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Shigzeo's decades-late Minidisc review thread

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by shigzeo, Aug 5, 2018.
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  1. fox403
    Used to be in a group a few years back Shigzeo, but time and life kicks in..
     
  2. shigzeo Contributor
    They do. Well, let's play here, shall we? Nice collection you have. I think you may have more than me!
     
  3. fox403
    The thing is some of them 20 year old players could still give them new daps a run for there money, and its a great feeling recording your own music in Hi Fidelity and have it in your hands, that is what is missing with today players, but i am enjoying the science behind it, your well written and beautiful pictures hopefully might get one or two people to try this format :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
  4. shigzeo Contributor
    RMAA and review: Sony MZ-EH1 24-bit

    The below is the text from the above link, verbatim. If you want photos and/or measurements important to the article, by all means click the link.

    Disclaimer: I purchased this badboy from Yahoo! Auction here in Japan. It was more than precious. The MZ-EH1 was Sony’s last TOTL MD player. It decoded everything ATRAC, including Hi-MD. It sounds great. It has a horribly expensive battery and a remote that itself sells for 100$. If you’re really into MD, this is the Holy Grail of players. But it is so expensive that taking it out is a gamble. Mine has worked a trick. But I baby it. Check out Minidisc.org’s MZ-EH1 page for more information.

    Sony’s last-gen TOTL MD player is a beaut. Sort of. Its magnesium, scored, matte, and slim, is understated in the way only high-end products can be. It gets good battery life, boasts six equaliser settings - two of which are user definable along six frequency bands - and four stereo hacks that affect staging and placement. It hisses only slightly, and carves an impressive stereo image. It’s also extremely rare, and commands astronomical prices. (Lord knows I paid a pretty yenny for mine.) By any objective measure I have at my hands, it is the best-sounding unit out there, Hi-MD or no.

    But it’s not perfect.

    While it’s nice that the MZ-EH1 is so slim, next to some players-only units, it feels delicate. Behind its hinges the case flexes slightly when pressed; and when shaken, the insides rattle slightly. In general, however, its machining is top notch. And, unlike some Panasonic and Sharp units, its bottom half keeps a solid metal line all the way around.

    Its remote displays three lines, but is a total bugger to use, especially if you were used to older, stick-stile Sony remotes. Getting into and out of sound settings is complicated. Despite this, the MZ-EH1’s body-side physical UI is good. While small, buttons are well placed in relation to their function, and with the exception of the hold switch, easy to engage with adult-sized fingers.

    As you’ll notice, it manages an insanely good dynamic range and noise levels, but, by today’s standards, shows high levels of THD and IMD by today’s standards, and obviously needs some sort of dummy load to maintain stable frequency response among other things when feeding an outboard amp. Sure, its stereo image collapses by ~30dB under load, but wowee do its unloaded numbers really pain a picture. And the picture really paints the likes of FiiO’s M3 and M6 in poor light. Of course, both units are more powerful than the MZ-EH1, but both hiss more. More more importantly, the MZ-EH1 is pushing 16 years since introduction, and was one of the last units, totally miniaturised, and after MD had lost its mojo.

    Relevant links:

    Minidisc VLOG - 07: Sony MZ-RH1 Review
    Minidisc VLOG - 05: Sony MZ-NH3D
    RMAA and review: Sony MZ-DH10P 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-RH1 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-NH3D 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-B100 16-bit
    RMAA: Panasonic SJ-MJ500 16-bit
    RMAA: Kenwood DMC-S55 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-E55 16-bit
    RMAA: Sharp MD-DS8/9 16-bit

    Source: Sony MZ-EH1 portable Hi-MD player
    ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
    Computer: 2012 27" iMac
    Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.

    Loads:
    NL - no load
    SM2 - Earsonics SM2
    ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
    DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600

    24-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - all targets (graphs in link above)
    24-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - NL summary (graphs in link above)


    End words

    From a sound-perspective - and with very few provisos - Sony saved its best for last. Sharp’s best Auvi units match the EH1 in noise, but unless you’ve re-wired your high-end headphones or use a balanced cable, they render music practically in mono. If you want the best, though not most powerful MD unit on the planet, I present the MZ-EH1. But, due its being one of Sony’s rarest MD units, neither you nor I can afford it.
     
    Turdski likes this.
  5. shigzeo Contributor
    This post is verbatim the one I published at ohm, linked here: RMAA and Review - Sharp MD-DR7 1-Bit Auvi Minidisc Recorder

    Sharp's MD-DR7 Auvi 1-Bit Minidisc portable recorder is the best and the worst MD portable recorder of all time. Here are its RMAA measurements and a short companion essay.

