When musical inspiration hits, it's vital to get it recorded before it disappears. Handheld recorders like Tascam's DR-07 MkII recorder and or Zoom's new H2n Handy Recorder are useful in this regard, but if you need a little more flexibility, something like a pocket-sized version of the BR800 portable recording studio could be the answer. Roland has announced that its BOSS MICRO BR multi-track digital recorder has now been updated. The MICRO BR BR-80 has twice the simultaneous playback tracks of its predecessor, a new effects processor and the ability to reduce the presence of vocal and lead guitar of pre-recorded audio to give players the chance to create their own.

I remember the truly liberating experience brought to me by my first handheld digital recording studio - a Zoom PS-04. To have all the power and versatility of my desktop recorder in my pocket - together with guitar effects, amp simulations and percussion sounds - in such a small, portable package meant that when the muse graced me with a new riff or progression I was always ready and able to get it down straight away.

A couple of years later, BOSS slimmed things down a tad with the launch of the MICRO BR recorder, dispensing with the familiar mixer sliders altogether in favor of an all-button interface. Now Roland has launched its successor - the 5.43 x 3.38 x 0.86-inch (138 x 86 x 22 mm), 5 ounce (140g) MICRO BR BR-80 Digital Recorder.

The new pocket studio gets an eight-track playback upgrade, with 64 virtual tracks made available for advanced editing and mixdown. Users still benefit from two tracks of simultaneous WAV recording but also get treated to a brand new effects processor offering the latest BOSS guitar and vocal effects, including more than 40 COSM amp emulations and vocal effects from the VE-20 Vocal Performer, as well as powerful mastering effects.

In addition to a huge library of built-in rhythm patterns, players can also take advantage of the inclusion of jamming and practice features from the BOSS eBand JS-8 or import their own WAV or MP3 songs to study or play along with. The ability to slow down the speed of playback and take control of pitch should help with learning, there's also the facility to repeat segments before moving on and using the Center Cancel button to put lead guitar and vocals from pre-recorded tracks into the background.

The BR-80 has been given stereo condenser microphones for use as a field recorder but also features dedicated inputs for connecting a guitar, a microphone, or any stereo line-level device. Recorded data is captured on SD/SDHC media as either 16-bit WAV or 64kbps to 320kbps MP3 and 24-bit analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog conversion has a sample rate of 44.1kHz.

A mini-USB port allows connectivity to a computer, allowing the device to be used as an audio interface or as a stand-alone recorder. The BR-80 comes bundled with powerful production software, including Cakewalk's SONAR X1 LE, the eBand Song List Editor, BR Wave Converter and Rhythm Editor. It's powered by two (included) AA-type batteries, which should give approximately six hours of continued use before needing some attention (or via USB bus power or an AC adaptor, not supplied).

The MICRO BR BR-80 is available now for a suggested retail of US$299.

View gallery - 9 images