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Why Sony Should've Put Its Weight Behind Hi-MD 519

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the hindsight-is-perfect dept.
An anonymous reader writes "OSNews has an article making a case for Hi-MD: 'Currently, .mp3 players are all the hype. Everyone has one, and if you don't, you're old-fashioned. I do not have an .mp3 player. I tried to have one, but for various reasons it did not please me. I'm a MiniDisc guy. I've always been. MiniDisc has some serious advantages over .mp3 players, whether they be flash or HDD based.'"
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Why Sony Should've Put Its Weight Behind Hi-MD

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  • by JediLow (831100) * on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:24PM (#15047929)
    One thing the article completely forgets - ipods aren't the only mp3 players on the market. All the different advantages (except actually having a disk) that it describes already exist in other models/brands of mp3 players (I've used my iRiver for recording and storage - which it gets read as an external hard drive, thus avoiding the issues the article has)... but don't exist in the ipod. But, thats what the masses do don't they? Every mp3 player is an ipod to them. Back to reality - outside really liking the minidisk format, there aren't that many reasons for using it over a mp3 player.

    Why do I use a HD mp3 player? It stores a large amount of music. I don't want to have to juggle around dozens of cds or in this case minidisks, I have over 15 gigs of music on my mp3 player and I don't have the time to find the disk that I want when I want to listen to certain things, nor does the space it takes to store all the disks appeal to me. I like having a device which can store large amounts of data - after trips with groups I'll normally get a dump of all the pictures that the group has taken and put them on my mp3 player to transfer.

    I've tried the mp3 cds (which was giving me 700 megs of storage compared to the 305 megs you get from older minidisks using the hi-md format), but I ended up having too many... and when I wanted to add music to it it meant that I had to burn a whole new disk... and I just plain didn't like using it... and my mp3 player has proven to be a whole lot more solid than any cd player I've come across (I've dropped it many times, left it out in my car through all the extremes of Michigan's weather, and its still been great).

    • by bigman2003 (671309) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:46PM (#15047997) Homepage
      I've owned 4 MiniDisc players, and I will say that they *could* have been great.

      I loved the hardware- for the time they came out they were the smallest thing out there. The removeable disks did provide an 'unlimited' amount of storage. The battery life was awesome.

      But as the author of the article mentioned, the achilles heel of the whole operation was the software.

      SONIC STAGE *is* a steaming pile of shit. There is no way around that- it is one of the worst pieces of software I have ever used. And because you are forced to use Sonic State to use a MiniDisc player you are completely screwed over.

      At the time I bought them (3-4 years ago) the hardware was A++. But the software is so crappy I would give the whole thing a D+.

      Sony can really manage to screw some stuff up. And that is one reason I am not excited about the PS3 with Blu-Ray.

      (Why did I buy 4? Well, the first one was great, but I lost it after only 2 days. So when I bought another one, I also picked one up for my wife and daughter.)
      • by ericdano (113424) on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:02AM (#15048037) Homepage
        I jumped off the MiniDisc ship after the promised HiMD recorder were to allow you to transfer back to the computer via USB. It did....sorta. Unless you had a Viao, you couldn't burn a CD of your recordings. And if I remember correctly, it was something like nearly a year until Sony allowed you get get recordings out of Sonic Stage.

        I decided to get a recorder that recorded to Compact Flash, the Marantz PMD660. Great unit.
        • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:26AM (#15048114)
          Just got a 1Gb keychain mp3 player/fm radio/voice recorder/jump drive all in one. Pretty pleased with it. It was cheap (made by some Chinese no-name company) but it works great for me. If it breaks I'll just get another one for just as cheap or cheaper. It has not moving parts, so it can handle being dropped, already happened and still works.

          I can also live with about 128 kbps mp3s or even 96 kbps for some songs and I can fit enough albums on this thing to keep me happy for weeks, then I change them around. If I need space to transfer files, I just delete the music folders and use it as a jump drive.

          I think the people are buying iPods just because their friends have iPods and they don't know that there other such "toys" out there with a different set of features that might work better for them.

          • by mrchaotica (681592) on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:57AM (#15048196)
            I think the people are buying iPods just because their friends have iPods and they don't know that there other such "toys" out there with a different set of features that might work better for them.
            Either that, or maybe they actually like the unique features that the iPod has, namely, synchronization with iTunes. I know that seems like a revalation to all the people around here who think anyone who willingly buys a player that doesn't support Vorbis is a raving lunatic, but you know what? It might just actually be true!
            • by nemui-chan (550759) on Monday April 03, 2006 @09:04AM (#15049279) Homepage
              As an owner of an ipod and an iRiver, I can honestly tell you that iTunes, while being nice for the general user, sucks for those of us that would like to be able to just copy music to a folder on our mp3 player and go.

              That being said, the dynamic playlist generation in iTunes is by far one of the coolest features I've seen in software for an mp3 player. I can flag all my "most played songs" or flag all of my highest rated songs for a playlist. Want to rate your music? Create a dynamic playlist of unrated music. These playlists get updated everytime you sync your ipod to iTunes as well.

              While this was a cool feature, I still intalled Rockbox http://www.rockbox.org/ [rockbox.org] on my ipod so I could use it as a portable hard drive and just copy my music to a folder.

              • I totally fail to understand the appeal of managing your music that way. iTunes' database completely abstracts me from the location of any given track, and I can get to any given track by searching the metadata, whose cleanup is made pretty straightforward by iTunes.

