my new go-to field recorder - wow...
I have been recording for 30 years - mostly acoustic stuff - recitals, small ensembles, piano, flute, strings, guitar, organ, vocal, choral, school events, and the occasional rock band. I have some great microphones - particularly love the Neumann KM184 and the TLM127. I have used these in X-Y, ORTF, A-B spaced omni, mid-side, and Jecklin disk configurations for live recording, depending on the situation. Up to now, I have been running Protools with a rack-002 hardware interface and MacBook Pro in a rolling ATA case. While this is not extremely portable, I like the quality of the recordings I can capture using 24/96 sampling - and I have 8 channels on the rack...
But a few times recently, I have had Protools 8 freeze-up on my mac, and had to re-boot in the middle of a performance - not good! So I began looking at portable field recorders. The Sound Devices look really good, but I can't justify the $4-5k price, so I started looking at the Tascam, Sony and Marantz products. In addition I recently got a Canon EOS 7D which shoots HD video, but the internal audio interface is quite weak. So I had yet another use for a small but high quality field recorder.
My main criteria were external XLR Mic inputs with a good low-noise mic pre, 48V phantom power and switchable attenuation before the pre input, and the ability to record 24-bit, 96 kHz stereo. That pretty much narrowed the field to the Marantz PMD661. I was a bit nervous because I had the perception that the Japanese pro-sumer stuff from the likes of Denon, Marantz, Tascam and Sony was decent for home stereo kind of applications, but not really at the pro level I was looking for (especially concerned about low-noise).
Well - I was blown-away by the very first test recording I made: I had the KM184s set-up ORTF in the studio. I made my first preset (thanks to the other reviews on this site) with no automatic gain control, and set the record level halfway, and hit the button. I walked around the mics talking for 30 seconds, then went to listen to the result. I plugged-in my favorite Beyer DT 770 headphones, and hit play. At first I thought I must have something muted because there was no sound - but then I heard footsteps (my own on the recording). The stereo imaging and detail was so real, I could swear there was someone else in the room walking around! The noise-floor is lower than my Digi Rack. I really couldn't believe how good the recording sounded - I listened to it half a dozen times on different headphones.
I have recorded an acoustic piano and flute audition also now - the sound is flawless. I love this recorder! The supplied 2 Gig card is good for about an hour of 24/96, but I can of course get much bigger SD cards for longer recordings.
The instruction manual is still in its plastic bag, where I expect it will remain for eternity, because the unit is so intuitive and easy to use. The display is great - highly visible in all kinds of conditions. I haven't even tried using the built-in internal microphones - I really don't plan to use them.