I produce nature recordings accompanied with a separately recorded spoken word channel.

My technical understanding is pretty minimal, I am just trying to get the cleanest sound and get on with the recordings.

I have been using DPA 4060 omnidirectional mics for the nature recordings and a sennheiser me66 shotgun mic for spoken word. This has been rigged up to a marantz pmd661 portable recorder. I then use either garageband or audacity post production.

I have found the mics to be excellent but find that there is a hiss present in the recordings.

My question is whether this hiss is common with this level of portable recorders and whether I would do better coupling an audio interface (like the Focusrite Saffire PRO 14) to my macbook pro.

There are times when I need the portability - and I will use the portable recorder for those times, but when the portability of the macbook pro and audio interface is not an issue, will I get better sound quality from it?

4 Answers 4


Technically, the PMD661 and that mic should be clean as a whistle. Maybe your gain is turned up too high? I don't know if changing the recording method would change that, but it could if you use a device with a better mic pre-amp, so the gain isn't so high and the hiss isn't introduced. Personally, I would try borrow another device and see if the hiss remains, rather than splashing out on new gear that may or may not resolve the issue.


Hiss on a recording can be anything from faulty cables to something around the mic/unit that causes a hiss or a hum. My suggestion would be to try replacing the cables you use and try another device as Anthony suggested.

Audio interfaces are good in that they allow you to record audio straight onto your computer, with no intermediate step, to edit quickly. They also provide all the options you would want, for example phantom power, monitor out, and pad buttons and input level settings. If you wish to buy one, I would recommend the M-Audio Fast Track 2. I use it's bigger brother, the Fast Track Pro, and get quality, clean audio each time.


As mentioned, there are a number a reasons that you could be ending up with a hiss in your recording. All of those ideas are good possibilities.

Have you tried with one mic at a time? to see if the hiss is localized to one mic or cable, etc.?

  • As to your question of whether the hiss is common, it is not inherent in digital recorders like the Marantz, or others like it. Having said that, I have read some reviews that mention a hiss issue with this particular model. They're internet reviews though, so I take it with a grain of salt.
  • To your question about a different/better setup, the Marantz records @ 16-bit, the Focusrite @ 24-bit. Higher resolution, yes, but that also means more data (which is probably why the compact flash recorder uses 16-bit). All else being equal, the primary differences between the two will be the preamp and the A/D converter. An educated guess here... the Focusrite wins in both of those areas.

It's really all in the microphone. Try to purchase or rent a new one, and make sure it's the expensive one because poor quality microphones have so many disadvantages...better purchase the expensive one than regretting at the end of the day.

  • I'm interested in how you can be sure it's an issue with the microphone.
    – JoshP
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 15:40
  • Inexpensive does not necessarily mean poor quality. The SM57/58 is a perfect example of this. Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 16:18

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