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Pre-Recorded MD vs Optical CD recording in ATRAC SP

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Just curious, what was the audio source for a studio Minidisc album? Was it a CD copy or was it the master tape? I'm just wondering which would actually produce better sound quality: CD Optical recording or the Pre-Recorded MD from studio? For example: Michael Jackson Invincible MD album vs the same album on CD copied to a minidisc recorder in ATRAC SP. Obviously, many of the pre-recorded MDs from the 1990s were recorded with an earlier version of ATRAC, and probably only a few were recorded with ATRAC Type-R.

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I might be wrong but I think I remember someone here mentioning that the pre-recorded albums are higher quality due to how they are manufactured.

I think you are correct because even CDs are made from an audio source that is higher in quality. I have a pre-recorded MD album and the same album on CD. Unfortunately, I don't have an ATRAC SP recorder to do a simple sound comparison.

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I think I read somewhere that the pre-recorded MDs are pressed from masters, in a similar way that commercial CDs are made, rather than being 'recorded' like we would. That would indicate they'd have a higher quality than home recordings, but I've no way of telling.

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I think I read somewhere that the pre-recorded MDs are pressed from masters, in a similar way that commercial CDs are made, rather than being 'recorded' like we would. That would indicate they'd have a higher quality than home recordings, but I've no way of telling.

Can you explain, what do you mean by pressed?

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The only difference with prerecorded disks is they use CD technology (read-only) and cannot be erased since the signal is purely made with patterns on the plastic. All MD devices have a whole separate mode to read the CD-like data; all that does is to complicate maintenance and design. AFAIK there's no difference in fidelity whatsoever... the same bit patterns for the same music.

I read from time to time of bands that mastered their music with MD. Totally reasonable, since it is a 24-bit format, and therefore with the right editing, is in better shape to survive transformation without rounding errors which inevitably give you the distortion you knew you'd left behind in the analog world.

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If you looked at the surface of a prerecorded MiniDisc compared to a recordable one, they would actually look very different to one another. This is because the pressed prerecorded discs have pits and flats in the readable surface within the disc representing 1s and 0s.

A recordable magneto optical disc on the other hand has it's read/write surface positively and negatively polarised in minute spots by the magnetic record head to store the data.

So for playback, a prerecorded MD is very similar to cd in that the laser light is either reflected or not by the metal layer of the disc due to the pits and flats of the recorded surface, whereas when a recordable disc is played, the sensor detects the polarisation of the reflected laser light.

I can't imagine the two would vary in sound quality greatly though. The only reason I can think of that the prerecorded disc could be slightly better is if the pressing procedure produces a lower error rate than recording a disc, although I have no idea if that is the case.

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The only difference with prerecorded disks is they use CD technology (read-only) and cannot be erased since the signal is purely made with patterns on the plastic. There are no pits like on the (recordable Metal-Oxide) MO disks. This means all MD devices have a whole separate mode to read the CD-like data; all that does is to complicate maintenance and design. AFAIK there's no difference in fidelity whatsoever... the same bit patterns for the same music.

I read from time to time of bands that mastered their music with MD. Totally reasonable, since it is a 24-bit format, and therefore with the right editing, is in better shape to survive transformation without rounding errors which inevitably give you the distortion you knew you'd left behind in the analog world.

But if the audio source of a pre-recorded MD is the master tape, which has superior sound to a pressed CD (since a CD still has to be compressed to 1.4kbps), wouldn't the pre-recorded MD sound better?

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I think we are missing something in this discussion.

That is the version of ATRAC that was used to record the music.

It wasnt until ATRAC v4.0 that minidisc really did sound good and AFAIK the prerecorded MDs were done before v4.0.

If it was v4.0 or after that the MD was pressed then it should sound better.

I only have one prerecorded MD and it sounds awful.

Very thin sounding.

Martin

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That makes a lot of sense Sony_Fan. You could well be right.

But Martin, you make a very good point as well.

I've got a prerecorded MD and an original CD of Radiohead's OK Computer so I'll make a copy of the CD onto MiniDisc and see if there's any discernible difference between the copy and the prerecorded MD. Not very scientific but it will be interesting to see if I can hear any difference in quality. I'll let you know what I find later.

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I think we are missing something in this discussion.

That is the version of ATRAC that was used to record the music.

It wasnt until ATRAC v4.0 that minidisc really did sound good and AFAIK the prerecorded MDs were done before v4.0.

If it was v4.0 or after that the MD was pressed then it should sound better.

I only have one prerecorded MD and it sounds awful.

Very thin sounding.

Martin

Yes, most pre-recorded MDs were made in the 90s before the final version of ATRAC SP (Type-R) was created. This is the reason why I used Michael Jackson Invincible MD which was pressed in 2001, after ATRAC Type-R was created.

That makes a lot of sense Sony_Fan. You could well be right.

But Martin, you make a very good point as well.

I've got a prerecorded MD and an original CD of Radiohead's OK Computer so I'll make a copy of the CD onto MiniDisc and see if there's any discernible difference between the copy and the prerecorded MD. Not very scientific but it will be interesting to see if I can hear any difference in quality. I'll let you know what I find later.

Yes, let us know. Do you have a pre-recorded MD pressed after Sony released ATRAC Type-R?

