Oryoki at the Yahoo! Nature Recordists group has written up a detailed review of the PMD620. In a nutshell, the recorder is tiny, almost the size of an iPod Classic and fitting easily into your pocket. It weighs just six ounces.
The unit takes just about 3 seconds to start up, has an easy to read LED screen, gets about 4.5 hours of battery life, and can record files over 2GB in size (a limitation many earlier recorders struggled with). Oryoki reports that the built-in mics are decent if properly directed, but that you’ll get some handling noise unless you use an external mic with the 1/8th inch mic input. You’ll probably want that external mic anyway, because you’ll get less hiss (depending on the mic, I would assume) than if you use the internal mics.
If you’re interested in more details, I would highly recommend checking out Oryoki’s complete writeup, and make sure to check out the comments.
The folks at Wingfield Audio have posted a review as well. They say the PMD620 is about the same size as an Edirol R-09 recorder. It may have a small display, but the fonts are crips and easy to read. The buttons are big and responsive.
As expected, the built in speaker doesn’t sound very good. But if you want to have a chance to double check your recording without using headphones, it’s a nice option to have. Tracks can be split on the fly while you’re recording by pressing the record button again. I prefer devices that have a separate “track mark” or “divide” button, but this is better than nothing.
One thing I learned from this review is that you need to be in record/pause mode to set your record volume. I’ve gotten so used to the hardware volume knob on my PCM-D50 that I’d kind of forgotten that many low end recorders are stuck with this limitation.
Jeff Towne over at Transom is in the process of testing a PMD620. A complete review should be coming soon, but in the meantime, he’s posted a few thoughts in the comments of his Zoom H2 post.
In a nutshell, Towne agrees that the PMD620 has great preamps. In fact, he says it sounds better with an external mic than any other low-cost recorder he’s tried (meaning the Zoom H2, Edirol R-09, M-Audio MicroTrack, Zoom H-4, and possibly the Marantz PMD660).
Bu there are some problems, not the least of which is a latency issue with the headphones. In other words, you’ll hear what you’re recording slightly after it’s recorded. I’ve experienced a similar issue with the Samson C01U USB microphone, or when using the Ardour digital audio workstation to record audio on a PC running Linux. And let me just say, it can be annoying as all get out.
Stay tuned for Towne’s complete review, which will almost certainly feature sample audio recordings.
Update: Transom has published a thorough review of the Marantz PMD620. Here are the highlights, but you should definitely check out the original review for audio samples.
- Small, easy to use device with big buttons and an easy to read display.
- Recordings sound good with external dynamic mics or condensers with batteries (there is no phantom power available.
- Even though the PMD620 has a 1/8th inch microphone jack, it sounds better with external mics (meaning there’s a lower noise floor/hiss level) than many other low cost recorders with 1/8th inch, 1/4th inch, or even XLR inputs, including the Marantz PMD660.
- You can make track marks automatically at regular intervals or by pushing the record button to start a new file.
- You can save 3 presets, so if you like to have separate profiles for stereo, mono, and MP3 recordings, you can save those attributes.
- The headphone jack is placed inconveniently between the two internal mics, so you can get a lot of noise if you’re monitoring your recording with those mics.
- You can hear yourself pressing buttons if you’re using the internal mics, particularly because the volume control is a rocker switch instead of a dial.
- That latency problem is probably the biggest drawback. (audio link). Revie Jeff Towne concludes that Marantz just doesn’t figure people will be using headphones to monitor their recordings, which seems a bit silly.
- You can’t see both the record time remaining and the level meters on the display at the same time.
While the PMD620 does indeed producer cleaner sound with an external mic than the Zoom H2 or other low cost recorders, I would recommend checking out my Sony PCM-D50 review and comparing the noise floor on my samples with Towne’s PMD620 recordings. Although we recorded our sample audio in two very different environments, it sounds to me like the PCM-D50 is much, much cleaner. And it only costs about $100 more than the Marantz recorder.