Smartphones have already changed how we think about cameras. So what about recording? The newest handheld in Roland’s popular line has one answer to that.

The R-07 is a handheld recording gadget, in the tradition of Roland (and Edirol) recorders past. That already suggests it could be a good choice. This year’s model has various high-quality modes and stereo recording, including built-in stereo operation.

Now, that already can best the internal mono mics in your smartphone. Plus, add-on mics are kind of a pain – they require different connectors, may make you worry about battery life, and then require you to position your phone in the recording location. Plus, phones generally speaking lack tripod mounts (even if there are some solutions to that).

So the R-07’s innovation is to both respond to the sleek, small design of modern phones, and to couple with your iPhone or Android phone for added functionality.

This doesn’t look quite like any handheld recorder we’ve seen yet from Roland or anyone else. It’s incredibly tiny, with a sleek design that seems more consumer gadget and less chunky pro audio device. It still manages to include one-touch access to important features, plus USB connectivity, audio jacks, and a built-in stereo mic. But it does so in a pocket form factor.

Work with the R-07 and your smartphone (hey, trousers have two pockets for a reason?), and the device expands in power. First, there’s remote control functionality. You can stick the R-07 where you want it to go – especially important if you’re using that built-in mic – then record and play and manage recordings and set levels wirelessly, over Bluetooth. (They’ve even got a nifty Apple Watch app.)

The R-07 can also stream audio from the record to your phone, via Bluetooth. And refreshed technology can mean the fidelity of that is higher than you might expect. That’s thanks to new tech from chipset maker Qualcomm called aptX. Basically, it’s a higher-quality codec optimized for improving sound quality while simultaneously improving low-latency reliability. There’s a good writeup on Android Authority covering both aptX and aptX HD variants. (iPhones don’t support aptX natively, but some dongles do; I don’t know yet if the R-07 will be compatible with those.)

You can also use Bluetooth to monitor your R-07 with Bluetooth wireless headphones – and again, if those headphones support aptX, you’ll get higher-quality, lower-latency sound. (Now we’re beginning to see some added tax to living in the Apple ecosystem, since it seems Apple is going their own way with this.)

Apart from the phone features, the R-07 looks like a darned cute little pocket recorder – like one that would actually fit in your pocket. It also solves a really big problem that may be more important than wireless operation or how it works with your phone, and that’s that it has some features to prevent you accidentally recording at a volume that’s too high.

Each time you record, the R-07 actually makes not one but two recordings – one at full level, and one at a lower level. So when the full-level recording clips, you can go back to the lower-level recording that has more headroom – even just for the portion that clips. If you’d prefer this process to be automatic, something called Hybrid Limiting automatically splices in the lower-level bits you need. Neat. I’m curious to try this in practice.

(This is hardly a pro or consumer issue. For instance, I was once in a taxi racing to the Philadelphia airport and learned my taxi driver was frustrated with Zoom’s recorders because he kept clipping his recordings when he was playing drums with a heavy metal band. This is probably potentially relevant to half the world’s population. There you go. And obviously, pros and consumers have all screwed this up at one time or another.)

The R-07 can make two simultaneous recordings—one at full level and another at a lower level with increased headroom. If there’s unexpected clipping in the main recording, you can replace that section with a portion of the lower-level backup recording. Hybrid Limiting can even handle this automatically, so you get all the safety of limiting with none of the downsides.

Features:

Stereo WAV recording, up to 24-bit/96 kHz
MP3 recording, up to 320 kbps
Included stereo mics
One-touch access to scene setups (oh, lord, having done a lot of menu diving on Zoom devices, this is welcome)
microSD slot
USB connectivity, with USB class compatibility (so you can mount it on any computer, mobile device)
Jacks: headphone out, mic/line in (that’s a stereo minijack – it disables use of the mic, but it means you can use the R-07 for external line recordings, like from a mixer in a show)
Powered by two AA batteries or USB bus power
Black, white, or red, optional bags available

With the splashy marketing materials and a launch this week at the Consumer Electronic Show, it’s clear Roland hopes this recorder will reach out to a wide, wide audience. Hope we get to try one.

Watch the overview here:

More:

https://www.roland.com/us/products/r-07/specifications/

The competition: Roland, TASCAM, Sony, and Zoom have been duking it out in this category for some years now. In the handheld space, look for the updated Zoom H1n as the rival here. That should be some nice competition. (And to my gripes about Zoom and menu diving — don’t get me wrong, Zoom has gradually been working on that. I’d love to put them side by side and test usability, too, as well as of course mic capsule quality and noise and other performance issues.)

My current rig includes both the Zoom H4n and Zoom iQ6 for iOS to attach to my iPhone. Curious to see how this stacks up.

Updated: Street is US$229.99; available in April.

  • Future

    isn’t Tascam have the similar sized models? Even a 4-track.

