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MiniDisc (MD) - Appreciation (Video)

mononoaware

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I came across this video recently uploaded a few days ago.

Great summary, history and interesting information about the MiniDisc format, well put together video I think deserves more views.
(Video is 38 minutes long so could be considered a short-documentary)

If you are confused about MiniDisc, within popular culture in the beginning of the movie "The Matrix", where Neo is in his bedroom switching "Data discs" on his computer, that was a Minidisc.


-

If you remember using MiniDisc then you will have made it through the video.
Bought a few MiniDisc Players/Recorders many years ago when they were on sale, so must have been on the way out at the time.
I owned multiple Sony MiniDisc Walkman's, everything from ones with recording capability which were ~1.5cm thick, to one with only Playback capability but were around ~9mm thick (I remember bending this model while it was playing, it was made of extremely thin silver aluminium but you could cause it to flex which must have slowed the motor and triggered the Player to skip by running out of it's 6 second buffer).

And I recall the "chewing gum" shaped Li-po battery which had pretty bad battery life to be honest, and then there was the Attachable battery compartment which was a must and would stick onto basically all models via Exposed modular contacts (This only used a single AA battery but the battery life was much much much better than the default "chewing gum" battery).
Even when using the AA battery with the attachable battery case was a great experience, much lighter in weight and more compact than a Discman with much better battery-life (with the AA battery) with the benefit of that buffer so it would never skip the audio unless you forced it to by shaking the Player constantly (MiniDisc owners will remember testing this).

Currently the only surviving MiniDisc component I have is an Onkyo Recorder/Player. It is capable of recording through Toslink (Optical) input, which has the ability to send PCM data straight to the MiniDisc (with a Hi-MD disc you can write a full 16bit 44.1khz CD as an exact copy) with accelerated recording times.

I also found it interesting (from the video) an early MP3 compression algorithm (lossy) file size being ~24 megabytes, which is around present day FLAC (lossless) file sizes (with high/slow encoding).
 
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Doodski

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Minidisc was a great format for the era. I received Sony factory training and was certified for car audio, home audio and portable models. Very interesting format. Initially there where a few laser replacements and some car audio bent loading mechanism parts but overall they where pretty reliable. I really enjoyed working on them in warranty. Out of warranty I performed a couple of service bulletin repairs free of charge for customers and they where very satisfied.
 
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mononoaware

mononoaware

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car audio bent loading mechanism parts

I recall experiencing this with one of the Minidisc Walkman's.
They work well and lasted if you are careful with them, but take a look inside and you realise how "thin" all the arms and hinges were, held together by equally thin screws/rivets.
Most likely to reduce weight to a minimum I guess. . .

So funny part of the experience I guess most users went through was getting used to changing MiniDiscs.
You had to give it ~4mm more of a push than you expect, which caused a mechanism to hold the MiniDisc inside.
Many times you would try to switch discs and by not pushing enough the disc would be sticking out by a few millimeters and prevent you from squeezing shut the lid.
I repeatedly did this with one player and then something went bust. . . if I recall correctly the lid just wouldn't stay closed.
(Ejecting was much easier since the player would spit the MiniDisc out for you enough to grab a hold of)

0*UzgRxBFi_CR-bOUX.jpeg


I had a bunch of MiniDisc Walkman's though so I didn't bother to get it fixed.
The one that broke looked like the image above.

I got the most use out of the thinnest/lightest model, which is pictured below.
I remember it being very close in size to an actual MiniDisc. But in reality it seems it is more like 2 Minidisc's thick (specifications say 9.9mm).

Really thought I was in the future walking around listening to it (no skipping/exceptional battery-life), with that silly tube of a remote that pins onto your shirt (looks really silly now I think about it).

b3ea8ccd2701f61a7605e9e21d8abc09.jpg
 
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Doodski

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Yes, the construction of the mechanisms was veryyy lightweight. The entire line-up of home audio car and portable where prone to bent loading assemblies. But all parts where available and one just needed to order them and they arrived. Sony support ruled and was not exceed by any other companies other than what was comparable like Denon and Lenbrook.
 
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mononoaware

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Sony support ruled and was not exceed by any other companies other than what was comparable like Denon and Lenbrook.

Sony had a bigger stake in it as well (which could have influenced them to put extra effort), since MiniDisc was intended to be the “next” format.

I guess a compromise of being in a (disc inside) cartridge format is more wear on the components, but at the same time the Disc itself is protected from wear.
So good trade-off I think.

