MiniDisc Fan Mail

A harmless question from Ted Ching to the MD mailing list ...
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 1996 19:38:34 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ted Ching 
To: MD 
Subject: MiniDisc status??
What does everyone think about the future for MiniDisc?

With recordable DVD coming, the fact that almost no albums are being released on MD right now, I think the future looks pretty bleak. In addition, the unreliability and high price of my MZ-R3 just don't put a smile on my face.

I think Sony has pulled another "Betamax" on us

... provoked an outpouring of good feelings towards MiniDisc, as follows:

From: Scott Clark 

I've been following the list for quite some time now, and finally broke down and bought the MZ-R3 last week. I've only had it for a few days now, but I don't regret the purchase at all. What a fantastic technology. This is destined to do exactly what it was designed for - to replace cassettes.

IMO, the features far outweigh the built-in limitations. It would be great to have access to similar technology that would allow for identical digital copies, but it just ain't gonna happen (cheaply anyway). Maybe my ears are shot now that I'm older, but a first generation copy of the MZ-R3 version of ATRAC sounds wonderful. And it's being refined further? Far out! How can the MD fail? Like Apple's Newton, the bad rap that both got when initially released (too early) have caused people to ignore the subsequent refinements and fixes. The marketing choices seem to have been less than correct too, at least as far as the states are concerned.

The MD is going to work for me. My purchase was triggered by my need for a new walkman-type device for hiking, walking to & from work, riding the bus, etc. The lack of support for pre-recorded discs doesn't bother me at all. I purchase CDs and simply wanted a way to record songs and albums that I already own for my enjoyment on the road. I suppose that I might not be above copying from a friend's collection, but I can guarantee you that if I really like an album, eventually I'm going to purchase it for my collection. Personally the compression limitations aren't going to be a big deal - at least until all of my friends jump on the MD bandwagon and are clamoring for copies of my discs. Since I don't really have any friends it probably won't ever be much of a concern. :-)

I can tell a difference between CDs and MDs, but I'll be darned if I can figure out exactly what it is or even which one I prefer. They are different, but both sound great. I've noticed that I can listen to the MZ-R3 for extended periods of time without the fatigue that would occur with my old discman or my tiny little radio that I carry around. This technology rocks and all of you naysayers out there should do yourself a favor and go listen to a later model of ATRAC. It does what it's meant to do, and does it better than well. I do not regret this purchase at all.

From: "Graham Baker" 

Good One Scott!! It's great to see someone as enthusiastic, like me about this fantastic format. Who cares about pre-recorded titles, like you I use it to compile my own 'CD's and will be buying the CD first to copy from. I own an MZR2 (2.5yr) and a JA3ES (3wk) and am really impressed with the edit versatility and reliability of the format etc.

Last week I took my JA3 to a friends house to do some 'A-B' comparisons on his top end hi-fi. He owns a Perraux amp driving ATC 20's and we spent all night doing blind A-B comparisons with toslink recordings from CD. My friend is very fussy - I mean very fussy. Neither of us could reliably tell which source we were listening to. Sure, on some recordings there was a slight difference, but it was almost impossible to tell which was which!

As far as CD-R - forget it - the blank discs will be priced unrealistically high and are not re-recordable. I have not heard anywhere about recordable DVD - this will be years away, and will still be record once probably. Sony would have had a surefire hit with MD if they had priced it competitively from the start and then MARKETED it with a bit of enthusiasm. If you think MD is expensive in USA, try buying it in Australia! - blank MD's are average $22 - with best price $18 each when buying 5. The official price of the JA3ES was $1999, i shopped around and got a good discount, mainly because the sales guy misquoted the price but stuck to it anyway.

I believe MD is here to stay despite a shaky start. It may not take over from cassette for years but there should be a big enough market with enthusiasts like us to keep it going. Long live MD!!

