There are a lot of pocket audio recorders out there, but the Roland R-07 is a portable recorder that has risen above the competition and delivered what we think is maybe the last pocket recorder you’ll ever need.
It has all the features you expect from a portable audio recorder, but cleverly packaged in an incredibly well designed and thought-out little gadget.
You can use it as a portable microphone, or as a pocket mixer and recorder for your external mic, like a lavelier.
But what’s unique about the Roland R-07 is you can wirelessly monitor and control it from your phone, tablet, or even Apple Watch.
It’s an easy accessory for anyone who wants to record audio on the go, with advanced features that make it far superior to using your phone. But for filmmakers especially, the R-07 offers a solution for wireless recording that makes it an essential addition to any gear bag.
Roland R-07 Portable Audio Recorder Specs
First, let’s take a look at the Roland R-07 specs.
The Roland R-07 can record to both WAV and Mp3 files at the standard variety of khz and kbps flavors. It has a built-in hybrid limiter, as well as dual recording, so you can record a safety track with more headroom.
There’s a low cut filter at several custom stages, so you can choose exactly what works for you depending on the hum or wind sound you want to remove.
For musicians there’s a tuner and metronome, and it also has a rehearsal function which enables you to press just one button, demo your sound, and the R-07 will adjust your levels automatically.
There's also a Scene feature, which allows you to create custom settings for various recording scenarios, such as interviews, music demos, board rooms, field recordings, and so on. Then all you need to do is select the particular Scene and all the relevant settings will follow.
You can record to a microSD card, which is housed deeper within the unit than most pocket recorders. And you can power the R-07 with two AA batteries or via external USB bus power.
The R-07 has one Mic/Aux input, and one headphone output, both of which have simple level dials on the front. And in addition to the built-in microphone, it also has a speaker for easy playback.
After using it on a few projects, we like having the input level and headphone level buttons right where they are. It helps that there's only one input - on other recorders, multiple inputs means there has to be some way of adjusting levels from more than one source. And that can mean that the headphone volume gets relegated to a menu option rather than a physical control.
There are a couple buttons for marking your recording and setting A and B points for easier playback. We should also mention that the Roland R07 requires two presses of the record button to initiate standby and then recording. Some people prefer a one-touch record, but there's a reason the two-touch record is standard in pocket audio recorders, and that's to prevent accidentally starting or stopping a recording unintentionally.
The R-07 has an assortment of options for file naming, display adjustments, and recording preferences. You can choose stereo or mono for the external mic, and you can add plug-in power for mics that require it. There’s also a pre-record option that’s super handy.
And lastly, there’s the wireless connectivity, to both control the recording as well as to monitor with bluetooth headphones. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Our Roland R-07 Review
Often what makes or breaks a piece of gear for us is its everyday usability. Especially when it comes to audio recorders, where you need to access advanced options periodically, but mostly you want to be able to adjust levels on the fly without thinking.
The Roland R-07, in our opinion, has the perfect amount of simplicity while enabling advanced settings when you need them. It bridges the gap between sophisticated recorders like the Zoom H4n, and simplified designs like the Mikme Blackgold, which doesn't have a screen or mic inputs.
A recorder without a screen becomes a guessing game over time, for whether you’re actually recording or not, what the levels are, how much battery power you have left, and so on.
And at the same time, larger recorders can be overkill when you want something simple to place in a pocket, or record an interview or performance on the fly.
We’ve used a lot of pocket recorders and they all have one or more downsides that make even simple recording a nuisance. For example, the Tascam DR-08 has three stage gain control on the side, rather than a simple level adjustment for your mic input. It also has a bump next to its mic input, which makes many mic cables go loose during recording.
The Roland R-07 has included what most of us want in a pocket recorder - maybe because they listened to user feedback - in an easy to use design that doesn't have any blatant flaws.
Scrolling through the menu is easy, and adjusting advanced settings is a no brainer even for someone who hasn’t used a pocket recorder before.
The screen has a backlit display that can be customized for contrast and backlight time. You know if you’ve got a limiter or low cut frequency filter on. It’s all pretty self explanatory, which is great.
One thing we wish the Roland R-07 had was a locking microphone thread, but we understand that not every mic has a locking terminal. Also of course there's the lack of an XLR input with phantom power, but that would increase the size of the recorder significantly.
The Micro SD card slot is deeply recessed in the R-07, perhaps to ensure that the card doesn’t accidentally get removed or damaged? We like that it's protected, but it can be a little frustrating to remove if you just cut your nails.
There’s a 1/4"-20 connection on the back of the unit, so you can mount it to an accessory arm, or a handle or pistol grip, or just about anything that enables you to capture audio without introducing handling noise.
We carry around an old 15mm rod just for this purpose. It gets the job done without being very bulky - and as a bonus, when it's not acting as a microphone handle, it can also be used as a rod.
