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Hey folks, looking to revive my lust for MiniDisc


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#1 Yousif Abdullah

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 06:05 PM

Hello, I hope you have a good time. As the title says, I really feel like going old school. Below is my story of how I found MiniDisc and how it changed my life. Any comments, experience is much appreciated.

Coming from an Arabic background I never felt like fitting in the Europe I currently am living in. Music has interested me since I was at a young age and let's be honest, this is getting boring, isn't it? Let me fast forward till the point I found out about MiniDisc. So, it always happened to me: I was out enjoying nature or somewhere else and I get that inspiration I've waited for really long. I could start singing or playing my tabla drum or anything else, but I just had no way of recording all that while on the go. I consider myself an audiophile too, although my student budget allows for very little. And there it is: MiniDisc. I was thinking, could this be what I have always wanted? I had considered a cassette tape Walkman, but the analog domain was something I really did not want to go back to. Digital tape systems such as DAT or DCC are professional, few portable units and expensive. Never found something in between for the consumer / prosumer. But in front of me I saw this beautifully shaped square like thing that they called MiniDisc. I was in a retail store, but I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to do. I saw the recorders right next to the discs themselves, but I just kept staring at the shelves. Soon someone came and asked me whether I wanted help and sure I did! The sales clerk explained MiniDisc, ATRAC and everything else in such a way that it was almost music to my ears. I knew I wanted one, but again, my student budget never really gave me what I needed. So, I looked for a job and started working while studying. Some tough decisions were made, and sure my grades did fall a bit, but I don't feel bad about that; I knew it was a MiniDisc recorder I wanted. But, the day I go back to the store with enough cash for that pretty MiniDisc recorder I was longing for, it seems something had changed. Hi-MD had arrived. Standing up in front of everyone just drooling and looking confused, the same helpful sales clerk explained the wonders of Hi-MD to me. The new units were so good looking, but I didn't have enough money for such a beautiful Hi-MD recorder. That was it then, the end, fin, whatever. I never saw a MiniDisc recorder again.


Time passed, I still had the MiniDisc thing in my mind, but I kept focusing on school instead. Sold all my gear, which included a MIDI keyboard, audio interface, mixer, microphone, everything. I thought the whole idea of music and audio wasn't my thing anyway. Then something quite unexpected happened. I read the day's newspaper and as I leaf through the pages, this small block of text I couldn't help but notice. Someone had written an advertisement for used audio equipment. Apparently, a local music business went bankrupt and they were clearing all stock. I rushed to the phone and called them, even though I had no reason to do so as I declared music and audio are a thing of the past, not the present anymore. A male voice said "Hello" and I didn't know what to say for a moment, then the same voice repeated "Hello" followed by "are you calling about the audio equipment?" and I answered "Yes!" with a very enthusiastic voice. Somehow I managed to go through the call, and we arranged to meet up. Tomorrow it would be. Showing up an hour earlier I wanted to ensure I'm on time not to miss a rare chance like this. I still had the money I saved up for a MiniDisc back then, hoping to get something this time. And he came to our meeting place. Smalltalk, a bit of questions and chatter, he pulls up a bag full of audio equipment, cables and what not. I had a look and at first didn't see anything that was of interest. I asked him whether he had any MiniDisc recorders and he said "actually, yes." while pulling out that lovely Sony MZ-RH10 out of his pocket. Yes, it was the exact same Hi-MD recorder I wanted to buy back then. But, he told me it was for his personal use and wouldn't want to sell it. I tried hard to convince him otherwise, but he declined. Game over.

A couple of days later I get this call from an unknown number. I pick up and to my surprise it was the same male voice. He said "Hey, remember me? Look, I saw it in your eyes that you really wanted to have this MiniDisc recorder. I have changed my mind. Going through difficult times now and I thought I would give you priority in case you're still interested. So, how does this sound?" Can you imagine how happy I felt? It was a feeling of being in awe and my hand was shaking while holding the phone. Without any hesitation, at the top of my lungs I shout "YES!" and the same afternoon I met him again. Coming back home I was, with a Sony MZ-RH10 in my hands. It was instantly the best day of my life. I never minded the few scratches on the unit or anything else about it, because to me it seemed like the best thing ever to happen in my life and so I took extremely good care of my MiniDisc recorder. It was a joy to record, it was a joy to playback my music collection, just about everything related to this small little device was pleasure. I would often sleep with my MiniDisc recorder tucked in under my pillow, and to date I'm not sure why. But, there was a connection more than musical with the Sony MZ-RH10. I couldn't feel any happier. I really couldn't.

