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Money no object - Which was the very best full sized MD player/recorder ?

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IMHO, Sony's ES decks were in a league of their own.

For a while, Denon, Kenwood and Onkyo also offered high-quality decks, but they stopped before Atrac-R (and MDLP).

After that, only the Tascam MD-350 (with undisclosed ATRAC version) could come close to the quality of Sony's top decks, if you believe some audio magazines.

Maybe there were some more good decks in Japan (Onkyo offered two small Hi-MD decks there, but w/o digital out).

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Take your pick: the MDS-JB940 has configurable bit length output but is "only" Type-R (and so is the MDS-JA333ES), the MDS-JB980 has NetMD and Type-S but does not allow direct 24-bit SPDIF output.

If you don't care about MDLP then the JB920 will easily do, having also configurable bit length for the SPDIF out. Strangely, the JB930 manual makes no reference to this feature. Perhaps someone who has that deck can inform us whether Sony took it out, or whether they forgot to document.....

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So, it does look like the JB920 is of the same ilk as the JA20ES, although the JA20ES specifically states it has "Type-R" which in my mind is post ATRAC 4.5 (thus superior). I have recorded and played back from the JA20ES and the JB940. The JA20ES is a much nicer machine for SP recording and playback. I can't speak for the JB920 unit, but I suspect it has a good sound quality ...

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The key element to look at is the main DSP chip. On the JA20ES, W1, JE520 and JB920 it is the CXD2654, which is characterized as Atrac 4.5.

The next major revision many devices use is the CXD2662, and this is for all pre-Type-S units that support MDLP. Type-R.

The CXD2664 is the basis for all Type-S (except the included Type-S with HiMD, and the NetMD portables which have the DSP processing also folded into a larger chip, to save real estate).

You may be right in your implication - that adding MDLP had some cost in the overall sound. I really don't know. My impression is that Type-R is fine for a. recording b. playback via digital out, but that Type-S is an improvement for analogue outputs.

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It looks to me like the MDS-JA20ES has the CXD2656 chip, not CXD2654. Whether the 2656 is Type R, I cannot say with certainty, but the deck itself is indeed labeled as Type R. I have compared the JA20ES directly with the the MDS-JB940, which does have the CXD2662 Type R chip. By "compared," I mean listening via analog out through same external amp and speakers.

I cannot conclude firmly which sounds better. At times, it seems the 940 might have a slight edge and at other times it seems they sound pretty much the same. Although neither of these decks could honestly be described as the "best," both are high on my list of MD decks that sound really good. Neither matches, under any conditions I've experienced, the MDS-JA333ES.

I might add that the JA333ES, despite being Type R, sounds better on LP output that at least one Type S deck, that being the MXD-D400. I have not had the privilege of listening to the MDS-JB980. I have found that trying to determine what sounds best by using chip-type or other specs is an exercise in futility. For example, the MXD-D40 combo deck has the CXD-2662 Type R chip, but its sound doesn't match the JB940, which has the same chip. So there must be additional factors affecting the sound.

I think I am getting this right, with the various chip numbers and which one is in what machine, but after a while it gets a bit hard to follow.

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[Hangs head in shame]. I took the minidisc.org webpage at face value for this one but not the other unit. Sigh. 2656 is correct for the JA20ES. It makes sense that the Type-R was in at least one SP-only unit before being employed more generally. The JE630 which I own also has 2656, as does the 333ES.

My impression of the MXD-D400 is that it sounds excellent when using optical output, as does the D40 (except that Sony didn't actually provide optical out from the latter, I had to add it myself). I cannot comment on the JA333ES.

So (absent my ownership of the 333ES) the differences seem to me likely to be in the analog side of the unit, which is probably where Sony spent the money (heavy transformers, solid metal faceplates etc) in trying to get the best specs.

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Wow guys, you are really knowledgable ..... i only listen in SP, i record each of my cd's onto one MD, and that is all i will ever do. I only listen to my MD's at home so portablility is not an issue, i may one day listen to them in the car but again, one disc per album is just fine. I had been looking at the 940 as i don't need the net MD of the 980..... but yes i would love an ES model.