    #headphones
    #minidisc

    http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-and-review-sharp-md-dr7-1-bit-auvi-minidisc-recorder

    Disclaimer: This bad boy is from Amazon.jp. The MD-DR7 was Sharp’s first 1-Bit branded MD portable recorder. It was also the first mass-marketed portable audio product with a true balanced headphone output. Eat your heart out, Astell & Kern, HiFiman, and the like. The DR7 uses the same TRRS pinout as a modern Astell & Kern, but in 3,5mm rather than 2,5mm form. So, if you have a pair of AK-compatible balanced headphones, all you need is a step up (2,5mm - 3,5mm) adapter and you’re gold. The DR7 has a low noise floor, high DR, and for its time, a powerful headphone amp. If you’re interested, check out Minidisc.org’s page on it: Sharp MD-DR7.

    From late 2002 until around 2004 headlines among the MD faithful were awash with an age-old war. The perennial battle between Sony and Sharp over ATRAC and dominance over the minidisc scene was in its final heat (as was the format). In a gambit to remain relevant, Sharp and Sony lead insane marketing campaigns which promised the world from their respective flagship MD products. If you were in the Sharp camp, Sony sounded bad. If you were in the Sony camp, Sharp sounded bad. But gosh, how wrong one camp was.

    Relevant links:
    RMAA and review: Sony MZ-EH1 24-bit
    Minidisc VLOG - 07: Sony MZ-RH1 Review
    Minidisc VLOG - 05: Sony MZ-NH3D
    RMAA and review: Sony MZ-DH10P 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-RH1 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-NH3D 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-B100 16-bit
    RMAA: Panasonic SJ-MJ500 16-bit
    RMAA: Kenwood DMC-S55 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-E55 16-bit
    RMAA: Sharp MD-DS8/9 16-bit

    It was a simpler time. Balanced output was an old thing, but to the mass market world, it was opaque. Sharp’s own marketing literature was confusing, full of lies, and self-contradictory. There were two basic ideas behind 1-Bit: that you’d get back sound lost from compression, not to mention the greater resolution from a 24-bit ATRAC encoder. The two would work in tandem, revealing dimples were previously there had been just notches. Finally, the balanced output would reveal greater stereo nuances and separation. The first was probably a hand-me-down from SACD marketing. Worse, it was complete bunk made because marketers knew that audiophiles were idiots. The latter was true- but from a point of view that relied on an inconvenient truth.

    We’ll get back to that.

    What I love about the DR7 is that it hailed back to the pre-MZ-R55 days. Sony bodies wore thick aluminium sheet, opened and closed on solid hinges, and bore large and often grippy battery compartments. Their cases didn’t flex, and in general they were ready to be thrown around. After the MZ-R55, they were delicate, flexy, and needed the kiddy gloves. The DR7 on the other hand felt like a miniature MZ-R50: it showed little flex, and its aluminium sheets were moulded into strength-boosting shapes. Gosh, it feels great in the hand. It feels ready for the long haut. Its hinges are solid and perfectly aligned, and its battery compartments house more solid grounding structures that better weather the vicissitudes of age.

    And boy did the DR7 sound different to a Sony of the same age. 1: it didn’t have a baked-in bass boost. 2: in its day, it was hissless; even today, you’ll be hard put to find an earphone that reveals unwanted noise from its outputs. (Hell, it’s almost on par with a Cowon Plenue D2 or Onkyo DP-S1, both hissless benchmarks in my office.) Better, it gets louder than an iPhone SE and holds up to monster 2nd and 3rd-gen MD units. For an MD of its vintage to rival its enormous forebears as miraculous. In fact, its amp is so powerful that if the MD format were higher spec, I’m sure it could spit signals rivalling lower theoretical dithered 16-bit ceilings.

    Unfortunately, the DR7’s downsides quickly pile up. Its remote bristled with so many buttons that picking it up without accidentally pressing a button was almost impossible. Its relatively high levels of jitter bordered the audible. Worst of all: the DR7 had basically no stereo image of any kind. It was practically monaural. The best in the 1-Bit portable class gets less than 30dB of separation. Most get below 25. Keep in mind that the stereo separation target for 16-bit audio is almost 100dB. Under load most MD units crank out signals between 50 and decibels. In geometric terms, the DR7 showed half the resolution of the worst MD units out there. Next to the best, it was pitiful. Next to any modern DAP and its stereo image sounds like two repeated left or right channels.

    The only way to get any stereo from an Auvi unit in the day was to use the (admittedly good) stock Sharp-branded Sennheier MX300-style earbuds or the horrible after-market clip-on (also from Sharp). These earbuds were wired to utilise the DR7’s balanced output. Sharp bundling them in was a good idea. They sounded far better than the horrible ear buds that came with Panasonic and Sony units. For this reason, the Auvi players sounded great. But if you wanted to upgrade from them to something upscale from Sure or Etymotic, you’d lose almost all stereo detail from all of your music.