                So, from my perspective, dragging folders around to manage music seems like turning a big crank on your car to start it. Sure, you could do it that way, but WHY?
          • by SoloFlyer2 (872483) on Monday April 03, 2006 @01:13AM (#15048244)
            I have also been very hapy with my Sandisk Sansa e140

            It has a base of 1Gb storage which is expandable using sd cards (so really its got unlimited storage), it has fm radio and works as a usb storage drive for both the onboard 1gb storage and for the connected sd card...

            I have 3 sd cards which have each have different types of music on them and i have music that i listen too more often stored on the base flash drive

            The SD cards beat the HELL out of sonys HI-MD as there are many many different sizes depending on what you want and they are solid state...

            linky for those interested
            http://www.sandisk.com/Products/Item(1208)-SDMX2-1 024-Sansa_e140_Digital_Audio_Player_1GB.aspx [sandisk.com]
    • by Tezkah (771144) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:49PM (#15048008)
      See, if they would have added MP3 and Mac Support 3 years ago I wouldn't have replaced my minidisc with an iPod.

      The reason i dumped it (besides the hardware which eventually died) was because the ONLY way to get software on it was through the buggy Windows-only Sony Software that came with it.

      Sorry Sony, even if you do fix the problems with it, you're way too late. I got a taste of the high capacity iPod with the extremely easy to use iTunes software and i'm never going back. Good luck with the whole rootkit things though.

      This is one of the problems with Sony, they're in too many businesses. Their Music division has longed forced them to cripple their electronics division, or be exclusive to their record label. When one arm of your company is installing rootkits on your computer to prevent you from ripping CDs to mp3, would you really trust that same company with your mp3 device? I don't.
    • by trolleymusic (938183) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:54PM (#15048021) Homepage
      I have an IRiver ihp140 and the recording function is brilliant. I can record as mp3 or (up to) 44.1Khz 16bit stereo wav using the inbuilt microphone, an external microphone (one was supplied, but any one with a 3.5mm plug is fine), an external audio source (ie: line in) or a digital audio source using optical in.

      I've recorded lectures, a couple of concerts and when my band practices I records all jam sessions just in case we want to review something.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:04AM (#15048040)
      You are aware the iPod gets read as an external hard drive? Oh, wait, you don't have one. Yet you're an expert on them.

      This article is crap. iPods have flash storage in one incarnation. So, don't think a hard drive is sturdy enough? Buy the flash model. Space? The author admits a MD hold less than 350 MB. That's half a regular CD. Smallest iPod -- the 512 MB shuffle. More than that single MD disc -- and a MD player can only hold on MD disc at a time. Want to swap out that disc to increase your library? Do the same on an iPod -- hook it to your computer and you have a universe of music you can put on it. So, using the same logic behind the statement "MiniDisc offers unlimited storage space" means an iPod offers infinite storage space. Recording add-ons are available for the iPod (if you want to use your iPod for that). Battery life? Well, this article certainly does not do a scientific comparison. MP3 playback? Sony's history is to not really allow a device to play back MP3 without significant inconvenience. That has not changed, as the article author readily admits. It goes on and on, not coming up with anything meaningful to put in the MD column. Sony has put its weight behind MD and it has had some okay success in the past (especially overseas). Its present is mostly a consequence of these vested users. But people are all moving to flash or hard drive based music devices because of the very real world advantages in price and convenience due to storage space economies of scale and easy computer integration. Sony's solution is proprietary, in the bad sense of that word. And, by now, hopelessly out of date.

      MiniDisc is not the iPod killer you are looking for.
      • If you actually read the article you would have read this line:

        "The new Hi-MD format offers 1GB per disc"...

        The line that you are holding against it is this one, again, you should actually have read it:

        "In fact-- formatting an ordinary MD using the Hi-MD filesystem actually doubles its original capacity from 170MB to 305 MB!"
    • PDA's, FTW! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      In this day and age, I simply can't understand why ANYONE with an ounce of taste and technical knowledge would buy an device that can only play music, regardless of how many formats it can support.

      My AU$250 PDA (sure, I bought it off eBay, but that's not the point) is LESS than the RRP AU$389 for a 4GB iPod Nano, has survived umpteen drops and falls, which a HDD-based music player of the same physical size would not be able to do.
      You can get 4GB SD memory-cards now, the same size as the largest iPod Nano, a
      • Re:PDA's, FTW! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by JediLow (831100) *
        For devices... I go for the quality. I know I can get a PDA/phone/mp3 player/camera/whatever, but I really don't want one device that does everything - I want separate devices which do their job well instead of one device which does a dozen things weakly. What actually got me to get a mp3 player was when I was using my old Tungsten T as an mp3 player, I couldn't get the storage I wanted and while it did it, it didn't do the job great.

        If you want to go for the comparison against a PDA:

        Battery life:
        HD

    • that it describes already exist in other models/brands of mp3 players (I've used my iRiver for recording and storage - which it gets read as an external hard drive, thus avoiding the issues the article has)... but don't exist in the ipod.

