Edirol R1 MP3 recorder

The Edirol R1 looks like an ideal small MP3 and WAV recorder for field applications. Since they are as of this writing (3 April 2005) very hard to find and since I managed to get my hands on one, I thoguht I would put up this web site with a mini-review from my perspective. I have also put up some sample recordings so you can judge for yourself how the R1 will suit your own application.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive review. So far, there are a couple reviews on the web that are of a general nature and I will let them do the bulk of the work. (See this thread) This page captures my impressions of the R1 as I would use it for field recordings of live folk music (mostly).

To start recording from totally off, you turn the power on (slide switch on the top of the unit), wait about 3-5 seconds for it to boot up, press RECORD (puts it into RECORD / PAUSE), then press RECORD again. The R1 begins recording. To stop recording, just press STOP. If you leave the unit in STOP mode, it will go to sleep after a time interval you can program. In sleep mode, it consumes about 100 mA and will wake up very quickly with any button press. If quick start recording is desired, using the sleep mode is the way to go.

When in RECORD / PAUSE or in RECORD, you can press the DISPLAY button and bring up a bargraph level meter. The meter is not calibrated but can be used as a good indication of whether the unit is over recording.... just keep the level below the point where the right most bar is active and the level is less than 100%.

There is also a limiter function that will reduce the level if it approaches 100% but I find that the time constant is such that on most program material there is audible "pumping" so I don't use it.

The recording format is menu selected. You can select MP3 recording at 44.1KHz and bitrates between 64Kb and 320Kb. You can also select 16 or 24 bit WAV files at 44.1KHz. I find that 128Kb MP3s are the minimum for good quality music recording, and prefer 192Kb. 64Kb is OK for voice but causes noticable artifacts on music.

Recorded samples
I have some recordings in various situations as examples of how the R1 sounds. Judge for yourself.

Playback is very straightforward.... use the thumbwheel control and navigate to whichever file is desired and then press PLAY. Headphone output is a 3.5mm jack on the top of the unit. Output level is more than adequate. Level is controlled by an analog control on the top of the unit.

The R1 has many built in digital effects such as microphone "simulation" (EQ), programmable EQ, reverb, pitch shifting, "tuning machine" (produces a tone), and metronome. However, for basic field recording, the effects are pretty superflous and I would have preferred that Edirol left them off and made the unit less expensive.

Battery life
I am still experimenting with battery life. The unit draws about 100 mA in sleep mode, 250 mA in playback and 350 mA in record. Stated battery life is 2.5 hours on two AA alkalines but it seems to run a bit longer than that.... maybe three hours. I finally wore out my first set of alkalines and discovered that there is very little time (like a couple minutes max.) between the time that the R1 puts up the low battery indicator and when it shuts off. I did discover, though, that if it does shut off due to low battery, the recording is written to the card OK. I am currently experimenting with a set of Rayovac 15 minute rechargeable NiMh. They are rated at 2000 mAH, so the R1 should be able to record for about 5-6 hours give or take. However, my first test run only resulted in a continuous record time of about 3.5 hours. But that was also the first cycle on those cells, so they may improve a bit with age. I also suspect that the R1 battery level sensor may not be optimum for NiMh cells. I'll have more info after I get some experience with them.

The second pair of Rayovac NiMh cells ran for just over four hours of recording. however, the recording was broken up into two sections with a rest in between. Still experimenting.

I have now owned the R1 for a couple months and can say that overall it has been very satisfactory. Recording quality is very good. My only complaints at this point are:

1. It is too large and expensive. It is not quite small enough for a shirt pocket.... or even a pants pocket. I am sure there will be competing units that are smaller and less expensive in the near future.

2. I really miss a real time clock. All files are encoded with the same fixed date and time and the filenames start over at 001 if you erase the card. For that reason, you cannot simply dump files from multiple sessions into the same directory and you cannot tell from the filename / date when sometime was recorded.

3. It is not possible to get into record quickly from a dead start. The unit has to boot, then you have to go into RECORD PAUSE, then you can go into record. Takes 5-10 seconds.

Other than that, however, I am happy.
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