Micro BR Review

pocket-sized 4 track music music recorder
imtim
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Micro BR Review

Postby imtim » Sat Jun 23, 2007 6:46 pm

These are my detailed useage comments on the Micro-Br, which (as a guitarist and songwriter [http://www.colartz.com]) I bought as a mini portable recorder and loop arranger. As there was a lot of stuff I wanted to know about it that I couldn't find out from the docs online, I thought these notes might be of interest to other people. I try to regularly add to/extend the comments as I find out more about it, but also rely on other users to contribute to the shared knowledge base (many of the great comments have come from blog readers, and I hope they post in this forum, too). If you have any questions about it, I could see if I could have a look and add a comment to the notes below.

Overall
Is it cool? Yes it is great and I love it - it is a useful, powerful, well thought out and tiny multitrack recorder (kudos to BOSS). It is about the size of 2 packs of cards side by side, is very light and feels great in the hand. Initially a bit tricky to get your head around the button controls (and the manual - you can find that here, it is worth having a look at it before you buy!). Some nice sound FX (see the BOSS video demo here: http://www.microbr.co.uk/) and drumbeats (with different kits) make this a useful and versatile battery powered tool for mobile music making. Use high power batteries such as rechargeable 2500 mAh NiMH as the batteries get a bit of a hammering. You can use it a a portable Guitar stomp box as well (and because you can also record on it and it has rhythm pattern arrangements, for me it wins over the M-Audio Black Box, which is nevertheless also cool but not battery powered). My main gripe about the Micro-Br is about the use of a proprietary file format and not being able to (easily) load in my own loops or use (in desktop sequencer) the recordings I make with out first converting on the device. A few small tweaks (see below for some suggestions - BOSS firmware update? [hint :)] ) could really make this excellent little unit even better!!

Observations
    Compatible SD Cards.
    There is very little info on what is compatible, and so you are left wondering whether or not a card you might buy will work in it or not - and being cost conscious, I wanted to buy the most economical SD cards :). Well, I tried one of "economically priced" Veho 1GB 133x Hi Speed Secure Digital Cards in it and it seems to work fine. I would guess all high speed SD cards will work.

    Will it work with a 2GB SD card?
    I also tried a Veho 2GB Ultra Fast 133x Secure Digital Card in it, and I got it to work OK - interesting, as the documentation gives no clue that this might be possible - but only with 1 GB. Note that as far as I can tell it only recognises 1GB of the 2GB SD card (there is a means of seeing what remaining space is available for WAV/MP3). Why did BOSS limit it like that?

    Note: I have been informed by some people that they could not get it to recognise a 2GB SD card _at all_, so don't count on that. Go figure!!

    Can you record a line in or external mic signal to one track at the same time as a guitar to another track?
    Sadly no, not that I can see. This should be something that the unit allows, as you can record line / ext input in stereo (i.e. to 2 tracks at the same time). I have had an idea I need to check - it might be possible with an external (battery powered!) mixer / or preamp and cable y-splitter to record a guitar through one channel of the line in and a mic through the other.

    Can you set a count in time e.g. 2 bars before the recording starts?
    Not that I can see, although you can "auto-punch in" at a particular time (which I guess does the job), or make a song arrangement where you have some count in bars at the beginning. However, this would a useful feature I think, though. NB: Note that you can auto-punch in (and auto-loop that) where it loops back to 1 measure before the punch in point.

    Can you load up the SD card with WAV loops and use these in your mix?
    Sadly no - it stores the recorded audio data in some special consolidated track data .DAT format. Although it seems to be possible to convert (import) individual WAV files to the V-track data format on the device, it would be so much better if it used/saved (even only if as an option) to WAV files directly - meaning you could also easily copy your recordings on/off the device without first exporting them. IMHO this is a big limitation, and as the unit can (in MP3 trainer mode) play MP3/WAV files, I don't know why they don't allow it. Andre La Plume kindly notes below that Roland provide a desktop tool for conversion - http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.aspx?ObjectId=699.

    Can the SD card be read/written to from an SD card reader?
    Yes. It was not clear from the docs as to whether the SD Card was strangely formatted and the ONLY way to get to the data on the card was via a USB / PC connection. Because you can read the SD card in a card reader (well I can), then it is possible to use that instead of USB cable connection. However, note that the recordings you make (unless you convert them on device or make them in MP3 trainer mode) are in a proprietary file format.

