SETTING IT UP
The separate front-panel Mic and Line inputs are among the CDR300’s strongest assets because of the flexibility they offer. You can plug dynamic or condenser mics directly into the XLR jacks, or interface with a mic preamp using the balanced 1/4-inch line inputs. The onboard phantom power comes in quite handily for condenser mics that need phantom.
The CDR300 was designed to cover a wide range of uses and so it offers several cool features. The onboard mic is perfect for informal recording or slating VO takes, and the internal speaker is great for quickly checking a recording. The CDR300 records and plays standard CD-R and CD-RW media, and it accepts computer-grade CD-Rs so you don’t need to buy the more expensive music-only CD-Rs, unlike some other stand alone recorders.
Before you record, you’ll want to set up the CDR300 by pressing the Rec Mode button, which is not available on the remote. The REC Mode menu then comes up in the display, allowing you to choose from among the various analog and digital inputs, and letting you set the recorder to begin recording on input (Sync Record). With that done, you can then press Menu/Store to set individual input levels, choose to use a separate bandpass or highpass filter on the mic inputs, and add automatic limiting with the ALC switch. Limiting begins when the input exceeds -12 dB, and the limiter is very clean when used at a reasonable input level.
The Select dial accesses each of the possible settings in the menus, and you confirm your choice by pressing down on the dial. This is definitely one of those instances where you’re going to want the manual nearby, since there are so many choices and their purpose is not always clear. Fortunately the manual is reasonably well organized and will get you through the setup process.
You can choose have the CDR300 increment Track IDs during silences (AUTO) or manually. If you select AUTO, the CDR300 will insert a new Track ID whenever it detects at least three seconds of silence. Silence is defined as -80dB for a digital source, and -40dB for an analog source.
Unfortunately, the button for manually incrementing the track IDs while recording is only on the infrared remote. However, the CDR300 does have another Track ID mode that automatically adds an ID every minute, which makes it easier to navigate later through a long recording by using the transport’s Next and Prev track buttons.
You can also set the recorder to stop recording automatically after four seconds of silence using a digital source and after 20 seconds of silence using an analog source. In any event, the CDR300 is reasonably polite about letting you know that you’re running out of CD during recording — when the remaining record time on the CD-R hits five minutes, the message DISC END will be displayed, and then the display will indicate the remaining time both in minutes and seconds as well as graphically. When you see DISC FULL in the display, then there is no more available recording time on the disc and you need to find a place to stop and insert another disc.
Note that the Mic/Line inputs are always live during recording, even if you’re using an external mixer as your source, connected to the AUX inputs. In this instance the manual suggests that you set the front panel Mic/Line switch to Line, and turn the preamp inputs all the way down to eliminate any residual noise from creeping into your recording.
The CDR300 also features a complete CD text read and write function. Personally I’ve never found this very useful, as I’m accustomed to putting all necessary identification information on the actual CD label. But it’s there if you need it, and if you can tolerate entering the text one letter at a time with the Select dial.
TAKING IT FOR A SPIN
This is a nice little unit, despite some minor annoyances with some of the buttons and an interface with too many menus that is occasionally less-than-intuitive. The CDR300 makes good-sounding recordings that stand up well to my portable DAT, although it’s touchier about where it’s placed than the DAT. This is not a run-and-gun unit, and while it will tolerate being moved and shaken while recording, it basically wants to be on a stable surface to produce an error-free CD. That’s not a product defect though; that’s the nature of CD recorders in general.
The CDR300’s mic preamps have the audio quality of an average small mixer — they’re perfectly suitable for sessions where you want to use a minimum of equipment but still get good results. However, during my evaluation of the CDR300 I tried connecting a high-quality external stereo mic preamp into the 1/4-inch inputs of the CDR300. While the improvement over the built-in preamps wasn’t dramatic, I could definitely hear a difference, particularly in the high frequencies.
As mentioned, there are two sets of EQ available on the CDR300. The first is the record EQ that’s accessible in the REC MODE menu, and it only works on the Mic/Line inputs. The highpass EQ rolls off everything below 100Hz, while the bandpass mode rolls off frequencies below 100Hz and above 10kHz. These are useful for eliminating rumble and perhaps wind noise, and are equivalent to the rolloff switch on many microphones.
The three-band tone controls on the top panel are quite different. They affect the CD’s output on playback as well as the internal speaker and the LINE output, but they do not affect the MIX output. They’re broad, with the Treble at 6kHz, the Mid at 2kHz, and the Bass at 150Hz. And they don’t sound very good, so I left them centered all the time.
Being tethered to an AC outlet can be a drag with an otherwise portable recorder. So for serious portable work you’ll be interested in the optional battery pack. Marantz Pro’s RPS300 Remote Power System ($199) includes the lead-acid battery, battery charger, and associated cables. The company claims that you can record for four hours before the battery needs recharging, and recharging takes about 14 hours. The battery weighs only a few ounces less than the recorder itself, but because it’s three quarters the size of the recorder, it feels heavier than it looks. Nonetheless, I will gladly carry around an extra six pounds if it will allow me to record in out-of-the-way places.
THE STRANGE COUSIN
While Marantz Professional and Superscope officially parted ways in the fall of 2002, they evidently still share some technologies. Superscope makes a different version of the CDR300 that’s called the PSD300 that’s primarily aimed at musicians. It looks nearly identical to the CDR300, and adds a second play-only CD drive on the top. It also gives you the ability to record or playback at half speed or double speed, and of course it allows direct dubbing from the play-only CD to the CDR. However, it does not have the battery option, and if you want phantom power it’s a hundred-dollar retrofit option. And at a list price of $1099, it’s $250 more than the CDR300.
If you’re interested in copping a guitar solo from a Satriani CD, then get the Superscope model. But for field recording, ENG, and interviews, the CDR300 from Marantz Pro will definitely do the job. The unit carries a suggested retail of $849. For more information, contact Marantz Professional, 1100 Maplewood Drive, Itasca, Illinois 60143, phone (630) 741-0330, or visit www.marantzpro.com.