That and the re-writability of MiniDisc seems to be unmatched back then (which I learned from the video), so Sony must have really been pushing for more durable media design.

Interesting though I think I prefer the Media was more durable (so many old CD’s which are ruined by wear).
 

AudioSceptic

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I came across this video recently uploaded a few days ago.

Great summary and interesting information about the MiniDisc format, well put together video I think deserves more views.
(Video is 38 minutes long so could be considered a short-documentary)

If you are confused about MiniDisc, within popular culture in the beginning of the movie "The Matrix", where Neo is in his bedroom switching "Data discs" on his computer, that was a Minidisc.


-

If you remember using MiniDisc then you will have made it through the video.
Bought a few MiniDisc Players/Recorders many years ago when they were on sale, so must have been dying out.
I owned multiple Sony MiniDisc Walkman's, everything from ones with recording capability which were ~1.5cm thick, to ones with only Playback capability but were around ~9mm thick (I remember bending this model while it was playing, it was made of extremely thin silver aluminium but you could cause it to flex which likely slowed the motor and triggered the Player to skip by running out of it's 6 second buffer).

And I recall the "chewing gum" shaped Li-po battery which had pretty bad battery life to be honest, and then there was the Attachable battery compartment which was a must and would stick onto basically all models via Exposed modular contacts (This only used a single AA battery but the battery life was much much much better than the default "chewing gum" battery).
Even when using the AA battery with the attachable battery case was a great experience, much lighter in weight and more compact than a Discman with much better battery-life (with the AA battery) with the benefit of that buffer so it would never skip the audio unless you forced it to (MiniDisc owners will remember testing this).

Currently the only surviving MiniDisc component I have is an Onkyo Recorder/Player. It is capable of recording through Toslink (Optical) input, which has the ability to send PCM data straight to the MiniDisc (with a Hi-MD disc you can write a full 16bit 44.1khz CD as an exact copy) with accelerated recording times.

I also found it interesting (from the video) an early MP3 compression algorithm (lossy) file being ~24 megabytes, which is around present day FLAC (lossless) file sizes (with high/slow encoding).
I'm so glad you posted this. I have a Sony MZ-R90 portable player/recorder. The rechargeable battery died long ago. I found a replacement online but couldn't get it to charge. I couldn't tell if the battery was no good or the charging circuit was broken. You've reminded me about the AA add-on, which I had forgotten about. I've just put in a battery and it plays like it did 20 years ago (I kept all the discs I had)!
 
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mononoaware

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You've reminded me about the AA add-on,

It adds bulk but the super-duper battery-life it gives from AA is worth the extra bulk.

There is some issue with those chewing-gum batteries. . . possibly mistake in design and made specifically for MiniDisc Walkman’s.
I also recall times it would not charge properly/failed to hold a charge.
I suspect the thin battery design makes it unstable in temperature, which I am aware is important for Li-po/Lithium-ion battery health.
 
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AudioSceptic

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It adds bulk but the super-duper battery-life it gives from AA is worth the extra bulk.

There is some issue with those chewing-gum batteries. . . possibly mistake in design and made specifically for MiniDisc Walkman’s.
I also recall times it would not charge properly/failed to hold a charge.
I suspect the thin battery design makes it unstable in temperature, which I am aware is important for Li-po/Lithium-ion battery health.
The original battery is rated at 1400 mAh. IIRC an AA Duracell is around 2600, and most AA rechargeables are in the 2000-2500 range, so that would be a useful increase. Shame the battery holder looks like it does, although it works well enough.
 
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mononoaware

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Shame the battery holder looks like it does, although it works well enough.

Also the screw (tightened with dial) that holds the pack on had a habit of getting loose in your pocket.
Remember tightening that thing every time I handled the player just out of habit.
 

AudioSceptic

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Also the screw (tightened with dial) that holds the pack on had a habit of getting loose in your pocket.
Remember tightening that thing every time I handled the player just out of habit.
Yes, that is a weak part of the design. The thread is short and the knurled wheel is exposed only on one side so that limits the torque you can apply.
 
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mononoaware

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limits the torque you can apply.

Brings back memories.
And the location of the wheel causes it to loosen itself when in your pocket, never mind that I caught it loosening by itself on many occasions.
Part of the charm of MiniDisc?
 

AudioSceptic

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Another thing about MiniDisc. At that time, the floppy disc was dominant in the fast-growing PC market. The capacity was a feeble 1.4 MB and the whole thing looked like a flimsy ancient relic meant only for single use. It took a while for CD-R and CD-RW to become common, and 650 MB was far more than most people needed anyway. The much smaller MD at 160 MB and in a protective caddy would've been a perfect replacement for the floppy and made CD-R/W unnecessary (except for making your own music CDs). I could never understand why Sony didn't push it as data storage medium.
 

