We first saw it at NAB in the spring, and have been anxious to get my hands on it ever since. The R-1000 is a 48-channel recorder/player that plugs right into a V-Mixing system using REAC. It can also be used in a MADI environment if you have an S-MADI Bridge—more on that in a moment. There a number of options for doing virtual soundcheck and multi-track recording out there, but the R-1000 has a few tricks up it’s sleeve.
First, we’ll consider it’s use in a V-Mixing environment. If you are familiar with REAC, you know it’s a 40-channel protocol. The R-1000 can record and play back up to 48 channels. It accomplishes this by having two sets of REAC ports. REAC A loops out to C, B loops out to D. Thus, if you have two stage boxes, the R-1000 drops into the system between the stage boxes and the mixer. You can easily pick off which channels get recorded up to a maximum of 48.
The built-in touch screen (yes that little screen is a touch screen!) makes the interface fairly easy to navigate. There is a full patchbay built-in, making it easy to route channels. To arm tracks, touch one of the banks of eight meters, which zooms that bank full screen. You can then arm and solo channels easily.
The unit records to a removable drive sled that connects to the R-1000 via a standard mini-USB connector. That means it’s easy to pull the drive and connect to the computer for editing or archiving. You can also load tracks on it that way for multi-channel playback.
Where the R-1000 really shines is in a virtual soundcheck role with a V-Mixing system (M-480, M-300, M-380 or M-400). To record, you arm your tracks and hit record. To play back the virtual band, you hit play. That’s it! Perhaps the best feature is that you can enable preamp control mode on the R-1000. This means if you realize your preamps were set too high or too low during rehearsal, you can make changes while working with the tracks, and those changes will be reflected in the preamps on the stage boxes. In my book, that’s money.
The R-1000 can also be remotely controlled via software. The software will run on a Mac or PC, and the interface is via a front-panel USB-B connector. I would have preferred an Ethernet connection, but I can live with USB. The software is responsive, looks really good, and makes it easy to set up the advanced features of the device.
Physically, the R-1000 is a 3-rack space high device that doesn’t weight nearly as much as it looks like it does. The front panel is largely taken up with the 48 channels of status lights (record, play, solo), the touch screen and transport and menu controls. It records in the broadcast Wave file format, so it’s compatible with any editor out there. List price is $4,999, which makes it a bit pricey compared to a computer-based solution, but the R-1000 offers features a computer doesn’t.
If you are using a V-Mixing system, it’s kind of a no-brainer to use for virtual soundcheck. There isn’t an easier solution, and while $5K isn’t peanuts, it’s not outrageous either, considering the relatively low cost of the V-mixers. If you are looking to use it in a MADI environment, it’s not as good of a value.
In my setting, I have an SD8 plus the S-MADI Bridge for interfacing with the M-48s. That works very well. And we were able to drop the R-1000 into that system and get it to work. However, for me to implement that system, I’m looking at $2,500 for the S-MADI, and $5,000 for the R-1000. I can buy a lot of external hard drives for my MacBook Pro/RME MADIFace system ($3,900 total) for the difference.
However, as I was talking to some of the guys from Roland, we got to thinking that there was really no reason why the R-1000 had to be limited to REAC—that’s just the digital I/O. It wouldn’t be hard to make a version with MADI I/O, or Ethersound, or Dante for that matter. Will they do it? I don’t know, but they seemed intrigued. I figure it’s a way to extend the investment they may into R&D for this product and open it up to a wider audience of users.
The bottom line is pretty simple for me: If you have a V-Mixing system, there isn’t a better virtual soundcheck, multi-track recorder/player option out there at any price. If you don’t use a V-Mixer, there are a lot better options out there. And that’s OK. Roland is working hard to build a complete ecosystem for their products and they’re doing a great job. Sometimes it works to go outside the ecosystem, sometimes it doesn’t. The M-48s make perfect sense in a MADI environment; the R-1000? Less so. Still, it looked really good in my rack while it was there…