Fotografics.org Online Magazine
Marantz PMD 660
When it comes to recording sound, most videographers record directly into the
video camera. There are some situations where this isn't possible, or even
advisable and an alternative is needed.
Stand-alone sound recorders are one solution and there are a number of
systems available ranging from tape based to non-linear recorders. The tape
based systems are slowly dying. Audio tape (the music cassette) together with
reel-to-reel is no longer used for serious location sound recording and DAT
(Digital Audio Tape) is also on the way out. The current trend is for hard-drive
recorders with a 40 or 80 gigabite hard drive, or for "flash" recorders using CF
or SD cards as the storage medium. Non-linear recorders have the advantage
that the data can be used by the edit system without any conversion or
degradation of the recording.
The Marantz PMD660 is intended for location recording to CF (Compact Flash)
cards with a 2 gigabyte card holding just under three hours of stereo at 48 kHz.
It can also record mp3 files at 64kbs and 128kbs, in which case a 2 gig card
will hold seventy and thirty five hours respectively.
The Marantz PMD660 isn't small. At least, not compared to other units. It is, however,
a lot smaller than a typical DAT or audiotape recorder and much smaller than a
reel-to-reel, like a Nagra. A lot of the size seems to be taken up with the inbuilt
speakers which, quite frankly are a waste of space. They sound cheap, nasty and
tinny and I can't imagine ever having a use for them, monitoring being done with
headphones through the available 3.5mm 'phones socket.
Where is does score over smaller units is in ease of use. The buttons are big enough
and separated such that you can press them one at a time, without disturbing the one
next to it, and are logically laid out. The recording volume (or gain) is by a dual
rotating knob which is easy to use once you get the hang of it. Users of dat machines
should recognise the principle immediately, the inside control regulates the right
channel and the outside regulates the left.
The recording level is by a led meter which is bright and easily readable (unlike some
other units' lcd meters which require a magnifying glass) consisting of eight "levels"
(seven plus "over"), more than accurate enough for most location recording. The
meter can be set to show ppm metering or "peak only". There is also an "auto level
control" for the lazy or for those situations when the recorder is working unsupervised.
There are two types of input: XLR microphone and 3.5mm
line. The XLR inputs can have 48v phantom power at the flick
of a switch, a very useful plus. The line input is a standard
stereo mini-jack. The unit can be set to record in stereo or
mono and it has its own in-built microphones although they
are only really suitable for recording in an emergency. The
stereo separation they offer is minimal.
When "pre-record" is switched on and the PMD660 is in
record-pause mode the unit constantly records to a buffer
which holds 2 seconds of audio. When you start to record,
these two seconds are written on the CF card and the
recording continues from there.
The first version tended to have slightly "hissy" pre-amps but
this has been corrected in what Marantz call a "running
upgrade" and the current version is very quiet indeed.
Recording Formats: MP3, PCM (16 bit linear PCM)
Recording Bit Rate: MP3 mono,64kbps, MP3 stereo 128kbps
Sampling Frequency: 44.1 kHz, 48kHz
Frequency response: 16,000Hz (-0.5dB)
Signal-to-noise ratio: LINE 80dB
IEC-A weighted; MIC 60dB
Recording/Playback Battery life (Alkaline): 4 Hours (typical)
Dimensions: Width 4.5" (113 mm), Height 1.9" (47 mm),
Depth 7.2" (183.5 mm)
Weight: 1.1 lbs. (0.5 kg)
Specifications and technical stuff:
Street Price: £385 (inc vat)