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Mini review of MZ-NE410

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Hi, I have owned a MZ-R700 MDLP walkman for the past three years and a Yamaha MD-8 multitracker since 1998. I bought the MZ-R700 for $300 to do field recording, concert recording, family history interviews, to take down song-ideas, and to listen to mixes of my home-studio music, etc. However, I ended up using it a lot as a personal "everyday" walkman to listen to commercial music as well.

Recently my MZ-R700 has started to show signs of the laser dying. I should be able to repair it (I have a spare broken one with a good laser). But I've vowed that I'll never again wear-out my expensive mic-recorder by using it for everyday music listening. So I bought a cheap NetMD recorder off of Ebay for the everyday stuff; the MZ-NE410 .

This is a Net-MD unit which is virtually identical to the NZ-NF520 and the MZ-N420D. It's a bare-bones unit with only USB-in and no remote control. I think it's the least expensive MD walkman Sony has ever marketed (I got mine NEW off of Ebay for $39.99 US)!

The one great thing about walkmans in this low price range is you are never sweating-it about carrying around an expensive piece of gear that could get dropped or stolen! It's not Hi-MD technology, but personally, I'd feel too nervous carrying around a $300 Hi-MD walkman --- with this new $39 unit I can just pop it in my pocket and enjoy music without worrying about losing a week's worth of pay if it breaks or is lost.

The MZ-NE410 is a discontinued model, but there are still thousands of brand-new units out there to be purchased. They are showing up in bargain bins and on-line auctions for prices that are irresistable. Who can turn down a brand-new MD walkman for $40? "Cheap and cheerful" as one on-line reviewer put it.

The MZ-NE410 has a plastic shell (my model ordered from the US is black) instead of the partial metal body of my old MZ-R700. At first I thought this would make it weaker, but I see they've done a good job by using fairly stiff plastic. It's also thick enough that I would say it's probably as strong as the (aluminum?) shell of my old MZ-R700.

The LCD display is small, squarish and mounted in the centre of the clam-shell top. At first glance the small size of the LCD might seem like a really bad feature, but it actually is a good design. On the older units with larger/longer LCDs mounted near the edge of the casing, the displays are vulnerable to flexing, pressure, and impact force (my MZ-R700 display cracked and cost $125 CAD to replace). This tiny display on the MZ-NE410 shows all the info you need and is securely mounted in the centre of the top (away from the edges that hit the ground first) and because of the small size it should not flex. Furthermore, the clear plastic "lens" over top of the LCD is very thick and stronger than that on my MZ-R700. Because I only look at the LCD for track info now-and-then I think this is a good balance between usability and durability.

Since the MZ-NE410 was the last of Sony's "standard" NetMD line, you get the latest advances that this technology can offer: ATRAC Type-R and ATRAC3 Type-S, LP2 and LP4 recording/playback, USB 1.1 transfers, use of "groups" and two SOUND settings (user equalizations). Battery life is phenominal at 48-56 hours for tracks recorded in one of the LP modes.

The sound quality itself is pretty good. Perhaps not quite as silky as my MZ-R700 (which was a mid-range model rather than this low-range model) but 95% of the way there. It is certainly good considering the price. The volume output is also satisfactory. At a volume setting of 25 out of 30 or so most music is too loud for me to comfortably listen to and the amp is actually loud enough to distort my earbud headphones.

The only thing that REALLY surprised me, and bothers me somewhat, about the MZ-NE410 is that it has a high noise floor. You can hear this hiss especially if there is a moment of silence on a track before the music starts. At first I thought it was hiss from the original recording (i.e. older albums recorded on analogue studio gear), but it is even apparent on brand new digitally mastered albums, so I know it's originating from the Minidisc unit itself.

Try this experiment: play a track on this unit, then turn the volume ALL the way down so you cannot hear the music anymore. You will hear a quiet HISS like on a casette deck (but not as loud). PAUSE and then PLAY the music several times. The HISS will stop when you pause and start again when you play the disc. Unlike tape, the hiss does not get any louder when you raise the volume, so it's not on the recording. While this hiss is noticable, it is pretty much masked by the music itself. Still this is mildly annoying.

