Marantz PMD620
The age of affordable, professional hand-held flash recorders is upon us. As surely as the
Pro-Walkman recorder followed personal cassette players, so the prevalence of affordable
MP3 players was always likely to translate into recording devices. ROB JAMES explores.
hen any new machine comes my way
I follow the old dictum: ‘When all else
fails, read the manual’, to get a decent
insight into just how good a job the
designers have made of producing an intuitive user
interface. In the case of the PMD620 (UK£379 +
VAT) the answer is, ‘remarkably good.’ It is set up
for recording in MP3 from the internal mics, which
means you can be recording ten seconds after opening
the box. Bung in a couple of alkaline AA batteries,
flip and hold the power switch to turn it on and press
Record. It really is that simple.
The machine arrives with a dinky little in-line
mains power supply, wrist strap and a mic stand
cradle/belt clip. I would like to have seen a means of
securing the PMD in this. There are two mounting
point options for the wrist strap, top and bottom. Only
a little larger and heavier than a packet of cigarettes,
the recorder will fit into most hands comfortably.
Unusually, it seems best suited to left-handed use for
interviews and news gathering. The Record button
falls naturally under your thumb and Pause and Stop
are in easy reach. Although the display is a little
small and monochrome it is an OLED and bright and
pin-sharp. All controls are either recessed or semirecessed giving a smooth feel in the hand which also
minimises inadvertent button presses.
Construction is mostly plastic with radiused sides
and a champagne grey brushed metallic front panel.
One minor problem arises from this. At some angles
to the current light source the white printed legends
merge totally into the background, especially on the
curved edges. However, the controls are so simple and
All sides
On the front panel,
two small LEDs above
the OLED display, Level and Over, indicate
signal presence and clipping. Signal presence
trigger level can be set at -54dB, -38dB, -20dB,
-12dB or -6dB. Immediately below the screen
are round Stop/cancel, Record Pause and
the Record button. This has an annular ring
that lights up softly in red when recording.
Somehow this is much more satisfactory than
a simple LED, more positive yet discreet. For
ultimate discretion, all the LEDs can be turned
off in the Presets Menu.
The large round cluster on the left is the
control centre. Left/ |<<, right/ |>>, up/Vol+ and
down/Vol- areas are where you would expect on
the outer ring with a Play/Pause/Enter button in
the middle. Display Menu/Store and Skip Back
buttons complete the picture.
The rest of the layout is much as you would expect. A pair of mics at the top
with Headphone and Mic sockets in between. Further jacks for Line In and Line
Out, a remote jack and external power In (behind a rubber flap), are on the lefthand side. On the base another flap covers the mini USB port and next to this is a
rather flimsy drop-down cover for the SD card slot. If this is open, recording stops
and a message appears in the display. Power, Key Lock and Record level increment/
decrement buttons are to be found on the right. Power is a spring biased slider that
needs holding for a second or so to switch on but gives instant off. Key lock is a
programmable slide switch with the options of locking everything or a partial lock
which allows access to Record, Record Pause and Stop/Cancel.
On the back the batteries can be accessed via a plastic cover. Pressing the Display
intuitive that anyone using the PMD620 regularly
will have no problems. Some very subtle little rubber
inserts on the back afford a bit of acoustic isolation
when the machine is placed on a surface, however,
these bumpers are so shallow it will need to be a very
flat surface.
I tried using the PMD620 with just the internal
mics for recording voice and attempted some exterior
sound effects. While handling noise is really not too
bad, the same cannot be said for susceptibility to
moving air. Small capsule mics always have problems
with this but the ones fitted to the PMD620 seem
especially sensitive. Even minor air disturbance, from
breathing for example, has the diaphragms hitting the
end stops. Marantz strongly recommends using an
external condenser mic and I can see why. If you do
use the external mic input, 5V power is available via
a Preset menu switch. To aid mic level matching, an
attenuator can be switched on at -12dB or -24dB.
Rudimentary non-destructive editing is present
in the shape of Copy Segment. With an In and Out
marker set by pressing the Record button while
playing back, the section in between can be copied to
a new file. This is more than sufficient for this type
of device.
This machine has the best ergonomics of any I’ve
tried so far in this size. The mic amps are subjectively
quiet but this is offset by the internal mics sensitivity
to air movement. If you intend to use an external mic
this obviously won’t be a problem. Otherwise this is
one of the nicest of the breed. n
Good ergonomics; subjectively quiet;
standard AA batteries, alkaline or NiMH.
Internal mics over-susceptible to air
movement; SD card cover a bit flimsy as
are the USB and Ext Power covers.
marantz, japan:
button steps through the operational screens:
Time and Date, Current Record Setup and Total
Time Remaining. When in Record Pause or
Record a further screen shows Record level and
whether Automatic Level Control is engaged.
The meters are absolutely excellent with clear
legends and good ballistics. Record formats are
16-bit or 24-bit linear PCM at 44.1 or 48 and
three flavours of MP3.
The PMD can be set to skip silence when
recording with threshold settings of -60dB, -54dB,
-38dB or -20dB. Useful, I dare say, for surveillance
purposes. Low cut is either on or off.
All significant settings are stored in Preset
memories of which there are three in the
machine. By default the first two are set up for
MP3-M and MP3-H 44.1kHz and the third for
PCM-24 bit 48kHz. All three can be user modified
and there is a global restore to default. Presets
can also be stored on SD cards and this will be of great benefit to organisations with
a lot of machines to set up. You can change the font size for such things as the list
screens from within the Preset menus. This doesn’t affect the Preset lists, which really
are a bit on the small side (had me reaching for stronger glasses), until you exit the
menus and re-enter them again.
Manual Track starts a new file for the current recording when the Record button
is pressed during recording; Auto Track starts a new audio file at specified intervals.
Interval can be set to 1, 5, 10, 15 or 30 minutes or 1, 2, 6, 8, 12 or 24 hours. Auto
track can be helpful for finding a specific point in the recording quickly. Recorded
files may be sorted by date and time or alphabetically for display and the maximum
number of files per card is 999.
resolution April 2009