Edirol were one of the first manufacturers to produce a mass-market solid state consumer recorder with the R-1 way back in 2004. Soon afterwards, the R09 was launched.
The R09HR draws on the earlier design, keeping the handy form factor, powering from 2 AA batteries and the SD card storage media. A great step forward, however, for wildlife sound applications is the improved microphone preamplifier performance in the HR. The earlier model was a bit on the noisy side for good wildlife sound recording, something which Edirol have sorted out in the R09HR.
Roughly the size of an electric shaver, the Edirol R09HR has two microphones set on the sides of the top, which are the default recording source if nothing is plugged into the mic or line jacks. the main controls are straightforward - pressing the centre button of the square rocker switch sets the machine into record-pause, enabling monitoring, and a second press of this button starts recording.
The ergonomics of the machine are generally good for a product of this type, with some odd quirks. The headphone socket right on the top between the microphones is a bizarre place to put it and can easily lead to handling noise. However, a nice touch is that the menu system is mainly used to set the machine up - once operation all key controls can be accessed by buttons. Record level and the input jacks are on the left, headphones volume and on/off are on the right. Relegated to the back panel of the recorder are plug-in-power on/off, low cut filter, limiter/AGC and mic gain Hi/Lo. A nice operational touch is that Edirol supply an infra-red remote control, which means that recordings with the internal mics are not always started off and ended with handling noise. The remote gives control of record gain and headphone volume as well as record stop and start and the usual play functions.
An unusual omission is the absence of a tripod socket - where this would go at the the bottom of the unit there is a flap covering the SD card slot and mini-USB socket. Hence the use of the butterfly microphone holder in the picture, which is not supplied. There is an optional accessory case which seems to support a tripod connection on the back, but this was not reviewed. In practice this is not likely to be an issue for wildlife sound recordists - the recorder will most likely be used with external microphones connected to the mic-in jacks, so its orientation to the soundfield is not relevant.
All audio connectivity on the Edirol R09HR is via unbalanced 3.5mm stereo jack, which is typical of recorders at this price range. For wildlife sound recording, pairing this with a Sennheiser ME66 or 67 would make a very good mono bird recording set-up, however, the microphone preamp performance is good enough to be used with P48 condenser mics via an external powering unit.
The rationale for this is cited in the conclusion of the Hi MD noise measurements. The mic preamp performance of the Edirol R09HR on Mic-Hi is on a par with the Hi MD recorder measured in that article.
Using the Edirol R09HR
In general for wildlife sound recording with an external mic, use manual record level without limiting/AGC and set the gain to high unless the record level has to be brought below 25 to keep the signal from reaching 0dBFS, in which case set the gain to Low. There is a slight noise penalty for running on Low gain, but onset of clipping is raised on Low sensitivity. In practice most wildlife subjects and typical mics will work on the High setting.
The R09HR supplies a decent level of plug-in-power if that is required (switchable at the back) and is on a par with the Olympus LS10 in this respect, capable of powering most PiP mics including the home-brew mics using WM61A capsules.
Since the Edirol was kindly loaned to us in the springtime, this was a good opportunity to record the dawn chorus in a deciduous English wood. Although the internal microphones have some colouration of the mid and high frequencies, the result is a thoroughly satisfying recording without too much hiss. The advantage of internal mics on a field recorder is that there is always a microphone present if the recorder is with you. That can sometimes mean the difference between getting a recording and none at all if the subject appears unexpectedly.
Dawn Chorus, deciduous wood, 10 May 2009 3:44 using Edirol R09HR internal microphones
The wind speed was < 3mph and surprisingly enough the Edirol internal microphones performed well in the open without any wind protection. For most outdoor recordings some sort of wind protection would be needed, thought it is hard to arrange for the mic positioning on the Edirol R09HR. Nevertheless, the internal mics on the Edirol proved capable of making a serviceable recording in a sheltered spot when the wind speed in the open was about wind force 3 (~12mph), which is better than average.
The second recording is of a Blackbird for the Bird of the Year 2009 project, where the R09HR was teamed up with a Sennheiser ME66 and K6 adapter
Blackbird deciduous wood, 10 May 2009 4:46 using Sennheiser ME66 into Edirol R09HR
Both recordings are high-pass filtered at 150Hz.
Settings - Microphone input, max gain (80) sampling rate 44.1kHz Source impedance 150Ω accuracy +/- 1.5dB
Unit serial no. DX22686
Firmware Ver 1.04
Minimum input for 0dBFS = -47dBu (mic sens set to High)
Minimum input for 0dBFS = -26dBu (mic sens set to Low)
Ein = -115dBu (unweighted, 22kHz BW, mic sens set to High)
Ein (A) = -118dBu (A weighted, 20kHz BW, mic sens set to High)
Ein = -101dBu (unweighted, 22kHz BW, mic sens set to Low)
Ein (A) = -105dBu (A weighted, 20kHz BW, , mic sens set to Low)
Overload (Mic input, 1000Hz tone)
At mic sens set to High Vmax = 78mVrms (corresponds to 0dBFS at a gain of 25)
At mic sens set to Low Vmax = 860mVrms (corresponds to 0dBFS at a gain of 25)
Switchable from Menu
Open-circuit voltage = 3V
Source resistance  = 2.3k
(W x H x D), 62 x 113 x 27 mm (without ext mic)
Weight incl batteries and SD card 174g
about 300mA (recording, 44.1kHz, mic H, plug in power off, 2.4V NiMH) Cited by the manufacturer as 370mA
Recording Formats (WAV)
44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz sampling rate at 16/24 bits stereo
An excellent little recorder and a welcome addition to the range of budget field recorders capable of excellent results. For wildlife sound recording the noise reservations about the original R09 have been addressed in the Edirol R09HR, and the small form factor and convenient 2xAA power source make this a good go-anywhere field recorder. Noise levels are very good, and enable the user to upgrade to studio mics while still performing well. It is quite possible to use the R09HR with P48 powered mics via an external Phantom powering unit costing around £25 - see microphone powering for how.
The Edirol R09HR has adequate plug-in-power to supply most PiP mics and mic-capsules for the recordist on a budget, while allowing PiP to be turned off for self-powered mics. This has the advantage that not having DC on the connectors if not necessary stops the scratchiness when the plugs are moved slightly in the sockets, which happens easily if using a hand-held shotgun mic and recorder.
The large 1.5" OLED screen is clearly visible in daylight provided the power-saving facility is turned off, but is harder to see if sunlight is falling on the screen. The metering appears to be responsive and gives good results even with birdsong.
The Wildlife Sound Recording Society would like to thank Edirol UK
for the loan of the review sample.
Review date: May 2009
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inferred from the measurement that V PiP loaded with 5.6k to ground = 2.125V