Now, you’re probably wondering why we’d be reviewing an audio recorder when most of our readers probably have iPhones or iPads that work perfectly well as recorders. They do, but they have some shortcomings. For example, if you’re doing an interview in a crowded situation do you really want to be waving your $1,200 iPhone XR Max around in somebody’s face? And what if you’re recording music and want to record the input from a mixer? Today we’re looking at the Roland R-07 High Resolution Audio Recorder (US$199.99), a small, rugged and connected digital audio recorder, the perfect unit for the person who wants to go beyond making music or voice recordings on a smartphone.
Design and Specs
The R-07 comes in three different colors: black, white and red. At 2-7/16 x 4-1/16 x 1-1/16 inches (61 x 103 x 26mm) and weighing just 6 ounces (150g) with batteries, it’s not out of place in a pocket where it’s available for immediate use.
The front of the R-07 is the business end, dominated by a backlit display that might remind you of the old original iPod — it has 128 x 64 resolution and is used to access the operating system of the device. Also on the front are buttons to set scenes, bring up the menu, mark a spot in a recording, or play back the file between two markers. A “rehearsal” button is used to automatically set the correct recording level.
There are also two rocker buttons for input level and output volume, as well as a five way (up-down-left-right and select) rocker button to start and stop recording, pause, fast-forward or reverse , and so on. The power switch is on the side of the unit and requires a “push and hold” to power the unit on or off. That’s a smart design feature, as the recorder is highly unlikely to turn itself on while sitting in a bag or switch off if it is bumped.
The R-07 runs off of two AA batteries, which can be either alkaline or rechargeable Ni-MH batteries. They’ll last about 15 hours, but if you need additional recording time and you’re in a studio or office, a USB connection will power the unit.
Recordings are stored on a microSD card, which means that you can easily transfer them to a computer or iOS device by popping the card out from behind a small hatch. Files can also be moved via USB.
The device has Bluetooth built in for two reasons; using the R-07 Remote app and transmitting sound to Bluetooth speakers or headphones.The remote app runs not only on iOS, but also Apple Watch. That means that the R-07 can be placed on a tripod and placed in the optimal location for a recording, then triggered to start recording with a tap on the Watch.
Although the R-07 has a built-in stereo microphone, there’s also a MIC/AUX IN jack that uses a stereo miniature phone type plug or a plug-in powered mic.
When recording, you can select between 2 track stereo recording in WAV, MP3 or simultaneous WAV + MP3 formats, or in 4 track using the WAV X 2 format. For MP3 recording, the R-07 samples at 44.1 or 48 KHz and bit rates of 64-96-128-160-192-224-320 kbps.
The “Scene” button lets the user select between nine different presets: Music Hi-Res (for acoustic or soft volume music), Music CD (for CD-quality recording), Music Long (extended duration recording), Loud Live (for recording very high volume performances), Loud Practice (extended duration loud recordings), Instrument (recording a nearby instrument), Vocal (recording a nearby vocal), Voice Memo (non-musical recording) or Field (nature recordings).
My main reasons for wanting to try out the R-07 are to make high-resolution audio recordings while capturing virtual reality video and to gather higher-quality audio for podcasts. During my testing, the R-07 excelled at both.
Operating the R-07 is simple, particularly for anyone who used one of the old iPods. By that, I mean that the multi-level menu is somewhat familiar. After turning on the device you’re presented with a recording interface — tapping the Menu button displays a menu with sixteen different choices. Pressing the middle button of the five-way rocker selects one of those menu items and moves to the next level. For example, pressing 2 - Input gives you a choice of various settings for low cut frequency, how long the “rehearsal time” should continue, the type of external microphone being used, and so on.
Three of the items on the menu (#12, 13, and 14) should be of interest to musicians, as they provide a metronome with controllable beats per minute and a different tone on a beat (say, the fourth beat), a tuner, and a graphic tuner.
Those musicians can also take advantage of the rehearsal button to automatically set levels for them; with a tap of the button, they can play for a minute and be assured that the recording level will be perfect.
My testing was primarily making voice recordings for podcasts, and I used the R-07 for the latest episode of Tangible Tech. One thing I noticed is that I couldn’t really had to set the microphone a bit away from my head or just regular movements while I was recording would make the sound louder in one channel than the other. Still, the recordings were clear and never experienced any clipping thanks to the automatic gain control.
I did find the micro-SD card to be a bit difficult to take out, so I decided to plug the R-07 into USB to transfer sound files. That works quite well - after plugging into USB I was given a choice to use it for powering the R-07 or use it for storage; I chose the latter and the recorder was mounted like any other external drive.
I’ve used several other digital recorders in the past, most notably a Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder. I found the Roland R-07 to be more compact, and easier to use at the same price. Whether you’re recording interviews, music, or podcasts, you should definitely consider the Roland R-07.