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IMNSHO, the 940 is well worth your consideration. The ES models we have been discussing are hard to find (esp. in perfect operating condition) and usually costly. All in all, the 940 is still probably the best deal. They seem to appear on Ebay periodically for USD 200-300. True, it does have LP, which you may never use, but so what? It's a first-rate SP machine.

I think the question of which was the best MD deck was never quite addressed in this thread. There is something resembling a consensus that it would be the Sony MDS-JA555ES. It is SP-only and is said to be just ahead of the JA333ES. As you noted, though, it's a real hen's tooth these days.

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Agree with all that. The one attractive feature that the 940 (over other decks like the 980 and MXD-D400) has is 24-bit output. Some of the high end decks, and the JB920, have it too. Since MD is inherently a 24-bit format (floating, not fixed point, it should be noted) this constitutes the least damage to the bits. In this day and age, there are plenty of devices that can read 24-bit optical (or coax) input, such as AV receiver/amplifiers.

The other (non-HiMD) format that uploads (from MZ-RH1, via USB) without damage is MDLP (LP2 and LP4). But copying SP via optical (or USB) and (later) back to MD will lose some of the 24-bitness.

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Tascam MD-801RmkII is probably the finest MD Recorder ever produced.

At the time, yes. Note (from the Specs) that only 74 minute disks are mentioned. MD technology moved on quite a bit after that. I won't bore you with a list but Sony kept on enhancing the technology. Those enhancements are not included. A lot of nice features in the Tascam, but not some of the pure enhancements to sound quality that arose from more recent DSP chips, for example.

Recent reports of Tascam's updated offerings have been a bit more lukewarm.

Overall, I would be inclined to stick with Sony.

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I took a look at some of the Sony decks. I just started using my RH1 again since I found this forum with the updated drivers and SonicStage. For a while, I went the way of some of the Chinese 24/96 SD players on the market but I am very glad I kept my minidisc unit! Thank you for the information Inquisitor.

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If money no object the best MD unit by far is the Sony MDS-JA555ES. I also have the MDS-JA333ES unit and although it also sounds great, it has a slight "hashiness" compared to the MDS-JA555ES. I also have the Sony MDS-JA50ES ("the tank" as most people called it) and I wish the MDS-JA555ES was as indestructible, but you can tell the huge difference in the MDS-JA555ES blowing it away. I also owned the MDA-JA20ES and the MDS-JA50ES unit was far superior to it. I believe Sony tried to sell more MDS-JA333ES units by making it cheaper than the MDS-JA555ES so of course it is lighter and I believe a lot of parts are cheaper than the MDS-JA555ES. Plus the MDLP is a waste of time as it sounds aweful, not to mention it probably cost more money to put MDLP into the unit which then sacrificed any sound improvement. Now the only problem is trying to find one for sale. Before I was able to get the MDS-JA555ES and the MDS-JA333ES units, I was using the MDS-JE480 unit that for $140, was half way decent sounding and has the more updated TYPE-S and 24 bit electronics. You can still find someone selling this unit used often, plus most people have not had it for very long before MP3 and iPods started to take over the industry almost at the same time it was released.

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Welcome to the board Nicholas. It's always nice to see someone with a ton of equipment (in your case literally, heheh) chiming in with lots of experience.

I want to make only one comment on what you write. MDLP is not necessarily terrible. It's all in the way the sound comes to it. You cannot record a sound source with tons of high frequencies into MDLP without making a mess. But if you have something already compressed, with a certain ceiling, it can sound really really good. For example I can record music off radio at 64 or even 128 kbps using LP4, and I have lots of tracks (and a nice thread on the board here) to prove it. But try to record 320kbps broadcast ("HD") and the deck will fall on its face - you must use LP2 (LP4 fails). Atrac 132kbps is probably equivalent to the highest rates of MP3 in common usage.

