There’s virtually no new gear out of NAMM this year, it seems, but Roland does have one tiny, silver 4-track recorder (well, actually 2 track recorder, 4 track playback, with more “virtual tracks”):


For those of you who like old-school multitracking to sketch out ideas but want to go digital, this could be a decent option. It reminds me a whole lot of the old Zoom portable recorders. It records to SD cards (I’ve been seeing 1GB cards on sale for US$30), plays and records MP3 files (and presumably uncompressed WAV like Roland’s other portable player/recorders), and measures a svelte 5-3/8″ x 3-3/16″ x 7/8″. It’s not quite iPod nano small, but it will fit into your pocket. There’s an internal mic, and a line in/mic minijack, plus a phones/line out jack. Onboard multi-effects, which you might not need or want except for one important feature: you can slow down audio without changing pitch for compressed and uncompressed audio. That could make it a handy practice tool, if you want basic 4-track recording, too. Extras include drum patterns, a tuner, and a dedicated guitar in jack, making onboard guitar effects handy.

This looks like something a lot of people will have fun with in their gig bag, but I’m surprised that we still don’t have a simple, ultra-portable, affordable recorder with XLR inputs. There are plenty of more expensive options, but, come on, adding a Neutrik jack to a recorder with a basic mic pre can’t possibly be that expensive. I’d love to see a recorder that dispenses with the other extras and just does that, for simple, high-quality recording. No, it wouldn’t fit easily in my pocket, but anyone doing serious work can happily carry a laptop bag or at least a “man purse” (or woman purse!) with a good mic. And I don’t think it’s just the broadcast market and hard-core field recording markets who want good-quality recordings on the go, sans laptop and audio interface. The Trinity recorder prototype we’ve seen this week is along the right lines, but only for those willing to invest extra in a full-blown editor. Surely someone can build a bare-bones recorder for under US$400 with an XLR in. (See a close alternative, minus phantom power, in comments — the existing BOSS BR-600, which could be worth the extra size for some additional features. Thanks, Richard!)