    Can you edit the drum patterns?
    No. Shame really, as they would seem to be MIDI like. Maybe Boss can release info on the format so that you can make/use your own. And why not?

    Voice recorder (dictaphone) mode where additional recordings are just incrementally auto-numbered?
    Yes, you can in the "MP3 training mode" where you can make up to 99 recordings that auto-number (sequentially). This makes it handy and fairly easy to use it in dictaphone mode. However, would be good to have more than 99 limit.

    The sensitivity on the inbuilt mic seems a little low

    I keep feeling the need for an included mini step sequencer
    .... sorry, that is a feature request, below :)

    The unit's "insert" fx chain can only be used once, but you can assign where it is used
    You cannot have a different FX chain applied concurrently to different tracks (unless off course you record "wet", i.e. the fx applied to the input when it is recorded). It is like a global (but assignable) effect. It may be too much to expect otherwise (I was hoping!), but it is worth noting as it means that you cannot record in mono (dry) and then apply different fx to different tracks in a final mix (and so benefit from stereo FX on each track - if that makes sense). NB: The different effects seem to be linked to the 4 different input modes (Guit, Mic, Line, Ext), but you can change the input mode and then apply the effects available in this mode to any recorded track.

    You can only stereo link tracks 1-2 and 3-4. You cannot link other combinations.

    When in MP3 trainer mode, you CAN still apply the selectable FX to your guitar (or other input) as you play along. That is cool :)

    How useful are arrangement capabilities?
    Very. I copied onto it an MP3 of a song I am working on, and then extracted the song into Track 1 V1 (virtual track) - the conversion took some time though, and for some reason seemed to create about 6 copies, stack end to end. When copying/moving things around it took a bit to keep track of where I was, as there is no visual display of the song layout (just e.g. current bar position). But, I was able to move and copy sections of the song around to come up with a much better song structure. With just the buttons and screen they have, it is quite useable (once you get the hang of it) and well implemented, if a bit fiddly. But, if the Micro-Br is all you have with you, it still does the job, and works well.

    It plays MP3 files very well, and they sound great.
    See below for playlist suggestion, as this could be a great MP3 player, too.

    Are there only 4/4 drum patterns?
    Sorry, it only plays 4/4 drum patterns - except that there are a range of metronome beats from 1/1 to 8/1, 1/2 to 8/2, 1/4 to 8/4 and 1/8 to 8/8 (and all integer beats in between, i.e. 5/8, 5/4 etc). Pattern extensibility is another good reason BOSS should have made the format open, or used MIDI files.

    Song tempo cannot be saved in a track using preset pattern or arrangement - but....
    ... You can set the tempo of a track IF you first create an original arrangement (pg 83 of the manual). How did BOSS not think that someone would want to save the tempo when you record a track WITHOUT first having to create an original arrangement? Unless you create an original arrangement (and you can only save 5 of these of max 50 steps each) then you have to remember the tempo you record each song at, and when you open the song, reset the tempo.... unless you record the tempo track, that is, but that wastes one (or 2 if stereo) tracks. Oh well, at least there is a work around (thanks to Dre F and al).

    A/B Looping works great, and is easy to set up.
    In normal mode there is no discernable gap or artifact (in vtrack mode), and so it is seamless (as far as I can tell). In MP3 trainer mode you have to set up the loop points to the nearest second (touch), and there is a small pause. In normal mode, you can get very fine manual control on the loop points (down to sub-frame even). You can also save the loop points for a song in normal mode.

    Can you time stretch while playing a loop?
    Yes, but you have to be in MP3 trainer mode

    Can you record in MP3 trainer mode whilst playing an MP3?
    No. You need to first import the MP3 to the normal mode. You can import a stereo MP3 to 2 tracks (i.e. stereo).

    The buttons are really useful for one hand operation
    If you are fiddling with the unit in one hand (not looking at it), then the fact that the buttons stand proud is actually very useful. Provided you can feel for which side is what (I can get confused with that), then it is easy to determine the buttons (e.g. for setting A/B loop points)

Software Feature Requests for Roland/BOSS
    Firmware upgrade or ROM upgrade
    Keep the unit updated and provide customers some new additional software functions like M-Audio do, e.g. for BlackBox.

