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DuckHairback
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03 May 2024, 6:49 am

Anyone else really miss Minidisc?

Those machines were actually beautiful. Particularly the portable players. The insides of those things were so compact and precisely engineered they were almost like pocket watches or something. Pain in the bum to fix if they ever went wrong but while they worked they were amazing.

And the sheer joy of opening a new 5-pack of blank minidiscs, particularly the transparent coloured ones.

For me they represented the perfect balancing point between the tactile pleasures of physical media and portable convenience and quality of digital media. They felt futuristic.

As I understand it, in the US Mindisc never really caught on and is perceived as a failure format, in the same way as Betamax or DVD-Audio is. In the UK (and the rest of Europe and Japan, obviously Japan) it was quite popular and rightly so, IMO.

I had a lovely blue portable player/recorder but someone broke into my car and stole it :(


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ToughDiamond
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03 May 2024, 1:01 pm

I've got fond memories of them, got my first machine in late 1997. Like tiny recordable CDs. I'd been making cassette recordings off FM radio for years, but was never confident that the quality would be great, especially as I usually edited the recordings down by copying from one cassette deck to another. Some people say minidisc sound quality isn't very good but I never noticed any imperfections, even with the analogue inputs and outputs.

My son had a tiny portable MD recorder which bowled me over. I could hardly believe how they'd packed all that clever stuff into such a little box. It could do everything my big machine could do.

I used to love those fibre optic cables for digital sound. Technically no better than wires, but I liked the look and feel of optical cables.

One advantage over cassettes was that domestic cassette machines all ran at slightly different speeds, so if you played a cassette in a different machine, it was a bit too fast or slow. But minidiscs didn't have that problem, so nothing was out of tune. No wow and flutter, no tape hiss to worry about.

One limitation of my machine was that if I edited the contents too extensively it would say "sorry" on a subsequent edit and refuse to do it.

Another limitation was copy protection that stopped you making digital copies with 2 machines, even if it was your own recording. But a couple of years later I got a computer with a good soundcard and found that I could copy digitally from MD to PC, then from PC to MD, and after I'd done that the new copy could be copied freely as many times as I liked. Not that I particularly needed to, it was just a matter of principle.

Then there was the fear that with all those tiny moving parts the machine might break down. It was still working fine last time I looked, but I've got about 30 discs I need to copy onto a computer before it dies. Luckily I've got 2 machines and my son has probably still got his somewhere.

I used to do mixdowns of 4-track Portastudio recordings onto MD and then copy that back onto the Portastudio to get 3 new tracks to record more instruments onto, without having to wipe the original recording like I'd had to before. And I ended up with 7 tracks, while with the Portastudio-only method I only used to get 6 tracks.

I also had this method of recording several takes of a difficult bit of a vocal part onto a minidisc and then playing the best take back to the Portastudio. Took a bit of skill and effort to synch it, but it worked, and it was better than what I'd been doing before, where I'd just do a drop-in on the Portastudio that would erase the original take and replace it with the new one that might be better or worse than the original, as well as risking wearing the tape out if I did it too much.

I don't miss minidiscs much because music computers can do a lot more and the sound quality is technically a lot better - I like equipment for the sake of it but I like making good music a lot more - but music computers used to cost over £1000 and I couldn't afford one for a couple of years. They were good years.



Last edited by ToughDiamond on 03 May 2024, 1:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

blitzkrieg
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03 May 2024, 1:04 pm

I used them in the early 00's during high school. I was introduced to them by a friend and seeing how compact the portable player was versus a portable CD player, it was a no-brainer to go out and get one. I had a silver, Sony one and I loved it. The friend that recommended me the portable mini-disc player was a mini-disc enthusiast.

I didn't use them for more than a few years though, before MP3 players became the in-thing and I started using one of those instead.



ScrewyWabbit
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10 May 2024, 1:15 pm

I'm in the US - yeah they never really caught on here. I did end up buying a portable player / recorder at some point, I think it was from Pioneer - I was very gung-ho about being able to record my own stuff and play it on something relatively small - CD burners were still expensive back then and portable CD players were never that small. More than the players themselves I appreciated some of the more exotic looking minidiscs you could buy (when I say "buy" I mean mailorder - I don't remember ever finding blank minidiscs for sale in any physical store). I had flaming ones, transparent ones, the whole works. I think they sort of failed to find their footing because people weren't really willing to accept lossy recordings back then especially just to store 1 CD's worth of music on something smaller, andthen shortly after primitive MP3 players started appearing which even though they were lossy could store way more than a minidisc. And then the game-changing iPod arrived and Minidisc was DOA at that point.



DuckHairback
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10 May 2024, 1:22 pm

ScrewyWabbit wrote:
I'm in the US - yeah they never really caught on here. I did end up buying a portable player / recorder at some point, I think it was from Pioneer - I was very gung-ho about being able to record my own stuff and play it on something relatively small - CD burners were still expensive back then and portable CD players were never that small. More than the players themselves I appreciated some of the more exotic looking minidiscs you could buy (when I say "buy" I mean mailorder - I don't remember ever finding blank minidiscs for sale in any physical store). I had flaming ones, transparent ones, the whole works. I think they sort of failed to find their footing because people weren't really willing to accept lossy recordings back then especially just to store 1 CD's worth of music on something smaller, andthen shortly after primitive MP3 players started appearing which even though they were lossy could store way more than a minidisc. And then the game-changing iPod arrived and Minidisc was DOA at that point.


Yes, more or less. I think that's right

For me they represented the approximate sound quality of CD without the bulk and without the skipping that blighted some portable players.

It's been a long time since I actually listenened to a Minidisc but I remember the Atrac compression being far superior to what mpeg (1 or 2, can't remember) was offering at the time. I remember it sounding pretty great considering it was lossy.

But if I'm being honest it was a lot about the form of it. It just looked and felt good.


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DuckHairback
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08 Jul 2024, 10:01 am

The other day I bought a midi system in a charity shop because it had a minidisc player/recorder in it, as well as a CD and cassette deck. I just bought it on a whim because I only have one portable minidisc player left and the battery compartment is broken and I don't have a compatible power adapter, so I can't play my minidiscs.

I was surprised that the minidisc deck still worked. The loading mechanism is a bit temperamental but it plays fine. And I was surprised that my minidiscs which have been in the loft and exposed to all sorts of temperature variations seem to be fine 25 years down the line.

And I'm not the most discerning listener, nor is the hardware anywhere near high-end, but I still find the compression almost unnoticeable against CD playback.


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