A second point is that when ripping to MD (using SonicStage or SimpleBurner) that Sony does it perfectly for LP2, throwing away the bits that will simply make the recording sound bad. But if your rejection of MDLP is based on the following test scenario, all bets are off:

1. Rip a CD to some track stored on the PC (Sonic Stage uses 1411 kHz PCM in .oma format, and seems an obvious choice)

2. Blast the track to different data rates on the same (or different) MD recorders by converting to those data rates somehow.

3. Compare the sound of the compressed sound as played back, to the sound from the PC or the original CD.

Why? Because unknown to you, the rip of the WAV file from CD is very poor. Deliberately. It will sound just fine for playback, but it won't compress properly.

Use a proper ripper (EAC seems to be accepted, and works very well in my experience) and this won't happen.

With your obvious background in audiophile gear, I think you can see why. Unfortunately I strongly suspect that the lab tests which compared the various compression codecs that got published 10 years ago (just after introduction of Atrac3 ie MDLP), were done in something like this manner (yeah, I know there was no SonicStage). The result was to seal the fate of ATRAC, in a way, except for us hardboiled nuts who just wouldn't put up with the crappy MP3's.

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I found the ja20es when recording from vinyl had better grip or a firmer expression of bass.

This is in comparison to my my 980 and 940.

I am not sure if I liked this difference in sound that the 20es provided so I cannot be certain if

it is better or not.

The 20es is packed away now in favour of a 940 full size deck.

I record vinyl on to my mzrh1 in PCM format now.

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My vote for top MD home deck is the Sony MDS-JA555ES. I have experience with the ES series decks and have used just about all of them: JA3, JA20, JA30, JA33, JA50 but the JA555 is tops. It offers the closest reproduction to CD quality although the Denon DMD-S10 (Sharp ATRAC ver 6) is a very close competitor. The S10 was a Japanese market model only and is rarely seen for sale here in the states. It offers a slightly more forward and lively sound than the Sony which some listeners may prefer. As good as both Sony and Sharp ATRAC perform, all lossy perceptual encoders can introduce artifacts such as hissing and warbling with some especially taxing music containing brass instruments (sax, trumpet, trombone), acoustic instruments (cello, guitar, violin, piano). I listen mainly to blues and blues rock and there is only one recording I have where ATRAC caused hiss is introduced into the recording (about 5 seconds worth). For my purposes, minidisc works extremely well and these 2 decks sit along side my Yamaha digital audio music server in my home audio system.

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I would love the 555es but finding one in the uk is virtually impossible, i am just about to bid on a mint 940 which for my purposes i think will be more than enough, if an ES model ever comes up on Ebay i will try and get it but they do hold a real high premium.

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I finally bring my black JA555ES to Vietnam. What a machine (tough & heavy guy) ! Inside it is a dream for high-end unit lover. Sadly as I need money to buy a new CD player (and the amplifier which come with, CEC CD 3300 + ampli CEC 3300 for 320 euros) so I sold it to Pham Cu, my electronic ingeneer friend who is a strong connaisseur of how to repair MD units (specially decks & bookshelves, see here : http://www.5giay.vn/showthread.php?t=3360572) and a fan of the Sony ES minidisc serie. Solding it to Pham Cu secure me that I will have discount prices for all his services.

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Hey Folks

I have Sony decks JA20ES, JB930, JB980 and Tascam MD-02B I,m only use Standard-Play (292kbs)

When recording digitally coaxial I rank the MD-02B and JB980 as equally and then JB930 and last JA20ES but when recording analog unbalanced (vinyl) I think JA20ES and Tascam doing best.

The Tascam-deck has analog balanced input and output wich is to prefer unfortunatly I don,t have any balanced Turntable (Project RPM 9.2 with Denon DL-103) or RIAA-preamp.

When recording from vinyl records I use my Sony dat-recorder ZA5ES analog inputs and use 48kHz 16bits settings and use coaxial outputs directly to PC (harddisc) instead of dat-tapes

wich gives good results and makes all backups, copying or converting easy.

My experience advice to do all recording in realtime instead of ripping also use proper cd-player or turntables, cables etc.

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