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

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I sold my JA555ES but it is to buy CEC CD 3300 + ampli CEC 3300, both in class A and with a XLR modulation connection and AES/EBU output (also Toslink & coaxial). I have a professionnal CD recorder, a Sony MDS-B5 - my first deck ever bought for 100 euros - with AES/BU input but sadly the chipset recording inside is not working any more. It is not important as I prefer to record with type-R units. And like I do all my recordings in real time on standard MDs, mostly with my JB980 or my MZ-RH1. I download a lot of music (no law against that in Asia, also the only way to get that music...), specially 24bit-96kHz albums. My PC has a Creative X-Fi Platinium audio card. My laptop has an external X-Fi Xmod USB audio card that I also use with my portable units sometimes.

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I was able to pick one up for $AU75 recently, plus postage off ebay Australia.

I noticed one in the UK for about 150-180 pounds a few weeks ago.

I think there was also a seller in the US about a month ago who had a $1000 BIN that he was auctioning, with a reserve as well.

In other words, it's hard to say - like most MD stuff

:)

Danny

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Some of the nicer, higher end MD recorders do seem to be keeping good prices when they come up, and mint examples with boxes etc really do attract a lot of interest, the trade sort of item which is a bit tatty etc normally does not sell, ie they have to be mine or forget it.

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  • 1 month later...

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 ...

I've always had this sneaking suspicion that the 20ES does not have a Type-R chip, but rather, the MD portal has incorrect information on the chip versions. I've always felt it to be ATRAC 4.5.

I just looked up the service manuals, and the JB920 and the JA-20ES both have the CXD2654R - so either the 920 also has Type-R, or more likely, the first Type-R deck was the MDS-JA22ES, which is at least referenced by the Sony announcement at the time to specifically use the new Type-R algorithm (http://www.minidisc....nouncement.html). I cannot locate a service manual for that unit. However, the service manual for the JB-930, which used the same deck format as the JA33ES and JA22ES, cites the CXD2656R as the codec ASIC.

Does the deck itself, literature, or box actually state "Type-R" anywhere? I once owned a JA-20ES and it made no mention of ATRAC version on the nameplate, as newer models did, nor did I find any mention in the manual, which can be downloaded as a PDF. I did not, however, have the original box to see what was printed on the outside. I was also able to hear artifacts that I only could reproduce when recording the same signal digitally with an ATRAC 4.5 portable (MZ-R900), but not the Type-R deck that eventually replaced the 20ES (JB940). In fact, the artifacting on some tracks really bothered me on the 20ES, similar to my experience with other pre-Type R units, but I had to strain to hear any differences between the 940 and the source. That's why I ditched the 20ES.

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The service manual for the JA20ES clearly shows the CXD-2656R.

The JB-920 clearly shows CXD-2654R, as do the W1 and 520. However the 530 and 630 have the CXD-2656R. So I think it's safe to assume that the 2656R (never seen 2655R) is the defining element for Type-R.

I also don't seem to find the service manual for the JA22ES, but it may well be that the 22ES came before the 20ES (however the references on minidisc.org seem to show they were both released in mid 1998, and the 20ES's service manual is dated internally 6.1998). Several translated pages of Sony's mention the 22ES quite prominently as featuring Type-R, so I would guess it also has the 2656R.

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The service manual for the JA20ES clearly shows the CXD-2656R.

The JB-920 clearly shows CXD-2654R, as do the W1 and 520. However the 530 and 630 have the CXD-2656R. So I think it's safe to assume that the 2656R (never seen 2655R) is the defining element for Type-R.

I also don't seem to find the service manual for the JA22ES, but it may well be that the 22ES came before the 20ES (however the references on minidisc.org seem to show they were both released in mid 1998, and the 20ES's service manual is dated internally 6.1998). Several translated pages of Sony's mention the 22ES quite prominently as featuring Type-R, so I would guess it also has the 2656R.

Oddly enough, the service manual for the 20ES only mentions the 2656R once, in the last section, which lists parts by serial number, but mentions the 2654R 33 times elsewhere. I'm not sure which to believe, given my experience with the compression artifacts. We'd have to see if somebody with the 20ES would be willing to pop open the hood and see which chip is really in there. Anybody willing to try?

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Oddly enough, the service manual for the 20ES only mentions the 2656R once,

How about the (IMO critical) diagram on page 43 (of the original, in PDF pages it's page 39)?

Would it be too much a stretch to guess they copied the service manual pages from an earlier model (and I don't mean the 22ES), and forgot to update those details?

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How about the (IMO critical) diagram on page 43 (of the original, in PDF pages it's page 39)?

Would it be too much a stretch to guess they copied the service manual pages from an earlier model (and I don't mean the 22ES), and forgot to update those details?

Could very well be. Again, I think somebody would actually have to pop open the 20ES to really solve the puzzle. I also found it dumb that Sony numbered the earlier 22ES deck, which did have Type-R, higher than the supposedly later 20ES. I don't think the 22ES was meant for the US market, however....