AudioSceptic

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Brings back memories.
And the location of the wheel causes it to loosen itself when in your pocket, never mind that I caught it loosening by itself on many occasions.
Part of the charm of MiniDisc?
I confess I never used the battery add-on at the time, but I can well believe that.
 
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mononoaware

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The much smaller MD at 160 MB

Standard MiniDisc data capacity is 340MB (thought 300 something then google is your friend), Hi-MD MiniDisc is capable of holding 1GB.
(Only Hi-MD can hold an entire CD @ PCM 16bit 44.1khz)
(With standard MiniDisc you had to break an album into 2-3 discs if you wanted lossless 1:1 copy)

I’m pretty sure the video posted above mentions Sony did try to steer things towards data, but it was too little too late.

Edit: found this, I think it was briefly covered in the video. (Now I see where you got 140MB from)
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MD_Data

The introduction of Hi-MD in 2004 allowed any type of data (files, music, etc.) to be stored on a Hi-MD formatted MiniDisc.

I just found out that Hi-MD also supported data.
 
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Berwhale

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My collection of portable MiniDisc players and recorders from the garage...

20210427_231523 (1) (Small).jpg


I also have a full size Sony unit in a box somewhere - an MDS-JE520 I think.
 
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mononoaware

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My collection of portable MiniDisc players and recorders from the garage...

View attachment 134743

I also have a full size Sony unit in a box somewhere - an MDS-JE520 I think.

Funny that one Panasonic model looks like what could be seen as a portion of a CD in its appearance.
Kind of like a constant reminder of it being smaller than a CD.

That Aiwa player’s remote is horrendous ha-ha.
 

AudioSceptic

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Standard MiniDisc data capacity is 340MB (thought 300 something then google is your friend), Hi-MD MiniDisc is capable of holding 1GB.
(Only Hi-MD can hold an entire CD @ PCM 16bit 44.1khz)
(With standard MiniDisc you had to break an album into 2-3 discs if you wanted lossless 1:1 copy)

I’m pretty sure the video posted above mentions Sony did try to steer things towards data (with the release of USB compatible players with drag and drop transfer, and music/data on the same disk), but it was too little too late.
The original MD was 160 MB <https://www.minidisc.org/minidisc_faq.html#_q1> This makes sense when you think about it, giving an ATRAC compression ratio of about 4:1. And lossy ATRAC was the only option then. 1 GB and lossless came later, and I'm not sure they even made it to the UK.

Perhaps Sony did try the data option, but I don't remember that being visible in the UK, and they missed the boat anyway.

I haven't watched the video yet: will do so later.
 

Berwhale

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That Aiwa player’s remote is horrendous ha-ha.

I quite liked the Aiwa remote because the headphones plugged in next to the cable that went to the player, so both cables hung more neatly when the remote was clipped on my coat.

It's actually the Panasonic remote that was pain to use. The button lock ('hold') was combined with a sliding panel that was the background for the LCD display. If you locked the buttons, the display became unreadable in most conditions. Nice one Panasonic!

1623265594045.png
 

AudioSceptic

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The original MD was 160 MB <https://www.minidisc.org/minidisc_faq.html#_q1> This makes sense when you think about it, giving an ATRAC compression ratio of about 4:1. And lossy ATRAC was the only option then. 1 GB and lossless came later, and I'm not sure they even made it to the UK.

Perhaps Sony did try the data option, but I don't remember that being visible in the UK, and they missed the boat anyway.

I haven't watched the video yet: will do so later.
We seem to have crossed posts. I remember reading 160 at the time though (mid-late 90s), and it does make sense when you consider the size vs CD, and can you imagine that ATRAC could only manage 2:1 compression?

Edit: From the Wikipedia article
"ATRAC was devised for MiniDisc so that the same amount of audio a CD (which contains uncompressed 16-bit stereo linear PCM audio) can carry can fit on a disc far smaller. ATRAC reduces the 1.4 Mbit/s of a CD to a 292 kbit/s data stream, roughly a 5:1 reduction. "
 
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Berwhale

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Perhaps Sony did try the data option, but I don't remember that being visible in the UK, and they missed the boat anyway.

Yeah, it would have been competing with the 250MB ZIP drive which already had a fair amount of market penetration.
 
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