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Having made a copy of the CD to MiniDisc on a Type-R deck, I compared it to the prerecorded MD using an MZ-NH1 for playback and to be honest, they both sounded excellent. I found none of the thin sounding reproduction from the prerecorded disc that Martin mentioned earlier.

Any differences really were very slight, but in my very unscientific test, I thought the recording from the CD just about won. I thought the copy had a slightly crisper and more detailed top end but as I said, the difference really was negligible.

As far as which version of ATRAC the prerecorded disc was produced with, I was wondering whether this depends on when the album was released or when the disc was manufactured.

The Radiohead disc in question is copyrighted in1998 but if there was more than one production run of that particular album then it could have been manufactured in 2001 for instance. Whether a newer manufacture date makes a difference to ATRAC version is anyone's guess. Sadly I can't even tell how old my disc is anyway as, although I bought it new and factory sealed, I only purchased it about four or five years ago from ebay, not back in 1998 when it was released.

It may be the case that so few copies were sold of most albums on the MiniDisc format that all copies in existence were manufactured around the first release date.

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Having made a copy of the CD to MiniDisc on a Type-R deck, I compared it to the prerecorded MD using an MZ-NH1 for playback and to be honest, they both sounded excellent. I found none of the thin sounding reproduction from the prerecorded disc that Martin mentioned earlier.

Any differences really were very slight, but in my very unscientific test, I thought the recording from the CD just about won. I thought the copy had a slightly crisper and more detailed top end but as I said, the difference really was negligible.

As far as which version of ATRAC the prerecorded disc was produced with, I was wondering whether this depends on when the album was released or when the disc was manufactured.

The Radiohead disc in question is copyrighted in1998 but if there was more than one production run of that particular album then it could have been manufactured in 2001 for instance. Whether a newer manufacture date makes a difference to ATRAC version is anyone's guess. Sadly I can't even tell how old my disc is anyway as, although I bought it new and factory sealed, I only purchased it about four or five years ago from ebay, not back in 1998 when it was released.

It may be the case that so few copies were sold of most albums on the MiniDisc format that all copies in existence were manufactured around the first release date.

Is it possible that the pre-recorded MD was made using a version of ATRAC just before Type-R was released? So if the copied MD was made using Type-R, I can sort of see why both would sound the same. Another thing, is there any difference in sound quality when using a Minidisc deck vs a portable recorder? They should both sound the same i'm thinking.

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Is it possible that the pre-recorded MD was made using a version of ATRAC just before Type-R was released? So if the copied MD was made using Type-R, I can sort of see why both would sound the same. Another thing, is there any difference in sound quality when using a Minidisc deck vs a portable recorder? They should both sound the same i'm thinking.

That's sort of subjective. Digital out would give you the best sound. So a deck with optical out to a nice receiver with nice speakers will give you a better experience than an analog headphone jack.

Technically if both the deck and the portable are Type-R the sound should be identical. The change in quality happens at the output stage.

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There are no pits like on the (recordable Metal-Oxide) MO disks.

Oops! Rare faux-pas from Stephen here. MO means Magneto-Optical, not Metal-Oxide. And the CD discs do have pits (and lands) - that is how CDs work, as Jimma points out. The laser is focussed on the track and is reflected back - the lands are very high brightness as they are like a mirror. The pits ensure that the reflection is exactly 180 degrees out of phase due to the extra distance travelled before returning - hence the reflected signal is low intensity, and that is how the data stream is read (very reliably, and much easier to read then the MO data.

Jim

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ATRAC 1 ATRAC 2 ATRAC 3 ATRAC 3.5

1993

(Too early due to DCC) 1994 1995 Current

Bit skewwed but its the only info i could find quickly.

ATRAC 3.0 arrived in 1995

So the prerecorded disk mentioned is v3.5 or later

Could either Stephen or Jim comment if the above is correct?

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http://www.minidisc.org/atrac_versions.html

A small comment: I got this by looking for "atrac versions" in google. There are at least a dozen references all of them interesting, that are relevant on the very first page of results.

Chris, sorry to say but this research is all old hat. You could find out these questions for yourself. We appreciate (and enjoy) the discussion, but sometimes it's better not to be answering all these over and over. Sooner or later someone will make a mistake (as I did with "MO") and mislead some poor person 3 years from now :)

Kind regards

Stephen

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My point being (perhaps) that even at that date 4.5 has showed up.

Don't forget there's no Type-R in the replay phase - it only applies to recording. So the answer is probably that, except for Type-R rearrangement there is at least the possibility of very good prerecorded MD's as early as the beginning of 1997.

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My point being (perhaps) that even at that date 4.5 has showed up.

Don't forget there's no Type-R in the replay phase - it only applies to recording. So the answer is probably that, except for Type-R rearrangement there is at least the possibility of very good prerecorded MD's as early as the beginning of 1997.

But the pre-recorded MDs are made from the master tape. So Master Tape converted to ATRAC SP Type-R will yield the best MD recordings. Unfortunately, this can not be reproduced by our portable recorders or MD decks today.

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But the pre-recorded MDs are made from the master tape. So Master Tape converted to ATRAC SP Type-R will yield the best MD recordings. Unfortunately, this can not be reproduced by our portable recorders or MD decks today.

I think you are a little wrong. You can record a Flac 24bit-96kHz file in real time from your computer (if you have money preferably with M2Tech Hiface USB key + DA Magic/ VDAC/ DA Rega / DA Naim :give_heart: ).

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