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MDS-JE480 (2007) vs MDS-JE500 (1996)

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Review of the Sony MDS-JE480 Long Play Minidisc Recorder

Comparison to the Sony MDS-JE500 Minidisc Recorder

MDS-JE480 Specifications:

Dimensions: 430x95x285 mm

Weight: 3.0 kg

MDS-JE500 Specifications:

Dimensions: 430x93x280.5 mm

Weight: 3.5 kg

I have performed tests and evaluations of my new MDS-JE480 MDLP deck. Until a few weeks ago, my current technology consisted of a MDS-JE500 (MD Bundle 3 from December 1996) and the best portable minidisc recorder of all time (MZ-R50).

I received a few portable minidisc recorders from someone who was crossing over to the MP3 market. Of these, one of the portables is a MZ-S1 Net MD recorder. Being new to Net MD (Where have I been these last few years?), I had tobecame familiar with the format extension. I like it. I have recorded a few minidiscs in LP2 or LP4. I like to use Sonic Stage to quickly title SP recorded discs. I also like the thought of a quick write from a compact disc or other file, but, like many other, I think the technology lacks an important USB to SP mode.

I felt that it was important to have a home deck that can play MDLP discs that my portable recorded. My portable MDLP recorder does not have much of a display. I do not like to connect portables to my home system. I ordered the MDS-JE480 (2007) for 20% of what I paid for my MD Bundle 3 in 1996. Time is an important cost reducer. I ordered from Amazon.com. I received my new deck on April 16 2007.

As soon as I took the recorder out of the box, I realized that it is a little bit heaver than the older MDS-JE500. This is odd because the MDS-JE500 specifications indicate that the recorder is 500 g heaver than the MDS-JE480. This is not the case. Dimensionally the MDS-JE480 appears close in size to the MDS-JE500. The MDS-JE480 has a flatter face and the MDS-JE500 has rounded edges at the top and bottom of the face.

I kept a space in my system rack above the MDS-JE500 and below the compact disc recorder open for the new recorder. As I approached the rack to install the MDS-JE480, my MDS-JE500 turned on itself. For those of you who do not know, the earlier recorders have a problem that causes the recorder to turn itself on randomly. I had my older deck serviced two times and it still has this problem. This problem for me only manifests itself in turning itself on. Fortunately my older recorder does not have the problems that others have. Their loading gears grind at random times. If it had these problems, the older recorder would not be sharing the same rack with the new one. As of this writing, the MDS-JE480 does not have this problem. My movement on the floor may have jolted some of the sensors in the MDS-JE500 causing it wake up. It appeared as if the MDS-JE500 recorder realized that another minidisc recorder was joining it or perhaps replacing it...

Photo of the Rack


Top to bottom:

Tascam CD-RW 700 CD recorder

Sony MDS-JE480 MD Recorder

Sony MDS-JE500 MD Recorder

Pioneer DV-525 DVD Player

Sony PCM-R300 DAT Recorder

Pioneer CLD-D700 Laserdisc Player

I quickly installed the MDS-JE480 to a vacant section in the power strip, and I connected its analog and digital patch cords. I had it ready to record in 15 minutes. Overall, I think that the MDS-JE480 recorder is an improvement over the MDS-JE500. I noticed an audible click as I switched on the recorder. The click is the power amplifier exiting its standby mode. It appears that the recorder has a very good power supply. I noticed that it has a 120/220 switch which will allow the recorder to be used in any of the world's voltage standards.

After initial tests, I realized that the MDS-JE480 shares the same remote codes as the MDS-JE500. This is a great. I like to use the RM-D10P that I purchased for the MDS-JE500 to control my recorders. This remote has a QWERTY keyboard. The remote that comes with the MDS-JE480 is worse than the one that originally came with the MDS-JE500 in terms of its titling and editing use. The remote that came with the MDS-JE500 is not that great either. This is why I use other remotes that can control these recorders. I have an Easy Title from Czechoslovakia that is very easy to use as well. Look it up in the archives on Minidisc.org. Because the two systems share the same remote codes, there is a slight risk of accidentally editing a disc in the other minidisc recorder. I used this to my advantage. I had several discs that needed to be erased. With two decks, I erased and ejected discs with one remote. This is where I noticed that the TOC updates and ejection processes require about the same time for both minidisc recorders.

Remote Commander

Sony RM-D10P (Thank you Nick Boyd)

A major improvement in the MDS-JE480 is the record pause activity. With the MDS-JE500, the unit will stay in the record pause mode forever after it detects that the source material has stopped. This can put wear on the recording head and the top of the disc. With the MDS-JE480, this has been changed. The unit will exit the record pause mode after a period of inactivity. Now, unattended recordings can be made without having to check on the recorder to see if it is finished.