      What features are you talking about that don't exist on an iPod? You can record on an iPod, and the iPods are really quite rugged - and there are thousands of different protective cases available. the iPod is also not tied to iTunes. The article was uninformed about the iP

  • by linuxbaby (124641) * on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:26PM (#15047938)
    Important to note that even this MiniDisc fan-boy points out downsides to MiniDisc that completely kill it for most of us:
    Even though each Hi-MD player can be used as a mass storage device under windows, Linux, OSX, and even BeOS, you cannot just drag/drop .mp3s onto it. You are forced to use SonicStage. And of course SonicStage is only available on Windows
    then he ends with this:
    Now, it's all too late. I'm afraid MiniDisc will slowly but surely die out.
    Oh well.
    • by distributed (714952) on Monday April 03, 2006 @01:05AM (#15048218) Journal
      Found this interesting article [minidisc.org]
      Quoting:

      "We did finally make the Minidisc machine everbody knew Sony was capable of," said Miyazaki, "but at a considerable cost." Some members of Sony's vaunted Shinagawa engineering labs have apparently felt the burden has been too high however; since January over two dozen engineers and scientists have left to join Google Japan where, it is rumored, a wireless portable audio device with a wow-factor exceeding the iPod is under development."

      Now why isnt this on the frontpage instead of MD's sad death. :-(
      So many bad things have happened to Sony just because of the constant struggle with the Entertainment division.. crapping up so much innovation. Google could prolly be THE company to set things right in portable music.
    • Other Downsides... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138) on Monday April 03, 2006 @01:26AM (#15048281) Homepage
      A: Doesn't store as much as HD-based MP3 players.
      B: Isn't as fast or durable as Flash-based MP3 players, for slightly less space.
      C: Isn't as cheap as CD-based MP3 players.
      D: Software is so bad it should be criminal. Used Sonic Stage to transfer MP3's to a Sony PDA. I now own a Treo.
      E: Zero compatibility with anything but other Sony MD players.
      F: Not all that small, really.

      Basically, like the Memory Stick, the MiniDisk doesn't do anything better than any of the offerings out there. It tries to be middle-of-the-road, but manages to be nothing special.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:27PM (#15047939)
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2003/05/28 [penny-arcade.com] God bless Penny Arcade!
  • Sorry, but no... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:29PM (#15047946)
    Flash-based MP3 players have the ability to equal or better MiniDisc players on every single count - reliability, size, weight, upgradeability, shock resistance, water resistance, speed, versatility (how many computers have built-in MiniDisc drives, versus built-in flash readers), etc. etc.
    • My Walkman works for over 70 hours on one AA battery. I will _gladly_ (I'm serious here) buy MP3 player if you'll tell me which one comes close to that. Half the time could be enough...
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:31PM (#15047950) Homepage

    I wouldn't trust Sony no matter how good their format is, really, simple because of the fact that their formats, such as Memory Sticks, tend to be compatible only with their hardware, they don't like other formats, and there's none of that competition that makes the free market work so well. If I put music in an unsupported format on a Minidisc, I would have to re-encode, losing quality even more.

    MP3 players work fine. As I mentioned before, I purchased an iAudio U2 [amazon.com], which cost only a hundred and gets me MP3, WAV, and even Vorbis support (something I'll never see from Sony).

    Finally, Sony's prices are a little too high for an item that's sure to get knocked around a lot. I'd rather have to replace a $100 MP3 player than a $300 machine from a company

    • I also distrust Sony (probably not as much as you), but your comment hints that you might not know what Sony's current MiniDisc format (Hi-MD) can do.

      their formats, such as Memory Sticks, tend to be compatible only with their hardware,

      This is also somewhat true for Hi-MD, but I think Hi-MD player/recorders are reasonably priced [sonystyle.com] (start at $200) when you consider their high-quality recording capability. Also, 1GB re-recordable Hi-MDs are dirt cheap [sonystyle.com].

      they don't like other formats,... If I put music in

  • No way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:32PM (#15047956) Homepage
    The last thing Sony needs is a new proprietary format (hardware or software). Hard drives can be re-written much quicker than optical media, and no-one wants to buy a device whose media may become obsolete within a few years. If people want a lot of storage capacity they'll get a hard drive based player, if they want quick loading times and durability they will get a flash based player. If they want to buy preloaded physical media, they will buy a format that's been around a while (cds).
  • by Saxophonist (937341) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:35PM (#15047971)
    About a year and a half or so ago, I was looking semi-seriously at buying a MiniDisc recorder of some kind. A couple of people in the saxophone studio where I study had them, and it could really be handy for portable, off-the-cuff recording and playback of practice sessions, which is what I wanted it for.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't find one in production that fit my needs. I could not find any assurance that I could do what I wanted with a MiniDisc player from specs I was seeing online. I eventually figured out that the people who had the MiniDisc recorders all got them overseas (Japan for sure, maybe Australia as well?). I see the article author does have a recorder; I wonder if that's new or something, or if he got it somewhere other than the U.S. as well.

    I have no other reason to want one of these devices, and with Sony's reputation of late, I don't need one that badly anyway.
    • Honestly, why would you need a minidisc for this? If you're trying to record practice sessions, it means you're already lugging your sax with you. You can't find room for a portable DAT deck? Heck, even the much praised sony from this article makes one about the size of an old-school walkman.

      Minidisc is a niche format with a cult following - DAT is an industry standard. Use it to record and you will be able to pop into just about any halfway decently equipped studio or theater sound booth and work with
      • Honestly man, DAT is dead as well. All the high end and good low end stuff records either to Hard Disks or Compact Flash. Marantz, Fostex, Edirol, etc. all use them.
      • You can't find room for a portable DAT deck?

