Tuesday, 21 December 2010

KORG MR-2 recorder

I recently made some recording using only the MR-2 on a visit to Glasgow & the results are now available as a free download album HERE

initial review:

The first thing one notices about the MR-2 is that the casing & general build quality feels well above some of the other portable, hand-held recorders on the market. Given that I use these machines for field recording this is a plus point, though of course these machines aren't Sound Devices & won't stand up to a serious drop. Nor is the MR-2 intended to cope with extremes of temperature - so I doubt this would be the ideal choice for a trip to the amazon or the antartic.

Unlike the earlier Korg MR-1, the MR-2 doesn't have an internal hard drive & instead uses SD card - which is again a plus point for the field recordist as it means one can have some spare storage easily available.

Now, lets get the negatives out of the way early:

. the unit can only be powered by USB bus power or battery. I'm not sure why Korg decided not to have a mains option or indeed to go down the li-ion route, which would have made more sense. In the tests we made on the wildeye course earlier this year we found battery life to be a real problem. I contacted Korg & asked them to advise on which batteries they got the best results from in their own tests. They suggested using Energizer ultimate lithium' & claimed one could record for 7 hours using them. I got a maximum of just under 4 hours & when using top quality rechargeable cells the longest I got out of them was just over 2 hours. For the field recordist this is an issue that needs dealing with if the MR-2 wants to make an impact in this market, especially when one considers the better powering options available on most of its rivals.

. external inputs: the MR-2 only has mini-jack inputs for line & mic (providing plug in power but not full 48v phantom power) & as far as the field recordist goes this too is a drawback. Binaural mics, contact mics & hydrophones are increasingly important tools for us folks & whilst mini-jack versions can be found, the lack of 1/4 inch or xlr inputs mean the MR-2 isn't an ideal choice if one wants to have the option to expand it's input range as far as one wishes. That said the in-built mics & pre-amps are really good (more below).

So, on to some general observations:

The range of recording formats is exhaustive & much has been made of this units ability to record in DSDIFF (1-bit audio format used in pro SACD recorders) as well DSF & WSD (another 1-bit format) & all the more usual formats such as WAV., MP3 etc etc.

The meat of this recorder in terms of its use in the field is of course the in-built mics & the pre-amps. Both are of an extremely impressive quality. I'd go so far as to say the pre-amps are the quietest on a handheld recorder i've ever heard, with the only serious rival being those on the Nagra recorders. The Nagra would win hands down of course but is almost twice the price as the MR-2.

The in-built mics can be rotated to enable the best angle of capture & this is a useful feature indeed, especially when capturing room acoustics. The addition of a rycote cover of some sort over the mic enclosure is a must when out in the field in anything but the lightest breeze.

Going through the menus to make adjustments & select recording settings isn't as intuitive as with some other hand-helds, but a bit of time is all it takes to sort that out. I must confess that I did, on more than one occasion, feel that Korg had perhaps been guilty of adding features at the expense of ease of use, though this is probably because us field recordists value the ability to react with speed above the need to select reverb effects & the like.

Currently retailing at around £530 the MR-2 won't be the 1st choice for most field recordists looking for a simple hand held recorder. There are lots of other recorders out there that will do what most folks will want & for much less. That said, if high-quality & incredibly quiet pre-amp + outstanding built-in mics are on your shopping list then the MR-2 is worth taking a look at.

technical info:



The MR-2 ultra-compact, portable DSD recorder

Main features

• Multi-format recording and playback, including SACD ultra-high quality 1-bit DSD@2.8224 MHz; multi-bit PCM formats up to 24-bit@192 kHz.
(DSDIFF/WSD/DSF/WAV[BWF]/MP3/MP2 recording and playback.)

• High-performance X-Y configuration stereo electret condenser mic; capable of rotating 210 degrees.

• Screw mounts provided on two surfaces allow mounting to a commercially available camera tripod for flexible placement.

• High-performance analog limiter, low-cut filter, and bass EQ are provided.

• 40 Recording Setups call up specific mic sensitivity, limiter, low-cut filter, and bass EQ settings to suit a variety of situations. Ten custom user settings can be memorized.

• Records directly to (and plays back from) SD or SDHD cards.

• USB 2.0 (Mini-B type USB connector) allows high-speed data transfer to and from a computer.

• Convenient, high-performance KORG chromatic tuner is built in.

• 128 x 128 pixel LCD with noiseless backlight provides excellent visibility.

• Two-way power; operates either on two AA nickel-metal hydride batteries, or on USB bus power.

From ultra-high quality DSD to MP3/MP2, the MR-2 supports a wealth of audio formats

Today, audio quality is an important consideration, even for mobile recorders. The KORG MR-2 is simply the highest resolution portable recorder available, covering every need from critical recording of music performances to field recording. Despite its compact and convenient size, the Korg MR-2 supports a wide range of audio formats.

