The Edirol R-09 handheld audio recorder ($399) is designed primarily for the needs of musicians and songwriters who want a simple, all-in-one gadget for capturing recordings of their performances and song ideas. Its compact size, outstanding sound quality, and affordable price make the Edirol R-09 equally well-suited for less glamorous applications such as recording interviews, mobile reporting, and field recording.
Measuring 4 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 1 inch deep, the Edirol R-09 is one of the smallest high-end portable audio recorders available. The top edges of the Edirol R-09 include a pair of stereo condenser microphones covered behind a rugged perforated metal grate. Also found on the top of the R-09 are two 3.5mm jacks for an external microphone input and line-input, as well as a loophole for a lanyard or wrist strap (not included).
The face of the Edirol R-09 is designed with a small 1.2-inch backlit monochrome screen on the top half, and navigation and playback controls on the bottom. The navigation and playback section of the Edirol R-09 is comprised of a four-way direction pad with an illuminated center record button, and three smaller buttons above the pad which that are used for accessing the menu, activating reverb effects, and creating repeating audio loops.
On the right side of the Edirol R-09 you'll find a hold switch, a headphone volume control, and a 3.5mm headphone jack that doubles as an optical audio output. The R-09's left side includes buttons for power and recording level adjustment, as well as a power adapter input jack. The back of the R-09 features four small switches for features we're happy aren't buried in menus, including automatic gain control, mono/stereo microphone type, low-frequency filter, and low/high microphone sensitivity.
The Edirol R-09's compact and attractive design is hard to find fault with, however, there are some missed opportunities. For instance, the black buttons found on the sides of the black and silver model of the Edirol R-09 are very hard to distinguish in dim-light situations. In contrast, the red, illuminated record button on the face of the Edirol R-09 shines out like a beacon, which is a disadvantage if you're attempting to capture a recording undetected. We also noticed that unlike the Sony PCM-D50 and Zoom H2, the Edirol R-09 can only be mounted on a stand with the purchase of a $60 case.
Edirol packs the R-09 with plenty of features, however, its most competitive asset is its capability to fit in your shirt pocket. Size aside, the R-09 includes desirable features such as a low-cut filter that decreases ambient rumble and wind noise from recordings, an automatic gain control that takes the guesswork out of finding the ideal recording level, and the capability to record directly to MP3 files while maintaining an unexpectedly high level of audio fidelity.