From: Hiroshi Yasukawa  

From checking Tower Records or Blockbuter Music in the United States, they don't carry much titles, that's true. In Tokyo (where I live) the situation is a little bit different, though - portable MiniDisc player's price is coming down, and new titles are released in MiniDisc, but only the popular ones :-)

From: Scott MacLean 
Subject: MD = Betamax?

Not even close. Recordable DVD is YEARS away. They haven't even got it working reliably in the laboratory, let alone consider developing it as a consumer product.

From: [email protected]

Six months ago I also would have questioned the longevity of the MiniDisc. However with the news of Sony making 1996 the year to push the format with lower prices and higher visibility, my faith is restored. In addition, it seems that I read here or somewhere else that even if the format does not take off, Sony will continue to support it as a "low volume" product.

It should be noted, as also stated elsewhere, that sales of the MD's have doubled over the past year. We will be seeing street prices of @$150 US for portable MD players within the next couple months. Prices on prerecorded MD's have dropped ( at least in the Atlanta area Best Buy stores) to $12-$13. The format is being embraced by the radio broadcast industry both by field correspondents (see the mini disk page) and as a replacement for "cart" machines (both Sony and Denon make MD carts).

In addition as I have mentioned in previous messages, Sony, Tascam, and Yamaha have announced the addition of a four track mini disk recorder intended for musicians as sort of a "mini studio" to make demo tapes, etc. All three of these companies expect to have their units available before the year is out.

Besides Sony, both Denon and Tascam also offer professional rack mount mini disk recorders, and Denon makes the pro portable ( mentioned earlier) model DN-80R.

Denon also makes (again "pro" and outrageously priced) an MD duplicator that makes copies (one at a time) at 3.5 times normal speed. This unit bypasses both the ATRAC compression and the SCMS protection circuitry. It also "derefragments" as it goes from the original to the copy disk.

As far as "unreliability" goes - well I'm sorry that Ted has had problems, but many others on this board will testify (including myself) as to the high reliability our their units.

Regarding recordable DVD, I have not heard ANY announcement by ANY company for such a consumer product. If CD-R is any indication, I hate to thank how long it might be before we would see an affordable DVD-R. And when we do, will we be able to continually re-record over the disks? Will we be able to buy a portable recorder small enough to fit in our pocket? (That's certainly a rhetorical question!) Will we be able to do non-linear editing, and will we be able to do it on that same "pocket size unit"? Truthfully, I don't know the answers to these questions, but I suspect I have some idea.

Current manufactures of consumer MD units include Sony, JVC, Kenwood, Onkyo, Aiwa, Sharp, Clarion, and Denon (I believe there are probably more - someone tell me who I left out). Considering the number of companies that have "joined in", I would take that as a positive sign.

Of course no one can say for certain what is the future of MD, however given the information above, as well as on this board, the mini disk page, the Sony page, the "trends" we are seeing, and the fact that there is enough interest so that we are even discussing mini disk at all, leads me to believe that mini disk will either find a stable niche', or become a flourishing medium for the masses.

From: Richard Huggins 

Sorry to hear you have an unreliable unit, but that doesn't indict the MiniDisc as a viable medium. I have the original portable model, the MZ-1, and it's reliable as heck.

The advantage of (and reason for existence of) the MD format is writability (and non-contiguous writability at that), and writability within even a portable machine (try THAT with a Sony Discman!). Even if a Discman were writable, it would be writable only once.

The only thing close is a portable DAT machine, but even then you have to have contiguous space, you're working with a tape-based medium and you don't have as fast of access times. The MiniDisc is a great idea and basically stands alone in its advantages.

The price of MD I believe will be falling. I think price is the biggest detriment to widespread MD acceptance. Since the other advantages are clear, and since people are more and more at home with handling computer-type disks, why wouldn't it be? I also believe that Sony is very committed to MD, and if nothing else we should always be able to tap into Japanese sources for buying if the U.S. market just doesn't work.

From: "David A. Hensley" 

The availability of pre-recorded titles has very little to do with the "success" of MD. If the manufacturers would lower the price on recorders and blank MDs, MD would do just fine.