Tyep-R or not, the upside of the 20ES is that it did have really good ADC and DAC chips. It's possible that they are so good, in fact, as to reveal problems with the compression codec that are otherwise masked with other decks.

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We'd have to see if somebody with the 20ES would be willing to pop open the hood and see which chip is really in there. Anybody willing to try?

Hey Guys,

I have been lurking for a few weeks, been so busy with work lately I have not taken the time to keep involved around here. This thread got my interest. I took my JA20ES apart tonight and got some pictures. The unit does indeed have the CXD-2656R chip, although I was incorrect when I stated that the "Type-R" moniker was on the faceplate of the unit, it is not. This should clear things up. I have to say I have made hundreds of fantastic recordings with this unit in SP from a Sony DVP-9000ES via optical transfer and I listen to them all of the time, I have yet to note any odd artifacts in the recordings, my ears of course.

Check it out:

My JA20ES under my JB940

JA20ES_with_940.JPG

The ATRAC board is actually mounted upside down under the drive mechanism.

ATRAC_Board_a.JPG

ATRAC_Board_b.JPG

A little closer

ATRAC_Board_c.JPG

This last one my wonderful wife, the photog in the family, took a nice closeup of the chip

ATRAC_chip.jpg

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NICE work. Really nice. Now I don't even have to think about opening up my JA20ES...unless Sony sneakily put different chips into different units! Glad to have it confirmed that my JA20ES is indeed Type R, which I had always assumed. No idea why Sony didn't put that information on the faceplate or why the SM isn't consistent.

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Excellent work! This finally puts to rest a question that I've seen pop up occasionally since the old MD boards were more popular, and one that has always bugged me personally, given my disappointment with (and eventual sale of) the 20ES. Any sound quality difference must therefore be due to more revealing components, a lower noise floor, etc. - which may explain why I liked the JB940 better. Perhaps it was "glossing over" some of the artifacts I would occasionally hear in louder passages with complex material? Either that, or my unit had something wrong with it, perhaps corrupting the decoding end of things.

If money were no object, I'd still spring for the 555ES, simply for the ability to use LP modes with radio recordings. However, the 20ES may be a dark horse - a deck sometimes overlooked due to being older, not spelling out its ATRAC version clearly, etc., but one whose audio circuitry is on par with revealing DACs and CD players. The prices commanded for the 555 in relation to the 20ES certainly would suggest as much!

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  • 2 weeks later...
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  • 1 year later...

Because of very recent events, I thought I'd add on to this thread. Just last night, my MDS-JA333ES gave it up. I had played a disc and when I went to eject the disc, the little drawer opened just enough for me to get out the MD. Things got worse from there. The 333ES has died and has had its funeral. I did not pay a fortune for it (~250 USD a few years ago IIRC, used on eBay). Around the same time, I also acquired an MDS-JA20ES, a deck that doesn't get enough respect.

I put the 20ES in the spot formerly occupied by the 333, where I have been putting it through its paces. It seems to me like the 20ES has more bass extension and perhaps more detailed highs. It has a "warmer" sound to me than the 333. I thought this would be a downgrade, but so far I like the sound of the JA20ES better than that of the 333ES. In the same system, I also have a Sony CDP-XA20ES CD player. The sonic similarities between the two 20ES units can't be denied...and they look a lot alike, as well, The 333ES and the CDP-XA20ES sounded much different.

The JA20ES, unlike the 333ES, is SP-only, so it's a one-trick pony. But it does that one trick very well! I have it connected to my amp via its analog outputs, for those who care about such things. I also have an MXD-D400 connected optically out to the JA20ES's opt in. (IOW, the 20ES can be used as an external DAC that way - will see what that sounds like soon.)

Too bad about that 333ES, but it always did make some unusual sounds on disc insertion. At least it lasted as long as it did.

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Jimma,

The 333ES may have once been repairable, but it is not now. Partly because of the the unit and partly because of my unintentional helping it down the road to ruin. In any case it has, sadly, departed in so many pieces. It was always just a bit flaky.

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  • 5 months later...

The very best Minidisc-player ever made, is the Sony MDS-JA50ES. The MDS-JA50ES is the second MD-player in the ES-series Sony produced. The first was the entry-level MDS-JA3ES, wich was introduced in june 1995. The MDS-JA3ES has ATRAC 3.5, at that time the best ATRAC verson available. The MDS-JA50ES, wich was introduced in december 1996, has ATRAC 4.5.

ATRAC Type-R, wich was introducef after ATRAC 4.5, is a bit better. You can hear the difference, but the difference is not too big. The play back-secion of the MDS-JA50ES is the best ever made, even better than the MDS-JA555ES. The MDS-JA50ES has (almost) the same converters as the famous CDP-XA50ES CD-player. The MDS-JA555ES is cheaper and not as high end as the MDS-JA50ES.

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  • 8 months later...

.... 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

So why don't you just listen to the CDs at home on your CD player?  I love my MD machines, but direct HAS to sound better than 2nd generation.

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