A few things are missing from the MDS-JE480: Headphone jack, and the optical out. I plan on fixing the optical out issue with a minor modification. The headphone jack I guess I can live without. The display is cycled to get the information you need. This is great because more space can be allocated to letter size for the track titles, but you have to cycle through the displays to get what you need. My other minidisc recorder displays more on the screen, but it is sometimes hard to read. I noticed that the decibel markings are absent from the MDS-JE480. I do like the ability to set noise thresholds for smart gaps and track marking.

Titling of the tracks is a bit easier than the MDS-JE500. On the MDS-JE500, if you advance to a track and immediately press title and start typing, nothing will happen. I have often looked up at the display after attempting to title a track only to see that it did not accept the remote instructions. With the MDS-JE480, I can advance and press title very quickly with good results. Speaking of titles, both minidisc recorders can title and display Japanese Katakan characters. You have to have a remote capable of transmitting the Japanese character set such as remote commander.

Recording is pretty much the same as many minidisc recorders, Analogue, Digital, Mono Stereo and the newer LP2 and LP4 formats. I condensed a few mono SP minidisc voice recordings into LP4 discs. This process freed up a few discs (Yes, I am performing a minidisc to minidisc digital transfer). Fortunately when I recorded these voice recordings, I used a sample rate converter that turns off the annoying SCMS restrictions. Without it, the minidisc recorder rejects SCMS restricted recordings and AES/EBU professional formats. SCMS is still a reality and it really causes a problem when I edit raw recordings from digital audio tape, compact disc, and minidisc (see my earlier evaluation of the Behringer Ultramatach SRC-2000).

Behringer Ultramatach SRC-2000

TOC updates, editing, recording, and playing media in both minidisc recorders is essentially the same as other minidisc recorders from the user's perspective. The ATRAC algorithms are improved with the MDS-JE480. Using this recorder is a very simple process. All of the controls are in the logical places, and the menus are easy to follow. Entering the LP modes is fairly simple. Unlike the MDS-JE500, the record modes are selected with one button by cycling through the choices. The MDS-JE500 has two switches: Analog / Digital and Stereo / Mono. I think it is a good idea to consolidate all the recording modes into one button with the MDS-JE480.

As of this writing I do not have a HI-MD or, and I am holding out until a full featured home deck is released. Full featured would include digital optical out. The media is still pretty expensive in my opinion. Relative to what a gb of memory costs, the discs are inexpensive. Relative to the cost of other digital recording media (digital audio tape or a recordable compact disc) that store PCM audio, the Hi-MD media is still overpriced. The selling point is that Hi-MD has powerful editing capabilities that the other formats cannot have. Too bad for Sony. No home deck and high cost for the media. I guess they do not learn lessons very well, or they are not very good at product development during there difficult times.

What I like:

MDLP (very cool to have extended play)

Record Pause Mode exits when activity stops

Newer ATRAC codec

Rigorous power supply

Included optical cable

Overall Styling


What I did not care for:

Missing optical out

The restrictive use of the remote

No USB connector

Edited by Linus
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Thank you for the reply. Yeah I looked at it, but I am just not ready yet. I do like the unit quite a bit. I wonder why the optical out is being seen less often.

Well, I don't quite see why you didn't go for the MD-105FX Hi-MD deck, which does all what you stated, with the added bonus of accepting... Hi-MD's. (Hi-SP / LP & PCM)

OK, indeed, your keyboard remote might not work with it, but titling on the provided remote isn't such a chore.

& if you pair it up with other Onkyo components, you get volume & track control on the remote that comes with the amp unit, timed recordings with the tuner unit...

And, although this doesn't affect SQ & might sound shallow, it's design is nicer & is more compact.

Though you WILL need an power converter for it... not so much trouble really.

Good review of yours though. & quite some nice kit you've piled up there.

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The 500 uses a very old version of ATRAC (4.0, I think), so in terms of encoding quality when using SP mode, the 480 will always be much better. The decoders should yield similar results on both units, but given that ADC/DAC technology gets better every year, the circa-1996 decoder chips in the 500 probably aren't as good as the more recent ones on the 480.

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Hey there! Yes you are right on that. I am exclusively recording on the 480. The 500 plays back pretty well too. It seems like the fidelity on playback is better than recording. I guess that is part of the ACTRAc thing. Always a cool format either way. The 500 is still there an running great after all these years. Part of being an early adopter. :)

The 500 uses a very old version of ATRAC (4.0, I think), so in terms of encoding quality when using SP mode, the 480 will always be much better. The decoders should yield similar results on both units, but given that ADC/DAC technology gets better every year, the circa-1996 decoder chips in the 500 probably aren't as good as the more recent ones on the 480.

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