Some say it’s dead, I beg to differ (Hi-MD)

Sony MZ-M100 back in action

Hey Crew….

Hope this post finds you well. Lately I’ve been more “tech’d” up than usual and decided to share a little bit of a personal tech reunion story, if you will.

I’ve been a proud owner of a Sony MZ-R55 Walkman MiniDisc (MD) recorder (who remembers the original cassette Walkman?), and currently own a Sony MZ-M100, the Hi-MD recorder you see above.. Over the years I primarily used both MD recorders to record live music, specifically rehearsals of various bands I’ve played in. I’ve mostly had great results using a Sony ECM-DS70P mic with both.

Last year, I got my second iPod Touch, the 2G model that allows for recording through its headphone jack. Using a Thumbtacks mic, an app called iTalkLite, and having 8GB of hard disk space to record to (vice 1GB on a HI-MD disk), I basically ceased using my Hi-MD recorder (the only downside to getting the recorded audio off of the iPod Touch 2G was to have the paired app, iTalkSync, on my Mac AND have a wi-fi connection to sync the audio to my Mac’s HD).

Prior to the iPod Touch 2G, my MD recorders were perfect for capturing some great bloopers and out takes from our CD project recording sessions and other discussions, etc. I first saw the MD recorder in action at a CD release concert I played for. The bass player had one perched near the piano, with the same mic I am now using. Afterwards, I asked him if I could take a listen. The sound quality (not even Hi-MD) was phenomenal, definitely CD quality almost, and that was even over the air. At that point I was hooked and said goodbye to cassette recorders forever. Mind you this was in the late 90s, and minidisc was the latest recording format out. In 2004, the Hi-MD format was introduced (for all the details, a good description is here). So, as said, it was MD all the way for all my live recording needs. I even persuaded my band members to purchase MD recorders, after they, too, heard the amazing sound quality, not to mention the ability to erase and re-record over a MD hundreds of times. Around that time, the band was part of a 25th Anniversary concert at my church, and the sound engineer recorded a feed of our set straight from the DAT system – the mix was pristine sounding.

Fast forward to last spring when I got the iPod Touch. I began using it to record musician and choir rehearsals at church, comedy bits off the car stereo etc. As said, all I needed was my wi-fi connection at home to sync the audio wirelessly to my computer, drop it into iTunes or burn it to CD. The turning point came late in the summer when the musicians setup at church started using an Aviom headphone system for each musician, which meant any over-the-air recording through floor monitors virtually disappeared. I thought, “No problem, I’ll just line the headphone feed into the iPod Touch and voila!” Turns out I found that it won’t work at all. The Thumbtack mic has three separate connector rings on it’s jack, just like the combination headphone/earpiece jacks for mobile phones, whereas the headphone jack in is stereo…two connector rings. This equals incompatibility which, in turn, means no recording the headphone mix from the Aviom.

My Sony MZ-M100 to the rescue, line out of the headphone system works great! I’m able to mix all the other instruments coming into my system, as well as set the best record mode on the MD recorder and master volume of the headphone system to get a nice clean recording on to Hi-MD.

I began to remember all the uses and reasons why this device and the technology makes it great. Many of the user articles I read mentioned using the recorder to capture nature sounds, concert recordings, lectures, etc, all in crisp clear digital format. There are (just like other older technologies) avid, die hard fans of the MD, and YouTube has a fair number of videos these fans have uploaded…some which I tend to greatly agree with. While there are many different digital recorders on the market today, with far greater storage capacity. there is just something about the MD recorder that makes it stand out. I submit to you, that you’d have to had used it to really understand what I mean. A good friend of mine, DarrenKeith has been a long time MD user as well. I caught up with him this evening, and after letting him now about this post, asked to share a few things about why he still likes this technology as well. Here’s what we chatted about:

darrenkeith:  I love the fact that it’s portable, the sound quality is excellent, person could use that for a voice over if they wanted to. I just love the sound quality and wish I had a dozen of them. Sony makes really quality audio for the price.  I just truly dig them and I am blessed I found out about them before they stop selling them here in the US…well Sony no longer carries them here. I carry on with me at all times in my backpack. really cool for recording lectures and one day I may try and use it to interview.

Though I have AND love my 160GB iPod Classic and my iPod Touch, I like the fact that a 1 GB Hi-MD disk holds a lot of audio media and the device itself records 16-bit PCM uncompressed audio – crystal clear CD quality digital sound. Some argue that it’s ATRAC3 compression is sonically better than mp3. Getting the audio into my Mac? No problem via Sony’s Hi-MD Transfer software and a USB cable…drag and drop wav files, which I later edit in my choice of audio editor and save to mp3…no wi-fi needed! Another good aspect is that it can work on either rechargeable Li-Ion batteries or regular AAs. We all know that if your iPod’s battery is dead, you have to recharge it before it becomes useful.

I like mostof this guy’s points (I, for one, have plenty of full CDs vs only singles on my iPod). While I am not here to champion one format over the other, he does speak some truth.

As said, it’s just something about almost retro coolness of MD, that will cause me to find uses for the recording technology. Needless to say, It’s a Hi-MD love affair all over again!

Thanks for the read….