Hurple Hoopla

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Just say NO to iPod

So, it's all the rage these days to have an iPod. For those who don't consider spending $300 on an item that the manufacturers consider disposable, there are other alternatives. Plenty of other companies manufacture equivalent devices, hard drive based MP3 players.

However, for my money, the best portable music player, by far, is the good old minidisc system. Sony created minidisc back in the 1990's right after CDs had become the dominant retail music delivery hardware. Minidiscs look like PC floppy discs, but are only 3 inches per side. Inside each plastic shell is a small magnetic hard disc which can hold 350 meg of data. Originally Sony sold minidisc as a "digital" version of the cassette tape. Through compression, each disc could hold the same amount of music as a CD, 80 minutes. In fact, that compression system eventually morphed into MP3, both having been developed by the same man. (Sony's system ATRAC is proprietary, so although it is the precursor to MP3, the encoding systems are very different.)

In America, minidisc never caught on. In Japan and Europe, it decimated cassettes.

As technology improved so Sony continued to upgrade minidiscs, while still keeping all new players/recorders "backwards compatible" so that all the music you'd already saved on discs didn't suddenly become obsolete if you upgraded hardware. Currently, minidiscs can hold 1 gig of data and the players can play back not just the Sony's ATRAC but also uncompressed PCM and even MP3 files. Oh, and some models will record in addition to just playing the files. To get the files on the minidiscs (unless you record them yourself) is simple, just plug the MD unit up to your PC and transfer them over, just like with an iPod (although it is required that you use Sony's music manager program, Sonic Stage, to do it).

portable MD players/recorders range in price from $300 down to $80 and the 1 gig discs go for around $5 apiece. Plus, you can still get the old 350meg discs for less than $1 apiece, if you want.

Oh, and one more little selling point... If you hook the MD player up to your PC without also loading Sony's Sonic Stage software, you can move any type of file to the minidisc using the standard windows explorer and the unit will act as an external HD.

If you're looking for a portable music player, give minidisc a look (which will be harder than necessary since only online retailers like Amazon and JR's Music World seem to be carrying them these days), you might like it more than you think.


  • I love Minidisc, I hate I-pods...
    I have a MZ-NH700 (Hi-MD) and it's just fantastic and versatile.

    You can record from all type of's just great!

    Visit my blog:

    By Blogger Miky, at 10:41 AM  

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