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Review: Roland R-07 High-Resolution Audio Recorder

By Clive Young. A workhorse that does what you expect of it, the R-07 offers some comprehensive features for those who need more out of a consumer recorder than just the basics.

In April, Roland shipped its R-07, a high-resolution audio recorder aimed primarily at musicians—so much so that the company introduced it to the world at the NAMM Show in January. Having used an early production model for the last month, the R-07 has proven itself to be a dependable workhorse that does what you expect of it and, once you dig into its controls, offers some comprehensive features for those who need more out of a convenient recorder than just the basics.

The R-07 sits in a nice middle ground, easily surpassing the recording quality of a smartphone (likely its biggest competition), but without saddling users with added niche features they’d never use that would be offered on a high-end professional recorder. As an analogy, it’s somewhat akin to a mid-level DSLR, where users can instantly see the jump in photo quality over smartphone snapshots, but don’t have a need (or possibly the budget) for a photojournalist-level pro camera.

The first thing that jumps out about the handheld recorder is simply that it captures sound nicely. The R-07 will awaken the ears of anyone who’s been using a smartphone to quickly capture sound, whether for a songwriting session, interviews, lectures or something similar. If you’ve gotten used to accepting smartphone tracks as “good enough,” the R-07’s crisp recordings provide a nice reminder that “good enough” still isn’t good.

Roland Bows R-07 High-Res Audio Recorder

While the recorder can use an external mic via a 1/8” plug, most people will make use of the built-in pair of mics. Recordings can be captured as mono or stereo WAV files up to 24-bit/96 kHz and MP3s up to 320 kbps. That’s where some of the more advanced features come into play, because the R-07 offers a Dual Recording feature that makes simultaneous recordings in both formats, allowing users to capture audio at both a high input level and a lower one with more headroom; thus if the mics get overloaded or there’s clipping, users have material to edit together down the line.

As for those input levels, they can be set at the touch of a button—the Rehearsal button to be exact. Nine presets, referred to as Scenes, are also available, instantly adjusting sample rate, recording mode, limiter, low cut and input level settings to match the task at hand. Some of the Scenes include Music HiRes, Field, Loud Practice, Vocal and Vocal Memo, and all of them can be customized to taste and then saved for future recall.

While the controls on the unit are usually self-evident, the R-07 can also be remote controlled via Bluetooth from Android and iOS devices, including the Apple Watch—a feature that will no doubt come in handy for recording lectures or controlling the recorder after it’s been placed in just the perfect spot during a rehearsal. Moving beyond mere record/stop functions, the remote control apps can depict and adjust levels during recording, change Scenes as needed, and also affect playback from the recorder as well, including changing the speed and volume. Playback itself can be heard via the small but strident built-in speaker, or over headphones, both wired and Bluetooth wireless, the latter with Qualcomm aptX technology applied for streaming performance.

The results of R-07 recordings can be found all over recent stories, from a Tony Visconti stage discussion recorded from eighth row center of a pin drop-quiet theater, to multiple interviews on the NAB Show floor yelled amidst a typhoon of ambient sound. In every case, the R-07 captured voices with acuity, a sense of spatial relationships and a minimum of fuss (one wishes the recorder would boot up in less than 12 seconds, however). Another time, capturing an unexpected jam session, the recorder captured the moment and the mics never overloaded despite a close proximity to the drummer, thanks to a quick tap of the Rehearsal button. The R-07’s graphic tuner function got used that day, too, though use of its metronome was (loudly) vetoed.

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Results and functionality should always be a product’s priority, but it’s fair to note that the R-07 is rather nicely designed as well. Available in white, black and red, the recorder is slightly smaller than a deck of cards, fits comfortably in the hand and allows every control to be reached with a thumb, aiding single-handed use. A slightly rubberized back helps reduce handling noise while adding a little tack to the surface to ensure it doesn’t slip from your fingers. Four tiny feet minimize contact with any surface the recorder is laid on, further helping deal with vibrations. Small and lightweight, the R-07 can easily fit in a pocket—or an instrument case—without becoming a nuisance or a weight over the course of a day.

The R-07 does a nice job of simplifying considerable technologies into something its main audience—consumers—can understand and use, while still giving more advanced users results that won’t cause eyeballs to roll into the back of the head. Street-priced at $230, it’s all the recorder that some folks will ever need, and for the rest, it’s the first step into a larger professional world.

Roland •