Supported formats include:

• 1-bit DSD @ 2.8224 MHz (DSDIFF/WSD/DSF supported) to allow SACD quality recordings.

• 24-bit @ 192 kHz (the highest resolution available in a hand-held recorder)
• 24-bit @ 176.4/96/88.2 kHz
• 16-bit/24-bit @ 44.1/48 kHz (WAV [BWF] format)

• Audio formats such as MP3/MP2 can also be recorded and played.

DSD – astounding audio quality

DSD is the highest quality audio format available today, using Direct Stream Digital technology to faithfully reproduce the original sound. Today, DSD is used by recording and mastering studios around the world as the preferred audio format for recording and mastering. We encourage you to try out the MR-2 so that you can experience DSD audio for yourself. When recording DSD audio, the signal is recorded without further conversion, and can then be played back in its original format, ensuring that every sparkling nuance of the sound is reproduced. This means that a DSD recording is able to preserve the sound in a form that is closest to the original sound, making it suitable as an archive that can support changes in formats through the years. Top engineers and mastering experts proclaim that DSD offers the closest representation of analog warmth and the presence of the original recording than any other format.

Pro-quality built-in stereo mic – with 210º rotation

The pro-quality stereo electret condenser mic built into the MR-2 can rotate toward the front, top, or rear of the unit in eight 30 degree steps, for a total range of 210 degrees. This gives you the freedom to point the mic toward the target recording source. The MR-2 also provides two screw mounts for attaching to general-purpose camera tripod, allowing flexible mic'ing and positioning. There's also an external input jack for you to connect your favorite mic.

Analog limiter, low-cut filter, and bass EQ are built in

Squeezed into the MR-2's handy size are an analog limiter, a low-cut filter, and a bass EQ. To ensure that the benefits of the MR-2's high-quality DSD recording are unimpaired, this high-performance analog circuitry is under accurate digital control, just as in the sophisticated consoles used in professional recording studios. This thoughtful design elevates recordings on the MR-2 to an even higher level of quality.

40 Recording Setups match the MR-2 to a variety of recording situations

The MR-2 includes 40 easily-selectable Recording Setups. Each contains its own settings for mic sensitivity, input level, analog limiter, low-cut-filter and bass EQ. These setups offer optimized settings for a range of recording environments such as ensemble performances, solo vocal, or piano performance, as well as settings suitable for field recording or documenting meetings. It's just like having your own personal recording engineer at your side. This allows anyone to easily make pro-quality recordings using the Korg MR-2.

Easy operation with highly visible display and controls

The MR-2 features a highly visible 128 x 128 pixel liquid crystal display. The noiseless backlight allows operation even in dim locations. Dedicated buttons and switches allow quick adjustments of input level, Hold on/off, etc.

Efficiently store and manage data on SD/SDHD cards

Data recorded on the MR-2 is stored directly to an SD/SDHC* card. There is no motor – as would be required for a hard drive – so there's no danger of unwanted drive noise being captured and recorded. SD/SDHD media is widely used; the recorded data can be conveniently stored on individual cards.

The recorded data consists of two files, the audio file and the project file (containing project and mark information), and these two files are collectively referred to as a "project." On the MR-2, a project is handled as if it were a single audio file, and project operations such as renaming, deleting, and song editing can be performed on the MR-2 itself. Up to 400 projects can be created on the MR-2 in each recording date folder.

*Sold separately.

AudioGate V2.0 file conversion software included

The MR-2 is bundled with Korg's AudioGate audio format conversion software. In addition to converting files from 1-bit DSD to multi-bit PCM (or vice versa) this software is an ideal way to edit the recorded material or to manage your archival masters. By using AudioGate, you can take advantage of "MR style" recording in which you record the material in DSD format, and then convert the file as appropriate for the desired output media. This method assures you will be preserving the highest audio quality at all times.

AudioGateV2.0 supports reading and writing of numerous audio formats including DSD, WAV, AIFF, FLAC and MP3. Audio CDs – and even DSD discs – can be read and written. AudioGateV2.0 can use the computational power of your computer to apply painstaking optimization to your data. For example during conversion, you can use the "Normalize" function to automatically export the data at the optimized level, and even choose from two different types of dither processing: "TPDF Dither" which improves the quality of the exported product, or KORG's newly developed "Noise Shaped Dither (KORG AQUA)" which matches the perceptual response of human hearing. This means you'll be able to easily create high-quality audio CDs that are a step above what could be created by a hardware CD writer.

