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MZ-RH1 Recording level adjustment is weird

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OK, so I've been a minidisc fan for 10 years now and have lots of equipment.In 1999 I got my first deck with digital recording level adjustment.Now all of my units have it and they all have the standard ...-1, 0db, +1db... recording level numbers, which easliy point out where most CD's will cause the recorder to light up the "over" or clip indicator, telling you not to record over 0db.

Now I've got an MZ-RH1 on test drive from the audio store where I work and it's got this strange 0-30 number, with no clear number indicating where 0 db lies.This is like an anlogue recording level adjustment, not the normal digital one I am used to.I've done many exhausting listening tests trying to find out where the 0db number lies and have pretty much confirmed that it is the number 23 out of the 0-30 level.The way I came to this conclusion is by digitally recording the same passage of a song from a CD (Lauren Christy from 1993) onto one of my recorders.This CD makes all my recorders clip at even +1db, even though the CD's recording is actually not that loud, compared to most current CD's which also distort at anything past 0db, but sound much louder than the Lauren Christy one.I then did the same song and passage digital recording onto an MZ-RH1 at levels 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and even 30.I played each song at their different levels over and over again through headphones, and erased each one song that was either louder or quieter to my ears that the song recorded at 0db on another recorder.When I was finished I was left with the song recorded at level 23 on the MZ-RH1.The strange thing was that the clip indicator only occasionally lit up when the recording level was set at 30, or maximum on the MZ-RH1, equivalent to about +7db on other machines.Meanwhile, all my other recorders had their clip lights go on at even +1db on this CD.At +7db the clip indicator would have been going crazy.Needless to say I find this very strange.On one hand I like this, since I could theoretically re-record a whole bunch of my MD's and get a louder level and a more evenly recorded MD, without getting a clip indicator from the MZ-RH1, like I get on all my other machines.On the other hand, it confuses me not to have a standard that every other machine I've used has.Perhaps other people have done a similar test.I'd be interested to know your results.

Looking forward to your replies and experiences with this issue.Any help or explanations would be very helpful.Thanks!

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For the last couple of months I've been recording a bunch of my CDs onto minidisc, using Hi-SP mode, using my newly purchased RH1. A variety of stuff- quiet jazz, loud jazz, rock n' roll, etc. The recording levels for all these types consistently fall in the range of 15 to 18, where the music would make the meter light up the last level to the left of the 0 dB mark frequently but not go over. The resulting sound quality is excellent. . . . on the other hand, I've recorded a lot of the same stuff onto SP mode of my MZ-N510. The rec levels varied more, over a range of 20 to 25. Sound quality also great, although I think the RH1 sounds better.

My recording method is to use my Denon DCM-360 CD player, with it's analogue RCA jacks, with a Monster RCA to stereo mini plug cable going into the minidisc recorder, and setting the record level manually. . . .

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JG98258, it is less than probable that anyone here will appreciate you approach - recording from digital to digital via analog connection. But this approach really rules in some situations! If you have a really good CD player (I am not sure about the DCM-360, as it is a changer, but then again - it is a DENON!), which gives excellent sound at its analogue outputs - then it is much better to redigitize this sound using a good Hi-MD recorder. An MZ-RH[9]1[0] will do - all these have the same ADC.
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As a matter of fact, I did an extensive comparison of the same material recorded onto the minidisc 4 different ways:

1) using Sonic Stage v4.2 in PCM mode

2) using Sonic Stage in 352 kbps mode

3) CD player into RH1 as described before, in PCM mode

4) CD player into RH1 in HiSP(256 kbps) mode

The music I used was a selection of Pat Metheny Group pieces- complex, multilayered, very well recorded jazz. Lots of detail, lots of dynamic range. The results were, after many back and forth comparisons, that the sound coming out of the CD player and onto the disc was better than the Sonic Stage version. The PCM version was somewhat noticeably better than the HiSP version, but not a lot; the HiSP version I thought sounded better than the SS 352 kbps version. More "life" to it. Faint details in the music were just as pronounced in these two recording methods.

I'm not sure what CD playing technology has going for it now, but this model Denon player has a feature called "Alpha Processing". . . . I remember it was a noticeable improvement over the model it replaced in my home system.

I love the portability of minidisc, but I also want my discs to sound really good. I didn't mind carrying around a bunch of the older 80 minute discs, recorded in SP mode, for a day hike- tunes on the trail. Now that I have the RH1 with it's HiSP mode, the 1 GB discs hold just under 8 hours of music recorded in HiSP. Even more convenient. Also, I think the D/A converter and amplifier in the RH1 make my 80 minute SP mode discs sound better than my older model minidisc player.

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Ah, so it does have Alpha Processing! This explains a lot.

greenmachine, this is certainly not placebo. The idea of DENON's Alpha Processing, and other sound improvement techniques from other manufacturers (Technics'es MASH, etc.) is to make the CD sound much closer to the original record, more detailed, warmer, clearer, etc. This is achieved through some really advanced processing, and can be heard on any decent stereo system. Redigitizing the resulting sound will definitely give better quality (as compared to digitally copying an unprocessed CD), as most MD ADCs are really good. But you should have good cabling, so as to avoid any possible noise or distortion in the analog line.

And Pat Metheny (both with and without the Group) makes a reliable check in this case.

Edited by Avrin
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