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Russell Letson

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  1. I found the B-100 to offer the best combination of convenience and performance for field recording for a long time: sturdy, compact design, built-in mikes, monitor speaker, single-AA power, and decent ergonomics. Has MDLP, too, though I never used it. I made a lot of very decent live-music recordings with mine, and I keep a unit (well, three units--I'm compulsive) around for quick-and-dirty playback of disks that have yet to be transferred to other media. (I used an RH-1 for a year or so, but while it is a fine recorder, it was not always convenient to wrangle separate mikes, and the controls are dinky--and, of course, it's a gumstick model.)
  2. Since I started doing journalism in the 1980s, I've gone through cassette, DAT, and MD for field and phone interviews, winding up with a flash-based recorder (an Olympus LS model). For now. I've kept the original recordings in the archive right along, though I've anticipated inevitable technological obsolescence by migrating the most important material to CD or DVD. So far, the original media have proved to be less fragile than the associated playback devices--two Sony semi-pro portable DATs died, leaving me scrambling to find a compatible, reliable semi-pro rack-mount machine, with which I'm still migrating tapes to an Olympus to hard drive and eventually DVD. (Most of this is live music which is important to me but not to my writing projects.) I've had better luck with my MDs--mostly standard, with a relative few Hi-MDs. I have enough backup recorders, but crucial interviews for a book in progress are also being transferred to DVD. (And they've all been transcribed and printed out any way.) As much as I loved my MD units (the B-100 was a terrific field interview machine--compact, simple, and reliable, and runs on a single AA cell), they are now part of the archive/backup system and left on the shelf. The LS-10/11 is just as reliable, more resilient (no moving parts), and holds much, much more data--and dumps quickly into the computer for editing and archiving.
  3. To answer the crucial question: No, Hi-MD disks play only in Hi-MD units, even though Hi-MD units will play standard disks.
  4. The B-100 was my workhorse field recorder from the time it was introduced until I finally switched to an RH-1 (after I found suitable small mikes for it).* The B-100 is reliable and remarkably rugged (considering the complexity of its mechanics) and worked well for interviews as well as music--one-button recording, no need to set levels, a really handy track-mark button to make it easy to find particular passages, and a little speaker to check that you got what you needed. Ran forever on a single AA. I have some very good-sounding concert recordings made by a B-100 sitting in my lap. In fact, I still have two of them, to play back the dozens of standard MDs in my files. (I never discard an original interview or session recording, because you never can tell when you'll need it.) * The real field-grade replacement for the B-100 proved to be an Olympus LS-10--compact and tough, with respectable built-in mikes and a bigger feature set.
  5. I used MD for a dozen years, starting with an MZ-B3, through several B-100s, to a couple of RH-1s, but I have to say that MD was pretty much over for me as a field/interview-recording format once I found the Olympus LS-10. I do miss the timed track-marking and other in-unit editing functions, but the Olympus lacks the MD's fragility while offering at least as much recording flexibility (16- and 24-bit PCM, various MP3 bitrates; complete upload/download freedom) and 2-gig of internal memory expandable via SD card to another 16 gig. (Its replacement, the LS-11, has 8 gig of internal memory and takes a 32-gig SD card.) And it runs on AA batteries. It's a bit bigger and quite a bit heavier than an RH-1, but it's sturdier and its control ergonomics are better. Decent mikes and pre-amps, and a pair of tiny but functional monitor speakers (shades of the Sony B series). I'm not getting rid of my MD gear (if only because of the dozens of disks in my files), but the Oly has about everything I need in a field recorder. And it holds an entire audiobook without even straining.
