TASCAM, Zoom, Sony, and Olympus – I have a feeling you’ve come across these names before, haven’t you? These are audio manufacturer brand names. Marantz is another brand, the one we’ll put center stage today that, at times, hardly mentioned. Hang in there, I’ll tell you in a minute here. In this digital voice recorder reviews, that’s precisely what I will do.
Do Singers Need A Portable Digital Recorder?
I don’t think so if you’re just a casual singer and content where you’re at. If you’ve come up to this second paragraph of the blog, then maybe. Let’s find out. It’s a must-have for singers, my friend. My take, it’s definitely crucial to own one, especially if you plan to write songs and a burning desire to bring your singing to the next level.
You can compose a tune, rap, or even a diss track anytime, anywhere. Slow down on the last one, though.
You’re reading these lines, and you know exactly what you need. A good singer requires tons of hard work and time. Practicing many hours on your own is a significant part of it. Nothing short of that, and a digital recorder can help you out, big time. That’s where this piece of equipment comes in.
A portable recorder, unlike a smartphone, records your voice in high-quality audio sounds and plays it back for you at a later time. I know that’s pretty basic, but when you’re a “pitchy” singer, you pinpoint where you went flat or sharp, look for lines where you made diction errors, and how engaging you are when you sing.
It isn’t only a singing tool. Use it at work and at school and record your boss’s directives or class lectures. Use it like a diary or a remind-me tool. It’s up to your creativity on how you take advantage of this gadget.
Sure, a smartphone can do all that, too. However, smartphone microphones pick up a lot of unwanted noise, which degrades the quality of the file and even make it unusable.
Now, let us see what the Marantz’s PMD product line is for you – the PMD-561, PMD-661, and PMD-706.
Let Me Tell You What I Liked Best
It produces high-resolution sound files with a sample rate of 96kHz and a bit depth of 24-bit. These numbers might not mean anything, but it separates this gadget from smartphones. If you want to hear exactly what your voice sounds like, this is it, man. On the playback, you’ll be listening to a doppelganger.
This audio device works harder and better. It sponges off all sound waves and takes in audio data every microsecond to make sure you’ll get the best sound possible. Also, the high-quality sample rate files are suitable to have when you mix down the song covers you’re so proud of.
Of course, most smartphones and old four tracks are capable of doing such things also. The differences are too noticeable; it’s like comparing a landline call against a song downloaded from iTunes!
This device is a solid-state product. It will not generate any unwanted noise or coloration of the sound it stores. Your voice won’t easily clip or distort, even if you’re speaking or singing at a very high volume. You won’t ever feel the need to re-record multiple times because your voice was too loud or resulted in garbled noise.
However, making high-quality audio files eats a lot of storage space. Thankfully, this product is compatible with what’s called SDHC (Secure Digital High-Capacity, up to 32GB) and SDXC (eXtended Capacity up to 128GB), flashcards.
You’d never have to worry about running out of storage space for practice sessions and live performances. Now, that’s smart. I’ve owned a DSLR camera, but I have a small capacity SD card. It sucks that I need to replace the SD card every 100 shots or more just to make sure I capture a good one.
Input and Microphones
Take your favorite microphones and use them together with this product. It doesn’t matter if you have a consumer-grade mic or a professional level condenser. It has phantom power, oh no, not the creepy one, which will allow high-level microphones to work.
It has two types of jacks that allow the device to accommodate almost every microphone in the market. If only Apple could follow suit and don’t try to deviate, people wouldn’t have whined about the headphone jack.
If you don’t own a mic, operate this gadget by using its built-in studio-grade microphone.
Listening to the audio file is as easy as pressing the play button. It’s as simple as playing a YouTube video without a video. The item also has a built-in speaker. If you want to save some precious battery power, connect a portable speaker, mixer, or amplifier to listen.
Some Bonus Features That Made Me Appreciate These Products More
You can connect this product as an audio capture device for a camera. Take a video of your live performance and upload it to your social media accounts. You might become the next viral celebrity! I mean, what more could you ask for?
It operates up to seven hours when it has fully charged batteries. Be sure to take out the cells whenever you’re not using the recorder, of course. Isn’t that a legit advice?
Managing the files in its SD card is done by connecting it to the computer through its bundled USB mini cable. Also, it’s handy as an SD card reader.