    Today, step-up (2,5mm to 3,5mm) TRRS adapters are easy to find. Plug one in and Voila! 24dB of left/right separation becomes almost a guaranteed 80dB- and that’s a lot. Again, though, at ~80dB, you’re getting the equivalent of what a high-quality Sony of its day got without the horrible marketing and hardware lock-in that limited you to Sharp’s two rebranded Auvi earphones. The other problem is that the DR7’s internal amp didn’t output enough current to keep frequency responses flat and IMD low. Jitter levels are high, and suckouts in the high mids and vocal bands dive almost 5dB against controls. That, coupled with the whole no-stereo problem are big provisos/pills to swallow.

    On the plus side, the DR7’s bass boost engine was great and, while current-limited, its sound was sparkly and punchy. Sure, better bass boosts (Aiwa AM-F70) exist, but if you use the included buds, the DR7 really did sound good. It’s just if you wanted to use better headphones, or even connect to a downstream stereo amp, you got de-facto monaural sound.

    Had Sharp merely improved the amp from its predecessor, the DR7 would have been gold. Alas, Sharp ‘fixed’ what wasn’t broke. Being ignoramuses, audiophiles ate it up, and the DR7 is still remembered as a giant of sound quality. There are pages and pages on various internet fora detailing how much better and more stereo nuanced the DR7 sounded compared to the Sonys of its day. It’s just an opinion, right? I guess so. But if your opinion turns into evangelism and that evangelism turns into many people forking over hundreds of dollars for gear that doesn’t do what they were told it did, a great sin has been committed. In this case, Sharp’s marketing beat everyone’s ears. If you hear stereo differentiation from the DR7 through non-Sharp earphones, you’ve bought the entire marketing angle, hook, line, and sinker.

    Source: Sharp MD-DR7 1-Bit Portable Minidisc Recorder
    ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
    Computer: 2012 27" iMac
    Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.

    Loads:
    NL - no load
    SM2 - Earsonics SM2
    Parterre - FitEar Parterre
    ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
    DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600

    NOTE: My two-prong Linum balanced cable bit it this week, rendering all tests loaded with the Earsonics SM2 unreliable. For this reason I added the FitEar Parterre - for which I have a balanced cable in good repair - to the mix. I like Parterre. I won’t add it to my test suite because I don’t want to break it. But I had no other choice.

    24-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - all targets (single ended)
    24-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - all targets (balanced)


    End words

    I say a lot of bad words about the MD-DR7, but I love it. It is solid, easy to use, and has great battery. It doesn’t hiss, and, in its own way, it is handsome. But it doesn’t really sound good unless you limit it to a very narrow band of headphones that won’t swamp its high-Ω output.
     
    fox403 and TheUnknow like this.
  6. funkymartyn
    I am in the Minidisc Facebook group. Thankfully minidiscs are still being used, bought, and the format is still on going..
     
  7. shigzeo Contributor
  8. shigzeo Contributor
    Verbatim text from my review and RMAA assessment of the Aiwa AM-F70 MD recorder from 1998. Photos and measurements at the link.

    RMAA and review: Aiwa AM-F70 Minidisc Recorder 16-bit
    http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-review-aiwa-am-f70-minidisc-recorder-16-bit

    Disclaimer: I bought this sucker from Yahoo! Auctions a couple of years ago. It is a pretty player/recorder whose straightforward physical UI is both to die for and to die from. You can find out all about it at
    Minidisc.org’s dedicated Aiwa AM-F70 page.

    My first MD recorder, a Sharp MD-MT15, broke forty eight hours after I purchased it from Vetlanda’s ON/OFF. (If you like Sharp, get used to it.) Promptly I replaced it with a Sony MZ-R37, which at the time I despised for not being a different, more expensive recorder.

    That recorder was the AM-F70. I first saw it after Christmas, in late 1999. My mate returned from holidays with an I crisscrossed the continent over Christmas, what did you do? grin and an Aiwa AM-F70. Remember Forrest Gump taking his first look at Jenny? That was me. Wow. Backlit buttons, backlit screen, scroll-dial navigation/titling. Everything well placed, and real metal sliders. Though the AM-F70 debuted a year earlier, it looked like something from a bright future, our race didn’t deserve to see.

    But nothing is perfect. The AM-F70’s scroll dial is fiddly, and its illuminated buttons tend to glow less as they age. Many units’s main screens no longer even light up. The good news is that the remote for every unit I’ve used still works. It’s a nasty remote though, clipping at strange angles, and sporting a poorly made clip. Then there’s the battery: nearly every original battery is dead as a door nail. That expensive, impossible-to-find battery is the bane to AM-F70 fans. Worse, Aiwa didn’t even pack in a screw-on battery extension. Instead, they threw in a snake-looking tether attached to a three-battery bay. Attached, the AM-F70 and snake-y battery bay are as athletic as your grandma riding a mobility scooter towing a shopping cart that’s wrapped around a tree. But if you find a working battery, or wrangle your own, the AM-F70 can kick out 10 hours from a charge. That’s as good as a modern high-end DAP, or more than double what the Sony MZ-R55 was capable.

