New Toy – Roland R-05

I just ordered a Roland R-05 digital recorder and thus far I am quite impressed. I bought it to replace the MiniDisc recorder I’ve been rocking for about 10 years now and while I still think MiniDisc is awsome, it has it’s limitations. Namely two big ones.

First, my recorder is one of the earlier MD models, so it can only record 74 min of audio. That’s fine in a lot of situations, but not for recording live music. If the set goes any longer than an hour, I’m in trouble. I often mitigate this by pausing the recording during the encore break, but that still means at least one song from the encore is cut off and the hardcore traders like to have the complete show intact.

The second big limitation is the availability of the media itself. MiniDisc never really took off, in my opinion, like it should have. That makes finding the actual discs difficult. I’m reluctant to delete any of the shows I’ve taped from the discs. Maybe part of that is laziness because I still have to transfer a few shows over and maybe part of that is paranoia, especially since I am backed up at two locations – local and offsite (thanks, CrashPlan!). There’s still something scary to me about deleting the actual material from the source disc.

So what makes the Roland awsome? I’ll be using this little gadget for taping live music and for recording interviews for the podcast. The Roland is built for serious musicians (duh..it’s from Roland), so it has a pretty high quality built-in mic in addition to a mic input for powered mics and a line in. This means that for interviews, I don’t need to mess around with an external mic. I can just set the gadget on the table and let it do it’s thing. The shape is a little brick-like (it’s about an inch thick), but it’s about the size of a 1st generation iPod. Maybe slightly smaller overall. It takes “normal” batteries – 2AA – as opposed to the MD which uses a funky “chewing gum” rechargeable battery. My chewing gum battery kicked the bucket a long time ago, so I’ve been using the external battery pack with 2AA batteries. That makes the MD more clunky than it could be. With just the standard AA batteries for the Roland, I can use my regular rechargeables without the added bulk of the external battery pack and I can also grab replacements in a pinch while on the go.

There are a number of other features on the Roland really impressed me when I was evaluating various other products, including a new MD recorder. The media is standard SD flash, which is fairly inexpensive and easy to come by. This also means there are no moving parts. I’m sure you can imagine how nice that is for recording a live concert when you’re in the midst of a crowd. I also have a lot more storage space with SD, so that means good bye to songs being cut off at the end of the show. Probably the coolest feature is that you can record in both wav (lossless) and mp3 (lossy) formats simultaneously. Yes, I said simultaneously. This will save me a lot of time because I won’t have to encode what I’ve recorded after the fact and I’ll still have the lossless source material. I’ll also be able to transfer the files direct from SD to hard disk or from Roland to hard disk via USB. With my current MD, the only way to transfer the source audio is to let the audio play and record it in real-time to disk. That’s a huge pain.

We’ll see how the Roland does when it goes out on the town, but so far, so good. For my needs, it was definitely a good purchase.

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