        I'm with the OP on this. I was looking for a portable recording system a while back and considered MDs because they're cheap, compact and go a long time between batteries. Trouble is, they're also hard to find with manual recording levels. As far as DAT goes, I was advised to try the Tascam DAP 1. It was OK, but costs more than A$2,500 and is fairly bulky. The SonyPCMM1 seemed OK, but the recording level dial was a bitch to set up. Anyway, with any of the DAT ge

    • I would suppose that every price quoted in the linked article is in euros, and that logically, his acquisition of that unit was indeed not in the US.
    • Using a MiniDisc for recording is a bad idea anyway, since there is no way whatsoever to digitally extract them. The only thing you can do is re-record the disc's content from analog line-out.

      Yet another proof that MiniDiscs could've been so much more if only Sony weren't such total dicks.
  • Enough of proprietary formats that lock you into one brand of hardware... whether it's called MD, UMD, ATRA or anything else (frankly, even AAC).
  • by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:45PM (#15047992)
    As long as Sony continues to be run by the record label division, Sony, the consumer electronics innovator, is going to die.
    The article forgets to mention the idiotic copy restrictions that MiniDisc players have along with the mentioned ATRAC/soundstage/can't drag 'n drop files limitations. They are basically shooting themselves in the foot because the record label is paranoid about copying. Nevermind MD, whatever happened to my cheap DAT device?
    If Sony wants to survive as a consumer electronics company it should split from the music label.
  • by alienw (585907) <alienw.slashdot@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:46PM (#15047999)
    It's painfully obvious that the author of the article is still stuck in the 90s. Of course, most people that haven't owned an iPod also think this way. The main thing with an iPod (or any HDD-based music player) is that you have _all_ your music on it. You are not limited to the songs on a particular disc, and you can find any song in your collection in under 20 seconds. Not to mention, this is all on one compact device. I guess if I wanted to look like a dork and carry around 30 1GB minidiscs, swap them every 5 minutes, and deal with the hassle of remembering which music is on which disc, I would go with that format. Not to mention that at Sony prices, a player and 30 minidiscs would probably run you a lot more than $300. But hey, you get to stand out from the crowd by being the guy with a dorky player.
    • I'm not pro-MiniDisc (I hate them), but your argument just plain sucks. Not everyone wants to pay $300+ for a digital music player that can hold all of our music library. Some of us consider it a waste of money and are perfectly okay with a smaller, more affordable device with modest storage space.
    • All my music wouldn't fit on the largest IPOD available -- assuming I could afford it and wanted to scroll through hundreds of artists at a time.

      I cannot concieve of a situation where you would need 30 minidiscs. You'd have maybe 5 and fill them as your mood dictated.

      Additionally, you aren't as likely to put a harddrive head through a platter during high impact activity with a minidisc player. (Flash is your best bet of course.)
      • Your post doesn't make much sense. You have more than 60GB of music, but you can fit it on 5 minidiscs? That's ignoring the fact that your collection would be extremely easy to manage through iTunes, that the iPod interface is designed to handle hundreds of artists, and that you aren't going to destroy a hard drive with any reasonable activity (short of dropping it on concrete from 6 feet). The iPod has like a 32 MB RAM buffer, so it only spins up the hard drive once every 15 minutes or so.
      • I cannot concieve of a situation where you would need 30 minidiscs. You'd have maybe 5 and fill them as your mood dictated.

        Which is much easier on an MP3 player. Instead of filling 5 separate discs, you just set up your software to autmoatically change the contents of the HDD or Flash memory as your mood dictates. Essentially, unless you are on a desert island and don't ever go near a computer, an MP3 player has "limitless" capacity - and it is much easier to manage.

    • That's exactly what I was thinking while I read the article. No way would I ever return to a music player that requires me to carry discs around, and shuffle through them looking for whatever I want to hear. The genius of the iPod is that you put all your music -- everything you own -- onto your computer, in your iTunes library. Everything is organized in the computer. Then the iPod updates every time you charge it. It's effortless. Or at any rate, it's a lot less effort than trying to manage a shelf

    • Just an honest question: what is this new perceived need to carry around (and be able to listen to) your own music at any time?

      Is it expressing individualism, blocking out other audible stimuli or something else?

      I just don't get it - I prefer to listen to the music that I enjoy and focus on it, not use it as background noise in a work environment or (worse) while walking, cycling or driving.
      • Just an honest question: what is this new perceived need to carry around (and be able to listen to) your own music at any time?

        It's not that "new" considering the Walkman has been around in one form or another for almost 30 years.

        In my case, it's because I know what I like to listen to better than the radio stations do.
    • Wow, you run through a gigabyte of music in five minutes?

      Must be some kinda reverse compression system you've got going on there.
    • "I guess if I wanted to look like a dork and carry around 30 1GB minidiscs, swap them every 5 minutes, and deal with the hassle of remembering which music is on which disc, I would go with that format. Not to mention that at Sony prices, a player and 30 minidiscs would probably run you a lot more than $300. But hey, you get to stand out from the crowd by being the guy with a dorky player."

      Oh noes I got teh dorkies! Nows I'll never get laid!

      You are very funny.
  • Greed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Detritus (11846) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:46PM (#15048000) Homepage
    The hardware looks nice but the overall product is ruined by Sony's greed and paranoia. I'm not going to buy something that was designed on the assumption that the user is a criminal and can't be trusted.
  • by CoolGuySteve (264277) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:47PM (#15048002)
    I had a NetMD player a couple years ago and I don't think the article goes into enough detail about just how bad SonicStage really is. The interface was some crazy non-standard flash thing that ran really slow, it crashed all the time, and you had to do some weird check-in thing that would only let you burn an mp3 to 3 disks before you had to "check out" one of the copies by removing it for the disk.

