When Edirol introduced the original R-09 in 2006, it was one of the smallest, lightest, high-quality stereo audio recorders made with swappable SD flash memory. In the wake of the R-09 came many handheld audio recorders boasting slimmer designs, enhanced features, and lower prices. To keep pace, Edirol has come back swinging with the impressive R-09HR ($450), which boasts an improved design, higher-resolution recording modes, and a larger memory capacity.
The R-09HR isn't the slimmest or lightest high-end recorder on the market these days. In fact, it's slightly longer and thicker than the original R-09. The R-09HR is still small enough to fit in your pocket, however, which is a major advantage over its closest competitor in sound quality: the Sony PCM-D50.
At first glance it's hard to see the differences between the R-09HR and its predecessor, but plenty of little improvements have been made. For instance, an upgraded rubberized exterior now allows the R-09HR improved sound isolation when placed down on its front or back. Also, the once indistinguishable black buttons lining the sides of the R-09 have now been labeled in white lettering, and a few buttons, switches, and ports have been rearranged for better ergonomics. Two of the most notable changes since the original R-09 are a larger screen and a more easily accessible battery compartment.
One thing that hasn't changed on the Edirol R-09HR, is its straightforward interface and large, illuminated record button. If a bright red record button attracts more attention than you'd like, however, you can set the button's backlight to automatically switch off during recording. The Edirol R-09HR's onscreen interface is intuitive and uncluttered, with a responsive meter and a legible indications of playback time, remaining recording time, and battery life. We still feel that the small black buttons used for volume and microphone levels make the R-09HR difficult to operate in a dark club or at night, but the new larger screen helps considerably.