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Production sound with the R88: tips, hurdles, and warnings


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I've been working production sound with the R88 for almost 2 years now, and I feel compelled to share some road tested tips and explain how to circumvent some of its peccadilloes. Also, for the potential owner, there's a few misnomers you will run into and a few things that Roland still hasn't touched with this unit. This is with the current (as of 08/14) 1.1 firmware.



You can use an external 8AA battery pack (or any other acceptable voltage pack) with the R88! I made my own, but you can buy them online too. The external battery monitor will get very cross with you at low voltages, so I just leave the power switch to "AC Power". This way you can leave your sled in all day and swap out the pack without ever having to switch off.


Roland will sell you an extra batt sled, I asked, if that's what you're into. It was about $30 before shipping.


Be careful if you're trying to repurpose the provided 4-pin XLR to barrel DC adapter, it doesn't like to fit properly with other 21mm barrels.



TC seems to hold all day long with most other cameras I've jammed (besides a couple Epics), and with my own Denecke slate. If you power down the R88 however, it will not keep.


For transcribers, the R88 cannot "print" TC to a separate audio track, like the 664, nor does it seem like the software will ever allow for this.


The TC output will also not embed the date/take for slates like other mixers.


PolyWAV files:

Because of Roland's wonky "2 by 2" PolyWAV files, if you turn on inputs 1,2, and 5... you will end up with a 6 channel wav file! Best to keep your imputs sequential if you can. Boom 1, lav 2, lav 3...


PolyWAV mode does not record the mix, kind of annoying if you're trying to sync a mixed camera hop. 


Some NLE's (and some playback apps) will automatically read them as surround files, and not mono channels. Warn your DIT / Editor, as this is an easy fix but frustrating without a heads up.


Input / Output:

Output levels are not -60 through +4, it's either / or. This makes hopping or sending scratch to a "mic level only" camera, require a bit of balancing on their end. The Mix out is either -30 or 2Vrms, but you can assign the mix out to your XLR outs and save yourself the hassle if you have XLR hops or sends. This limitation seems fixable, considering it's software controlled, but no word yet.


The R88 works just fine as an output for your computer, but you cannot record when it's in said mode.


There is no aux out on the R88. You can, however, split the Mix out and center or hard pan your channels to get a similar effect. If you're recording PolyWAV, you don't have to worry about the mix anyway!  :-


To get around the lack of return monitor, you can run it into a spare channel(s) and monitor it PFL, but you will have to enable it (which means recording it during a take) to monitor it. Just inform your editor that it's a scratch return. Hopefully Roland will make a fix for this.


side note, can somebody demystify what Roland means by 2Vrms? I'm assuming it's an old standard.


File Management:

You cannot (currently) label tracks on a file. Take this into account when enabling/disabling tracks throughout a shoot, and also inform your DIT / editor.


You can label folders from the "finder" menu, and prefixes from the "rec" menu, but your files will run sequential ( _0001 ) until you change the prefix or folder. You can preset some prefixes for quick switching.


You cannot delete a folder that has any files in it, you have to delete each file in the folder first. 


Do not buy a SSD to use as a backup, the R88 only takes flash drives.


There is NO DUAL SYSTEM RECORDING. Everything must go to the SD card and then can be backed up.


When backing up, you cannot update a backed up folder, you must either delete the folder from the flash drive (tedious), or make a new folder on the flash drive to copy it all again.


side note: I've recently been getting an error (and stop) on file 23 when copying a folder with enough files in it, and has nothing to do with file or storage type or size. Roland is still trying to figure out what's wrong.


Final Thoughts:

I bought the R88 long before retailers were offering it for under $2K. Its preamps are superb, and it's held up on shoots from under 10ºF to over 100ºF. At the time it was the only functional competitor to SD/Zax for half the price. Having become increasingly professional since then, it's looking more like a poor choice... not for it's quality and durability (which is absolutely on par) but for these hurdles I have to jump through on every shoot.


The biggest issue overall, is that it's not popular. I still have to explain to several people what "R88" is and that it will get them good sound. Also, there doesn't seem to be enough pro location users out there to talk with, nor to give sufficient pushback to Roland. Lastly, I can't easily train somebody on it. I know all the ins and outs, but one wrong touch in the settings and a novice can throw off a level/EQ/file and not have much help to fix it.


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Roland can easily improve these issues with updates but I have doubts of ever seeing any. The unit seems far more capable than Roland seems to want to invest resources into. I am still very happy with mine but like you said, I had those hurdles on occasion and I have been looking at alternatives (633/664). On the bright side the recording quality is certainly its redeeming quality and the cost puts it in a category all its own. 

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  • 3 months later...


Thanks for all of the information on the R-88. 


take a look at this calculator : http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-db-volt.htm


Am i correct, i only read the manual, that you can only set the output level of 1-2 outputs? 3-8 are set to +4dBu at all times?




side note, can somebody demystify what Roland means by 2Vrms? I'm assuming it's an old standard.



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