Despite my love for the unit, some day it just ought to happen. I misplaced it, and could never find it again. For all I remember it happened in the park, I was too busy to look after my MiniDisc recorder and left it there on the bench. Came back to look for it in the evening, the day after, the week after... until at some point I just gave up. Did not have the courage to do anything, losing my MiniDisc set me in a very difficult time I went through. Depression, migraine, I could never sleep. Insomnia was one of my least concerns then. I know, for a small piece of electronics it is ridiculous for such things to happen, but I had developed an emotional connection to my MiniDisc recorder. It was part of my every day, it was part of everything I did. And stupid me lost it. I could never forgive myself, but ever since then I've only done nothing. School grades are what they are, music and audio wasn't of my interest anymore, I just felt like a dead corpse somehow pushing itself to move, but without meaning. You can only imagine how sad I was, and the situation itself was sad, but when something changes your life in such a dramatic way, there can not be a simple exit. But, at some point I realized it was not worth the problems and I tried to look forward.

And here I am, sharing my story with you. Two years since the incident, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. Still a student, my student budget fortunately is a bit more flexible this time. I tend to be very selective of what I want, and that is the reason to why I'm here right now. I feel like it is time to revive my lust for MiniDisc recorders, to find joy again in simple thing in life and to get back to audio recording. I have since found my way back to music, in the form of ethnic jungle and trance music. And I feel like I need something that only a MiniDisc can provide me. Instead of an audio interface for my laptop, this wild idea passed my mind: there's an optical output already, why not give it a shot and get a MiniDisc hooked up there? Ideally, it's a portable unit I'm looking for. Optical input and output would be great, as would a phantom powered XLR microphone input be. Actually, there are some Marantz PMD650U units being sold on eBay, which could do this. They popped up just recently, they seem to be from a government auction; maybe have a look? I would get one of those Marantz units myself, but the seller is not willing to offer international shipping (U.S. / Canada only). I've been looking at the Sony MZ-RH1 and a couple of other units, but it just saddens me a bit that such a lovely piece of electronics has been discontinued in favor of MP3 players and what not. I am and will forever be a passionate MiniDisc fan, for it's truly something truly unique that I've never seen something like it. Professional portables are in very small quantities available, the other being a HHB MDP500 I know of, but finding someone willing to part of theirs is next to impossible. I'm clueless; I know I want to get back to recording music on a MiniDisc, but again, I'm a very selective person. Please help out a fellow MiniDisc fan!

Thank you for taking time to read this, I may have been a bit carried away while writing, so I apologize for the length of this post. But, it's good to be here again, and despite the state of MiniDisc, I will continue to support it for I know it is the only thing in life that probably will find me some joy again. And yesterday I went to my favorite retail store and bought a pack of Hi-MD and standard MiniDisc recordable discs. Optical cables I already own, it's only the MiniDisc recorder to put in between.

Have a great time,
Yousif.

#2 PhilippeC

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 07:23 PM

Hi Yousif,

Hope you are real... Look like a troll story but I was glad anyway to read it all.



You have right now a similar auction in France : http://cgi.ebay.fr/M...5#ht_500wt_1156

HHB MDP500 or Marantz are kind of MD recorders which are SP only, nor MDLP, not Hi-MD.

The best you can do if portable unit is important with Hi-MD inside is MZ-RH1 / MZ-M200 which are still manufactured by Sony.

There is no Hi-MD deck also, except some Onkyo bookshelves on japan market. All others are SP only or SP/MDLP. For decks, you can go there : http://forums.sonyin...or-sale-france/

UK (often with UK only postage) and german eBay offer more choice than french one. I do not practice other european eBay markets. There are many others sources like audiophile forums.



#3 paperclip

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 11:46 PM

I loved the "sleep with it under my pillow" part, I did the same thing when it was new. And pretty much anytime I slip a portable in my pocket. Welcome to the forums!

