Jump to content
  • 0

Comparison of MDLP (LP2) playback on 9 different units

Rate this question



Hi all;

I have decided to test some md for their LP2 (MDLP) playing ability. LP2 is a widely accepted format and plays on all units made after about year 2000. It has a comparable bit rate to many digital broadcast sources that advertise as “near CD quality”. So there is interest in listening to different portable units’ ability to sound good playing this format. I have a large collection, of which this is a (hopefully) representative selection.

The list is (ordered as in the picture):

First row:

Sony mz-n505 year 2002

Sony mz-e10 year 2002

Sony mz rh710 year 2005

Sony mz-rh10 year 2005

Second row:

Sony mz-n910 year 2003

Panasonic sj-mr230 year 2002

Sharp md-ds70 year 2003

Sharp im-dr80 year 2003

Not pictured:

Sony mz-rh1 year 2006


I recorded a MD TDK “ M” 80 min with rh1 in LP2 mode. So we do not depend on the recording ability of different units.

Some tracks of classical music are sent to me already encoded as LP2 by sfbp, mostly by direct recording of digital sources through optical input to a Sony full-size MDLP deck: Those tracks were then uploaded, emailed, and downloaded. This means that the bit pattern (once recording is made) is transferred to the disk exactly.

Berlioz – Roman Carnival Overture

Mozart – Piano Sonata in C. K.545

Bach – Christmas Oratorio Part 1

Stanford – Magnificat in C

Bach – Wachet Auf Organ Prelude BWV.645

Scriabin – Piano Conc No.1 in F# 1st movement

Some are recorded by my CD collection, using Sony’s Simple Burner:

Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade

Oregon – Beyond Words – Chesky Records

Brad Mehldau – Songs – Warner Bros

Arne Domnerus – Antiphone Blues – Propius

Richard Galliano – New York Tango – Dreyfus

Steve Grossmann – Michel Petrucciani – Dreyfus

Autunmn in Seattle – Tsuyoshi Yamamoto - FIM

Ella Fitgerald and Louis Armstrong - Verve

Some tracks of Mina

My choice of kind of music isn’t accidental. It is not about judgement, to say one genre is better than another. However in Classical and Jazz music, you can easily hear a solo musical instrument – this is a good test for our comparison purpose. I have also included some wonderful singing.

In my philosophy:

1. the sound of a machine must be well-sounding with no equalization applied to the output circuits by the user.
2. The sound must not be fatiguing to the ears.

Fulfilling these conditions means that the design of these circuits has been excellent.

Corrections of various types can allow a sound improvement under certain conditions. I seek to control the tone, the sound image, overall the sense of good sound. But not for today!

The less electronic items are interposed in the signal path, the cleaner the sound. So I tested these portable MD units without remote, connected directly to a AKG K340 headphones. This also means we eliminated any variations in the remote, although sfbp assures me that the signal path for these remotes to the ‘phones is a pass-through.

The Sony MZ-E10 needs to be connected by remote, we have no choice there.

As reference for the quality of the recordings I used my sound system:

CD Player Naim CDX 2 <a href="http://www.naimaudio.com/hifi-product-type/563">http://www.naimaudio.com/hifi-product-type/563

Pre-amp Klimo Merlino http://www.klimo.com...ent/merlino.htm

Audiophile tube amp Klimo Kent http://www.klimo.com/content/kent.htm

Loudspeaker Tannoy Turnberry SE

I cannot compare directly the portable mds with a hifi amplifier with cost 100 times more and have a weight 1000 times more; this is from a different planet; but hearing the CD samples on my HiFi reminds me what the full sound of a given piece is supposed to be. Unfortunately I cannot reproduce the samples from sfbp through this amp reliably, as I do not have an MDLP deck with optical out – nor do I have an optical input to my amplifier. He says they’re good.


My overall impressions are coloured by my expectations, of course. I was unable to do a blind test where I did not know which portable was being played.

I expected there to be an improvement in sound as this technology evolved over several years; and to me it is clearly audible. I also expected the more expensive units to perform better; they did.

PART 1 - Classical

First I listened to classical music

SONY (by order of year of manufacture)


The sound is flat, muddy, slightly acidic. Hard to differentiate orchestral colours, especially in full orchestra. Acute piano, violin too acute.

Entry-level machine aimed, in my opinion, to people with few financial resources and few requests. Significantly better with MegaBass 1, but for this test we are ignoring that. This is the only Sony unit we tried that is Type-R, all others (below) are Type-S.


The sound set is good but not very precise. Solos are beautiful, piano, violin and also vocal. Good stereo separation.

This unit uses the same optical head as the later HiMD units.

MZ-E10 (using the unit’s remote!)

Sound very crisp, good tonal balance. Full orchestra well balanced. Piano very "alive"; violin solos beautiful. However the sound is very airy and neutral with a feeling of "coldness".

The remainder of the Sony units were HiMD. However it has been commented that the HiMD units reproduce MDLP better than MDLP units (since the technology continued to evolve) – hence their inclusion. All HiMD units include Type-S.


Clear sound with accurate tonal range. Voice well reproduced. Full orchestral balance is excellent. Good piano, very nice violin. Powerful bass without thumping. Stereo image very good.

This is a second-generation HiMD unit. I did not test the first generation (NH7/8/900) yet.


Good overall, no problem with the full orchestra. Clear and well balanced. Excellent

vocals, piano and violin both beautiful. The tonal range seems better than the RH10.

Overall the sound is interesting and most engaging. Addictive, the ear desires more.

This unit has not been sold in North America. A pity.

MZ-RH 1 (same as MZ-M200)

I cannot define the RH1 on the same level as the other devices. Suddenly I lose any feeling that I am listening to a "compressed" sound. This is IT.