    It's seriously one of the worst pieces of software I've ever used. I ended up creating 1GB audio cd images of my mp3s and then ripping them using a less offensive piece of Sony software. But eventually, it got to the point that I just stopped making new disks and got tired of the ones I had. The NetMD player ended up in a drawer for many months until I gave it away and bought a Rio Karma.

    I read a few reviews before purchasing but I figured the software couldn't be THAT bad. I was wrong. The battery life and the price of media were amazing though and it was a nice little piece of hardware for the $130 I paid.

    As an aside, the player skipped whenever I kept it in my shorts pocket, it wasn't as bulletproof as I thought it would be from reading reviews. It skipped way more than my Karma but the Karma's harddrive eventually died so I maybe I unwittingly vibrate like a paintshaker or something.
    • I totally agree with all of the parent's comments about the software. I mean, to put MP3s on your NetMD, you had to let Sony's cruddy software convert all of the files from MP3->some sony format (i.e. guaranteed quality loss), and then you had this bizarre check-in/check-out system to control how you used it. The software was bloated, impossibly user-unfriendly, and generally just awful.

      In fact, I would go so far as to say that when all of the Sony minidisc players became NetMD-type players I stopped usi
    • I feel I should amplify the parent's comments further. SonicStage isn't one of the worst pieces of Windows software, it is the worst . The software has numerous versions where many times one version or another will not install on a particular computer only to find that an earlier or later version will. I cannot over-emphasize how bloated, bug-ridden and completely and utterly unreliable this software is.

      I bought one of the first Sony NetMD models and as an experienced computer support professional with yea
    • You should get that checked out dude, you might have Parkinson's.
  • OK, so a minidisc is only a few Euros, or $5 for 1 gig. This is several times the cost per gig of a DVD, and significantly more that a CDRW. A minidisk player is at least $200, while a CD player can be had for $20. If the CD player breaks, who cares, buy another for $20 If a CD gets damaged, who cares, burn another for $.25.

    As far as durability, I have dropped my iPod anumber of times. The iPod costs less than a Minidisk player and has the capacity of multiple disks, without the hassel of carrying ext

  • Sigh.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by superkpt (958938)
    I've also been a Minidisc 'fan' since day 1. I'm on my 4rd unit now. I'll be brutally honest. The only reason I still have the damn thing is because it cost me about 300 bucks. I'm on the verge of getting a flash-based MP3 player. The arguments in the article of MD vs. other players isn't entirely with merit. But the author does cite some advantages that were great a couple of years ago. But with flash-based players out in the market, the advantages of MD diminish. Sony DID have the ability to push
  • by Llamakiller-4 (267848) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:51PM (#15048014)
    Nearly all Mp3 players (if they record at all) are limited to voice recordings.
    If you want to record music and lots of it, MiniDisc is the way to go.
    Leave the expensive DAT for others, a Minidisc can get you up and running with
    live recording and onto CD in no time.
    Im not a fan of all their Atrac stuff, nor am I a fan of Sony's constant annoying
    search to create their own standard. Some day companies will learn there's more to
    gain from open standards than a gamble on closed standards. Sony for instance loses
    nearly every time.
    Betamax, Sony Memory Stick, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
    My new Minidisc from Sony is more open than their previous models.
    Works great - musicians, HiMd with Mic Input ! Great sound, on the cheap.
    Lk4
    • Why not use what everyone uses, a laptop? Its a cheap multitrack recorder on a machine that someone has already bought for school/work and far better quality than minidisc. This is the first i've heard of using a minidisc as a band.. Hell you can get a maudio 410 (4 channel in, 10 channel out) w/ lossless 96khz sampling, firewire for $300. Portable and high quality if you have a laptop lying around.
    • by ericdano (113424) on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:13AM (#15048070) Homepage
      Yes, I agree. I used MiniDisc to record concerts and rehearsals for 4 or 5 years. Then the broken promise of HiMD (and USB transfers) made me jump ship. The unit I got I had mic input problems (bad mic jack?), the interface was VERY clumsy compared to my previous unit (MZ90 I believe), and you could transfer recordings to your computer, but unless you had a SONY VIAO you could burn a CD of it. Seriously. This was August 2004. Sony promised to fix this but......I believe it wasn't till April of 2005 that they did it? Maybe sooner? I don't believe they had a solution in 2004.

      Anyhow, I found the world of Compact Flash recorders. You can record stereo, non-compressed, plus a lot of the recorders have XLR inputs. Good stuff.
    • My new Minidisc from Sony is more open than their previous models.
      Works great - musicians, HiMd with Mic Input ! Great sound, on the cheap.
      Lk4


      I use an already owned laptop and a free copy of CDex. It supports line in recording at all your favorite bitrates. No need to buy a new piece of hardware (unless you need a RCA or 1/4 inch to 1/8th inch adaptor).

      Capture to Wave or encode to MP3.
  • by graigsmith (868939) on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:51PM (#15048015)
    sony did enuf marketing, if they put their weight behind it. it STILL would have failed. just like CD's are failing. 1 reason, they did not listen to their customers. customers want ease of use, back and forth direct digital copying, mp3 or ogg support (none of this transcode to atrac bull). They dont want unfriendly DRM. They dont want sony's crappy/ugly/bloated software. Other companies offer players that do this, why can't sony?? i dont know why. i wouldn't have hated my minidisc if i could just plug it in, open the drive and drop mp3's on it. but no i had to go through sony's horrible software that everyone hates, just to do what should be the simplest thing in the world. directly copy a file to my minidisk player.
  • oh that's rich (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChrisGilliard (913445) <christopher...gilliard@@@gmail...com> on Sunday April 02, 2006 @11:52PM (#15048017) Homepage
    MiniDisc offers unlimited storage space.

