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Compact Flash Recorders Compared

There are three main compact flash (the little cards your digital camera uses) recorders. In LA, one very well respected radio journalist uses a Marantz 660 another equally respected one an Edirol R1. I've yet to see anyone with one of the M-Audio Microtrack recorders.

For speech podcasters considering buying a CF recorder it can be hard to know which is the best. Here are some thoughts:

Big Pluses: XLR connectors, none of those funny noises when the minijack lead turns in the plug. Phantom power (you can run that condenser mic) Lots of proper batteries- a long recording life.
Minuses: It's big! You wont be doing any undercover work with this one. I also belong to the larger they are the harder the fall school of technical robustness. Drop this and it will break, or break your foot.
Sound: Some questions about pre-amp problems and hum. No one I know who has one has complained of any issues.

Big Pluses: It's smaller than the marantz. It's not a big black brick. It has some nice built in stereo mics as well as a mic-in jack. You could use this without drawing too much attention to yourself. It's cheaper than the Marantz. Unlike the marantz it fits into the palm of your hand even if you aren't an orangutan.
Minuses: The minijack mic-in is not ideal. No phantom power. Its buttons and interface are said to be a bit fiddly. It does look quite fragile. Some reviewers complain of not being able to t-mark recordings
Sound: No complaints from any users I know. But have read reviews on the net that complain of built-in mic's not switching off.


Big Pluses: Cheaper. Smaller. Looks cute. Has both minijack and 1/4 connectors. Looks quite robust.
Minuses: From the OMG I can't believe they were so stupid school of design it runs off its own built-in rechargeable batteries...now you did remember to charge it before you interviewed Dr Kissinger didn't you?  What! That the press conference is going on longer than expected and you are almost out of juice etc. etc. etc.... honestly built-in batteries is a big reason not to buy if you are planning any kind of intensive use.
Sound: ...I'll tell you when it finishes recharging... but seriously I've not heard any complaints, which is an improvement over both of the above where one sees occasional reports on the web of some users having problems.

So there you have it. For the occasional user they're all much of a muchness. For rough, tough intensive radio-hack type work though I have questions about all three... but on balance the Marantz probably comes out on top

What's really frustrating is that the Sony Hi MD's would probably beat all the above if it wasnt' for the stupid proprietory software they insist on foisting on users. I've read conflicting reports about whether one can transfer a .wav or .mp3 recorded using them out of sonic stage the sony software that interfaces with the PC freely. The spokesman at the PodCon said you can, a few user reviews say you can't. The bottom line is I don't trust Sony not to play games with DRM and proprietory formats etc. This is a real shame as I am a huge fan of my little recording Sony minidisk. It's getting on for 5 years old, works perfectly, is a lovely lime green colour, is small, records for 2hours on one AA battery. Has been dropped several times from height onto hard surfaces and still works. And doesn't hum/hiss or distort, though it does suffer from the minidisk flutter at the start of recordings (so run the tape for 10secs before you record dimbo!) Sony should take a long hard look at this product and think about why their new products don't match up.

January 25, 2006 in production notes | Permalink


How about the Tascam H2-P2? It's a big brick, all right, but loaded with features and is supposedly not plagued with the preamp noise that the Marantz recorders suffer from.

Posted by: Sharoney | Nov 24, 2006 6:05:37 AM

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