While we’re mulling CompactFlash-based portable digital recorders, I’d be remiss to ignore the Marantz PMD660. Just as the new M-Audio MicroTrack is inspired by Apple’s iPod (check out the LCD display if you don’t believe me), the PMD660 is deeply rooted in past Marantz recorders. Those of you who have fond memories of Marantz cassette recorders (I sure do), are probably already experiencing a little twinge of nostalgia.

How does the PMD660 differ from the other models we’ve looked at? Real XLR microphone inputs, for one. There are other pro features, too, like a wired remote with Record/Pause control, track marking and peak metering, and non-destructive Copy Segment feature for creating new audio files. There’s also a unique playlist feature:

. . . [with] Virtual Track Mode, the user can create an internal edit list enabling nonlinear playback of file segments, without using card memory to create a new file. Up to 99 virtual tracks can be created to compare edits, set up multiple sound bites or provide interview segments of differing durations.

Certainly, anything with the Marantz name on it is nothing to be sneezed at. But the PMD660 runs slightly more expensive than the Edirol and M-Audio options, and is limited to 16-bit, 44.1/48kHz audio. Now what I’d really like is an A/B/C recording quality test between these three: call it the Kentucky Derby of portable recorders.

Additional note: I can’t just yell at M-Audio for hyperbolic ad copy. Marantz claims of their PMD671, in the third person, that “Marantz has raised the bar, exponentially.” Ouch — that’s gotta hurt, right?