#4 Yousif Abdullah

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 09:59 AM

Hi Yousif,

Hope you are real... Look like a troll story but I was glad anyway to read it all.

As real as man can be :)

Yes, I am aware of the "limitations" of standard MiniDisc, but both the Marantz and HHB interest me for they have phantom power supply for the XLR microphone input. Great for on the go interviewing as well, which I will probably be doing at some point in my life. The HHB is especially interesting for the full I/O USB connector. From what I read, it is a class compliant USB Audio solution built into the unit, so that's one reason more to lean towards it as I was thinking of replacing a future audio interface with a MiniDisc recorder anyway. With the HHB, that's two things in one. Although, it's USB v1, so from an audiophile standpoint I would be worried about latencies and possible jitter. Marantz on the other hand is just an overall good looking unit, but on another look I don't think it is that good of a choice. Funny is that there's an S/PDIF input, but AES/EBU output. Doesn't really mix with my equipment, and optical S/PDIF is preferred anyway. Unless I happen to find an HHB, I'll probably be going with a Hi-MD recorder.


One thing I must note however, is that I'm looking at a MiniDisc recorder purely for the reason that it is a portable recording unit, not a digital audio player. For voice applications ATRAC is excellent, for music there might be slight loss in fidelity, but that's what LinearPCM is for in these Hi-MD units. But, as mentioned above, I'll probably be doing interviews on the go soon, so a standard MiniDisc recorder is no problem (although a Hi-MD recordable disk will hold plenty more than a standard MiniDisc recordable disk).

I find it somehow stupid that only so few units provide both digital input and output. The thought did pass my mind that I'll go looking for a Sony MZ-1, but that would be just overkill! A combination of a deck and portable was also put to consideration, but for now I rather focus on the mobility part (I can then try to find a professional deck or something else and expand my collection). So, it's now between the Sony MZ-RH1 and Sony MZ-RH10 as well as the HHB MDP-500 should I come across one. In the Sony units the Sony MZ-RH1 has the advantage that it can upload audio back to the PC through USB, so that's one way to compensate for the lack of digital output. Although I rather not use USB for this purpose* it's better than nothing. Why I like the Sony MZ-RH10, well... due to nostalgic reasons. It was my first and for a moment my last MiniDisc recorder. I remember it in and out, so it would be great to have it back. I see it has limited functionality as far as USB connectivity goes, any word on why it can not upload songs to the PC like the Sony MZ-RH10?


* The reason I find the HHB solution acceptable is that audio may go back to the PC in digital format, acting as an USB audio interface. Working with streaming audio is what I want and it's really interesting that HHB had made such an addition to its unit. I wonder why no one else thought of this (Sony? Where art thou?), because if today's MiniDisc portables could act as small, mobile audio interfaces, the MiniDisc market would have skyrocketed. Nifty little things they still are.

I loved the "sleep with it under my pillow" part, I did the same thing when it was new. And pretty much anytime I slip a portable in my pocket. Welcome to the forums!

Thanks, and good to hear I'm not the only one with odd habits :)

#5 sfbp

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 10:30 AM

Welcome Yousif. Won't bore you with my story (I was not bored with yours, either) as everyone has heard it in pieces at least - but I certainly understand about being attached to objects that make beautiful sound.

A few quick comments:

1. You CAN play back HiMD (streaming) - the only caveat is that it must be done by SonicStage. With a suitable card or $15 dongle, capturing this as a stream, or feeding it to a good amplifier (as optical) is trivial.
2. You CAN transfer all HiMD files that are not encrypted from the Hi-MD unit to the PC. This includes any music recorded from Line In (including optical) or Microphone. Any file that is transferred from the PC still-encrypted cannot be UPloaded to a different PC. However if you decrypt them (File Conversion Tool by Sony, free and always available) before transferring to the disk, the files lose their attachment to the PC where they were born. Make sense?
3. Just because the MZ-1 has optical out, doesn't make it worthy of consideration. Buy a cheap secondhand deck instead. The codec on the MZ-1 is rather old and tends to be incompatible with later disks/models, anyway.
4. The HHB is SP-only. For most purposes you may want at least a choice of bit rates.
5. PCM is frankly a nuisance. I use it for recording real live music with a microphone, to make sure that I have enough data that I can amplify the heck out of it (dynamic range in other words). It's slow to transfer and the disks are expensive. 256kbps (HiSP) is pretty good. Nearly ALL the ATRAC compressions beat MP3 at similar and often 2 times higher bit rates.
6. The RH1 is the only one that can upload SP, LP2 and LP4. If you don't need those, then fine. I couldn't live without LP2, it is my everyday workhorse for recordings. But I have a few decks :)
7. The only models to have AES input and output (see the browser at
http://www.minidisc....nt_browser.html
) are the "pro" models like MDS-11 and so on.
Keep the questions and comments coming. It is always interesting to read the confessions of a fellow addict.