    For its day, the AM-F70 was large. It looked like the MZ-R55’s type-2 diabetic father. Yes, its battery is a bugger. Oh, and its battery door is easy to break when closing/opening the main compartment. Despite its faults, the AM-F70 is the recorder I most fantasise about. It’s just that the one in my fantasy isn’t just machined better than its contemporaries. It’s got a an easy to adapt battery, an LCD screen that lasts decades, and it sounds better.

    What?

    My first listen floored me. The AM-F70’s rich lows, lush, wide midrange, and great stereo detail blew my mind. But, even back in 1999, hiss bothered me. Which is a shame. The AM-F70 spits good quality signal even under load, suffers relatively few artefacts, and is powerful to boot. It is almost as powerful as 2nd-generation Sony units were, meaning that it can drive high-ohm headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT880/300 and even 600 to respectable levels in low-noise environments. And, with high-Ω headphones, its hiss isn’t a problem.

    Relevant links:

    RMAA and review: Sharp MD-DR7 1-Bit Auvi Minidisc recorder 16-bit
    RMAA and review: Sony MZ-EH1 24-bit
    Minidisc VLOG - 07: Sony MZ-RH1 Review
    Minidisc VLOG - 05: Sony MZ-NH3D
    RMAA and review: Sony MZ-DH10P 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-RH1 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-NH3D 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-B100 16-bit
    RMAA: Panasonic SJ-MJ500 16-bit
    RMAA: Kenwood DMC-S55 16-bit
    RMAA: Sony MZ-E55 16-bit
    RMAA: Sharp MD-DS8/9 16-bit

    Source: Sony MZ-EH1 portable Hi-MD player
    ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
    Computer: 2012 27" iMac
    Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.

    Loads:
    NL - no load
    SM2 - Earsonics SM2
    ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
    DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600

    16-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - all targets (single ended)

    16-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - all targets (balanced)

    End words

    The AM-F70 could have been the best-ever recorder. The only thing that really held it back was hiss. And battery. And suiciding backlights and buttons. Despite its ergonomic problems, the remote is solid, so even if your buttons and screen go dark, you can still use the AM-F70. What you can’t dodge is that hiss.
     
    fox403 likes this.
  9. shigzeo Contributor
    Next segment: looking at basic battery extensions and trying to figure out a way to get stereo sound from Sharp Auvi units without using balanced earphones/headphones/cables.
     
    TheUnknow likes this.
  10. fox403
    Great reads......
     
  11. qrtas
    I recently started listening to my MD collection again. I have a few portable players, non of them Hi-md. Back in the day I used to think MDs sounded great, even better than CDs. I guess now that I have learned more about what good sound is to my ears, I noticed some down sides to MDs comparing it side by side with a CD.

    MDs sound great, however I noticed that the sound is not as full (it sounds a bit thinner to my ears), the treble is I bit brighter and the sound stage is narrower. Also, a little less bass, this is maybe because the sound is thinner in general.

    So I did I little experiment. I have some experience with headphone amps and dacs. I have had many amps though out the years and to my experience, tube headphone amps give exactly what I was missing from a minidisc: fullness, openness of sound stage, reduction in a good way of brightness and bass impact.

    So, I ordered an ifi micro iTube2 and connected it between the MD deck and the receiver. I didn't know what to expect, but all the those negatives about the MD sound where gone. For those who don't know what and iTube2 is, it is basically adding a tube to your system.

    In conclusion, I have never heard a MD sound so good in my life. Pure magic.

    It sounds like a very good analog recording. I love it.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
    Turdski likes this.
  12. qrtas
    By the way, I am selling one of my 2 Sony minidisc decks It is a SONY MDS-JB940. It is is excellent working condition. The body looks almost like new. It has very minimal signs of wear. The deck is from 2001, so it is 18 years. I think it will be hard to find a minidisc deck these days in this beautiful condition.

    My asking price is $499 us dollars plus $30 shippingt anywhere in the US.

    If anyone is interested, please PM me. I can send additional pictures.

    00100lPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190505104857547_COVER.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
    shigzeo likes this.
  13. shigzeo Contributor
  14. shigzeo Contributor


    Recently, my trusting nature got the better of me and I got scammed for 800$ USD because of a bugger in OHIO that wanted to flip a Sony MZ-EH1 and who currently is. Links and everything in the description of the video.
     
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