We developed a variety of 54-channel high-density silicon electrode arrays (polytrodes) designed to record from large numbers of neurons spanning millimeters of brain. In cat visual cortex, it was possible to make simultaneous recordings from >100 well-isolated neurons. Using standard clustering methods, polytrodes provide a quality of single-unit isolation that surpasses that attainable with tetrodes. Guidelines for successful in vivo recording and precise electrode positioning are described. We also describe a high-bandwidth continuous data-acquisition system designed specifically for polytrodes and an automated impedance meter for testing polytrode site integrity. Despite having smaller interconnect pitches than earlier silicon-based electrodes of this type, these polytrodes have negligible channel crosstalk, comparable reliability, and low site impedances and are capable of making high-fidelity multiunit recordings with minimal tissue damage. The relatively benign nature of planar electrode arrays is evident both histologically and in experiments where the polytrode was repeatedly advanced and retracted hundreds of microns over periods of many hours. It was possible to maintain stable recordings from active neurons adjacent to the polytrode without change in their absolute positions, neurophysiological or receptive field properties.