korg MR-1, providing intuitive control over recording and playback. The left edge of the Korg MR-1 includes jacks for the power adapter and USB 2.0 connection, while the right edge features a multifunction scroll wheel, controls for playback volume, a menu button, and a power switch that doubles as a button hold. On the top edge of the Korg MR-1, above its monochrome 2.2-inch screen, are four crowded 3.5mm jacks that act as a stereo headphone output, stereo line output, and separate left and right recording inputs.

The Korg MR-1 lacks many of the features we've come to expect from competing products, such as built-in microphones, RCA or XLR inputs, or flash memory expansion. Korg's golden feature with the MR-1 (and its bigger brother, the MR-1000) is a trademarked Direct Stream Digital 1-bit high-definition recording technology (documented by Korg in this PDF whitepaper). The gist of Korg's justification for the DSD recording feature (and for the MR-1), is that recordings made using DSD are versatile for stepping down into whatever format you later choose, with minimal loss in audio quality. For audio archivists reluctant to record using today's CD-quality standard of 16-bit/44.1kHz, fearing that the format may become outdated, DSD recordings offer a new recording option that may hold up better over time and meet the demands of bouncing down master recordings to mediums with different audio requirements (DVD, CD, MP3).

Once you get past Korg's DSD recording feature, there's little else the MR-1 can brag about as a portable audio recorder. The Korg MR-1's built-in battery holds a measly 2 hour charge, the internal hard drive caps out at 20GB, the audio input jacks have to be adapted for most microphones or line-input cables, the included microphone feels like an afterthought, and the power adapter is larger than the product it's powering.

However, the Korg MR-1 does have excellent recording format support, supporting several proprietary high-resolution files such as DFF, DSF, and WSD, as well as common file types such as MP3 (192Kbps/44.1kHz) and WAV (up to 24-bit/192Khz). Once your recordings have been transferred to your computer, you can use Korg's included Audiogate audio software (Mac/PC) for converting the files into your desired final format.

The Korg Audiogate software is basic and offers little in the way of editing. It's necessary, however, if you want to convert recordings made in the DFF, DSF, or WSD file format, into more useful WAV and MP3 files.

It's hard to find fault with Korg's unprecedented recording quality and file format resolution, but the MR-1's poor suitability as a truly mobile device makes it tough to recommend. Rated at 2.5 hours of battery life while recording WAV files, or just 2 hours for DSD file recording, the Korg MR-1 just isn't cut out for the demands of mobile recording. To be fair, running an audio chip at the unprecedented 2.82MHz required to handle DSD audio, must require some serious power--but if you can't take it away from a wall socket for more than 2-4 hours, then its usefulness is limited as a mobile solution. As of January 2008, Korg is now shipping the MR-1 with an extra external battery pack that doubles the device's recording time. Unfortunately, the external battery pack adds awkward bulk and still places the MR-1's battery life short of the 12 hours boasted by the Sony PCM-D50. To make matters worse, we also found the Korg MR-1's charge time to be painfully long. During our unofficial preliminary testing, it took the Korg MR-1 between 3-to-4 hours to reach full charge using the included power adapter.

The small lavalier condenser microphone included with the Korg MR-1 barely taps into the device's sonic potential. Recordings made using the microphone in both indoor and outdoor situations were riddled with microphonic artifacts caused by movement of the cable, or transference from the surface the microphone was placed on (using the included stand). If you're determined to use the Korg MR-1 for nature or concert recording, expect to shell out some money for a better microphone.

My Conclusion

Looks like a really expensive bit of kit for only medicore results - especially if you're going to need an external microphone. The Korg website does do a good job in explaining the different audio formats that are around. Wav and MP3 are fine for my purposes.(Jonathan Marks)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Solio Solar Chargers

Solio Solar Charger
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
One of the better portable solar chargers on the market, folds away nicely. It has a battery built in and an "intelligent" plug into to the mobile phone itself which knows what voltage to deliver. Takes about 4-5 hours to charge a mobile phone when put in the sun. One Solio unit, when full, can fully charge two phones. I think they might want to think of an option to simply charge a couple of NiMh penlights this way so you could charge your audio recorder in an emergency. Power is a serious challenge in most remote areas. Cost? Currently US$99.95 on the website.

They now offer a special Magnesium version of the Solio at US$199.95, obviously targeted at the "serious adventurer" community. This unit is also hybrid because it can accept power from either the wall socket or Sun storing this energy within Solio's internal rechargeable battery. Solio then uses this energy to power your gadgets at the same rate as if they were plugged into the wall. Solio will also hold its charge for up to a year.

Other manufacturer's stats

One hour of sun will give you enough juice to play your iPod™ for about an hour or provide up to 25 mins of additional talk time on most cell phones.*
Provides an emergency power source when away from power outlets.
Adapter tips allow you to power multiple gadgets with a single charger ( tips for most products included in pack.)
Works with multiple gadgets, including mobile phones, iPhone™, Bluetooth® headsets, smartphones/PDAs, MP3 players, portable gaming devices, digital cameras, GPS and much more.
Reusable - use it again and again.
Compact lightweight design - convenient for travel or emergency use.

More details at their website

Motorola Alternative Energy at MWC

I haven't posted for a while, having been travelling a lot, but still keeping the serious gadget reporter in mind. Currently looking through a wealth of material I collected at ISE Europe in Amsterdam and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, last month. I am looking at alternative energy solutions, both for radio/TV stations as well as reporters. This Motorola project in Namibia, started last April, is generating some excellent results, literally.