Test Drive: The Marantz CDR600 Compact Disk Recorder

The Scan button is nothing new -- press it and get ten seconds of each cut on the CD. Press it again to hear all of the cut currently being scanned. << and >> buttons will perform an audible "search" function like many CD players. A Fast button can be used to increase the speed of the search, but the audio is muted in the Fast mode. Unlike many CD players, the CDR600 doesn't provide a "cuing" function enabling you to put the unit in the Pause mode and slowly search the disk with a "cue wheel" or other control. But, then, how many CD players can RECORD a CD?

The Stop/CM button is used to stop playback, stop recording, or to clear the memory of the unit which can store track numbers for programmed play. The Pause button functions during playback and record. The Mute button records a three-second silent section on the CD. The Record button sets the unit in the Record/Standby mode. Recording is engaged by pressing the Play button. Obviously, when not in the Record/Standby mode, pressing Play simply begins playback of the CD. Pressing Play while the unit is in the Playback mode causes the track being played to begin playback again from the beginning of the track. Previous and Next buttons perform the usual search to the next or previous track and can also be used when selecting tracks for programmed play.

Behind the lower panel of the CDR600 are twenty-one additional buttons. The first one, the Direct Play/Program button, switches the unit's programming mode from Direct to Program. In the Direct mode, the unit begins playback of whatever track is selected using the ten "digit" buttons (numbered 0-9). In the Program mode, up to twenty track numbers can be stored into memory using the ten digit buttons and the Store button. An Erase button removes track numbers from a written program. It can also be used to program playback by "deleting" tracks. Like most CD players, once the CD is read, the display shows all the tracks on the CD. By pressing the digit keys followed by the Erase button, the selected track indicator will turn off and the track will not play.

To the right of the ten digit keys is the Input Select button which selects between digital and analog inputs. Red LEDs illuminate to indicate which is selected. A couple of New Track buttons are used to number the tracks. The New Track Select button switches the CDR600 between the Manual Track Numbering mode and the Automatic Track Numbering mode. In the Manual mode, a track ID can be placed anywhere while recording by pressing the New Track Increment button. In the Automatic mode, track numbers are automatically incremented with the start of the next track of the audio source. These functions are very much like those of a DAT deck that lets you record Start IDs manually or automatically by sensing the start of audio at the input. However, unlike a DAT deck, the CDR600 will not let you erase the track IDs once you've recorded them. When using the digital inputs, the CDR600 will read sub-code information from another CD, but it will not read Start-IDs from a DAT deck's digital output.

You may not be able to erase tracks or track IDs with the CDR600, but the unit's Skip and Unskip functions let you "skip" over unwanted material on your recordable CD. The Skip and Unskip functions are basically identical to the Skip-ID Write and Erase functions of a DAT deck. However, there is one catch: the unwanted tracks will only be "skipped" when played back on the CDR600. Your average, everyday CD player will ignore these "Skip IDs."

To the right of the Skip and Unskip buttons is the Record Sync button. This button is used for synchronizing the start of recording and playback of the CDR600 and another CD player when the RC5 Remote jacks on the rear panel are used to connect the two units.

This brings us to the last of the twenty-one buttons on the lower panel of the CDR600. This is the Fix-Up button. Pressing this button and the Record button is the final step of recording a CD. The manual doesn't get into specifics, but a good guess is that the Fix-Up function writes the CD's TOC (Table Of Contents) so that other CD players can read it and therefore play the CD. In other words, the recordable CD will only playback on the CDR600 or another CD recorder until the CD has been "Fixed-Up." Then, once this is done, the CD will play on standard CD players, but it cannot be recorded to any more. Nor can you use the Skip and Unskip functions. The Fix-Up procedure permanently stores the recording on the recordable CD.

The large display on the CDR600 is not unlike the display on many CD players. There are numbered boxes for each track (1-20) and a "+20" indicator that lights when there are more than twenty tracks on a CD. There are left and right level indicators and the usual time and track display. Other indicators indicate the current function -- Play, Shuffle, Program, Fix-Up, A>B, Repeat, etc..

The broadcast applications of a CD recorder are obvious. All of your jingles can be recorded to one CD direct from the jingle master. In many cases, jingle companies will provide the jingles on DAT or CD which lets you make a custom, digital copy for the on-air studio. You could also record all your sweepers and IDs to CD, a tremendous improvement in quality if you're still using carts. Obviously, the new digital cart machines were designed for this same purpose; but, with the CD format, you only need to purchase the recorder and not several playback units for the on-air studio (assuming your station already has CD players in the on-air studio).

The fact that the recordable CDs are not compatible with standard CD players until the recordable CD has been "Fixed-Up" does set some limitations. You couldn't, let's say, record today's promo on the CD, "fix" the CD, put it in the studio, then come back the next day and record an updated promo on that same CD. On the other hand, the CDR600 will accept the smaller, less expensive 8cm CDs which might make recordings of "short run" items more practical. (At press time, we were unsure of the pricing and availability of these CDs.) Still, the applications for "long run" items such as generic sweepers, IDs, jingles, show opens/closes, etc. far outweigh the limitations mentioned above.

An excellent application of the CDR600 in radio production would be to record commonly used sound effects, jingles, voice-overs, music beds, and other elements to CD for easy retrieval. If you want to sell the idea of a CD recorder to management, tell them the CD recorder will provide the ultimate way of presenting a spec spot to a client. Imagine...you pick up the potential client in the station limo. Wine him and dine him at the finest restaurant. Then, once you're both back in the limo all nice and comfy, you pull out this golden CD with "his" commercial! Of course, your morning team will need one or two of these CDs chock full of their favorite sounds, beds, boings, crowd noises, etc. that they've been playing off old, worn out carts for the past few years!

Reported specs on the CDR600 include a S/N Ratio of 89dB, dynamic range >96dB, channel separation >86dB, THD <.002% (playback) and <.004% (record), and frequency response of 20-20kHz. Playback functions feature access times of 125-340ms. The converters are oversampling A/D 64x and D/A 128x.

We were quoted a list price for the CDR600 of $7,500. However, more recently, we received a press release from Marantz that quoted a list price of $6,500 for the CDR600, and a list price of $7,500 for the upcoming CDR610. The newer model is expected to be introduced in June of this year and will offer several new features. Present and future owners of the CDR600 can purchase an upgrade kit for only $400. The upgrade kit will also be available in June of this year.

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