    Sure they do, if you buy unlimited discs. You could also buy more flash drives for your mp3 player and carry them around or you could be satisfied with the hour after hour of songs most mp3 players offer (4 gB with the iPod nano). To say that mini discs have unlimited storage is intelectually dishonest. That's like saying that floppy disks have unlimited storage.
  • On a related note, I'd like to buy a setup for 'surreptitious audio recording', namely recording of shows by artists that have an open trading policy, but who don't let you waltz in with a microphone stand. I tried this on minidisc once but having to change discs was annoying and battery life was bad.

    Is MD still the way to go? Is there a good digital audio recorder out there? What sort of microphone should I get?
    • Get a Marantz compact flash unit. I use a PMD660 with a 2 gig cartridge. You can record stereo, for 3 hours. The mic I use is a Rode NT4. Having the mic run on Phantom power via the XLR cables makes a huge difference. You could probably get the whole setup for about $1000.
  • by confu2000 (245635)
    I was a big MD fan in 1997 up until the iPod came out. Why'd the iPod make me drop MDs?
    1) At the time, you had to record a Minidisc from a CD at 1 to 1 speed over an optical cable. No way to rip to a PC and transfer. You could rip an mp3 at 8 to 1 speed.
    2) Because you had to record from a CD, playlist management was a pain.

    Until the iPod, MD was still competitive because
    1) Flash players relied on memory cards which were expensive.
    2) HDD players ate batteries and had crappy runtimes. And they were heavy
  • Obsolete floptical media.
    No MD-ROM.
    Proprietary format.

    If you want a disc, what's wrong with a 3.5 inch DVD+RW?

    In the long run, no moving parts(flash) will be the obvious choice.

    MD could make a comeback when Zip-Discs do.
  • by MsGeek (162936) on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:15AM (#15048079) Homepage Journal
    I have an old school MiniDisc player that was bought on eBay. MZ-R70. What is it about 1999-vintage technology that is still so good? The little devil is 3" x 3.25" by less than an inch thick, and made of anodized aluminum. It gets ridiculous amounts of playtime and somewhat less ridiculous amounts of record time on a single AA battery. It's not CD quality but it does the job for both podcasts and live recording of my husband's many bands.

    Yes there are new MD players out there. They now can record in non-compressed PCM, which only yields 15 minutes of record time per disc. However, Sony totally overcomplicated the interface with bells, whistles and a jogwheel. I couldn't figure the new one out...I will have to study TFM to figure it out for my friend Jim. The MZ-R70, however, is very easy.

    I hate Sony. I really really HATE Sony. But their electronics, particularly their vintage stuff, still rocks.
  • I've heard people argue time and time again that removable media devices have "unlimited" storage capacity and can last forever on a single AA battery.

    Really, storage capacity is limited to the size of the size of your pockets. And as for battery life, well, I never need to change the AA battery in my iPod... it doesn't have one. It plays for about 12 hours and odds are, it will probably find itself connected to my Powerbook before that battery runs out.

    I used to think minidisk was useful as a portable reco
  • Quality of Sound (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tengu1sd (797240)
    The big pro is that ATRAC just sounds better than MP3. I can hear the difference. I've had 3 (Sharp) MD players over the years and I travel with one today.

    The big failure is Sony's attempt to lock in their own lame software, restrict the functionality, and limit the use of MD. These would have been a great challenge to the Zip disks 10 years ago. Imagine being able to move data and music back and foward on a USB port.

    Instead Sony tried to lock MD down, limited licenses to a few partners, and starved

  • by jjn1056 (85209) <jjn1056@noSpAM.yahoo.com> on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:33AM (#15048136) Homepage Journal
    I bought one of these devices back in August of 2005 to replace my portable DAT recorder that finally irrecoverably died. The device is really a hassle to use. Although the disk itself shows up as a removable drive, anything I recorded on it (even my own stuff recored via the microphone) needs to be imported using their special soundstage tool and then exported as a wav file before I can edit it. The soundstage tool is really buggy and cumbersome to use, plus it keeps trying to push me to their online music store.

    I've also tried to use it for playing music when I am at the gym but again the soundstage software makes it hard to import the music tracks I want.

    Overall the device is mediocre for all it's published uses. This is because of the software and interface.
  • Missed opportunity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Digital Pizza (855175) on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:37AM (#15048148)
    I remember when I first heard about the Sony MD in the early 90's; I was excited because I (foolishly it turns out) anticipated the use of those discs as low-cost portable computer storage. At the time there was no such thing, except I guess Syquest carts which as I recall were kind of expensive and just held 44 or 88 megs. The MD's 170MB capacity was pretty good back then.

    Sony, of course, kept the MD music-only (at least in the consumer market) and the niche that they could have OWNED instead went to Iomega and their shitty ZIP ("click-of-death") carts (which were $20 apiece and held 100MB, still a great deal back then).

