Audio / Hands-on Review

The Marantz PMD661: Portable Digital Recording Made Easy


There are many options in the portable digital recorder market today, but there aren't too many choices that promise a solidly built device designed specifically for broadcast professionals. One such recorder is the Marantz PMD661, and it's packed with many useful features that may not be immediately apparent. In this post I'll take a closer look at the PMD661, and point out a few key features that make this unit such a good choice for field recording.

The PMD661 was built with the needs of professional journalists in mind, which means that it can capture amazingly good sound quality while still being easy to use. One of the features that makes operating the PMD661 easier is its one-touch transport control. These straightforward, intuitive controls include a STOP button, a RECORD PAUSE button, and a RECORD button. The large backlit RECORD button blinks when in PAUSE, and stays constantly lit when the PMD661 is recording.

One feature that PMD661 owners always point out as a favorite is its ability to store and recall presets easily. You are allowed three presets to create, which can speed up your work flow when working in the field. For example, if you need a preset for radio interviews where you will use one XLR input for your interview microphone, recording at 44.1 kHz in mono (because you're only using one mic) with the low cut filter on (which can help cut down on unwanted rumbling noise), you can easily save this as a preset. If you need another preset where you will use the PMD661 for taking notes at meetings, you can set it to use its internal mics, recording an MP3 file that won't eat up much space on your memory card.

If multiple people will be sharing the PMD661 for different purposes (such as different members of a news-gathering team), the presets can be a valuable function to have onboard. You can even rename the presets to make it perfectly clear what mode the recorder is in. This can be set up beforehand so the journalist doesn't have to think about technical matters in the field, and they can concentrate on the story.

There are lots of other features that make the PMD661 stand out from the crowd. Some are basic yet essential, like the included shoulder strap. It's handy to be able to sling the recorder over your shoulder in the heat of the moment. It's a proven and effective form factor for a journalist's field recorder to take, and there aren't many options in the field recorder market that fulfill this need.

Another bonus is the presence of the dedicated 10-segment LED meters that are situated on the angled plane of the PMD661. This makes them easy to see from many angles. The dual XLR inputs can be switched to accept line or mic level signals, and a second 1/8" line level input is also included for convenience. The PMD661 was built tough and features a solid-metal faceplate and a high-impact ABS plastic case. A tripod adapter is also included so it can be mounted easily.

Transferring the audio files to a Mac or Windows computer is as simple as you'd expect it to be. You just connect the PMD661 to the USB port, and the recorder shows up as an external drive on the host computer. You just drag and drop the files from the PMD661, and the high-speed USB 2.0 connectivity will quickly copy the data to your desktop. Marantz has been building professional field recorders for a long time, and you can bet that all of their expertise was put to good use in the design of the PMD661.

If you have any more questions about the Marantz PMD661, or if you own one and would like to share your favorite feature of the machine, we would love to hear about it in the comments section of this post!

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Do the internal mics have a lot of hiss?

Some people mention this and some people don't so I'm not sure if this is a real problem...