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Marantz PMD670Digital recorder scores for podcasters
I recently had the opportunity to test out the PMD670 Portable Digital Recorder from Marantz. With the look of the traditional analog Marantz recorder, but with the benefit of solid state technology, this recorder does a great job of capturing field audio of interviews, sporting events, or, it you need to, capture audio for video and film.
I have used Marantz recorders on and off over the last 20 years, mainly for recording interviews for radio. Today, we have moved away from analog and devote most of our productions to digital. When I had the chance to use the new solid state recorder from Marantz (PMD670) I jumped at the chance.
Solid State technology is great in there are no moving parts. No moving parts means system noise should be nonexistent. In the case of the PMD670, all the audio is recorded to the removable compact flash card. The unit ships with a 64MB card, but you can use cards as high as 2GB. I opted for a 512MB card, which will record over 7 hours of 160kbps stereo MP3/MP2, or 45 minutes of 48 kHz PCM audio. For podcasters doing remote work, the ability to record MP3s is a convenience because you can copy the file from the CF card directly to your website.
Being solid state, the unit is very rugged and can handle some abuse. This is not to say it will survive being dropped from 20 feet off the floor or chucked out of a car going 60 miles per hour, but an occasional drop or bump will not cause any alignment problems because there arent any.
The unit has two XLR inputs for recording stereo inputs. In an interview situation, this is desireable because you can isolate the interviewer and interviewee on their own track, making it easier to edit and clean up in post. The PMD670 also has a built in microphone, but I would strongly caution anyone thinking of using this mic as it is of very poor quality. Other inputs include a Line In jack, and Digital In Jacks using SP/DIF.
The audio quality with the PMD670 is very good for audio work, but there have been complaints about low level audible hiss when using particular mics. I used the Shure SM58 mics and did notice a slight hiss, but it was not enough to be annoying, and a quick pass in Adobe Audition or Apple Soundtrack Pro will take care of any audible problems. One suggestion is to use loud mics like the Sennheiser K6/ME66 shotgun. The Oade Brothers company does offer a modification of the PMD670 to limit the hiss, but you should really see if the hiss a problem, you could very easily be splitting hairs over a slight amount of noise.
If you are using a shotgun mic, there is a good chance you are trying to use the unit for double system sound of your video production. Because the PMD670 can record in uncompressed PCM, and the Broadcast Wave Format, the recorder could easily be used. I did not notice drifting of the audio when married to video, because my takes are usually short. The only time you might see drifting is if you have a really long take of five or ten minutes. Of course if you have a take that is 5 or 10 minutes for a single shot, there is a good chance you need to go back and rework your indie project. Still, not having to worry about a mic cable(s) connected to your camera is a blessing and is an added bonus for this recorder.
To transfer the recorded audio to your computer, you can use the built in USB connector and cable. The PMD670 shows up as a removable hard drive where you can quickly transfer files for editing. If you have a compact flash card reader on your system, you can pop the card in and out as needed. The recorder is recognized by both the Windows and Mac OS platforms.
If you are in a remote location and need to phone in an interview or newscast, the PMD670 has the ability to create EDL marks during recording to find specific points. Up to 255 EDL marks can be added to a Compact Flash card. You can use these EDL markers to create a customized playback sequence.
Unfortunately, the EDL markers are not embedded in the file to be read by most audio applications. This is sad because it would be a great way to make post production audio a snap. Instead, you can purchase PMD Edit software that will read this code for editing. There is a demo version of the software included with the unit, and it may be worth checking out.
Besides the EDL issue, and the potential for hiss, what other problems should you be concerned with? Im like energy conservation, and I dont like polluting the environment with dead batteries. The PMD670 requires 8 AA Alkaline batteries that will keep the unit working for 6 hours, or you can purchase optional rechargeable Ni-Cd battery packs for an additional charge. With so many manufacturers shipping products with rechargeable power sources, I would have like to have seen this be the standard with the Marantz recorder instead of an extra expense.
I would have also liked to have seen built in editing on this unit. Having the ability to copy/paste, set in and out points, and do simple linear editing with the PMD670 would have made this THE recorder for any audio field production. EDL markers are nice, and sequences can be built, but the actually editing of the files is left to wishful thinking.
Overall, I have been impressed with this units ability to record broadcast quality audio for radio, high quality sound for film and video and for podcasters looking to get a leg up on their competition, the PMD670 will provide clear, clean, consistent sound. I give the Marantz PMD670 solid state recorder a strong buy recommendation.
For more information visit the Marantz website (www.marantz.com).
Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at
www.majorspoilers.com and www.stephenschleicher.com
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