The Marantz PMD661 is the retooled PMD660 professional solid-state field recorder. The 660 has become increasingly popular for field recording and electronic news gathering (ENG) in recent times, mainly due to its light weight and professional features like XLR inputs, LED metering, and savvy menu layouts. The PMD661 is very similar in both looks and specs: the specs showing incremental improvements to the signal-to-noise ratio (up 5dB at the mic and line inputs) and frequency response (out to 24kHz where the 660 only managed 16kHz).
If an external mixer is hanging about, a switch changes the XLR inputs from mic to line level in, and there’s an extra setting for phantom power. The 661 records up to 24-bit/96k WAV files, and a range of MP3 bit rates from a crunchy 64 to a more tolerable 320kbps.
The white-on-black backlit LED display is highly visible and alternates through screens that show date and time, the current preset settings, and file information. The 10-segment LED meter is angled so it can be viewed while on your shoulder as well as flat on the table, and if one set of record meters isn’t enough, a second set is available on one of two additional screens – the first simply displays the recording level, the other shows elapsed time.
The PMD661 also features in-built stereo electret condensers, a stereo line-in mini-jack, as well as stereo line out via RCA, and a digital coaxial S/PDIF in. The unit can connect to a computer via USB, but only boots as a storage device and not an audio interface. SD cards are the format of choice.
The record level control is somewhat perplexing. Marantz has replaced the larger indented dial of the 660 with a small, dual-concentric knob. With no indent to set an accurate L/R balance between the ring and the knob, it’s an inexact science getting the balance right. That said – and as easy as it is to knock – it’s also dead simple to grab a level, and it certainly beats scrolling through gain adjustment with press buttons. The ability to store three preset setups meanwhile is a huge time saver, factoring in everything from input, bit and sample rate, filters, pre-record, automatic level control and more. –Mark Davie.
Audio Products Group: 1300 134 400 or www.audioproducts.com.au