The one thing we discovered in our test was the low cut filter settings can be very aggressive if used at the max setting, resulting in tinny dialogue. That’s the nice part about having multiple low cut frequencies to choose from - you can customize the effect based on how much unwanted sound you’re trying to remove.
For low cut frequencies you can choose between Off, 100 Hz, 200 Hz, or 400 Hz. We recommend avoiding 400 Hz for voice recordings.
Roland R-07 Wireless Monitoring and Control
The killer feature that makes the Roland R-07 rise above all other portable audio recorders is its ability to wirelessly connect and control the recording, as well as wirelessly listen to a playback or live recording with a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
The Roland R-07 Remote app is about as easy as it gets. You don't have to change up your wifi or anything complicated. You just open the app, search for a nearby R-07, and it connects quickly via Bluetooth. You can actually control up to 4 Roland R-07 units at the same time, which gives you some options for expansion down the road.
Once you're connected, you can control the R-07 wirelessly with nearly zero lag. That's because it comes with a Qualcomm aptX low latency Bluetooth controller. You can use your phone, tablet, or even Apple Watch to control the recorder wirelessly.
There are so many use cases for this. Imagine setting a Roland R-07 near a lecturer or classroom professor, or in the middle of a boardroom, or in the field somewhere. Now you can set up your recorder in advance, and then stand by and wait until your subject comes into the scene. Then you can start recording, adjust levels, set markers, and so on, without interrupting anybody.
Then in addition to being able to control the R-07 wirelessly, you can also monitor the audio with bluetooth headphones. You only need to pair the headphones once, and then anytime you turn on the R-07, it will automatically connect with those headphones.
We tested this feature out with a pair of Apple AirPods, which were already connected to an iPhone and MacBook Pro. But as soon as we turned on the Roland R-07, the AirPods instantly paired to the audio recorder and enabled us to hear what it was capturing wirelessly from a separate room.
There are lots of interesting use cases for this feature, which essentially makes your pocket recorder a tetherless microphone that you can use just as you would with a wireless transmitter/receiver kit.
Roland R-07 for Filmmaking
For filmmakers, the holy grail is a wireless microphone transmitter that also has an internal recording, as a backup in case of wireless interference.
Unfortunately, Zaxcom has a patent for this feature, so in the US there's no alternative to getting a combination wireless microphone and internal recording.
As a substitute, many filmmakers are relying on portable recorders connected to lavalier mics. The downside is you can't wirelessly monitor the audio, in case of scratching, a halted recording, or other unexpected results. Still, there are lots of options that provide subject recording without monitoring, like the Instamic, or the Tascam DR-10L, or just about any pocket recorder with a mic input.
In Europe, where the Zaxcom patent isn't active, filmmakers can also pair a Tascam DR-10C with a wireless transmitter. That way, you can have both the wireless camera feed, as well as a backup recording to the DR-10C unit. It's a little clunky, but wedding filmmakers have jumped on this setup, for example, because there's no redoing a marriage ceremony.
But with the Roland R-07, filmmakers now have a couple alternatives to the wireless lavalier setup. They can plug in a lav mic into the R-07 and wirelessly monitor and control the unit, listening for scratches or errors, thanks to the Bluetooth pairing.
Alternatively, you can connect the new and tiny Rode Wireless Go to the headphone out on the Roland R-07. Now you'll have a high quality recording to the R-07, the ability to monitor and control it if necessary, as well as a wireless feed to your camera via the Rode Wireless Go.
Our favorite method of hiding a lav mic is the Rode Invisilav, which can be gaff taped to the inside of a shirt, on skin, or anywhere it's convenient.
This setup is very small and lightweight, and it gives filmmakers multiple options for safety recordings and wireless monitoring. We think this is the best wireless mic solution today. For quick and dirty edits, you can use the camera audio that's fed from the Roland headphone out, or choose to sync your recorder audio to your camera clip in post.
Roland R-07 Review Conclusion
When it comes to portable audio recorders, there aren't that much differences in the built-in microphone quality, because they usually aren't the best mics in general. The Mikme does have a bigger and better mic than most portable recorders, but it also lacks a screen display that lets you know what's happening.
The Roland R-07 pairs a standard built-in mic with some very well-designed recording features, especially for using an external microphone, like a lavalier or lapel mic. Mostly, we think it's thought-out and has just the right controls, settings, and user experience to ensure you can depend on it daily for years without frustration.
The R-07 is about the size of a pack of playing cards, and that's about perfect for hand holding or placing in a pocket, or attaching to an accessory mount. The ability to power it via USB also means you can extend its record time well past the AA battery lifespan.
But the real unique selling point of the Roland R-07 is its wireless control and bluetooth headphone monitoring. Now you can set this portable audio recorder in a place where it'll be out of reach, and then start recording and listen to the audio remotely. That means you'll never have to wonder whether your audio is clipping, or recording at too low a volume, or has unintentionally turned off.
And for filmmakers, the Roland R-07 makes a perfect companion to the Rode Wireless Go. We think every video producer ought to have this in their gear kit.