  6. For what it's worth: the Olympus LS-10, reviewed by a sensible and reliable pro-level user. Mark has reviews on the same site, of several of the other new-gen recorders as well. I'm likely to pick up this Olympus as an alternative/backup for my *many* MD recorders--the feature set and tech specs make it a strong candidate for a replacement field recorder, should some strange and unlikely disaster destroy or disable all of my half-dozen MD/HiMD units. http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/2008/05/22...der-review.html
  7. I'm not about to contradict reports of problems with SS or even with MD hardware, but I've been using the standard and H-MD tech for field recording (music and interviews) since the B-3 with very good results. I have to say, though, that if I were starting from scratch today, I would almost certainly wind up with one of the newest generation of solid-state recorders--in fact, I'm mightily tempted by the Olympus LS-10 and the Sony PD-M50 despite owning more than a half-dozen MD/Hi-MD units. There remain environments in which anything with moving parts is going to be at risk, and the memory cards keep getting cheaper. Then there's the fact that Sony is almost certainly not going to keep supporting MD indefinitely, so at some point I'm going to have to migrate anyway. But I still use my B100 and RH1s, and they still work.
  8. Another data point: no problems (so far) with SP3 on an MSI-6570/Athlon XP/nVidia nForce2/Phoenix BIOS/Win XP Home system. Just transferred some tracks via SS 4.2 in "NetMD" mode and converted to WAV. All normal, no glitches.
  9. No MD recorder has drag-and-drop transfer--SonicStage is always required. If ease of transfer without extra softwareis really important to you, you're better off with something like the Zoom H2 or the new Sony PCM-D50. But if you can put up with SonicStage (which has gotten much less cranky and intrusive), the RH1 does a terrific job. Feature/function comparisons are all over this forum, and there are solid evaluations of the Zoom models here: http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/2007/02/01...y-recorder.html http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/di...d-recorder.html
  10. About flat-rate repair: I just got back my second MZ-B100 from the Laredo facility (under 2-week turnaround), and it seems to be fixed. Once you've gotten the repair authorization and given them a credit card number (which I did on-line), they notify on receipt of the unit, supply an internal job/tracking number, notify when it ships out, and give a UPS tracking number. The repair description on the invoice was a bit cryptic, but so far both repaired units are OK. Make sure your model is still covered by the flat-rate deal--there seems to be a sunset clause (7 years after end of production, I think). Otherwise, it seems like a pretty reasonable proposition, especially when second-hand B-100s are going for $200-300 on eBay.
  11. Minidisc Canada still lists the RH-1 (no mike) at US$304.85 plus shipping-- http://www.minidisc-canada.com/shopexd.asp?id=734 I recently bought a backup unit, just in case. And be thankful that your unit of choice isn't the wonderful B-100, out of production and available *used* on eBay for $200-300 or new for $389 (and up!).
  12. Finally, something to report. The problem I was having seems to be fairly common with the B-100, but also apparently easily fixable, at least if the turnaround time of the Laredo repair facility is any indication. I bit the bullet and sent one of my malfunctioning units for the $99 flat-fee repair and got it back, functional, in about ten days. The somewhat cryptic notation on the return invoice reads "Constant auto/special func mechanical adjustment," which might mean it was an alignment problem with the head assembly. In any case, the whole transaction went pretty smoothly, and now I'm waiting to see if the repair holds up. Just in case anybody is tracking B-100 issues or Sony's repair-facility behavior.
  13. The B-3 had a pedal--model FS-85B3. Its connector is different from that used for later machines' remotes (a sub-mini mono-style plug) , but I wonder whether it might be possible to rig an adapter that would plug into the later models' remote connection and detect its switch-closings.
  14. A viewpoint different from King Ghidora's: There is a considerable market for compact, all-in-one field recorders among journalists, who can use either good built-in mikes *or* (for high-end applications) balanced inputs (not known for their compactness). Stealth recording is a fine hobby, but it's not going to drive a market the way that media pros can. (Ever noticed all those handheld recorders being stuck in people's faces in news footage? Note the absence of mike cords trailing back.) Not that Sony seems to give much thought to that--try to find an MZ-B100 anywhere now. If Minidisc is abandoned by reporters and writers, it will be because Sony decides to ignore a market segment that has found earlier products (DAT, B3 and B-100 MD) very useful and to pursue the Pod-people demographic.
  15. The B100 is a terrific field recorder--and as far as I can tell, it's out of production. I went looking for a backup unit a while ago and couldn't find any in stock, and only a couple on eBay. I guess Sony is abandoning the ENG market to the solid-state guys (the Zoom H4 would make a reasonable replacement for my uses, I guess).
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