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MiniDisc Players / Recorders, Product Reviews

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Portable audio at it's best. MiniDisc players and recorders are a great choice for portable digital audio. Here's some info you should arm yourself with while shopping for the best MiniDisc player recorder.

MiniDisc (MD) is a disc-based data storage device for storing any kind of data, usually audio. The technology was announced by Sony in 1991. MD Data, a version for storing computer data was announced by Sony in 1993, but it never gained significant ground, so today MDs are used primarily for digital audio storage.

Best MiniDisc Player / Recorder - which one should I buy? Browse CleverJoe's Top Pick MiniDisc player/recorder reviews to the right and find the one that turns your personal crank and suits your needs the best.

So what exactly is a mini disc? The audio on a MiniDisc is compressed using the ATRAC format (Adaptive TRansform Acoustic Coding) while a CD contains 16 bit linear PCM audio. ATRAC is similar to other compression formats in that data are discarded according to an algorithm that exploits certain psychoacoustic principles. This is known as lossy compression. Due to limitations in human hearing and perception, some sounds cannot be heard under a variety of conditions, and these data can simply be thrown away without noticeable difference to the recording. Whilst the difference in sound quality could be easily spotted when MiniDisc appeared, today it is virtually impossible to tell, due to vast improvements in the ATRAC algorithm. The latest version of Sony's ATRAC is "ATRAC DSP Type S" (Sharp and Panasonic have their own (but fully interoperable) ATRAC codecs).

MiniDisc has an advantageous feature that prevents disc skipping. Older CD players had once been a source of annoyance to users as they were prone to mistracking due to vibration and shock. MiniDisc solved this problem by reading the data into a memory buffer at a higher speed than was required (the size of the buffer varies from model to model) before being read out to the digital-to-analog converter at the standard rate required by the format. If the MiniDisc player was bumped, playback could continue unimpeded while the laser repositioned itself to continue reading data from the disc. If the memory buffer is sufficiently full, this feature allows the player to stop the spindle motor for long periods, increasing battery life. The memory buffer concept was incorporated shortly afterwards into portable CD players.

Inside a Minidisc player recorder - The disc is permanently housed in a cartridge (6.8 cm 7.2 cm 5 mm) with a sliding door, not unlike 3.5-in. floppy diskettes. The audio discs can be premastered or recordable (blank). Premastered MDs contain audio data and work in a way very similar to CDs. Recordable MDs can be recorded on repeatedly; Sony claims up to one million times. Rerecording is possible through a magneto-optical system. A laser heats one side of the disc to its Curie point, making the material in the disc succeptible to a magnetic field, whilst a magnetic head on the other side of the disc gives the heated area a north or south polarity, equivalent to the 0s and 1s in a digital recording.

The data structure and operation of a MiniDisc is similar to that of a computer's hard disk drive. The bulk of the disc contains data pertaining to the music itself, and a small section contains the User Table of Contents, providing the playback device with vital information about the number and location of tracks on the disc. Tracks and discs can be named. Tracks may easily be added, erased, combined and divided, and their preferred order of playback modified. Erased tracks are not actually erased at the time, but are marked so. When a disc becomes full, the recorder can simply slot track data into sections where erased tracks reside. This can lead to some fragmentation but unless many erasures and replacements are performed, the only likely problem is excessive searching, reducing battery life.

In recent years, MiniDiscs have gained new recording options. One is known as MDLP (MiniDisc Long Play), using a new codec called ATRAC3. In addition to the standard, CD-quality mode, now also called SP, MDLP adds LP2 mode, which allows twice more recording time (160 minutes or 2 hours and 40 minutes on an 80-minute disc) of good-quality stereo sound, and LP4, which allows four times more recording time (320 minutes or 5 hours and 20 minutes on an 80-minute disc) of medium-quality stereo sound.

The bitrate of the standard SP mode is 292 kb/s and it uses full stereo coding with separate left and right channels. For the vast majority of people the sound quality is identical with CDs. LP2 mode uses a bitrate of 132 kb/s and also uses full stereo coding. For most people the sound quality is almost the same as SP. The last mode, LP4 has a bitrate of 66 kb/s and uses joint stereo coding. The sound quality is noticeably worse than the first two modes, but is sufficient for speech or for music listened to on lower quality headphones, small speakers or in the car or other noisy environments. Source material in mono or with at least a narrow stereo image when recorded in LP4 also performs adequately.

Another option is a range of recorders that support NetMD, a standard that allows users to transfer music in a variety of file formats from their computer to their recorder, at high speed. Generally, up to 32x speed is common.

So which MiniDisc Player is the best?

Help yourself find the best MiniDisc player recorder that suits your needs the closest. Sony is still the industry leader for MiniDisc players, and there are some truly great products available today. Browse CleverJoe's Top Pick MiniDisc player/recorder spotlight reviews on the right and find your fit.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from this Wikipedia article.

MiniDisc Player Recorder Reviews
CleverJoe Top Picks:

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Sony MZ-NF610 High Speed Net MD Walkman Recorder
A great choice from Sony is the Net MD MiniDisc Walkman. Store five hours of music on an 80-minute minidisc; use the built-in USB connection for fast recording time. Compatible with MP3, WMA, and WAV music files. Bundled software helps you organize your music by artist, song, style, or tempo. Bookmark function lets you "mark" your favorite songs on the disc in real time during playback. Includes remote control, longlasting rechargeable battery, and a bonus radio/TV/weather-band tuner.

Sony MZNH600D Hi-MD MiniDisc Walkman
Store up to 45 hours of music on a Hi-MD MiniDisc. Record your MP3s or CDs at up to 100x speed. Skip-Free G-Protection technology. Easy jog dial navigation. Mac users should note that the Sony MZNH600D MD is not compatible with the Mac OS system.

Sony MZ-NF520D Net MD Walkman
Store up to five hours digital music and bring it with you on a single, skip-free MiniDisc. This one is a great value. The Net MD is compatible with MP3, WMA, WAV, and ATRAC3 audio formats, and even comes with a MiniDisc so you can start recording right away. USB connection burn rates up to 32x for your MP3s and CDs. A handy Jog Dial provides easy navigation, and the bundled software lets you easily manage all your music.

Sony MZ-S1 S2 Sports Net MD MiniDisc Player
Aimed at the active sports market, this is a great choice for anyone on the go who needs a solid portable audio player. You can run, jog, shake or even drop the case without interrupting the music, and all the controls are on the side, falling naturally under your thumb when you hold the player one-handed. Heavier and more rugged than other MiniDisc players, this one will outlast other MD Walkmans by miles. CleverJoe gives the Sony Sports Net MD MiniDisc Player three rugged, solid, well-built thumbs up.

Sony MZNH900 Walkman, MiniDisc Player Recorder
Portable digital audio with style. The Sony MZNH900 MiniDisc Player is one of the most versatile "walkman's" available, with a whopping 45 hours of skip-free digital audio music. This little gem also includes an AM/FM/TV/weather radio, so you'll always know when to wear yer boots. Recording is a breeze with the built-in USB connection, with burn rates up to 100x for your MP3s and CDs. The Jog Dial is easy to use, and the included "Music Management" software lets you customize your playing environment. Line, mic, mini analog optical inputs make live recording easy. Documents and presentations can also be stored using the built-in USB interface.
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