This technology has evolved so well. Where is Sony continuing its evolution?




Well balanced sound, full orchestra is a little short on bass register. Instruments well differentiated. Piano, well defined, but a little opaque. Violin good. Vocals beautiful.


Overall the sound is identical to the DS 70.

Some evolution – I noticed more spatial separation and better reproduction of the violin. As well, using the headphones 4-pole Sharp, sound is considerably better, near the best tested. So there is a problem eliminating other influences for purposes of these comparisons.



Sound muddy, narrow tonal range down. Piano opaque little violin and voice.

Has trouble with balance of full orchestra. Not a particularly desirable experience.

(comment from sfbp, who is editing this: even the N505 sounds better than most Ipods. How much of that is the ATRAC codec vs MP3 is unclear, although recent Sony MP3-capable units such as PCM-M10 are very good. Earlier MP3-capable units such as RH10 are less good, but we are not trying to test MP3 today).

Part 2: Jazz Music



Slight improvement on classical music

The sound still sound muddy.

Lack of spatiality.

Piano weak.

Accordion acid

Organ clear

Saxophone clear


Full sound, even if the "cold"

Instruments are not perfectly reproduced.

Fair playback treble and bass.

Good dynamic.

Good sound stage.

Accordion slightly annoying.

Organ clear

Saxophone clear.

MZ-E10 *

Excellent sound overall.

Slight lack of definition of the instruments.

Good dynamic.

Excellent sound stage.

Accordion excellent

Organ clear

Saxophone good.

* Note: Sony mz-e10 must be connected by remote


Beautiful sound.

Very good definition of instruments.

Slight lack of bass.

Great feeling of space.

Good dynamic.

Sound stage "alive".

Accordion excellent

Organ good.

Saxophone good.


Good overall sound setting; looks beautiful

Very good definition of instruments.

Great feeling of space and dynamics

Sound stage well defined.

Accordion excellent

Organ good.

Saxophone good.


We can define a reference point. The only problem: I have the European version and the volume is too low.


MD-DS 70**

Good general approach of the sound, nice, better than classical music on this unit.

Good definition of instruments.

Great feeling of space and dynamics

Sound stage slightly muffled.

Accordion well.

Organ acceptable.

Saxophone good.

IM-DR 80**

Good general approach of the sound, comparable to the DS 70

Good definition of instruments.

Great feeling of space and dynamics

Good sound stage.

Accordion well.

Organ good.

Saxophone good.

** Note: A clarification, using the headphones 4-pole Sharp (special design), sound is considerably better, near the best tested.



Sound mixed, smooth, with little dynamics and low bass response.

Sound stage not focused.

Accordion poor.

Organ unclear.

Saxophone acceptable.



Voice reproduction levels any difference between devices.

In the N505 during the duets the voice appears mixed.

In the MR230, the vocals seem "flat" without character.

In the N910 voices are not perfectly clear.

In E10 voice is somewhat "incomplete".

RH 10, RH 710, DS70, DR80 the voice is good, listenable, with no obvious deficiencies.

The RH1 is still “IT”.


To end the test I listened my wife's iPod touch.

I hear sounds, not music. It is flat, soulless. The two channels are different, but as if I hear two different songs.

Having to give a score to various devices:

4.0 Ipod

6.0 MZ-N505

6.5 SJ-MR230

6.5 MZ-N910

8.5 MZ-E10 MD-DS70 IM-DR80

9.5 MZ-RH10

10.0 MZ-RH710 MZ-RH1

As expected, you can follow an improvement in sound over the passing years as the technology improves.

Obviously the original selling price may affect the characteristics, as high end models will tend to have better components.

Using headphones, 4-pole Sharp, the vote of rises 1 / 2 - 1 point by placing them among the best.

RH1 is wonderful, recommended for those who want a sound "monitor"; always impeccable.

RH710 is not as clean but "feel" sound in my opinion the best, most engaging.

RH10 has a sound very similar to RH1, although not so well calibrated.

The two models of SHARP have a sound "sparkling, cheerful" that does not tire of hearing, certainly there are fans of this sound.

Sergio (with some help from Stephen)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 0

Very nice review. Even if I did help, I contributed no content.

My personal favourite player (for LP2 and other bit rates as well) is the MZ-EH70 which is built like a tank and plays everything flawlessly. It needs the RM-MC40ELK, to make sense of it, however, because it has no screen and few buttons.

I love the MZ-RH910's sound, but I have had a fair amount of grief with this model, and so have others. The RH1 is the undisputed best, but it stays in the drawer and gets pulled out for uploads (of LP2 recordings made on a full size MDLP deck), following the trouble I had with the jog lever (and it appears I am not alone in this). The NH700 is good too, just a little bulkier in the pocket.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

Hi Esphynol,

no, for me the better is rh1; if i want a sound most engaging rh710; Sharp is a really good machine, but have a sound little coloured.

Is NEAR better Sony with 4 pole headphones and this, for me is a limit.

In my opinion, Sharp has tried admirers on a sound alternative setting.

In any case, Sharp machines are excellent.

Have a nice day


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

I owned RH710, but not RH1. BUT most of the time Im listening to S1 and E-55 (E-55 now always giving skip track). I noticed that E-55 and S1 giving more colourful signature in SP compare to others esp (RH710). Or because both have "mega bass"? Im not listening to electronic or techno, most pop, jazz and rock.

Now Im thinking about "acoustic engine vs mega bass "..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

Hi netmduser,

yes, is true, ipod is the last.

The sound have not soul.

If you think to the two brands, Apple produces PC from 30 years, Sony produces audio / video tools from 1955.

The starting philosophy is diffrent; the first form pc to portable music, the other from home music to portable music.

.... and you listen it..........

have a nice day

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Answer this question...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...