How to copy MP3 to MD

    Several methods exist for copying MP3s onto your Minidisc recorder. You have two main choices, which will be dictated by your sound card. If you have a new style sound card with digital output, it is possible to copy to your MD recorder digitally which will usually give you the best reproduction possible. If you don't have a digital output, you will need to an analogue copy. This is not necessarily much worse than digital, although the quality or the recording will be dictated by the quality of the DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) in your sound card. As most copying to MD is done for use with portable MD equipment, this is what I will be concentrating on. There is no difference if doing this with a HiFi MD, other than the cables you will need.

Analogue copying

    First of all you will need a cable with a stereo 3.5mm jack at each end, as shown in the picture above1. This will connect the Line Out of your sound card to the Line In on your Minidisc recorder. Once connected, anything you play on your PC will be sent to the Minidisc recorder. To hdar it, you will need to put your Minidisc into Record Pause mode, and listen through the headphones. Setting the record levels varies considerably in method for each MD, so if you don't know how to do this, refer to your manual. You should now be able to record your MP3 files just by playing them using your normal software, and starting record on the MD. If you are having problems, skip down to the Troubleshooting at the bottom of this page.

1Users of cards such as the Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold, have RCA (phono) connectors on the rear of the sound card, and cable requirements may vary. IF this is the case, you will need a cable such as the one pictured to the right of this paragraph, with a 3.5mm stero jack at one end, and 2xRCA (phono) connections at the other. You will also need this cable if you are connecting a standard sound card to a Hi-Fi system; you will need to have an Aux input (you can use CD, Tuner or Video inputs if you have them, although you must not use the Phono input). If you have a card such as the AWE64 and you are using a HiFi unit, you will need a cable with 2xRCA (phono) connections at each end.

Digital copying

    There are two versions of digital connectors on sound cards; Optical and Coax. Although the method of copying is the same, the way in which you connect the equipment isn't. Please choose either Optical or Coax depending on the connections on your sound card.

Using the optical connection the on sound card.

    If you are lucky enough to have an optical connection on your sound card, you can plug your optical TosLink cable directly into it, and you are ready to record. Some sound cards have options to turn the output on and off, so you should check it is on. Try playing some music and looking at the end of the cable which plugs into the minidisc, you should see light emitting from the tip. If there is not, check the documentation for your sound card to see how to enable the optical output. If there is, then you can plug the cable into the optical input on your Minidisc and start recording straight away. Some Minidisc recorders have record level adjustment for digital input, so make sure you don't have the record level too high, or clipping will occur; recognisable by the clicking/cracking sound upon playback. All you need to do now, is to choose the file you want to record, click record on your MD, and play on your sound software.

Using the coax connection the on sound card.

    If you have a socket on your sound card similar to the one in the picture above, then you may need something to convert the signal into an optical format that you can connect your TosLink cable too. Users of HiFi units can connect directly to this connection using a coax cable, but portable users are not so lucky. Several solutions exist to overcome this problem. The easiest to use is a box that sits between your MD and the soundcard. One such unit is the Midiman CO2 (picture below). Using this unit, you connect a coax cable from the soundcard to the CO2, then connect your Toslink cable from the CO2 to the MD. There are also DIY options available which work out much cheaper, however a small amount of competence with a soldering iron is required. Such projects may only contain 3 or 4 components, and are very simplistic to build.

    Once you have connected up your equipment, you should find that you can just press record on your MD, and play on your music software to start the recording. Some Minidisc recorders have record level adjustment for digital input, so make sure you don't have the record level too high, or clipping will occur; recognisable by the clicking/cracking sound upon playback. If you do not know how to adjust the record level on your MD, check the manual.


Problem Possible Solution
I can't hear anything * Try adjusting the mixer settings on the computer. You may have the volume too low, or have MUTE on.
* Check your cables and make sure you are using the output on the soundcard and the input on the Minidisc, not the other way around!
* Make sure you are actually playing something on the computer.
* If you are listening through your Minidisc recorder, it must be in Record or Record-Pause mode to hear anything.
The sound is distorted * Are the record levels too high on the Minidisc? If they are touching the "Over" or "Clip" area, you will need to reduce them. If you don't know how, check your manual.
* You may have the volume setting too high on your computer. Try turning the volume on the computer down, then turn the record level on the Minidisc up.
* If you are using analogue copying techniques, you may have plugged the cable into the Speaker Out on your sound card rather than the Line Out. Unplug the cable and insert it into Line Out.
* You may have the cable plugged into Mic In on your Minidisc rather than Line In. Unplug the cable and plug it into the Line In socket.
* If the speakers you normally have connected to your sound card are not Hi-Fi grade, you may not have noticed that the file you are trying to record is distorted. Try playing a different piece of music, or playing a CD.
I tried to record more than one track and they were recorded as one * Your Minidisc player needs a gap between tracks to seperate them. When using software such as WinAmp or Sonique, no track marks are sent to the player at the beginning of each track. To create a gap, you need to insert a short silent track of about 2 seconds between each of the tracks in your playlist. You can download one from the Minidisc downloads section of this site.
The track names don't get copied onto the MD *Track names are NOT sent down the cables to your MD, and so the tracks will not be titled automatically. You will need to do this by hand.
Sound quality is poor *If you are using analogue transfer methods, you may be experiencing the effect of having a sound card with a poor DAC (Analogue to Digital Converter). You can try muting every output except the "Wave" output in the mixer, but if that doesn't help your only option is to upgrade your sound card.
One card which is very popular amongst Minidisc users wanting to record MP3 at the moment, is the Xitel Storm Platinum. This card is relatively cheap, sounds great, and has an optical output, making it ideal for Minidisc users not wanting to buy a professional grade sound card. Clicking on this image will take you to the Xitel web site where you can find out more.

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