Minidisc recorders

All material copyright Inquit Publishing Ltd 2001-2011

People might think I am a bit obsessive about Minidisc recorders.

The truth is I like them in theory, but get let down by the practice. I am also aware that people often need a good recorder which costs significantly less than £350-450, so I’m going to try and be nice to Minidiscs.

MD recorders can make an excellent recording and even now are still used every day by radio journalists for interviews. The latest Hi-MD system makes easy transfer of the recordings to a PC straightforward and quick, now including Macs too, and you can almost forget that it never used to be possible at all. All you now need to get going is a minidisc recorder with a mic(rophone) socket and an external microphone and you’re off.

Sony has announced thousands of job losses as it concentrates on key product areas. In such turbulent times it’s hard to believe that it is worth developing new MD products, and I’d be very surprised to see any new MD recorders.

In general:

  • Minidisc recorders are small and light, but can be fiddly to operate; most changes to settings are through menu trees.
  • File uploads to PCs are now easy to do but only in SonicStage, the software included in the box. There are now no limits to the number of times you can upload one file.
  • File conversions can be carried out in SonicStage, but it’s still best to record uncompressed.
  • Because they are a consumer device they don’t always work well with professional microphones.
  • Minidisc recorders are now seriously outclassed by card-based digital recorders.

The Minidisc Forum keeps an eye on all things minidisc and is worth checking out.

I heard what is said to be the story behind the MZ-RH1. For years the MD engineers were restricted in what they could do by Sony bureaucrats who were worried about music rights and the need to restrict copying. Then the engineers rebelled and developed the RH1 in secret - the machine they had always wanted to build but were not allowed to. They presented the prototype to management after the money was spent and it was put into production to recoup the costs. They were forbidden to do any more development work on Minidiscs withour express permission from management. It seems likely that permission may not be given.

I had always assumed somethng similar - that there was a department within Sony carrying on developing Minidisc, but they either had been forgotten about or were so small they slipped under the corporate radar. But the result is the same:

  • the MZ-RH1 is almost certainly the best and last Minidisc recorder ever
  • it is being discontinued in autumn 2011.

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