  • by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Monday April 03, 2006 @12:40AM (#15048157)
    Okay, I have close to 400 MiniDiscs, so let me tell you why I bought into MD wholeheartedly:

    1) CDs suck. There's a reason why we stopped using 5-1/4" floppies. 5" media is just too large. It doesn't fit in your hand. It doesn't fit in your pocket. Carrying a large number of them is about as fun as lugging around a coffee can.
    2) CD player with optical out + MD with optical in = perfect sounding copy of a CD in a compact, sturdy package.
    3) Human beings covet. They want pretty shiny objects they can hold and line up like conquests on a shelf. While some might argue their directory listing is just as sexy...it's more likely to make eyes glaze over than pop out.
    4) It's nice to be able to loan someone part of your collection or make that mix tape without handing them a $300 player (remotely authorizing their computer is again, vastly unsexy as a gift)
    5) My high-end MD in 1997 looked better and was smaller than any other audio player, and that includes that newfangled Rio thing that had just come out.
    6) Boy, did I love being able to record long classroom lectures without losing key parts while my classmates swapped tapes.

    That said, this is the year 2006 and this guy has to be a complete idiot for not realizing that the MD has an incredibly superior replacement:

    FLASH MEDIA.

    Your average SD card or even CF card makes an MD look like a brick. MDs are not as indestructable as this yahoo would lead you to believe. The door eventually gets flukey just like 3-1/2" floppies did. I mean, it's a moving part and (especially on compact players) takes a lot of force to slide back and forth. Once the door is bent or starts catching, you end up either removing it and fearing that you've essentially rendered the point of having a media caddy useless, or losing your $1-2 investment.

    Flash media, meanwhile, is ROCK SOLID. For crying out loud, someone shot a bullet through one and still pulled off the data it. And, MD will never win awards for access times. MD was fine for a linear activity like playing a CD, but jumping tracks is also just like a CD...you wait. The only thing Sony could be doing with Hi-MD is switch to a packet-based system...which is going to be murder on fussy drive mechanics.

    Yes, flash media is expensive. But you can fit the equivalent of 8 or 9 MDs on a $35 flash card. True, a 1GB MD costs a lot less but this is the same song as Zip, or Jaz or SyJet or any other removable media. And how well have they worked out? A few years from now, a 1GB removeable media will seem as antiquated as a floppy disc. Meanwhile, flash capacities will continue to grow.

    The only missing part of the equation is larger selection of players where you can remove the flash media. This is how they all started out (Rio etc) and honestly, I don't know why they have fallen out of favor. It adds maybe a few dollars to the price of a couple hundred dollar player. It can do the exact same magic, but with the all the advantages I described in the above MD praise.

    So I think this guy needs to wake up and smell the present. I still think my 400 MDs look pretty as hell, and evey now and then I'll relax somewhere with my faithful Sony. And if I ever need to record 300 minutes of speaking, it's still the only thing I use. But the music that's on those 400MDs is now held on a portable hard drive and whenever I have a need to share it, I just copy it over to a USB thumbdrive. If I was still a Sony guy, it would be a MemoryStick. Maybe someday Apple will decide to bless a certain form of flash media like Sony has with the PSP but until then, my target platform is still the laptop.

    So, while I can appreciate the romance involved in the MD, it's over. There are smaller, faster, sturdier and ($/MB) cheaper options. He can tilt against windmills if he wants to but, I'm ready to look forward to 8GB, 16GB and 32GB flash devices.

    -JoeShmoe
    .
  • by fishbowl (7759) on Monday April 03, 2006 @01:00AM (#15048203)
    I don't approve of the way MD locks me out of my own music. I didn't give Sony the authority to put DRM on stuff I record, but my MD recorder takes this liberty. I don't want to hear about how I can buy a "pro" deck that turns off DRM, and I certainly don't care about "Soundstage" software or whatever the hell they make you use now, where you get three chances to copy your original or some such, and it's *erased* -- I *certainly* didn't give Sony permission to *erase* my masters.

    I loved the idea of MD, but I hate, absolutely seethe with hate, to let Sony abridge my copyrights by putting DRM and copy-limitations on my work, just because I chose to use their cheap media. No thanks. CF-recorders may start at the $400 price point, but at least they don't seek to lock me out of my own work.

    I really don't care how badly Sony wants to control things. When they try to control *MY* work, I tend to get very, very upset.
    • Sony's software and hardware may suck, but you're certainly not the victim you play yourself out to be. You implicitly agreed to let Sony do *all* of those things when you started using their hardware and software - those features/limitations are mentioned right in the manual.
  • by springbox (853816) on Monday April 03, 2006 @01:13AM (#15048243)
    I don't have a usual MP3 player, much like the author, but I do have a CD player that can play MP3s off of discs. I do think these types of devices are handy and are probably even more likable than the proprietary Mini Disc player that Sony has made.

    1.) These devices are cheap. Cheap as in, you can buy a CD player that can play MP3s at walmart for $25. These players are much cheaper than the flash/HDD MP3 players making them much more accessible to people who don't want to break the bank on something they won't use every day.
    2.) The media is much cheaper than the Mini Discs. Most players can even read from CD-RWs. The cheap media is also a plus over the priceier MDs. (Your "unlimited storage" costs less; MDs don't come on spindles of 100 last time I checked.) You can also play your music in a computer if you wanted to using CDs rather than MDs.
    3.) You can use MP3s! You don't need to transcode to Sony's format. But some people will probably want to reencode lower bit rate MP3s anyway.

    Summary: Cheaper, non-proprietary, works with your existing hardware and software, some players have excellent battery life.

