Marantz Professional PMD-620MkII Audio Recorder

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Portable, Professional Audio Performer from Marantz Professional. The PMD620MkII

Most recognizable in broadcast and journalism, portable audio recorders are also industry workhorses found in education, law enforcement, medicine, transcription, research and much more. With the ease of SD card storage and small, quality electret microphones, the foundation for pocket sized pro audio recording emerged years ago. The Marantz Professional PMD cassette line of recorders is legendary, but now a mere memory. Let’s fast-forward and check out the PMD-620MkII. For the sake of brevity, I’ll refer to this model as the 620MkII.

Inside the box, you’ll find both USB and line level cables. Also included is a carry strap, 4GB SD card, belt/tripod holster and AC power supply. The CD contains PC editing software and the keys to unlocking encrypted files.

Shallow as it sounds, the discrete, almost stealthy appearance exudes professional. Dressed in black, the 620MkII easily slips in and out of a pocket without protruding parts or edges, lending a solid unibody-type feel. Stereo electret microphones are safely mesh-protected topside, visually mated to the body. The high contrast, energy efficient OLED matrix display is bright and sharp. Handy LEDs above the main display indicate audio presence and clipping at a glance.

Shaped as a jog/shuttle wheel, menu navigation is handled by a rocker switch. A large edge-lit record button stands out, ready for action. All audio connections are 3.5mm. On top, inputs include mic or line level. Side accessible line out, phones and (optional) remote control input are above the DC power feed. The right side of the recorder includes record level adjustment, key lock and power switches. USB 2.0 and SDHC card portals are bottom facing. Two alkaline or NiMH batteries are accessed from the back where you’ll also find a small confidence speaker. There is no wasted real estate on this little recorder!

We could talk for hours about the menu structure alone, but when the record button is pressed and peak reading meters start bouncing, there are a few key things that can make or break your recording.

Select WAV files for quality or MP3 to reserve maximum space on your SD card. MP3 specs max out at 48kHz/192kbps. Linear PCM WAV can be bumped up to 48kHz/2304kbps. MP3 or WAV formats allow mono/stereo recording with an ample matrix of sample and bit rates. ALC keeps the audio pumped, if needed. It’s no secret that the ALC should be off in all but the most extreme dynamic emergencies.

Remember VOX? Maybe not. If inclined, use “Silent Skip” to only record sound above a user-defined threshold. I hate blank tape …or bytes.

James-Bond-like encryption will keep your files private, but there is a dark side. Currently, Marantz PC software (included) is needed to unlock file encryption. Without emulation, my Mac Air couldn’t join in on the stealthy fun. Don’t confuse encryption with compatibility. Unencrypted files are fully compatible with Mac or PC via SD card or USB mounting.

The “retake” feature is a quick way to overdub, but file editing is much easier on the big screen. Interval recording is great. Instead of one 32GB WAV file, tell (you really need to push buttons) the 620MkII to automatically create a new file every few minutes or hours.

I almost forgot to tell you how the 620MkII sounds! A lot of portable audio recorders have passed through my studio. The truth is that most all brands sound very good given the limitation of micro-electret sonics and preamps-on-a-chip. Plug in a professional dynamic microphone (using an optional 1/8” to XLR pigtail) and you’ll be amazed at what the 620MkII can do.

My experience with portable audio recorders usually comes down to ergonomics, quality, fit and finish. That may sound strange, but the world is a fast place. The last thing I want to do is fumble through menus or clunky buttons when seconds count.

PROS:
Is your recorder small and slim enough to always ride along? Can you quickly find and tap “record” in the dark? Do the buttons wobble noisily? Can you see the display in various lighting conditions?

The Marantz Professional PMD-620MkII continues the PMD tradition of quality and attention to detail.

CONS:
The 620MkII offers a useful file encryption feature that leaves Mac users hanging. I’m hoping a Mac utility is in the works. Price; the good stuff is expensive. Visually, the 620MkII had me at OLED, but a larger display would be nice.

Finally, include the cost of a small wind sock to your portable recorder budget. Regardless of model, those mini electrets love the wisp of a brisk breeze.

Is the 620MkII right for you? For my use (mostly on-the-go interviews and sound bites), the 620MkII gets high marks for its small size and big performance.

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