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Old December 17th, 2013, 09:58 PM   #1
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Marantz PMD660 recorder

Greetings.

I just took possession of a just about brand new PMD660 recorder. A present from my sound guy, who uses a SD 4 or 5 channel mixer/recorder.

My intended use is a double system: mic>Shure fp33>pmd660. Will have a cable going from mixer to camera. I know that I will get real good at remembering to slate ;-}

Could I get your thoughts on all this? I am aware that this recorder is 16 bit, and I am guessing that audio is mostly 24 bit now(?)

I have also read that there is some noise issue at certain input settings.

I spent a good part of the day test things out only using 48k PCM (highest"resolution") setting.

One thing I was confused about was the attenuators setting: when set to 0 db- attenuators enabled, the sound was pretty distorted sounding, but when I switched it to -20 db, the sound to my ears was far better. I do have the input set to mic. Obviously the internal mic is going to be of no use.

Will this recorder be as good or better than today's current internal recorders found on cameras like the canon 300's or panny hpx's even though it is 16 bit?

Or would it fall into the "use only as a back up file" if camera audio fails?

Thanks for your insights.

Jonathan

Last edited by Jonathan Levin; December 17th, 2013 at 10:00 PM. Reason: Spelling
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Old December 17th, 2013, 10:01 PM   #2
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Re: Marantz PMD660 recorder

Actuay, come to think of it, is my Shure FP33 mixer 16bit?
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Old December 18th, 2013, 01:15 AM   #3
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Re: Marantz PMD660 recorder

And upon further investigation, looks like audio on video cameras is still at 16 bit, at least the ones I could afford….
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Old December 18th, 2013, 01:57 AM   #4
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Re: Marantz PMD660 recorder

the 660 is a decent little recorder. Yes, 16bit, and for audio for video work you should typically be setting the sampling rate to 48KHz, not because it's the highest setting on the recorder, but because (almost) all video cameras record at 48KHz and it's easy to go astray in post if all devices are not recording the same sample rate.

My previous experience was with a 660 or 661 modified with better preamps by Oade, it definitely outclassed the popular Zoom H4n (at 24bit). Although 24 looks better than 16 on paper, the real-world performance is what counts, and 16 with good pres will typically sound better than 24 with cheap pres.

I myself use an H4n, as well as other recorders, and I'm going to leave it at 24bit of course, but a recording created with good microphone technique and good level setting is going to sound good on your 660.

Your FP33 is analog - no 16 or 24 there. The measure of quality will once again be the preamps.

If your recording is distorted at 0db attenuation, even with proper recording level, that's a good reason to switch in some attenuation. Seems like your mic has a fairly hot output. If you're using automatic recording level do switch to manual, and set your peaks to -12db or so.

Will it record better than a recent high quality cam? Don't know the answer, it could go either way. Do record some low-level sound with att at 0 and a high recording level, and see if you can hear any noise on playback on an NLE. You do have to take it out to your NLE to evaluate, onboard headphone amps on these small devices can be pretty poor.

Do the same with your likely cams, and try some dialog, etc.

But, if your camcorder is providing adequate sound I think you should use it. Double-system is great and all, but on-camera recording is certainly a cleaner post workflow whenever the quality is adequate. And a Canon XF300 or C300, or a Panasonic HPX *is* going to have adequate quality for dialog.

Some will disagree... but workflow is pretty dang important. Even when recording on-camera sound, a little recorder like the 660 is handy for all kinds of things. A couple extra channels of non-sync sound, wild recording of atmospheres, a plant mic for later sync, a stereo music recording...

PS. your sound guy probably knows your 660 and your typical cams pretty well; you should ask him some of these questions!
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Old December 18th, 2013, 08:31 AM   #5
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Re: Marantz PMD660 recorder

I used to have a 660 for a few years.. a good reliable machine though the pre amps ain't that great but should sound pretty good with the FP33 front-end though.
If you are using the 660's XLR connectors, the FP33 must be switched to Mic level... Alternately, (and a better sound option) would be to use the 660's 3.5mm line input from the FP33's 'Tape out' connector.. FYI, unlike the newer 661, the 660's XLRs are NOT Mic/Line switchable. Furthermore the 3.5mm unbalanced line input is (nominal) -10dB (or there abouts) so +4dB program materiel will occasionally clip the -10dB input stage. (If you use the FP33 XLR in +4dB line level mode, 10dB pads should be used.
Using the FP33's audio return option would offer louder/cleaner monitoring as well. As I further recall the 660 was 16 bit only in the PCM recording mode.
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Old December 18th, 2013, 10:20 AM   #6
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Re: Marantz PMD660 recorder

Seth:
Thanks for your very detailed response.

I've read about the Oade conversion thing on some other threads.What is that, is it expensive to do, and should I just save my $$$ and learn how to use this system eventually moving to something like a Sound Devices something or other? I am aware that the 660 is a discontinued product.

Hi Rick:

Thank you for your reply too.

So just to clarify: Even though there is a selectable Input setting on the 660, line or mic, no matter what I set it to it will be Mic level? That's odd.

And I've always assumed that whatever the Output setting on a mixer is, line or mic, that setting must match the Input of the recorder or camera?

My initial instinct for set up would be to have the FP33 XLR Outs set to Line and the 660's xlr Input set to Line. But you think it should be Mic to Mic?

Thanks Guys.

Jonathan
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Old December 19th, 2013, 11:54 AM   #7
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Re: Marantz PMD660 recorder

"And I've always assumed that whatever the Output setting on a mixer is, line or mic, that setting must match the Input of the recorder or camera?"
- That is correct.. However there are two 'line' operating levels: Pro, +4dB balanced and semi-pro/consumer -10dB unbalanced.

"My initial instinct for set up would be to have the FP33 XLR Outs set to Line and the 660's xlr Input set to Line. But you think it should be Mic to Mic?
- You could use mic level out to mic level in.. but going through two sets of mic preamps would be of little quality advantage.
The 660 did not have a balanced +4dB line-in option via XLRs, the only line level input was the unbalanced -10dB 3.5mm stereo mini jack on the rear panel.
.. Unless Marantz changed the 660 prior to the 661. which I do not think they did.

I don't know if the Oade Brothers preamp modification is available for the 660.
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