Stephen

#6 PhilippeC

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 10:55 AM

I also would like to get a portable pro unit as you want. Like I was, after some portable Hi-MD units.
But thinking of that. The sound is different meaning portable compare to... deck. I do not mean all deck, I do not know. But decks have more surprising sound. Completely more powefull. I will not forget my MDS-B5 sound when I first listen to it. This was my first deck and it was strange as being in Vietnam make me things about MD a little bit diffferent from others experiences from this forum.

About portable units, ALL my Hi-MDs units got problems.

As I discover that in Vietnam it is far more easier to find SP then perhaps MDLP units, I try to forget Hi-MD format (very few meaning less than 10 are on national market now) . No way to find or buy a Hi-MD disk. So easy for the basic MD format... which will be the winner here.

So I can concluded I can forget Hi-MDs for me as I am far away from repairing areas here in Vietnam.

Notice it is absolutely right to say that they can ONLY repair a lot of thing OLD - hundreds of vintage audio you can find in vietnam - in audio stuff... but notice that the more you are looking for MDLP/Hi-MD generation units, be care full of the service after.

World in beautifull for SOME old vintage in Vietnam, not for a as-wide-as you can imagine range of it, sadly.

As a lover, think to get a MZ-RH1 AND a good deck, you will be happy. Getting a professionnal stuff could be good BUT as for my experience this kind of stuff is at the END of his life. Loosing my money but having an surprising sound experience. This "experience" completely make me get off from portables to to decks world as I am more at home than outside.

#7 philippeb

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 11:40 AM

As a lover, think to get a MZ-RH1 AND a good deck, you will be happy. Getting a professional stuff could be good BUT as for my experience this kind of stuff is at the END of his life.

I use the HHB MDP500 for field recording, the Sony MZ-RH1 for uploading tracks to the PC (when required), a Sony deck (MDS-JB920 or MDS-JA333ES) for office or home listening. Finally, I use the Sony MDS-W1 deck to duplicate my minidiscs.

I do not use the HHB MDP500 for uploading tracks to the PC, because (as far as I know) the MDP500 requires pre-XP versions of Windows to operate - where the audio device could be USB ; not sure this would work with recent Windows versions.

So, basically, I agree with PhilippeC's recommendations, with the addition of the HHB MDP500 for field recording. I should add that the HHB MDP500 has helped me recover recordings from damaged minidiscs that none of the Sony decks could read.

#8 Yousif Abdullah

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 01:31 PM

Great responses all around, thank you for helping out a fellow MiniDisc fan!

Stephen, to your comments I should add that I have a MacBook as my digital audio workstation. At times I offload any larger projects to my editing PC, which has Windows Server 2008 R2 installed. My experience with Windows Server 2008 R2 so far is acceptable as all my professional software works in tandem with it, but when it comes to the field of consumer software, nothing really works. And, being used primarily for production, I rather not try and install SonicStage. For the Mac it seems HiMD Music Transfer is available from Sony, any ideas how that works? I currently have no MiniDisc recorder to try it with, but I downloaded the package anyway just so I can get to uploading tracks the moment I need to.


Ok, this is new information to me. As far as copy protection goes, is it unnecessary to go hunting for a unit that bypasses SCMS? You are saying that with File Conversion Tool it is possible to make audio data look like a 1st Gen copy again? That sounds great. Will have to look whether there's a Mac equivalent available.