It's more complicated that this, however. SONY happens to own several record labels, and probably isn't interested in making it easy or inexpensive for the consumer to record pristine copies of CDs.

From: "cmathews" 

I've been following MD since it's conception (I had an MZ-1, and now have an MZ-R2), and the future of Mini-Disk is brighter that it has been in a long time. Blank media prices are finally dropping, which I think is the main key, and it looks as if Sharp is going to start pushing it as a replacement to the computer floppy, which would really drop blank media prices. Also Sony plans to re-introduce MD in the U.S.

Recordable DVD???? Your Dreaming!!!! You'll be lucky to see non-recordable DVD anytime in the next several years. If recordable DVD comes out, people will probably say it's going to be replaced by the next new thing to come along, meanwhile everybody will still record on cassette. It's seems we all fall prey to the hype about the next new media that will supposedly come along. One of the reasons MD is taking so long to catch on is because foolish people are always waiting for the next new thing to come along. Why wait for something that will probably never happen. What's wrong with the MiniDisc format? Do you really need to record 488 minutes on a single disk?

From: "Jeff Wong" 
So far, my MZ-R3 is quite reliable. As for the MD format itself, technically, it's probably one of the most worthwhile formats for consumers. It's another story for professional studios. But MD has allowed us to do many things that used to cost many times more.

Although the sound is compressed and quality suffers lsight degradation. Try finding another CONSUMER product that comes close. The only thing would probably be a high-end tape deck with $$$ tapes. But then you're at the disadvantage of the complications with tapes (longevity, no random access, etc.).

I don't think it is fair comparing MD to the cost of cassette medium or other cheaper mediums like many people tend to and say it is expensive. I'm not saying MD is cheap, but the price is just reasonable.

I think MD will be successful. Now that prices have dropped slightly, at around the $500-$600 range. It's comparable to a high-end tape deck. Will attract quite a lot of people I guess.

From: "Mark Bishop (LP Lab)" 
cmathews writes: | Do you really need to record 488 minutes on a single disk?

Actually, this statement makes me want to jump into this thread.

Here's one of the biggies that I think hurts the MiniDisc... I was telling a friend about my adoption of the MiniDisc format and how much fun that I was having with it and the first thing they say is "I've heard that MiniDiscs don't sound very good."

The thing that disturbs me is that this person is about as far from an audiophile as one can get. To them, cassettes sound just fine. I think the audiophiles have bashed the MiniDisc's sound quality so hard and so often that even folks who couldn't tell the difference or could even care less think that the MiniDiscs sound bad even before they've heard them!

Recordable DVD, though way off in the future, has been promised by many audio manufacturers and there are proposals on the table to take advantage of that extra space. Long playing times are but one use. A 96 KHz sampling rate with 20 or 24 bits per sample is also being proposed. Of course, the audiophiles love this and are foaming at the mouth to get their hands on such a thing.

Keep in mind, however, that even if such a thing were to be, DVD's are still five inches in diameter, just like CDs, and *not* encased in a protective shell, just like CDs. It will be physically impossible to build DVD players as small as MD players and the missing shell for DVDs will create the same handling problems that CDs have. In fact, it might be worse. I've seen no reports about how susceptible DVDs are to fingerprints and surface scratches. Because of their high density, they might be more sensitive.

From: [email protected] (Roger T. Williams)

 >copies, but it just ain't gonna happen (cheaply anyway).  Maybe my ears are
 >shot now that I'm older, but a first generation copy of the MZ-R3 version
 >of ATRAC sounds wonderful.  And it's being refined further?  Far out!  How

I just had to comment on this. I bought an MD kind of on a whim and then I started finding out later what it really was that I was listening to. I am 30. But, my first thought was, "This sounds beautiful!! Maybe it's just that my ears are shot." I had a really good laugh finding out someone else thinks so, too. So, maybe that's just a good way to rationalize that these things are really great. I really agreed with all of your comments on your MD purchase. Thanks for giving them to us.