    • Yes, every other brand in this market has similarly sized models.

  • Cool stuff! Really like the smartphone-oriented features and this might turn into my first pocket recorder purchase (have been enjoying to do some ambient recordings lately, even with the primitive built-in mic from my Android phone).

  • Tom

    Brilliant. I’ve had my eyes on those iQ6’s, but avoided in the off chance I switched for Android. Finally time to replace that cheap H1.

    • James West

      let me save you the trouble. the apps on android are garbage compared to ios.

      • Tom

        I’ve used both. Android is definitely the superior phone OS. iOS is definitely the superior tablet OS.

  • Quentin Lamerand

    Owning a Zoom H4n, I’m curious of the startup time of this nice recorder. For me that’s the main issue of the H4n.

    • Spankous

      I had the same problem with my H4. I realised that it made a HUGE difference in Boot time when the card was “emptier”. As soon as it gets more packed, it gets slow as “F”. I find the H1 much faster but you have no Phantom power. If you don`t need it i would consider the new H1n that is coming soon. Cost half of the Roland. Not as many gimmicks but when it comes to Rec qual, it is just as good . I bet on this

      • Quentin Lamerand

        Yes, I just saw this morning the announce of the H1n. It could be the one 🙂 (as I already have what I need for serious recording with phantom power)

        • Spankous

          I hear ya. Yes the H1 is amazing value for money and the H1n looks like it`s “freshened up” a bit. Now it takes 2 aaa instead of 1 aa battery so more capacity and it also has a limiter which i sometimes missed from my H1. What i still don`t understand is why they don`t put a mesh net or something as a cage around the mics. The way it is it is like in the H1 case, ultra ultra sensitive to wind. Practically unusable outside without a windscreen which sometimes i don`t need (or else it won`t fit my pocket) when i want an unexpected “quickie” recording

  • Foosnark

    I have an 11 year old Zoom H4 that I basically never use, because it’s a hassle. I’m not sure whether it’s time to replace it, or just continue not using a recorder at all. Price is going to be a big factor in a decision like that I think.

  • treecathedral

    How does this thing get around wind noise, unit noise, etc? That woman in the video walking outside while recording – with my Zoom that would lead to a completely unusable recording.

    • And not even a wind shield. The joys of marketing, huh?

      • Spankous

        yes indeed 🙂 i wouldn`t take the commercial to seriously. It will be indeed unusable without a windscreen outside or when you are in motion

  • You don’t mention Olympus, who have consistently produced the best-sounding recorders for the money. Unfortunately they discontinued the LS-10 and LS-11, which had great pre-amps, because people generally don’t want better gear… they want what looks cool.

    Enter the Roland R-07, which is the first device in this category to have flashy colours… it’s red! Previous models (Tascam, Zoom) have had the dual record feature (two tracks at different levels) though not automated in this way. As you say, it’s potentially a great solution to sudden hot levels. But that’s not enough to distinguish this model. Other manufacturers have other useful solutions to the problem. Certain Olympus recorders can sample the current SPL to set the input level. That’s pretty cool, since beginners then don’t need to think about record levels… at all.

    The streaming audio is a gimmick. Anyone who wants to use their phone to record will use their phone to record. Without dropouts and crap quality.

    That leaves the matter of size. This unit is double the volume and heavier by far than the Olympus LS-7 / LS-3, while costing 70 clams more. Even those fantastic Olympus LS-10 / LS-11 units are smaller. Meanwhile, the Sony PCM-M10 and Marantz PMD620 are the same size. So, no, it’s not breaking any new ground.

    I await tests of the R-07 pre-amps, but don’t expect much. Considering the marketing.

    I cover field recording on The Theatre of Noise. Though lately I’ve been less gear-obsessed. This comment notwithstanding!

  • TeamOth

    Hmm.. I’m still using the brick that is the Roland/Ediriol R1. This does look like a tasty replacement, not sure I can justify a new pocket digital recorder at this time though. Be nice If there was an ability to multitrack.

  • MichaelMueller

    I cannot find any information on the microphones and their arrangement on the product pages – for this reason alone I have to consider it a consumer device. I can learn about all kinds of “smart” functions but not about the single most important ingredient of a recording device? Bollocks. They claim stereo recording. Now, there are only two true stereo microphone techniques that would fit into a device like this: XY and MS. Doesn’t look like either of them, which makes be believe it is one those fake-stereo arrangements with two slightly angled microphones at a few centimeters distance. This arrangement does not produce suitable interaural time difference when played back on a stereo system, if anything it messes up the stereo image produced by the differences in intensity (which are also not correct due to the spacing). I fail to see the benefit of all these cool features (dual recording is potentially a really cool feature if implemented on the analog side with two different gain stages) in the light of no documenation about a highly suspicious microphone setup.