As I said, probably a bit overkill :) Quite some bulk there too, wouldn't consider it a truly portable unit anyway! However, for connection to a proper music studio optical output is almost a necessity. There's a local studio I frequent whenever I need to master some tracks. To date I have always brought my music on a CD-R, but with a MiniDisc recorder that allows for an optical output, I could bring that instead. Eliminates the hassle of burning a CD-R at home. One problem: there are no power outlets to use, so the unit I bring over must be a portable one that can run off battery power.

The HHB MDP-500 is actually perfect. For my needs I don't think much about bit rates (always strive for the highest), but rather sample rates. And the HHB unit I believe has some great sample rate converters built-in. My current projects are in 24-bit / 96Khz. It's a 2:1 conversion to pull it down to 48Khz. As far as bit depth, I have an Apogee unit that does excellent dithering that I've been using prior to burning on a CD-R anyway. To go from 48Khz to 44.1Khz is crucial, and I am not sure whether Sony units have good sample rate converters to be up to the task. Any word on this?

PCM may be a nuisance, but I'm not after transfer speeds anyway, as everything will be recorded track to track between my digital audio workstation and the MiniDisc recorder in realtime. ATRAC is truly a special codec, and I still remember that flyer at the retail store showing a comparison chart of ATRAC and MP3 compression. It's lossy, but I recall reading on an audiophile forum that for someone it was hard to tell the difference between lossless compression and ATRAC through studio quality monitors. These things are what make MiniDisc such a unique format in my opinion.

Ok, great to know that the Sony MZ-RH1 can upload the lesser quality ATRAC formats to the PC. But, can you tell me as to why this is the case? Different machinery or components in the Sony MZ-RH1 that allow this, or is it a question of firmware? Or a gimmick on Sony's part to sell more units? The truth, please :)

I'm aware of the professional decks and I'm looking to acquire one, but at a later time. It is however the issue of added complexity in my recordings if I have more than a handful of different digital terminals to work with. My workstation PC is equipped with an audio interface that provides optical S/PDIF input and output. On my MacBook, which I mainly use for audio work, there's an optical S/PDIF output as well. I rather keep it at that, without increasing the complexity of my set up. And AES/EBU equipment is too expensive for my budget anyway.

PhilippeC, you said "getting a professionnal stuff could be good BUT as for my experience this kind of stuff is at the END of his life". Well, so is everything else that's good in life. In my opinion if it gets the job done in a way that's better than the rest and connectivity to current systems poses no problems, then absolutely go for it. You see, when there are adapters involved or something else that adds significant costs to the initial purchase, then no, it is better to keep off such products. With the HHB however I would be getting optical S/PDIF input and output, and that will be around for many years to come.

philippeb, great to hear you have an HHB unit. To my understanding the USB portion is a class compliant USB Audio solution, and does not require any special drivers. Plug it in and it should play. There are many USB audio interfaces out there for recent versions of Windows, I don't see why the HHB would be any different. Could you please try it and tell me how all went? In comparison to the USB port on current HiMD portables, it operates in a very different manner, so isn't really usable for uploading tracks to the PC anyway. And, would you mind if I asked something? Are you willing to part of your HHB unit anytime soon? I understand it is an expensive unit, but I don't have much to offer, still I would really love to give it a shot and get back to the world of MiniDisc... so how does this sound? I understand if you decline, but please give it a second thought, will you? Thanks.

Peace,
Yousif.

#9 PhilippeC

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 08:36 PM

I can buy a Hi-MD unit here

http://cgi.ebay.fr/e...8#ht_500wt_1156

http://cgi.ebay.fr/S...c#ht_909wt_1137

#10 philippeb

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 02:02 PM

philippeb, great to hear you have an HHB unit. To my understanding the USB portion is a class compliant USB Audio solution, and does not require any special drivers. Plug it in and it should play.

Yousif, you were right.

I have connected the HHB MDP500 to a PC running Windows XP (via USB), played a track on the HHB MDP500, recorded it in real-time with Audacity. Then I have played a track on the PC, and recorded it in real-time with the HHB MDP500.

USB audio transfer works like a charm :-D

#11 Yousif Abdullah

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 02:47 PM

Yousif, you were right.

