If you don’t think 2 tracks on the Zoom h1 or Tascam DR-05 is enough and the 4 tracks of audio on the Zoom h4n and Tascam Dr-40 don’t do the trick, Roland has released the R-26 6 track recorder. It’s the same basic concept as the h4n and Dr-40 but with an interesting twist.

The Roland R-26 can record audio from 2 sets of on board microphones, an omnidirectional stereo mic and a directional stereo mic at the same time while also recording audio from 2 XLR 1/4 inch combo jacks. Or you can record to 1 stereo pair of on board microphones, a stereo audio input, and the XLR combo jacks at the same time. It might be over kill, but it is a very interesting way to generate a 5.1 surround sound audio track in a single unit. It could also be an interesting way to record a jazz band, orchestra, or acoustic performance.

Even though I don’t have a need for the two sets of built in stereo microphones there are a few things that are appealing to this unit. First the two large independent volume control knobs positioned on the face of the R-26 look very handy, easy to grip, and generally useful. Sure the Tascam Dr100 has large volume knobs on the side of the unit, but channel one and channel two volume controls are enclosed one inside the other, make it less convent.  The second thing is the built in shoulder straps, which give me the impression that the Roland R-26 is intended to be used like the similar form factor Marantz PMD661. Hung around the neck and adjusted on the fly.

Of course none of these features are worth the $500 price tag for me, but I could see a real use case for someone recording theater and theatrical live performances.  I would really like to see a unit with the same form factor and battery life as the h4n or Dr-40 that incorporates large volume knobs and a shoulder strap, with 2 combo inputs, a headphone jack, and a line out for a wireless transmitter. It doesn’t need to have a built in mic, but it would be great if it could be mounted like a juicedlink or beachtek unit under the camera.  Maybe they could put the controls and display on the side of the unit instead of the face.

If someone could make something like that and price it around $200 to $250, I think it would sell very well. All of the features of an XLR camera adapter with a built in field recorder and easy to use controls would be a dream come true for many film makers. Someone should get a kickstarter page going on that. There is still a lot of room to innovate in portable audio department, but I don’t know if 4 on board microphones is the quit the right type of innovation I had in mind.

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