The study of marine mammals is generally characterised by individuals or small teams working on a very tight budget. The use of advanced electronic technology to assist these studies has traditionally been severely limited by funding. However, the trend in microelectronics, driven by the demands of the personal computer and home entertainment markets is to continually reduce the cost of technology and to make more powerful systems available to the mass market. The marine mammal research area can now benefit from this advanced technology to provide a number of useful tools. At the lowest levels, the advances in basic analogue device performance now allows the building of hydrophone-preamplifier units with good noise performance and high dynamic ranges to achieve small, low-cost analogue channels for underwater acoustic data acquisition. The current generation of analogue-to-digital convertors allows the full bandwidth of these signals to be converted for subsequent digital processing. The demands of the personal computer market are making computer power more easily available to the researcher at a number of levels, ranging from the new RISC-based personal digital assistants which are ideal for data acquisition in the field to high performance desk-top machines based on Pentium or PowerPC processors capable of demanding spectrum analysis tasks. This paper explores the advances made in recent years in both analogue and digital devices to demonstrate the level of technology now available and conceptually design a number of systems that could be assembled to aid marine mammal research.