I went back to my old MZ-R700 and tried this experiment. There was no noticable hiss. Then I tried it on my wife's MZ-NF520 (almost identical to the MZ-NE410) and the hiss was certainly there. Clearly Sony cut the cost of these new low-end MD units by using cheaper components (A/D converters or noisier headphone amps).

This "hiss" issue is really the only complaint I have about the MZ-NE410. It's a fairly quiet noise and since it's masked most of the time it's really up to the individual whether it will bother them or not. Frankly, for a $39.99 MD-walkman I am not surprised that it has a few shortcomings, and overall I am satisfied with the price/performance ratio. The music that gets to your ears is of a decent quality.

Appearance - I like the no-nonsense look of the MZ-NE410. It's not a showstopper but it's simple and pleasant. The plain, black & silver matte finish reminds me of 1960s transistor radios or 1980s Japanese stereo components. There is also a silver variation which looks a little plainer, to me. The similar models mentioned above have coloured faceplates and a 'glossy' finish which might appeal to some, although could scratch more easily.

So "Cheap and Cheerful" is right. Irresistably low price, good quality MD sound, basic features, despite one or two small shortcomings (slight hiss and no adaptor socket) I would recommend this as an "everyday" no-worries MD walkman.

MZ-NE410 PROS:

- extremely cheap

- good sound quality

- decent range of features

- seems to be durable despite plastic body (some thought seems put into the design in this regard).

- cheaper than an I-pod shuffle but has more features (display, removable media, probably better sound)

- very long battery life with easy-to-get single AA battery

- saves wear-and-tear on your expensive live-recording MD unit.

MZ-NE410 CONS:

- lack of power adaptor socket

- mildly noticable HISS when playing music

- no remote socket (but what do you expect in this price range?)

- a little thicker than my MZ-R700 (but probably the same as some Hi-MD models like MZ-NH600D). Personally, I think they were made thicker to protect them against drops/flexing - so this is a good thing).

Edited by Ral-Clan
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I wondered about the quality of these units, now I may have to pick one up for international travel. Buying this complete unit would be cheaper than the voltage converter to charge my gumsticks!

Thanks for the review,

Paul

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I wondered about the quality of these units, now I may have to pick one up for international travel. Buying this complete unit would be cheaper than the voltage converter to charge my gumsticks!

Thanks for the review,

Paul

As far as the durability (i.e. flimsiness/toughness) of this unit goes, I would have to say that despite it being plastic, it is probably at least as tough as my MZ-R700 was - which was a bit of a surprise. You can see they took a few minor shortcuts (the door latch seems to be made of thinner metal - although probably still good enough).

As far as the sound quality goes, the MZ-R700 was (to me) a little warmer and bassier, while the MZ-NE410 is crisper and more sharp, perhaps slighly harsh(?) to some? I imagine this is a function of the different headphone pre-amps used. Of course, the MZ-NE410 comes with a bit of an EQ, while the MZ-R700 (my former model) only had the bass-boost function.

It's really a matter of to-each-his-own. It depends on your tastes and the sound of the minidisc model you are already used to.

For travelling, jaunting around, etc. where there is extraneous noise and you don't want to take an expensive unit, the MZ-NE410 would do well. Battery life is really good. For "active" listening (laying back and closing your eyes to listen to an album) in a quiet environment the MZ-NE410 can serve well, but if you have a higher end unit you might prefer that one for the latter type of listening.

If the NZ-NE410 were selling at its original price of $120 (as it still isin some places here in Canada) I would probably pass, but at $40 US I would say it's worth it. Heck, even if you don't like the sound of the headphone amp, at that price you could buy one to use solely as a MD "burner" device to make discs, and save your more expensive unit's laser for listening/live recording.

Edited by Ral-Clan
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Nice review. My friend owns an MZ-NE410 (he introduced me to MD) and I agree that it is very sturdy and an all-around nice budget unit. I always recommend it to people that are looking for something cheap and don't need to many songs.

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