What is a Minidisc, and why use it?

Physical Appearance

    A minidisc is a disc of 64mm diameter inside a plastic shell. The shell is 72mm x 67.5mm x 5mm in size. The Minidisc is based on Magneto-Optical technology, which is essentially a method of recording information by using a laser to alter magnetic information on the disc. In order to alter the information, the disc has to be heated to a high temporature, meaning that if left on a desk near a magnet, it should remain unaffected, unless you heat the disc to the required 180°C.

Minidisc Players and Recorders

    Players and recorders range in size from the incredibly small, to the massive. The smallest recorders fit easily in your pocket with a few blank discs. They offer superb playback quality and some also have facilities to record on the move. Although the recording quality is not as good as on the larger Hi-Fi units, the sound quality is still excellent and is hard to distinguish between compact discs. The Hi-Fi recorders are the "Big Boys" of the minidisc world. They offer the best quality all round. They're also easier to operate due to their large size, and usually have much more versatile editing features. A Hi-Fi MD unit will also have many more connection points so it will link to virtually any other audio equipment you have.

How to use a Minidisc

    Minidiscs are about as friendly as you can get. You want to play one, just stick it in the slot and push play. Recording is just a matter of pressing the Record button. Don't like the order you have recorded the tracks? Soon fix that! Go to the track you want to move, press the edit button until the word "Move?" appears, then click Select. Use the fwd/rev buttons until the display shows the track number you want the music to be and press Select again. Done. Don't like a track? Easy. Go to the track, press edit until "Erase?" appears, click select. You get asked "Sure?" so click select again. Done. You just won't believe how easy they are to use! You can even delete a section of a track, or combine tracks together.

Why a Minidisc and not a Cassette deck?

    Simple. Sound quality for one thing. A cassette doesn't even come close to the sound quality you get from a minidisc. The quality of an MD is so close to a CD that most people can't tell the difference. Then there's editability. If you don't like a track you can just delete it. If you were to try this on cassette you would have to record over the track with another one of exactly the same length. On a minidisc, you delete the track and it acts as though it was never there in the first place. The time the track took up is added to the total remaining time on the disc, which can be used any way you like. You also have titles for each track. Unlike cassettes, the track names are displayed on the MD as it plays, so you always know which track you are listening to. You can also go directly to a track with a quick press on the fwd or rev buttons. No more tedious searching with rewind and fast-forward - you go directly to the track you want in less than a second.

Why a Minidisc and not a CD-R?

    Because with CD-R, once you have recorded on a disc, that's it. With MD you can edit the tracks afterwards, or if you decide you don't like it, just erase and start again. Plus you have titles for each track diplayed on the MD unit as it plays. You can move tracks, erase tracks, combine and split tracks. The only use for CD-R to me, is recording computer data, or copying an MD for somebody who doesn't have an MD player. There is one advantage that CD-R has though - there is no sound compression. Although most people wont notice the degradation of the sound until about the 20th copy with a MD, there is no degradation with CD-R unless you use analogue copying. The advantages you get with MD far outweigh the sacrifice you make with that small bit of sound quality though, because most users make mistakes which can be undone in a few clicks with MD. On a CD-R you would have to start again from scratch.

Why a Minidisc and not a CD-RW?

    Almost the same reasons as CD-R. Ok, you can erase and re-record a CD-RW, but the versatility of a MD still puts it way ahead. CD-RW seems like a CD trying to be a MD but not quite making it. Plus the cost of a CD-RW disc is stupid compared to MD. There's also something of a misconception with CD-RW. It uses a different technology altogether from CD-R and so only specially designed CD players will play a CD-RW disc. There are a few compatibility issues with CD-R, but there are virtually none with CD-RW because they only ever play in CD players designed specifically to take CD-RW.

Why a Minidisc and not a DAT?

    Although DAT undoubtedly offers much better sound quality than MD, an MD is more editable. I would use DAT for recording professionally in a studio, or making masters for duplication. DAT is an expensive medium to use compared to MD. As a professional format, DAT is fine, but MD is far better for the consumer because it's cheaper, will not seem that much different in sound quality to the average listener, and offers much better editing features. There's also another thing to remember about DAT. They may be fantastic quality, but they are cassette based, and as such come with all the inconveniences of cassette such as tedious messing with fast-forward and rewind to find the bit you want, and virtually no editing features. THe only people likely to benefit from the extra quality DAT offers are those mastering recordings professionally for production purposes.

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