Wednesday 9 May 2012

Recording Parties Using Roland R-26

Recording DJ sets from parties has always been a pain. Several techniques have been tried over the years and roughly speaking, my success rate at doing this might be somewhere about 50%.

The simplest solution - recording using a laptop is a subject to recording software issues, hard drive failures from vibrations, sound card hang-ups and what not.

At some point I've also tried small iRiver mp3 player/recorder. However, it's memory size allowed to only record couple of hours of mp3, not enough to record whole evenings and not really the best quality. Also, if battery would run out dry during recording, it sometimes caused recorded files to turn up empty.

I've been looking at Edirol R-09 for years, as it seemed that this was a defacto recorder for professional use. One of my concerns was that it is really old model and some other devices could probably have better features for the price. Last November I decided to make myself an early Christmas present and pick a recorder that would solve the recording issue once and for all.

While checking reviews for R-09's and it's various alternatives, I happily stumbled upon it's successor Roland's R-26 - which seems just has been released in October.

One of surprising things about it was, that even though this is a really new model, it still does not support SDXC cards. After calculating, that 32 GB is still plenty enough for recording even two-day marathons like Tune Up Your Summer without using mp3 compression, I let reviews and YouTube videos to convince me that this is the way to go.

Buying was a little-bit messy. First I placed order at HTFR, but it turned out that they don't have it in stock. After waiting for few weeks I placed an order at Normans and sent cancellation message to HTFR. HTFR's response was: "we thought you'd like to know that we've dispatched your order", although their website states that the item is "backordered" up to this day. Normans also rejected my request to cancel the order, as their recorder was already shipped as well, but they offered to organize a return upon delivery.

So, I had accidentally bought two devices, which sucked.. or did it? Suddenly I realized that every other party has two stages operating simultaneously and I still would have to run around seeking for someone to record the second stage every once in a while. One device doesn't really solve the problem, therefore my decision was to keep the second device too.

Home testing
Testing at home proved that recording quality is great. ADC is doing it's job well, I was unable to hear any difference whether I'm listening to vinyl record itself, or to the recorded wav.

Device is able to split recorded files on the fly to the selected size, which makes post processing easier. Also this reduces the risk of loosing all record session at once, as it happened with iRiver. Unplugging the power-cord during recording seems to work properly - if there are no batteries in device, file is closed correctly, otherwise it just seamlessly switches to alternate power and the result is not affected at all.

Testing in field
LMA carnival was the first event where I tried to use the R-26. We took two parallel recordings, one with my device, other - through additional mixer to the laptop. I recorded two stereo channels, both from mixer output and a combination of internal mics. Surprisingly, even at such loudness microphones are not overloaded and sound is not distorted.

Unfortunately, after capturing 7-8 hours, recording at R-26 was interrupted unexpectedly :(

Apparently this was caused by a glitch with the mixer. Alternate laptop recording showed extremely loud signal for about a minute at this time. I was not able to reproduce such an effect at home, turning up all the knobs to the max is handled by R-26 properly, capturing the distorted signal and not stopping the process. Maybe this indeed was a one-time-thing (My mixer has undergone some repairment after that event, as it had bunch of metal pieces stuck in some of the output plugs).

I managed to record a 23-hour party at Skabargas few weeks ago flawlessly.

R-26 appears to be rock-solid device, having absolutely all the features that I was looking for. Equipped with two of them I am now able to capture just about any event we could possibly be putting together, without making any compromises on quality.

Slight downside is the impressive size of the device and the fact, that it still can't be trusted 100% and needs to be looked after. I sincerely hope that the glitch at LMA carnival was caused by some short-circuit in the mixer, which shouldn't happen again, and that my recording success rate will now go up.

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