Marantz PMD660

For the past week I’ve been playing with a new Compact Flash recorder, the Marantz PMD660 ($499 street price). Based on the others I’ve bought or tested, I think it’s the best compromise for a portable device for podcasters and those who want to record long-format sessions such as conferences.

Jeff Towne over at transom.org has an excellent review in which he picked up on almost all my concerns. Comparing it to other similar devices of interest to podcasters, Jeff wrote:

The Marantz PMD 670 is larger and more expensive, and while it offers more recording options, such as recording to MP2, and a limiter, the 660 does most of what its big brother does, and provides a simpler, less intimidating interface and more convenient form. The Edirol R1 is a little smaller and less expensive, but does not offer XLR mic inputs or phantom power. The Fostex FR2 is about twice as expensive and much larger and heavier. The Sound Devices 722 is more than 4 times as expensive, but offers a large dedicated hard drive and superior input sonics. Any of those recorders will do the job, and might fit someone’s specific needs better, but the PMD 660 is a well-designed tool, especially for remote interviews and other newsgathering-type activities.

I just ordered a 4GB SanDisk CF ( another ~$300!) that will give me nearly 13 hours of recording capacity at 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM (WAV) in mono. Half that in WAV stereo, and a whopping 71 hours if I was willing to record in 128kbps MP3 stereo, which I’m not if I can avoid it.

11 thoughts on “Marantz PMD660

  1. If the PMD660 is anywhere near as good as the PMD670 (one of which I own) you won’t be disappointed. Outstanding piece of kit; the only issue I had was when I used an older Compact Flash Disk for testing; it would record fine, but steadfastly refuse to appear as an external disk via USB. When I changed to a newer Compact Flash card, all was fine. Also, with newer Compact Flash cards, faster is not necessarily better (as far as Marantz are concerned). The advice I had (from Marantz, via the dealer from whom I bought the PMD670) was “the fast Kingston ‘Blue’ label media, for example, are not as reliable as
    the slower ‘orange’ version in a PMD670”. I can’t comment on whether your SanDisk will be in spec or not, but if you encounter problems when trying to copy the recorded files, that would be a starting point. Hope this helps.

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  2. Thank you for the encouraging comments on the PMD 660. I just discovered it accidentally in the last three days, and I’m already in the market to buy it. I’ve had unhappy experiences with the Sonifex Courier, MD recorders and other implements, and this device seems to have answered all of my concerns.

    Have you actually verified that the 660 actually records to the entire 4Gb of the 4Gb card, and not just the first 2Gb? I would really prefer to pick up a 4Gb CF card with this recorder, but I have not spotted a positive confirmation of this little detail.
    You might or might not know there is also a wired remote available for this recorder. It’s about $80 and has a couple of nifty options.

    Alex

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  3. My 4GB CF card arrived yesterday, and at first I freaked out that it only appeared as a 2GB card. Turns out it has a partitioning switch, and once I moved it to the full-card position, the PMD660 saw a full 4GB. It’s a SanDisk CF card.

    BTW, I do have one complaint with the PMD660, shared with others with whom I’ve communicated: The mic preamps seem particularly noisy, and I don’t know why. I also have a direct-to-CD recorder by Marantz (a CDR300) and its preamps are much better. As the PMD660’s manual suggests, I recommend only using a high-output mic like a condenser. A low-output dynamic mic may not give you a good enough s/n ratio. Although I still like th PMD660, it’s not nearly as good a value as the CDR300. The latter costs a few hundred dollars more, but it’s a much more substantial unit. While the PMD660 is “competitively” priced, I think the ultimate value of such devices is closer to $300 than to the $499 I paid for it. Particularly when I also had to shell out $300 for a 4GB CF card. That’s an $800 solution. Sure makes my Sony HD minidisc recorders look and sound real good. If the MDs had a USB or FireWire interface, I’d buy one of them before I’d by the PMD660. The Sony MD has better s/n, a much better ALC/AGC circuit, and at a much lower cost when ou include reusable media.

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  4. Recognizing 4Gb is good news.

    I have read about the noise issues a little bit, but I do not recall the best source that I ran across. I googled it, so you might do the same. The conclusion was that dynamic mics will no be satisfactory while condenders will be fine unless you record at low volume. You might take a look at this forum:

    http://www.oade.com/Tapers_Section/Forum/dcboard.php

    People here are knowledgeable. Oade already has a fix for noisy preamps for the PMD670, and will see if anything can be done with the PMD660 “in April.”

    My personal workhorse is the Sonifex Courier. It is an excellent tool, but it is too big and I need smaller, cheaper and more convenient batteries with long battery life, like AAs.

    I will also try laptop recording using Digigram’s PCMCIA card and a Fujitsu P7010 laptop, but that is also too bulky and cumbersome.

    I suspect there is a market for devices like the PMD660, and I agree that the device is not worth much more than 300-400. The no moving parts aspect of it is very attractive. I think I will hold off for now, at least until the noise issue is better investigated.

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  5. Thanks for the infos!

    I would like resume this topic as i’m about to buy a solid state recorder, and here i am in the middle of a tough decision: is the marantz pmd660 still a good choiche?

    It’s been like 3 years since it’s release, and i’m afraid Marantz or another company will release a new, substancially better, SSRecorder with XLR mics usage in a not too distant future.

    Would you recommend me this purchase even today?

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  6. Alessandro, I would *definitely* copnsider the new PMD620 over the PMD660. The PMD620 is newer, less expensive and has received good early reviews. I’ve played with one but to the extent that I can recommend it with hand-on knowledge.

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  7. Thanks for the answer but let me ask again: isn’t it better to get a recorder that use a XLR hi quality microphone – if i don’t get it wrong, the PMD620 can’t mount one, right?

    total newbie here btw 🙂

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  8. You’re right, Allessandro. XLR or 1/4″ TRS balanced inputs are certainly better than 1/8″ but I certainly wouldn’t go with the PMD-660 in any case. I have one, and I don’t particularly like it.

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  9. Could not recommend the Marantz 670. I purchased two for my oral history program. Both lock up when recording with 2GB CF Cards (have tried PNY and SANDISK cards). I have to unplug the machine to power down. Returned machines for servicing several times. They can’t find a problem. Works “fine” for them.

    The 512MB cards (Lexar) seem to work ok, but gives you only 1.5 hours of digital recording. I’ve had it. I’m basically out $1,500. Thanks Marantz!

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