Chromatic Tuner

A high-performance and highly-reliable KORG chromatic tuner is built in. Calibration is adjustable in 1 Hz steps over a range of 435 Hz to 445 Hz.

USB 2.0 computer port

The MR-2 is equipped with a USB 2.0 connector (Mini-B connector) that allows the recorded data to be transferred to your computer at a high rate of speed. This connection also allows the MR-2 to be used as a USB card reader.

Two-way power supply

Two AA nickel-metal hydride batteries (1900 mAh) allow approximately four hours of continuous recording or playback. USB bus power is also supported. (Note: Nickel-metal hydride batteries cannot be recharged using bus power.)


Lindenberg Munroe said...

Wow, that's a lot of thing to come with a hand held recorder! Sounds great!

Anonymous said...

I am eager to read test results on the built-in mics/preamps. I am hopeful that the self noise will be as low as the Sony PCM D-50.

Jez riley French said...

so far the recordings i've been making with it have been done to test the self noise - recording empty spaces & very quiet environments. Good results so fae - very clean. More to follow of course.

rr.myvidoop.com said...

Your review of the MR-2 is very helpful. In spite of the short battery life the MR-2 looks to be an interesting recorder. Do you have any information on the frequency range of the built-in mics?

Jez riley French said...

Recorder section
Number of tracks:
2 tracks
2 tracks simultaneous playback
2 tracks simultaneous recording

Recording formats:
Compressed audio format
MP2 format (extension .mp2)
48 kHz@128, 192, 256, 320 kbps
MP3 format (extension .mp3)
44.1 kHz@128, 192, 256, 320 kbps

PCM audio format
WAV format (extension .wav), BWF compliant
44.1 kHz @ 16/24-bit, 48 kHz @ 16/24-bit
88.2 kHz @ 24-bit, 96 kHz @ 24-bit
176.4 kHz @ 24-bit, 192 kHz @ 24-bit
1-bit audio format
2.8 MHz @ 1-bit
DSDIFF format (extension .dff), DSF (extension .dsf), WSD (extension .wsd)

Recording Time:
Maximum 6 hours @ 44.1 kHz/16-bit (for 4GB memory card)
Maximum continuous recording 6 hours

Number of projects:
Recognizes a maximum of 400 projects of each date folder

Mark points:
100 points per project *No mark names

USB functionality:
Connect to computer via USB 2.0, usable as FAT32 USB removable drive

Song editing:
Rename, Delete, Protect

Equal temperament, chromatic tuner

Range (sine wave):
27.50 Hz – 1,318.5 Hz (A0 - E6)

Reference pitch:
A = 435 – 445 Hz

Memory Card (SD)
Supported cards:
SD and SDHC cards with a capacity of 512MB-32GB
(SDHC card of class 4 or higher recommended)

128 x 128 pixel LCD with backlight

Power supply:
AA/LR6 alkaline battery x 2;
AA nickel-metal hydride battery x 2;
USB bus power

Power consumption:
(W x D x H): 2.52" x 4.72" x 0.9"

4.94 oz. (not including a memory card and batteries)

Main specifications
Frequency response:
20 Hz – 20 kHz ±1.5 dB (MP2/MP3)
10 Hz – 20 kHz ±1.5 dB @Fs44.1 kHz/48 kHz
10 Hz – 40 kHz ±1.5 dB @Fs88.2 kHz/96 kHz/176.4 kHz/192 kHz

10 Hz – 100 kHz (1-bit) S/N:
90 dB (typical) @IHF-A

0.018% (typical) 20 Hz – 20 kHz

A/D conversion:
2.8224 MHz (1-bit), 24-bit (PCM)

D/A conversion:
2.8224 MHz (1-bit), 24-bit (PCM)

3.5 mm stereo mini phone jack (switchable to Plug-in-Power)

Input impedance:
10k ohms

Nominal level:
-39 dBV

Maximum level:
-27 dBV

Line In
3.5 mm stereo mini phone jack

Input impedance:
75k ohms

Nominal level:
-10 dBV

Maximum level:
+2 dBV

3.5 mm stereo mini phone jack

Maximum level:
20 mW+20 mW @ 16 ohms

Type mini-B
USB 2.0 compliant, USB mass storage class

Supported operating systems:
Windows 2000, or later; Mac OS X 10.4 or later

Included items
Install CD (“AudioGate” audio file conversion application)

AudioGate (v2.0) System Requirements

Supported OS:

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition/Professional Edition Service Pack 3 or later
Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 2 or later
Microsoft Windows 7

Mac OS X
Supported OS:
Mac OS X 10.4 or later

London Sound Survey said...

Many thanks for your review of the Korg. My old Edirol R09 seemingly grows more battered by the day and will probably give up the ghost before long.

£530 is pretty steep for a pocketable recorder though.