The Edirol R-09's remarkable size and audio fidelity are hard to beat at this price, but there are a few missing features that will give pause to some users. For instance, the Edirol R-09 does not offer a way to edit, split, or bookmark recordings internally, making it difficult to manage long recordings without offloading them to a computer. The Edirol R-09's maximum recording resolution of 24-bit, 48KHz WAV, while outstanding, is short of the 24-bit, 96KHz ceiling offered by many of its competitors. For those of you interested in the Edirol R-09 as a solution for transcribing dictation or lectures, the lack of playback speed control could be a deal breaker.
Support for SDHC memory expansion cards is one of the Edirol R-09's hidden advantages over expensive competitors. A measly 64MB SD expansion card is included in the box, but support for swappable SDHC cards up to 8GB means that the Edirol R-09's storage is limited mostly by how many memory cards you feel like carrying around. Unless you already have some high-capacity SD memory cards lying around, expect to spend an extra $10 to $30 to outfit the R-09 with a healthy amount of storage.
While only separated by an inch and a half of space, the stereo separation achieved by the R-09's built-in microphones offer exceptional realism. Walking around the block with the Edirol R-09 in hand, we were able to capture detailed and lifelike recordings with relatively minimal distortion caused by handling and wind noise. Using the R-09's headphone output, you can monitor recording in real time, at volume levels capable of drowning out even the loudest concert. Unfortunately, if you're considering using the R-09 outdoors, we found that the onscreen recording level meter is difficult to read in broad daylight, even with the LCD contrast set to maximum.
The Edirol R-09's maximum recording resolution of 24-bit, 48KHz WAV is worth bragging about, but it's not practical for general use. Fortunately, the R-09 does a great job recording directly to easy-to-use MP3 files (64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 224, and 320Kbps), as well as 16-bit/44KHz WAV. Using only the R-09's built-in microphones, we found MP3 recordings held up just as good to our ears as uncompressed WAV.
Edirol rates the R-09's battery life at 5.5 hours of audio playback and 4 hours of recording. While it's not the 12 hours of battery life boasted by the Sony PCM-D50, four hours is a good sweet spot that's adequate for recording most concerts or lectures. If you really need to go the long haul with your recordings, the Edirol R-09's use of two common AA batteries means that you can quickly replenish your power with a minimum of fuss. By using the included power adapter, the R-09's only recording limitation is the capacity of your memory card.