Review of Sony Minidisc Deck MDS-JB940 (QS Series)
I have been a recording enthusiast for many years and have owned open
reel recorders in the past and, at present, a Teac DAT DAP 20
recorder, a Nakamichi BX300 3-head cassette recorder, and a Marantz DR
4050 CD Recorder, all of which give excellent results. I have done a
number of live recordings of classical recitals, especially of piano
and pipe organ recitals. I will continue to use DAT for live music
recordings, but wanted the facility to make digital copies with a
minimum of fuss. The flexibility of MD attracted me, and my first venture into the format
was with a Sony MDS-JE530. I was impressed with the format in general and
with the machine itself, which I felt would easily give better results
than a similarly priced cassette deck.
After 18 months I decided to move up from the MDS-JE530 to a higher
specification machine for various reasons - hopefully for better sound,
and for extra facilities, inputs/outputs etc. I heard good reports
about the MDS-JB940 so decided to invest. The version I have is the "UK
Edition" which according to Sony is "specially tuned for British
Incidentally I generally connect the digital coaxial output into an
external DAC (Musical Fidelity Digilog) and playback bypassing the
internal DAC - this gives more clarity and transparency to the
sound. However the analogue output from the MDS-JB940 is good quality, and
most owners will I imagine use this output.
My first requirement with a piece of audio equipment is Sound Quality
- the ability to give musical involvement. All the features and
reliability in the world won't compensate for unconvincing quality in
this department. Having tested the MDS-JB940 by copying some revealing
CD tracks via the optical input, I can report that the sound (played
through Naim monobloc 135 amplification and Sequerra speakers) is very
good indeed. An A-B comparison with the CD source of course shows the
CD to be a bit fuller and more open, but listening to the MD copy on
its own one isn't aware of this, in fact the sound is dynamic and
detailed with some subtle effects getting through. I played a copy of
an original DAT recording I did of some jazz on a Kawai grand
piano. This is a very revealing test, as solo piano is one of the
hardest instruments to reproduce properly. The bass on the MD copy was
deep and solid, with good transients throughout the whole range - in
short, a good rendering of the original performance.
The LP2 recording mode - which gives double playing time - was
surprisingly good on orchestral tracks taken from CD. Obviously there
has to be some deterioration in quality, but to be quite honest you
have to listen for it, and it's not significant. In the LP4 mode -
quadruple recording time - the sound was less open, but much more
acceptable than I expected. This mode would be ideal for recording
extended FM radio programmes or for background music. A total of
5hours 20 minutes of reasonably acceptable stereo playback can be
extracted from an 80 minute MD, which is nothing short of amazing,
when you think of it.
One of the facilities I disabled is the Auto Cut and Smart Space
(which go hand-in-hand) because I found that recording an FM radio
signal of a live concert where there are breaks between movements
could occasionally trigger the auto cut feature and put the recording
in pause mode, which is not suitable when making unattended
Of the many features, I particularly
No doubt in time this list will be expanded.
- The date/time stamp on recordings, useful for later checking when a recording was made.
- The remote control which has 25 buttons for immediate selection of tracks 1 - 25.
- The solid build of the cabinet, with gold-plated connections at rear.
- The 6 second sound buffer, which ensures that the start of the sound to be recorded is not missed.
- The separate control knob for immediate adjustment to recording level - analogue or digital.
- The SF edit mode, which enables the level of the recorded track(s) to be altered up or down after the recording has been made. This can be used to get more uniform playback levels for tracks on a disc. Fade in and out can also be added.
The overall sound quality is more open than the Sony MDS-JE530
(which was half the cost). The build and added features make the extra
expenditure worthwhile. I have no real criticism of the unit - it
performs well, and once the controls are mastered, a pleasure to use.
For around IR£390 it's great value.