  • by MonoSynth (323007) on Monday April 03, 2006 @05:49AM (#15048811) Homepage
    The new Hi-MD format offers 1GB per disc (which can add up to 45 hours of music on one disc)-- and a disc only costs a few Euros

    45 hours on 1 GB? that's 53kbps... 1 GB (1GiB) is still 18 hours @ 128kbps.

    One disk costs EUR 7.00, so here's a little price comparison for people who want an mp3-player (and don't use the recording or video functions) (all prices in Euro's):

    1 GB iPod Nano: EUR 159
    1 GB hi-MD: 150 + 1*7 = 157 : roughly the same price

    2 GB iPod Nano: EUR 209
    2 GB hi-MD: 150 + 2*7 = 164 : MD is the best choice, but the iPod has no moving parts.

    4 GB iPod Nano: EUR 259
    4 GB hi-MD: 150 + 4*7 = 178.00 : MD is the best choice, but the iPod has no moving parts.

    Here's the gap between occasional music listeners and music lovers. Non-existing market according to Apple. You either have a handful or a lot of cd's. My iPod 3G 15GB is too big for most people while I can't even put half of my collection on it. Maybe the hi-MD could fill this gap up.

    30GB iPod: EUR 329
    30GB hi-MD: 150 + 30*7 = 360 : iPod is better

    60GB iPod: EUR 439
    60GB hi-MD: 150 + 60*7 = 570 : iPod is better

    Add to that the ease of selecting playlists (of any size you want, not limited to 1GB) instead of carrying a wallet with md's around, and I don't see why I should buy a hi-MD recorder. The only advantage over mp3-cd players is the size.

    Another thing, if you want certain songs on multiple playlists (disks) with the hi-MD player, you need to copy them on multiple disks, decreasing the actual capacity even further. On my iPod I have a couple of similar ("all music", "best", "hard", "easy", ....) playlists, all using the same music library.

    Before the .mp3 player revolution, MDs only competitors were CDs and before that, tapes.
    He forgets DCC [wikipedia.org] :)

    Now, I think that that is a pointless battle: you won't beat Apple in its current winning mood. Forget it. It ain't gonna happen.
    True.
  • by slavemowgli (585321) on Monday April 03, 2006 @05:58AM (#15048830) Homepage
    Ah, cognitive dissonance at work. Don't like the fact that mp3 players are successful while your beloved MiniDisc isn't? A healthy dose of "lalala I can't hear you" will help with that, and soon you'll have yourself convinced that reality will change just be cause you want it to again...
  • by NYTrojan (682560) on Monday April 03, 2006 @07:53AM (#15048988)
    I had a minidisc player, way back in the day, and the article is way off base on a number of points. Where to begin...

    First off, durability. I dropped my minidisc player exactly once... and that was the end of it. There is something to be said about all of those mechanical parts, from the ejector mechanism to the laser head reader, etc etc. Thing never played again.

    He quotes unlimited storage space... in case 60 gigs isn't enough for you. This same argument could be made for MP3 CDs, which hold almost as much as the 1 gig minidiscs, and are a whole hell of a lot cheaper and easier to find. Either case, nobody wants to carry the stupid things around all over the place.

    He comments on how MD users expect high quality but that they put up with SonicStage (and ATRAC/MP3 only recordings)

    The author obviously has an illogical bias towards this particular media. To be honest I think the whole thing reeks of fanboy-ism.
  • by Deslock (86955) on Monday April 03, 2006 @08:11AM (#15049041)
    Yes, MD had many advantages "back-in-the-day" and even today some may find it to be a suitable platform. But this guy is living in another reality.

    2GB SD costs $50 (slickdeals.net/techbargains.com) and nowadays flash MP3 players are dirt cheap, tiny, durable, and feature-rich. Minidisc players have slow access times, inferior interfaces, and cumbersome transfer procedures.

    Most people do not want to deal with the hassle of juggling dozens if not hundreds of discs to carry a large collection. A 1.5-ounce 4GB flash player can carry a decent amount of tunes. And there are 60GB hdd-based players coming in at under 5 ounces that are slower than flash, but faster then MD (and are reasonably durable).

    He makes one good point: Sony should've used a backward-MD-compatible disc in the PSP. Otherwise his post is simply an example of someone blinded by years of frothing-at-the mouth fanboyism.
  • My little story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ElephanTS (624421) on Monday April 03, 2006 @08:13AM (#15049045)
    I'm a pro audio engineer based in London and got an invite to the unveiling of the Sony MD in 1991 at their newly acquired studio in the West End. Went along, free drinks and all that, and a nervous Japanese guy came out and demoed the amazing new machine. Sound quality wasn't that great (first version of ATRAC I believe) and wasn't well EQ'ed but it was impressive for its size and resistance to jog and shock. The amazing part was when he took the disk out and it still kept playing! I can remember thinking 'we really don't need another format' (cassettes, vinyl, CD were all going strong) and noted that no other music labels seemed to be interested in supporting it. I questioned the engineer at the end who told me the disk was about 100Mb in size and I begged them to release the thing as a super-floppy storage device telling them this is what people really, really needed. Just drew a blank on that suggestion.

    The next couple of years saw the release of Iomega Zip drive at 100Mb and was a worldwide smash selling millions of units while the Sony MD limped on like some forgotten part of evolution. They could have taken that market in 1991 but obviously didn't fit in with their music division plans - such a shame.

    Of course now, Sony has a unreliable and unattractive reputation in pro-audio and is going nowhere whereas when I started (end of 80s) Sony Broadcast ruled the whole business. Basically a company in decline not helped by different divisions actually competing with each other.

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