Based on market popularity and available features, the Roland R-26 was one of the finalists in our review to be the best portable recording device for creative professionals. With six-track recording and dual XLR inputs, you can record extremely high-quality audio. It’s one of the only digital audio recorders with a touchscreen interface, which helps with navigating its complicated features. However, it’s also the most expensive and biggest handheld recording device on the market. In addition, the microphones aren’t adjustable, which makes it less versatile than the Zoom H6, which is our pick for the best portable recorder for people working in creative industries.
We tested the Roland R-26 in a head-to-head with the Zoom H6 to find out which is the best for musicians, Foley artists, podcasters, audio engineers and other creative professionals. In our tests, we recorded a musician playing songs on an acoustic guitar and a variety of common sounds that could be used as effects in film. Neither device proved to be better than the other at recording audio – both captured exceptional, studio-quality sound. So if you’re recording audio for an audience, this is a great option.
The Roland R-26 features two stereo microphone configurations, which include four total microphones. One set of microphones are laid out in an OTRF configuration, while the other set are in an XY configuration. The OTRF configuration provides the widest stereo image by pointing the omnidirectional microphones on the sides in opposite directions – the microphone on the left records the left side of a room and vice versa. This configuration has almost no overlap in the middle, which means sounds in that area is de-emphasized. The XY configuration points the microphones in the opposite directions, which overlaps their coverage in the middle. This provides better focus on the middle of a recording while providing stereo depth.
You can record audio at a sampling rate as high as 96kHz with a bit depth of 24, which is the highest-fidelity audio available. However, you can also record audio directly to a compressed MP3 format at a 128kbps sampling rate and a 16-bit depth, which saves on storage space. For example, the highest-fidelity audio records about 27 minutes per GB while the lowest-fidelity format records about 990 minutes per GB.
The format options are important because the Roland R-26 only comes with 2GB of storage. As mentioned, this isn’t a lot of storage if you’re recording high-fidelity audio – an hour-long recording of your band's live show would fill up the storage really quickly. You can add up to 32GB of storage with the SDHC slot, but the best digital voice recorders have SDXC slots, which allow you to add hundreds of gigabytes of storage. Still, transferring files to your computer is easy, so it’s not difficult to be prepared for such situations.
This is one of the few handheld recorders with six-track recording. Considering famous bands like The Beatles recorded albums on four-track machines, it is like having a portable recording studio – you can record and mix high-quality music wherever you go. Further, the XLR/TRS inputs on the bottom can connect to additional microphones, instruments and mixing consoles. This makes it a great portable recorder for live shows and when you’re just practicing. It even has a metronome and tuner.
One of its most unique features is its touchscreen monitor. Since it is essentially a mini recording studio, its features and the touchscreen’s interface are not for novices. That said, the screen makes it a lot easier to navigate than other high-end digital audio recorders.
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The main reason the Roland R-26 fell behind the Zoom H6 as the best recording device for creative professionals in our head-to-head tests is that it’s simply not as versatile, and it costs significantly more. The Zoom H6 has four XLR inputs to the R-26’s two. Also, the Zoom can swap out microphones for a myriad of configurations while the R-26’s microphones are fixed. Finally, the R-26 is significantly bigger than the Zoom H6, despite weighing about the same.
The Roland R-26 is one of the best digital voice recorders because its six-track recording and high-fidelity microphones record high-quality audio in every situation, whether you're a musician writing songs or a journalist recording an interview. It's lacking in storage and battery life, but the ability to add extra storage and the amount of control you have make it worth considering.