I have connected the HHB MDP500 to a PC running Windows XP (via USB), played a track on the HHB MDP500, recorded it in real-time with Audacity. Then I have played a track on the PC, and recorded it in real-time with the HHB MDP500.

USB audio transfer works like a charm :-D


I take that as a 'no' to the "are you willing to part from your HHB unit" :) Great to see it's working, but please do try in a newer environment (Vista/7) if possible. Thanks!

Peace,
Yousif.

#12 philippeb

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 03:30 PM

I take that as a 'no' to the "are you willing to part from your HHB unit" :)

The point is: I do use my MD machines a lot, every day and every night of my life. And when I am busy, let's say, socializing :), I program them to record for me. This very HHB unit has also a sentimental value: I bought it second-hand from a French journalist of RFO (Radio France Outremer).

That said, they pop up from time to time on Ebay. Last one I saw was http://cgi.ebay.at/H...c-/300469621580 (too expensive to go).

#13 PhilippeC

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 10:17 PM

http://cgi.ebay.at/H...c-/300469621580 (too expensive to go).


Then what is the right price for a HBB "to go" ?

As those second hand professionnal units are still expensive if they work well, I think that it is better to buy a deck with optical out for recording in real time either to the PC or another MD unit. Then a portable unit, the MZ-RH1... IF you have a collection of old Mds (to upload) or even an basic Hi-MD unit if only because you have a collection of Hi-MDs blank discs.

I have two Hi-MD units (MZ-RH900 & MZ-RH1) but sadly as they have both problem with buttons or the jog lever, I have difficulties to enter the menu (anyway my choice has been fixed a long time ago) so I need to use a remote control (but still cannot enter menu with it, why Sony did not think of that as it would have spare the buttons or the jog lever mechanisms ?). I am happy then can both still listen MD discs and record them. Also sadly I have found like some other members here, a guy - Jim Hoggarth - in England who can repair a lot of MD portable units but only not even NetMD units ! http://cgi.ebay.co.u...#ht_1660wt_1139 . So except for MZ-RH1 / MZ-R200 , just keep in mind that will be difficult to find a guy to repair your unit for cheap or free (garanty). In Vietnam I notice that there is NO MORE Hi-MD units to sell, NEVER a HI-MD disc to sell and very few MDLP units compare to SP only units. Meaning that a huge majority of MD units (portables, decks and boomboxes) are SP only. A good reason for me to come back and stay to SP & MDLP format. If I buy a new portable unit, that will be a type S one not a Hi-MD except a read only one like the MZ-EH1.

Thanks

#14 philippeb

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 11:41 PM

Then what is the right price for a HBB "to go" ?

Market price. I just meant that the auction failed to conclude, with a starting price of EUR 329 (including shipping). I bought my unit for less than EUR 250.

#15 Yousif Abdullah

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 12:39 PM

Market price. I just meant that the auction failed to conclude, with a starting price of EUR 329 (including shipping). I bought my unit for less than EUR 250.


I missed the chance, there was one that ended very recently. Price was absolutely right: http://cgi.ebay.com/...E:X:RTQ:US:1123. An awful feel in my stomach, as I could have won the auction, but was outbid at the very last second Posted Image


I'm on the look out for a MiniDisc recorder right now, so don't have time to wait for another HHB to hit the ground. Might go for the Marantz PMD650, which with ATRAC 4.0, less inputs and outputs and lack of USB is a poor alternative to the HHB. The only other professional portable MiniDisc recorder, though. And, it does have phantom power for a condenser microphone, so that's a great plus (actually, via hardware switch, which is more convenient than the software approach in the HHB). What makes me wonder, however, is that the Marantz offers a coaxial S/PDIF input, which is fine, but only AES/EBU digital output. I would understand the reason for the AES/EBU digital output, if there was an input as well, but no, there isn't. At least a coaxial S/PDIF output would have sufficed to make the Marantz a perfect unit for field recording (coaxial to optical adapter would be a nuisance, though).

Leaning towards a Sony MZ-RH10 now. I might buy a deck at some point, but that is not in my consideration now. The little money I have must be spent wisely on both a portable unit and a condenser microphone (and it depends on the portable unit as to what microphone I can buy for it).

Thanks for the help so far!
Peace, Yousif.




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