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Old February 23rd, 2010, 08:24 PM   #1
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PMD661 v Fostex FR2LE v Zoom H4n

So I'm looking for a field recorder to work with our 5D mkII setup - mostly interviews/talking heads. I think I've settled on the PMD661, but I was wondering if anyone had any input on it versus units like the Zoom H4n and Fostex FR-2LE.

Also, the Oade Bros. upgrades - are they worth it? If I got an upgraded PMD661 or FR-2LE, how much of a difference would I see from the stock unit?

To round out the kit, we'd need a bag that would hold the unit, 2 Sennheiser G2 kits plus mic elements, spare AA batteries and SD cards - anything you guys recommend (especially something that has the space, but puts the recorder in a position that is easy to use while slung over the shoulder)? The Sennheiser mkh416, boom pole and XLR cable would be in another bag when used - which we've got already.
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Old February 24th, 2010, 11:29 PM   #2
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I have the Fostex FR-2LE and prefer it to the others, better battery options and dual xlr inputs.

The FR-2LE's controls for recording are easy to use. The machine is designed to be carried from the shoulder, or perhaps in a gear bag at your waist. The Standby, Record, and preamp Volume controls are on the front edge (the top when standing in a bag).it supports file names up to 13 characters long, including spaces. For example you can name your session, "Iguasu Day 1_" The recorder will add track numbers as recorded, up to 999. The resulting files will be named "Iguasu Day 1_001.WAV" and so on. The files have date and time stamp associated with them, even if the date is not part of the file name. The FR-2LE has a big battery compartment, much larger than the 4 AAs it normally runs on. The compartment accepts a 7.2V battery with Tamiya-style connector. These batteries are commonly used in radio-controlled cars and other toys. The batteries are available from many vendors. A single battery and the transformer to charge it from mains power costs about $40.


I previously used the M Audio Micro Track, it didn't have XLR inputs and used an internal battery.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 01:40 AM   #3
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I run an SD 302 into the PMD661 and the sound is great. It also has XLR inputs that can be switched from line to mic, convenient when I don't need the 302. It's onboard pres sound very good.

The interface on the PMD661 is the most intuitive I've ever used. A comfort when you're working fast. You can create presets for input type, sample and bit rate and quickly switch between them.

Battery life is outstanding and build quality is great.

I used a PMD670 for years and it's always worked flawlessly. I use it in the studio now and carry the PMD661 on location.
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Old February 28th, 2010, 12:50 PM   #4
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I have heard great things about the Fostex FR-2LE and Marantz PMD660. Both will work and do offer BWF files. BUT I went with the Fostex FR-2LE it should be here this week. Be sure you understand that the PMD660 you will want to always make sure it has battery power because if it cuts off(it does have a backup system) it will reset the settings. So you will have to go back in and reset everything. That can be time consuming especially if you are on the fly. I suggest to read the manuals that's what I did and I choose to go with the Fostex FR-2LE. Hope that helps a little.


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Old February 28th, 2010, 02:59 PM   #5
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I use a Fostex FR2 LE and a Sound Devices 302 mixer.
I did own one of the first generation H4s. I didn't like that because the controls were so fiddly and because the Fostex seemed to give better sound when I tried them against each other.
However the latest H4s are very popular so I can only imagine that they are much improved.
The H4 is _much_ smaller of course. That must be an advantage if you are doing 'run and gun'.
If you aren't doing that (and the camera is not ideal for that kind of shooting) then the size of the recorder won't matter.
I have got very good results in the past with just the FR2 LE. I would not say that the SD302 is a 'must have' extra. Just as well, because the combination of the two will cost almost as much as the camera.
There are reports of the sound going out of synch with the picture. I've just matched up the sound track for an interview this evening for the first time and it seems to be OK. I purposefully ran the interview to close to 12 minutes, which is about all that you can record in one take with the 5Dmk2, in order to maximise the opportunity for it to go out of synch.
I detect any loss of synch by playing the two tracks (on-camera and separate sound) together on the NLE and listening for echo. It was an echoey room so the Rode Stereomic on the camera picked that up and the lavalier on the interviewee didn't. Therefore I can't be sure that there is not some loss of synch!
BTW my FR2 LE will run for about 15 hours between charges. So running out of power is one less thing to worry about. Useful if you are shorthanded.
There are bits of kit that you like because they are well-designed and do the job well. The FR2 LE falls into that category for me.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 02:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicole Hankerson View Post
Be sure you understand that the PMD660 you will want to always make sure it has battery power because if it cuts off(it does have a backup system) it will reset the settings. So you will have to go back in and reset everything. That can be time consuming especially if you are on the fly.
Nicole
Yes it's true. If you record at 16bit/48K with phantom power for the mics on for more than 8 hours you should change the batteries on the PMD661. IF you're not paying attention, and miss the very clear and obvious low battery indicator, and you run out of power, it would take 3-4 minutes to recreate the presets, all 3 groups of them.

Last edited by Kirk Candlish; March 1st, 2010 at 10:24 PM. Reason: Correctiong typo, from PMD660 to PDM661
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Old March 1st, 2010, 08:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicole Hankerson View Post
I have heard great things about the Fostex FR-2LE and Marantz PMD660. Both will work and do offer BWF files. BUT I went with the Fostex FR-2LE it should be here this week. Be sure you understand that the PMD660 you will want to always make sure it has battery power because if it cuts off(it does have a backup system) it will reset the settings. So you will have to go back in and reset everything. That can be time consuming especially if you are on the fly. I suggest to read the manuals that's what I did and I choose to go with the Fostex FR-2LE. Hope that helps a little.


Nicole
The PMD 660 and the 661 are totally different machines. The 661 has built in mics, plus xlr ins for mic or line and phantom power. I've changed batteries on the 661 and not lost my settings. The Oade Brothers upgrade is effective and worth the small amount it costs. My only two minor complaints are the headphone/speaker output is wimpy, and the level controls are too easily changed. Had to put tape over mine to keep from accidentally moving it.
I've used it line in, mic in with phantom, and as a stand alone stereo recorder with the internal mics. All in all a great sounding recorder that is very versatile.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 10:32 PM   #8
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Oops, corrected my post. I have the PMD661.

I'm running a 302 into mine so an Oades upgrade wouldn't be needed in my case but it's good to know they're a noticeable upgrade.
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 09:01 AM   #9
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I'm mostly using mine with a 302 as well, but its nice to be able to use its decent on board mics to record sfx or music. I've used it a lot for recording The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in a number of venues and the built in mics sound pretty good. I'm still confused about losing the presets if you run the batteries all the way down. I'm pretty sure I've done that, changed batteries, and didn't have to reload my settings. Does it say anything in the manual about that? I don't recall seeing anything.
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 03:20 PM   #10
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Marantz pre-sets: Just tested my PMD 660. (firmware version A-1.14) Ran machine in record mode until batteries died. Tried it again, this time physically removing batteries. Tried it yet again, on A/C, pulled the plug while recording. Conclusion: It does not lose your custom presets and I got too much time on my hands. Obviously if you do not save a modified pre-set it will be lost. I don't have a 661 to test.
If I were in the market for 'this particular type of recorder' again, I would probably go for Fostex FR-2LE.
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Old March 8th, 2010, 06:52 PM   #11
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In my earlier post I meant 661 not the 660. I did get my Fostex FR-2LE and I was able to record up to about 6 hours at 24/48 with phantom power on. The batteries where the 6 Cell batteries. Worked great. Love the machine. Only paid 300 bucks for it and got all the gear you see in the picture.


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