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Used Marantz PMD661MK1 worth it?
Old 13th August 2020
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Used Marantz PMD661MK1 worth it?

Hello everybody,

I'm looking for a versatile recorder for ENG, field recording and home studio applications. I'm a big fan of This American Life and since the Marantz PMD661 is their favorite recorder according to several sources, it's also on the top of my list.

My research has shown that the MK3 version is a flop. But the MK1 and MK2 versions still seem to be popular. The exact differences are not clear to me.
I have now found a private offer for a used Marantz PMD661MK1, it costs just 200€ (~237$), less then half the price of a new MKIII. The condition seems to be very good. Would you buy it?
As an alternative I'm considerin the Tascam DR-100 MK III for 340€ (~400$), new with 3 years warranty. Am I right to assume, that the Marantz is the better deal, mainly because of better preamps and price?

Whats your take on this?
Thanks in advance. :-)
Old 14th August 2020
  #2
Here for the gear
 

I have used both of these recorders quite a bit and they are both excellent.

PMD661: I agree that the newest version is Junk. It's really a completely different device, not the same at all. The MK1 and MK2 versions are excellent recorders for interviews and voice recording. They are very easy to use once you configure the 3 recording preset slots exactly how you want. Great metering and controls where you want them to be. The OLED screen is bright and very easy to read in all circumstances. You only have to press one button to start recording, this can be important out in the field. The case is partly metal and feels fairly bulletproof. Rotary pot for input level control. It will take a standard line level signal without clipping which I have found useful in the studio. Battery life is not awesome, around 4 hours I think. Make sure you get the AC adapter with it, if I recall it has an uncommon plug or voltage. Formatting the memory card in the unit takes a long time and they don't like some newer memory cards. When you put the card back in after transferring files it can take a while to read the card before you can record on it, even if you don't format.


Tascam DR-100 MKIII: Better preamps and lower noise floor at high gain. If you are planning on doing any recordings of quiet ambience or using low-output mics this may matter to you. It has an internal battery in addition to the 2xAA batteries. This is great for hot-swapping during a long take. It's a little less straightforward to operate overall and seems a little less rugged in the hand compared to the PMD661-MK1. I don't like the location of the headphone jack. It's right in the middle of the left side of the unit which is awkward when holding it in your hand.

I chose the Tascam for a project after comparing it to a few other recorders because I needed a compact kit to record quiet Classical performances with a pair of lower-ouput condenser mics (AKG C414b-uls) on battery power. For that it worked well.

Edit: The Marantz preamps sound great also but they have more noise at the upper end of their gain range.


-Matt
Old 25th August 2020
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmonkey View Post
I have used both of these recorders quite a bit and they are both excellent.

PMD661: I agree that the newest version is Junk. It's really a completely different device, not the same at all. The MK1 and MK2 versions are excellent recorders for interviews and voice recording. They are very easy to use once you configure the 3 recording preset slots exactly how you want. Great metering and controls where you want them to be. The OLED screen is bright and very easy to read in all circumstances. You only have to press one button to start recording, this can be important out in the field. The case is partly metal and feels fairly bulletproof. Rotary pot for input level control. It will take a standard line level signal without clipping which I have found useful in the studio. Battery life is not awesome, around 4 hours I think. Make sure you get the AC adapter with it, if I recall it has an uncommon plug or voltage. Formatting the memory card in the unit takes a long time and they don't like some newer memory cards. When you put the card back in after transferring files it can take a while to read the card before you can record on it, even if you don't format.


Tascam DR-100 MKIII: Better preamps and lower noise floor at high gain. If you are planning on doing any recordings of quiet ambience or using low-output mics this may matter to you. It has an internal battery in addition to the 2xAA batteries. This is great for hot-swapping during a long take. It's a little less straightforward to operate overall and seems a little less rugged in the hand compared to the PMD661-MK1. I don't like the location of the headphone jack. It's right in the middle of the left side of the unit which is awkward when holding it in your hand.

I chose the Tascam for a project after comparing it to a few other recorders because I needed a compact kit to record quiet Classical performances with a pair of lower-ouput condenser mics (AKG C414b-uls) on battery power. For that it worked well.

Edit: The Marantz preamps sound great also but they have more noise at the upper end of their gain range.


-Matt
Hey Matt, thank you so much for the reply. Very helpfull and I ended up getting the PMD661, mainly because at almost half the price of the Tascam I couldn't say no. The condition seems to be great and it came with all the original accessories.

However, it might have been the wrong choice. Or maybe you can help me: I am trying to record a telephone interview. I want to connect an Oktava MK012 hypercardioid microphone (which needs P48 power) via XLR and I want to connect a smartphone via an XLR to Minijack adapter. The problem is: when I set the input slider to Mic P48 or Mic, the signal of the smartphone sounds very bad (at any level).

Sure, you can only set the slider to either Line, Mic, or Mic P48, and the smartphone outputs a line signal. I was a bit dumbfounded when I realized that. I assumed that I could feed two mono sources of different types without any problems. Am I right to assume that I cannot do what I want to do with this device?

My bigger fear is that something is wrong with the PMD661 after all. Until now I could only test it with the smartphone and a Rode NTG-2, which gave out a scratchy signal. But that mic was damaged (battery acid damage), to which I attributed the signal interference.

Thanks for your help
Max

EDIT: I read the manual and it looks like the Tascam DR-100MKIII also wouldn't support this setup.
Old 4th September 2020
  #4
Here for the gear
 

Hmm, that's interesting. I haven't encountered that issue but I also haven't tried connecting an unbalanced line source to the Marantz. Depending on how your adapter is wired it could be causing the issue. My suggestion would be to try a transformer balanced DI box. This will balance the line signal and drop it to line level at the correct impedance for the mic input.

Something like this:
https://www.redco.com/Neutrik-NA2M-J-TX.html
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