MiniDisc: An Editable Disc Based Audio System

MD audio's unique strength is that it is based upon a re-recordable disc. Other formats may offer better fidelity (DAT, CD-R), or smaller size (Sony's micro-DAT ``Scoopman''), but what puts MD in a class by itself is its editable disc.

The result is that every casual home MD user now has an audio editing capability that was once the province of high end recording studios. The MD format employs a table of contents (``TOC'') data structure to link sections of audio scattered about the disc into a continuous stream, allowing tracks to be trivially segmented, combined, moved, or deleted, all with an edit point accuracy of 60 milliseconds (12 ms on modern units). Furthermore, space freed by deleted material becomes available for further recording. And unlike studio based editing systems, making use of these features does not require that audio data first be uploaded onto a hard disk, the music on every recordable MD can be edited in situ. If you tire of some tracks, simply delete them with a few button pushes and record new ones, placing them in any order you like on the disc.

At the lowest level, music is stored on the disc in 11.6 millisecond units. The MiniDisc format allows these units to be used two at a time for stereo material (representing the left and right channels), or two in succession for monaural recording, in which case the disc playing time is doubled. Furthermore, these stereo and monaural tracks can be freely intermixed on the disc.

I feel the random-access re-recordable nature of MiniDisc will help it become the recordable consumer audio format of choice, and that it will remain so until solid state recording becomes practical. -Eric Woudenberg

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