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MD Recording - Home Deck vs Portable

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I've been the happy owner of the Sony MZR55 recordable MD personal for about 18 months now... In my eyes the unit is brilliant, but... (isn't there ALWAYS a but!! lol) - I'm interested just how much better a full size MD unit is in terms of recording quality?

About 6 months ago I went into my local Sony Centre, saw some blank Sony ES MD's asked the attendant for a couple... He asked me what I was running, told him it was a portable, and he told me not to bother, and fobbed me off with the standard MDs instead...

Is there really THAT much difference? I think that my MD makes brilliant, hard to distinguish from original, copies... I'm presuming that this isn't the case...

Would it be worth me buying a home deck to record "extra high quality" MDs for my portable? would I hear the improvement (if there is one?) on playback?

post #2 of 4
I don't think there's very much difference if you're recording digitally. The ES MD decks (and some of the near ES ones) have Atrac Type R, which encodes information all the way out to 20Hz, instead of the usual 18Hz for Atrac 3.x or 4.x, so it is a little better. Sony is never very clear about which version of Atrac their non-ES stuff uses, so it's quite possible some of their consumer grade stuff has it also. You could always ask someplace like minidisco.com if you want to be sure.

Another advantage the ES home decks have is the D/A conversion -- you can make better analog recordings, and they play MD's back with more detail.

The only difference between blank MD's is the reliability of them. The more expensive ones, like the ES ones, tend to have fewer errors while recording, and they are also probably less likely to be defective. This shouldn't lead to any difference sonically as long as the error rate remains below the threshold of the MD player. I have had bad experiences with Memorex personally (as have several others I've heard from) in terms of reliability, by the way. There may be some who claim otherwise about whether different blank MD's make a difference in sound (some magazines have), but I don't think so.

I own an R-70, and it makes fantastic recordings for something so small.
post #3 of 4
The only difference between blank MD's is the reliability of them.
If there *is* any difference in blank MDs, this would be it. Digital is digital. Either the MD records a 0 or 1, or it doesn't; even then, if the errors are within the limits of your MD player's error correction, you will NEVER be able to hear the difference. I would go one step further than Galveston and say that for the most part, the only difference is *enclosure* reliability.

I would also agree with Galveston about Memorex -- they are the only brand that has consistently gotten bad reviews/rep. Part of it is that they use much more plastic in their blank MDs; even the shutter is plastic.

I highly recommend Hi-Space blank MDs. They are made by the largest MD and CD maker in Europe, and MiniDisco (and a few other places) claim that they have very low error rates -- all for roughly half the price of Sony and other brands. MiniDisco actually uses them for their "house" brand of MDs. Probably the best deal in blank MDs anywhere are MiniDisco's house brand: around $1.30 each (or less) when bought in bulk. Finally, they have a good warranty, so if anything does go wrong, you get a replacement.

Bottom line: if I was going to be recording a once-in-a-lifetime event, I might buy the Sony ES discs for peace of mind. But that's probably all I'd be getting for the money LOL
post #4 of 4
On the decks:

The key difference is that most modern home decks have type-R ATRAC (Sony being pretty much the one original deck components maker for MD), and most portable's ATRAC doesn't live up to that standard.

Type-R's merit isn't just the frequency response, but that the system for type-R use "implements" the ATRAC encoding better, for better results. Type-R also superimposes its own soundstage on recordings, in a sense. My friends have sent me discs recorded on a Sony 440 and the soundstage is different (wider) from the same tracks on his Sharp 821.

Portables as they are, are doomed nowadays because of the pursuit for battery life. Whereas there's a chance that decks don't have to meet such unreasonable demands. So they would in effect operate with higher stability.

On the blank MDs:

It is not an issue of error seeping into playback, per se - MD as a format has stronger error correction than CD, and if it can't correct anyway the specific spot will turn out as a very, very short hiss.

If data-reading happens in real time as playback, then lower-quality blanks could affect sound quality through
(a) irregular (unbalanced) resistance in spinning the disc;
(b) error correction drawing too much power.
Both could potentially create electromagnetic noise, or affect the overall power available to the system. If these happen, the final sound output is adversely affected.

The effects of "bad" discs would be minimized on systems that are not under a power source penalty. It is more likely that home decks are allowed more power than a portable that has to churn out so much stamina from a battery.

I tend to agree that blanks make a difference, because TDK's XA-PRO, in my everyday use, makes an audible difference in reducing the tendency for sound to go "tinny" and cause headaches. The difference occurs in any equipment, even portables. From actual experience it's difficult for me to agree to the simple theory of "because computer files don't look different on different diskettes, the same applies to MD". While the difference may not be significant enough to upset you, it's unwise to say there isn't a difference.

Sound-wise, the Sony R900 got no bad words from owners in the West, but got questioned often by Japanese owners for sounding thin and tinny. Sony's ATRAC versions 4 and 4.5 didn't receive favorable comments either, for they sound crowded and unsettled. The tendency of the newer ATRACs - Sony's type-R and Panasonic's H.D.E.S. - confirms that the engineers do want to eliminate all that's tinny and "busy", so I'd believe that you can't just look at what the specs tell you.

My personal experiences lean towards the Japanese perception on these matters, and saying blind tests must dominate isn't very persuasive, because I don't listen to my music blind.
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