    Use a standard (non-proprietary) file format
    So users can easily drop their own WAV loops onto the SD card and use them, as well as allowing recordings to be _saved_ to a standard format (e.g. WAV or MP3)! Yes, it seems possible to convert (import/export) recordings/files to track format on the device, but this is clumsy. Even a desktop converter would be a help! Perhaps even consider using e.g. OMFI so that the mix can be transfered to desktop, and then used directly in a sequencer like Sonar. NB: If this was possible to directly use/work with WAV files, then the unit could be hooked up to a Pocket PC with USB Host, and the PPC used to edit WAV files and send them back to the SD card for use in the mixer.

    Allow simultaneous recording of both Guitar and external or line input (i.e. one to L, other to R)
    So that e.g. a Mic and guitar can be recorded simultaneously to different channels.

    Allow use of user's own MIDI drum patterns
    ... So you can use other than 4/4 patterns for a start!

    Track solo/mute (e.g. maybe long hold of TRK button)

    Settable count in time e.g. 2 bars before the recording starts
    So that you can one-handed "go back to start" more easily, change the software so that holding down on the stop button will do that.
    ...Or, put the stop and rewind buttons closer together ...

    A simple monophonic MIDI step-sequencer e.g. like [b]Zoom PS-04[/b].
    For Bass lines or even melodies... in which case also support use of user loaded DLS wavetable (please :))...

    A "shift down one octave" capability for recording bass lines (or step sequencer).
    As mentioned by Andre Le Plume

    Sound FX specially for Bass guitar recording?

    Support for MP3 playlists
    Perhaps like an XSPF (http://www.xspf.org/) playlist

    Allow saving of song tempo :)

Hardware Feature Requests for Roland/BOSS
    Volume sliders, please.

    Some kind of short term 48v phantom power
    This would be VERY handy.... as I cannot see what use the "2.5v powered mic" is of any use for (and is not suitable for mics requiring phantom power). Yes, it would use more battery power, but if you are using rechargables, does that matter? Having something portable is more important.

    Include a simple MIDI synth and MIDI input/output
    So that you can capture / play MIDI data.

    8 Channels recording/playback :)

    Drivers to allow it to be a live audio input device (over USB)
    Like the way Black Box can be used].
Last edited by imtim on Sun Mar 09, 2008 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Al
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:37 am

Postby Al » Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:59 am

Hi, some clues about your review:

All these Tips and more can be found at:
http://microbr.pbwiki.com/

Will it work with a 2GB SD card?
Boss uses an old fashioned reader. It can only use 1 GB because of hardware restrictions.

Can you record a line in or external mic signal to one track at the same time as a guitar to another track?
Yes you can. Using stereo-in and two input sources. You will get r/l-Signal oder mixed mono. Just use a y-cable.

Can you set a count in time e.g. 2 bars before the recording starts?
Yes you can. Just use the last drumsetting (its simply no drums).
Don't forget to use a click when recording!

Can you load up the SD card with WAV loops and use these in your mix?
But it's easy to loop: Just import your loop from MP3 and copy it as many times as you like to a track.

Song tempo cannot be saved in a track using preset pattern or arrangement - but....
You have 5 arrangements PER song!! not in all!
the tempo is saved with the songs arrangement and is individual.

Allow use of user's own MIDI drum patterns
... So you can use other than 4/4 patterns for a start!

Just record your drums from an external source, it's easy.

Track solo/mute (e.g. maybe long hold of TRK button)
Just set track volume to zero.
Push - and + shortly after will bring the setting to zero in an instant.

Phantom Power
There is a very good use for 2.5V power.
Using little stereo mics like the on described in the wiki http://microbr.pbwiki.com/TiPs#GibtesErfahrungenmitdemStereomikrostboneST40tboneEM700 .

lyssagale12
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Re: Micro BR Review

Postby lyssagale12 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 9:49 am

Hiya........ :)

Ur information sounds good,it's informative as well as useful.


Thanks for sharing.


Regards
~~Lyssa~~


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