From: Scott Butler 

Good thread....I'm incredibly happy with my MD equipment!


I've been recording at home for years, with analog tape. I like to make collections off my CDs to take with me on the road, and I was never quite happy with my analog tapes. The disadvantages are numerous: no direct access to tracks, they never seemed to sound as good (although I've got a fairly good Sony 3-head deck), and they wore out really quickly. I never felt comfortable recording on a tape more than once, and they had a nasty tendency to develop drop outs (or get eaten altogether) fairly often. I spent a lot of money buying blanks!

Then my company got a Yamaha CDR-100 CDROM recorder. I thought *that* would be *it* - I could record my own CDs - no problem! Wellll....not quite. Not only does this approach require a LOT of disk space on a high-performance disk drive with a high-performance (read: expensive) SCSI adapter, but the process is an ENORMOUS pain in the ass! I made two favorites compilations (Steely Dan and Van Halen). The Van Halen took an entire day to make....since reading the CD audio over the SCSI bus averaged about 15 minutes or more for a 4-5 minute song....and some songs just wouldn't read at all, even when I forced the CDROM drive (a NEC 6x) down to single speed. The Steely Dan took even longer. And the source discs were in pretty average shape.....

Recording a CD from an analog source (some very low-fi 10-year-old old tapes of my old band rehearsing - a real labor of love, believe me) had its own set of problems. I used a utility to record from a Soundblaster directly to the hard drive. This was a piece of cake - at first. The hassle came in divvying the tracks up for the CD. The Easy CD Pro software we had gave you NO control over a CDs table of I had to go back and painstakingly cut the tracks individually into WAV files and then put *those* on the CD......

The CD thing just didn't work out.

Finally I took a deep breath, dug deep, and forked out the money to get a Sony MDS-302 and an MZE3 - and I'll never look back! Pop my CDs in my CDP-445, program the tracks, hit syncro start on the remote, and the digital data flows straight out of the fiber optic cable on my CD player and right into the MD. No fuss, no muss - the tracks are marked automatically, the sound quality is, as far as I'm concerned, just about indistinguishable, and the convenience of moving/ rearranging/ playing around with the tracks instantly is just irresistible! They're great on the road - my MD player and 10 or so MDs fit easily into a butt-pack for plane trips or long car rides....and I've yet to skip a minidisc.

This is good stuff that really deserves to take off and make it big. Hopefully Sony's new price drops for the equipment and media will help things along.

Sorry....I'm preaching to the choir here.....

P.S. I found a long lost tape of my band the other day while cleaning out my office - 45 minutes of burps, miscues, chatter, and even the occasional tune here and there. Call me an MD geek, but needless to say it was a *treat* (well, for me, anyway!) saving this for posterity on a minidisc!


Further comments off the 'net

From           [email protected] (Janus J. de Cunae)
Subject	       MiniDisc resurgence?
Organization   Netcom
Date           Thu, 11 Jul 1996 20:49:20 GMT

All I can add is that when MD came out initially the reviewers gave it low marks, and that basically turned me off from investing into the format. One day I passed by J&R in NY and for the hell of it bought a portable (Sony MD-R2 which has Atrac 2, I believe); I just couldn't resist a disc format that was not only convenient, but also claimed longevity--so I'd have to give up some quality, big deal. I would mostly use it to preserve old tapes anyway.

When I heard the quality of the format, I was astounded. All the numbers in all the reviews amount to basically nothing. One has to own, use and hear the format to truly appreciate it. My belief is, that most of the critics have never heard an MD recording. I'm sure there are some sonic differences between CD and MD, but so what: the differences are surely lesser than between tape and CD (MD's are supposed to replace tape--remember?). I also doubt, that most critics of the format would be able to tell which is which (i.e. CD/MD test), although they might be able to tell a difference.

Regards, Janus de Cunae

Return to the MiniDisc Community Page.