Marantz Professional CDR300

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, BY LAURA PALLANCK


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Marantz Professional continues its tradition of creating rugged and portable recorders with the CDR300 ($849), a tough, little CD-R and CD-RW burner. Anyone who is familiar with the Marantz/Superscope PMD Series cassette recorders, which included a built-in condenser microphone and a small speaker, will feel right at home. However, unlike its tape-based siblings, the CDR300 offers professional features that make it worthy of further scrutiny.

The CDR300 is a tabletop unit with a hard plastic shell that weighs just seven pounds. The review unit fits easily into my laptop computer case, which was a blessing for road trips and air travel.

The CDR300 has a pair of XLR mic inputs, a pair of ¼-inch TRS mic/line inputs and discrete input level controls for each channel. A dedicated 48-volt phantom power button sends power to both XLR jacks. The quality of the mic preamps is similar to what you would get from a medium-price, small-format mixer. This meant that I could leave my external preamp at home if I wanted to travel light and return with quality recordings.

A number of handy features prove that Marantz did its homework: The CDR300 has dedicated buttons and switches that cover most of the basic functions, making this an exceptionally easy recorder to use. The standard transport controls (Play/Pause, Stop, Record, Cue and Rewind) and the Erase and Finalize buttons reside on the top panel in plain view. A front-panel switch selects the input for both channels (mic, line or the internal stereo microphone), and you can choose whether the input signals are sent to separate channels or to both simultaneously. Other useful items include two limiter settings, a 20dB attenuation switch, and preset bandpass and highpass filters that can be added to each input independently. The data selects the operating mode and track IDs during playback. However, you'll need the wireless remote to increment track IDs while recording, so keep it handy.

The CDR300 has a pair of rear-panel aux inputs so you can record a line-level source while you're tracking with the other analog inputs. The rear panel also includes S/PDIF coaxial digital I/O and inputs for a wired remote and a foot pedal.

The CDR300 offers two stereo pairs of analog outputs on unbalanced RCA jacks running at -10 dBu. The mix outputs carry the audio coming from the mic/line and aux inputs prior to reaching the CD-R drive or tone controls. These outputs can be used for monitoring or recording, because the signal is present even if the CD-R drive is not in Record mode. Alternately, you can modify the signal going to the line outputs using the top-panel tone controls and front-panel level control. The CDR300 also offers four headphone-monitoring options: mic/line input, aux input, line output and mix output.

Although I was skeptical about needing the built-in speaker, I found it handy more than once to audition takes in the field when I didn't have enough headphones to go around. The three tone controls located below the speaker — Treble, Mid and Bass — can be used during speaker playback.

The CDR300's Minute Track record option automatically writes a new ID every minute. I found this mode indispensable when recording long environmental takes. If I need to hear what happened 32 minutes into the session, then I can choose track 32 during playback.

In Sync Record mode, the CDR300 begins recording when it detects a signal from an external analog or digital source. Sync Rec+Final mode works the same way but automatically finalizes the disc at the end of the session. The CDR300 has the option of adding text to your CD-R or CD-RW, such as song titles and other session details, before you finalize the disc. Of course, the added text can only be read by CD players that support the CD text format.

The CDR300 is also the only stand-alone CD burner that I know of that can run off of a battery. The RPS300 Remote Power System ($199) includes a lead-acid battery and recharger. The battery weighs almost as much as the recorder, but it offers approximately four hours of operation. That allowed me enough time to set up a field session, do a quick sound-check and still have enough power to record a couple of discs.

In addition, the RPS300 can be used like a UPS when you're running the CDR300 on AC current. If the AC power is interrupted or lost during a session, then the battery system will automatically take over so you don't lose any data. This gave me extra confidence while recording live concerts.

The CDR300 is a great value for your money, even factoring in the battery system's price. The recorder's size makes it suitable for studio and live work when portability and ease-of-use are important. Considering its sound and versatility, the CDR300 is hard to beat.

Marantz Professional, 630/741-0330,

Laura Pallanck is a recordist based in Northern California.

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