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.
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.
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.
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.
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.