Whats the Deal with MiniDiscs

First of all, I don?t understand why MiniDiscs aren?t popular in America. They have many advantages over CDs, Tapes and even MP3s.

Let?s do a quick compare. Minidiscs rewritable, digital, changeable, small and sturdy media. You can literally put a mic into your minidisc recorder and record right to the disk. You can then rename the clip on the player. You can even cut the track up into several different tracks, and then change their order on the disk. Minidiscs are much stronger than CDs. CDs are large, fragile, and easily damaged. Minidiscs are small, and can by no easily conceivable means be broken (I’ve heard of someone running over a MiniDisc with their car, and it still works). The other major advantage of this is that Minidiscs CANNOT be scratched like their CD counterparts. Throw a MD in your pocket (its so small it can easily fit), or just throw them in your hollowed out book (like in The Matrix).

Minidiscs use ATRAC Compression (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding), which is basically just MP3s. In a time where a 128kbps MP3 is considered “acceptable, SP mode (74min/80min, etc… depending on the disc) on Minidiscs are comparable to 292kbps. The advent of MDLP (Minidisc Long Play), lets you store 160 minutes on LP2 (132kbps), and 320 minutes on LP4 (66kbps).

Minidiscs themselves are on average $2. $2 which can hold 160 minutes of music (mp3 quality), as opposed to a little, more expensive flash card. Minidiscs are also recordable from almost any source. Plug the MD into your TV, Radio, Guitar, CD player, and you can record right to the disc. As opposed to MP3 players which need a computer to work.

NetMD allows music to be transferred in LP2/4 mode to the MiniDisc at 16x and 32x real time (although the MZ-N10 and newer models can do 32x in LP2). With a USB connection and Sony’s OpenMG software (or any assortment of plug-ins), you can select your songs, hit burn, and you got a MiniDisc. I, for example, have both my U2 CDs on 1 MiniDisc (which is perfect for music libraries), and it only took a few minutes to do all of it.

Minidiscs, I think, also offer a good opportunity for the music industry *ducks from thrown debris* – I am serious. At $2 a disc, the RIAA can stand giving them away for free. People can select and pay for their music and have it instantly put onto a disc, no need to worry about cases, or the person damaging the disc going home, because it?s protected in a plastic shell (this would be done at a kiosk in a mall, etc…). Likewise, since MD is recordable, they can present their own disc for burning (and simply pay for the songs). As Minidiscs cannot upload to a PC (yet…*mumbles*), there could be no piracy (unless the person sat there and uploaded songs in real time). (Yes! I stole this idea from Japan, because they are doing it there!) — yes, MD is very popular outside of America.

Some problems with MD, as I said, are that it cannot be uploaded to a PC (though take that as you will)… Other problems are Sony’s Anti-Piracy paranoia. Although ATRAC is a great compression format, its implementation on OpenMG is horrid (it monitors a song and how many times it gets uploaded to a media, 3 times in a row and its dead). Although I suppose 3 times is plenty, I?m sure there are people who will bitch about it (like me).

The other problem is Sony’s mad lack of marketing of the MD in America. That and prices of certain units. Although most American models are ~$150, the top of the line recorder/players are $350 (although they are REALLY nice. In a world where plastic CD players rule, it is not uncommon for these players to be made of aluminum and magnesium alloy.) I won?t even get into car units (which are outrageously priced e.g.: $508.78… I think the site I?m looking at has one listed for 58,000 Yen).

MiniDisc has been on the market for years and Sony alone cannot keep this great product alive in the States. Other companies need to embrace the MiniDisc and as consumers in the U.S. we will just keep missing these great technologies if we are not more open minded. I don’t know about you, but choice of recording format is not one freedom I want to give up.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


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