The buttons seem responsive and resistant to breakage as if you’re using a Nokia 3310. The device was designed to be slick and vintage-like, unlike other products that appear like alien gadgets you’d see in Men in Black, the movie. The power adapter allows you to save battery life.
This item comes with a prepacked 4GB SD card. It has a high cut filter, password protection, and a silent skip feature; things you might not be particular on those features yet, but they’re good to know for now.
Lastly, it has a unique feature called Retake. With a simple press of a button, it rewinds through the current track and overdubs a new one. It’s a very convenient way to write a song or correct a missed tone. It’ll save yourself a lot of time, and I’m sure it’ll satisfy the perfectionist within you.
Some Minor Flaws, But Still Worth Mentioning
As a disclaimer, some of the things I’ll say may appear as nitpicks, but they need to be known. A high-end product deserves a whole load of criticism to warrant the price it demands. Before those lines, let me tell you the exact reason Marantz isn’t as popular as it supposed to be.
It’s all about pricing. It maintained its reputation as a top of the line product provider. Most of its items are priced at more than $300. Its competitors have a price range of $50 to $200. However, in recent years, the company has been mindful of its pricing. The newest 706 is even cheaper than the old 561 and 661. Aha! Now, tell me something.
After all, it’s sad to say that not a lot of people are willing to invest in having a career in singing nowadays. I mean, if you love to sing, you don’t need to be a pro to satisfy this passion. Not to mention that many replicas exist that are much cheaper than this supposed luxury item for amateurs. But if you’re aiming to have a singing career, prepare yourself to shell out some cash.
Anyway, I might have gone off track there.
This device weighs 1.64 pounds, and it’s marketed as a portable handheld device. You can’t hold on to it for a long time since your muscles will give up on you. I know this sounds pedantic since most people who bought this item put the device on top of a flat surface like, a table, while they record. I was surprised; the 706 weighs less than the 661 and 561 despite its bulky appearance.
You need a USB mini cable to connect it to the computer. Unfortunately, USB mini cables are hard to find these days, and what will you do if you lose the one you own? Radio Shack has already gone kaput, and you can’t really rely on Target or Walmart to get a replacement for it unless you’re fortunate.
It would be great if it had the standard micro USB input, a universal input in most smartphones and other audio gears nowadays. Only the 706 has a micro USB port.
It doesn’t have a built-in battery. It’s somehow okay-ish since your batteries are replaceable. However, built-in batteries are a better option to have. Everything could have been more intuitive if it charges a battery pack when you plug a power adapter.
Marantz employed plastic materials for this gadget’s casing. Manufacturers built old recorders mostly with metal and little plastic. The earlier PMD models have metal casings. The plastic materials seem solid enough to withstand usual usage abuse and hand slip incidents. I guess it’s just nostalgia kicking in. I still remember the old metallic cassette player I had.
The built-in microphones seem omnidirectional. I think it was created with form over function in mind. The placement of the receivers from the array is close enough to each other. It’ll be challenging to separate the left and right tracks if you don’t own additional microphones. Nonetheless, it isn’t a problem if you’re not particular about recording in stereo. It’s more of a plus if you want to do it alone, and it looks cool, though.
It’s bigger and heavier than its competitors. If you own TASCAM, Roland, and Zoom recorders before, you might find it awkward to hold and operate it. Ok, enough for the rambling. I just thought some of you here need these details.
In A Digital Nutshell
While Marantz isn’t a household name like Sony and Olympus anymore, it’s still the company that pushed and helped with the development of high-fidelity audio systems and changed the audio production landscape.
One might think that it was a wrong move on their part to break up with Phillips (the company! not some random Phillips!) and became independent. The company struggled, and it tried to regain its glory by focusing on producing products for audio professionals. And despite it falling into obscurity, it still has a substantial following, mostly composed of audio professionals, transcriptionists, and journalists. Did you hear what I just said? Yeah, these are high-end users. I guess that says something.
In this review, I still believe that they can make a comeback. The PMD line isn’t as mediocre and bloated, and they are worth their price tags. If you’re interested in reading more details, check out the 561 here, 661 here, and 706 here. Do note: Both 561 and 661 were already discontinued by Marantz, but a lot still circulates the market.
I suggest you get the 706. It isn’t as feature-rich as the 561 and 661 personal use, but it’s much more robust. It can definitely work in professional recordings.
I rate this product line 7 out of 10. Expectations are tremendous when you market an item as high-end. It must be flawless, innovative, and a cut among the rest.