Classicamiga Forum Retro Edition
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Thread: MiniDisc and MP3: RetroSteve Modernises (a bit)
Stephen Coates 08:05 12th September 2015
After accumulating a bit of a Walkman collection recently, I decided I would miniaturise and modernise a little bit. I went on eBay and bought a Sony MiniDisc Walkman (An MZ-G750) and a SanDisk Clip Jam MP3 Player.


I must say I rather like the MiniDisc Walkman. It is nice and small, the buttons are nice and easy to find and press, and the sound quality is excellent. I recorded a load of audio from CDs via a TOSLINK connection in LP2 mode, and the sound quality is hardly distinguishable from a CD (LP2 mode gives about 145 minutes on one disc). This model has an AM/FM radio, but the actual radio circuit itself is located in the remote control which is annoying. It wouldn't have made the Walkman that much bigger if they'd incorporated the radio into the Walkman like they did on the cassette models.


I got the SanDisk Clip Jam MP3 player off ebay for abut 25. Came shipped from Switzerland . It is very tiny. Too tiny in fact. The small size makes it difficult to hold and the buttons quite hard to press. As well as the small buttons, it is also a bit too menu driven for my liking. Sound quality is quite good though. It plays lots of different formats, including FLAC (which they don't advertise). The 1" OLED screen is nice and easy to read. It has an FM radio which is adequate, but the lack of an AM radio is annoying, though few MP3 players seem to have an AM radio. It also has a MicroSD card slot which I haven't tried yet, but will probably be useful (as long as I don't loose the miniscule cards ).

I think the MP3 player will be useful to have, but I'll stick to the MiniDisc and cassette Walkmans mostly I think . They do seem a bit more pleasant to use for someone who likes devices with easy to press buttons .

Harrison 08:38 12th September 2015
"Modernising" up to the end of the 90's!

You could have the tag line "keeping it 20 years in the past".

A great way to save money by buying technology that is only just obsolete because it normally floods eBay and other second hand sources very cheaply. Cash Converters and similar are also great to find such tech.

The MiniDisc format was pretty cool back at the time, but quite expensive and had limited third party support in regard to pre-recorded MD albums, other than the Sony catalogue. But then you didn't really need that as they could all record to MD anyway. I never owned one but a few friends did and they all really liked them. CD-Rs arriving the same time as MD pretty much killed the format before it began, because CD-Rs could be played in any standard CD player.

Can you still buy new blank MiniDiscs?

The last MiniDisc players supported MP3 so you could use the discs as data storage to copy the files to. Quite an interesting idea, but short lived due to the appearance of cheaper memory cards and flash ram appearing, rendering mechanical mobile storage obsolete. Still it could be fun for you to locate an MP3 supporting MiniDisc recorder. They were the Net MD Walkmans. Such as

You can also get some very nice Hi-Fi separate MiniDisc recorders which you might find fun to use.

Something else to look out for is professional recording studios and businesses getting rid of old pro MD stock. Something like this:
That Sandisk MP3 player does look too small and annoying for me. My wife purchased a very small MP3 player many years ago called the Cube. It was tiny, with a very small LCD display which would scroll the sony title. It didn't last long before she lost it!

Here's what it looked like:

These days most people just use their smartphones for everything. Even in my car I just have to plug in a USB memory stick with MP3s on to listen to music in the car. A 32GB memory stick with over 300 albums on it can't be beaten really.

Still, it is great fun exploring old formats and technologies. And MD is still better quality than MP3's unless you only use high quality encoding.

Another format you might find interesting is DAT. It was the first format to support true digital audio recording and was used for many years by professional audio technicians on film locations for audio recording alongside film cameras. Especially useful for editing the audio alongside the film footage in post production because it could sync and record the same timecode as the video footage, making it very easy to sync the playback of multiple sources. Even more so in live music events where you could edit multiple sources in sync very easily.

DAT was interesting because it used a rotating helical scan head, the same as a video recorder. So Sony basically shrunk down the same video recording tech for mobile digital audio recording.
Stephen Coates 16:31 12th September 2015
I think there are quite a lot of NetMD machines around (with USB ports), but I think they require some proprietary Sony software, so its probably easier to just stick to using the analogue and TOSLINK inputs.

I don't think I'd bother with a dedicated MiniDisc deck, though that Tascam unit you posted a picture of does look nice .

As far as I'm aware MiniDiscs are still manufactured, but even if they aren't, there seems to be a lot of new old stock available.

I've always liked the idea of DAT, but I've never seen much use for it personally. I did wonder some years back if it might be a good was of backing up data on computers, but I never bothered. Have you used any DAT hardware Harrison?
Kin Hell 09:16 13th September 2015
Hope you don't mind me commenting to above, but I've had the pleasure of using DAT drives on Amiga's using SCSI. Exabyte was a very popular make back in the late 80's & early nineties.
The only issue with Tape as a storage medium is their failure rate. Get it too close to a magnet & bye bye data. A 20GB DAT drive cost around 1,500 back then.
Harrison 12:28 13th September 2015
Isn't the computer data storage version called DDS (Digital Data Storage) though? which was a computer storage grade version of DAT, and slightly different. DAT itself was only ever originally designed for audio recording.

@Steve. Yes, we used to sometimes have audio from DAT drives when video editing. We would receive the colour corrected film, converted onto DigiBeta tape, and the audio separate on DAT tape. Both with matching timecode. We would then capture it all into a video editing suite and combine it on the timeline.

However, as DigiBeta could also carry 4 channels of uncompressed audio most of the time it was already added before we received the source tapes.

I actually still have a few DigiBeta tapes, but no hardware to play them.
Kin Hell 10:31 14th September 2015
My point there was the Exabyte DAT drives used Tape & had the same small rotating helical heads mentioned earlier. They were called DAT drives because they used Digital Audio Tapes. DSS was another thing altogether.

& to be fair, DAT Drives used on SCSI back in those days was a seriously used platform for most huge company back-ups.

So yes Stephen, you could set a SCSI DAT drive up on your Amiga (or PC for that matter) with a SCSI card installed of course. Quite a "Retr0" way to back up your Data too.
Stephen Coates 17:22 19th September 2015
I think some of the data storage tapes are different sizes, depending on type, but that might be a DDS thing rather than a DAT thing.

Don't think I'll bother with DAT on the Amiga. Most of my Amiga files are small enough for Zip disks to be more than sufficient .
Kin Hell 07:02 20th September 2015
Originally Posted by Stephen Coates:
I think some of the data storage tapes are different sizes, depending on type, but that might be a DDS thing rather than a DAT thing.

Don't think I'll bother with DAT on the Amiga. Most of my Amiga files are small enough for Zip disks to be more than sufficient .
Here's a listing for DATMAN of compatible drives. You can see from the listing that DDS is a different technology. Lots of DDS formats too.

The Exabyte devices using 8mm are under the Technology used & below the DDS block.

And you're dead right. DAT on the Amiga is a little overkill for most peoples needs.
Harrison 00:45 21st September 2015
Zip disks used to be a brilliant media back in the 90's. 100MB might not seem much these days, but it was back then and great for storing project files at university, and in the design industry. Do you also remember its big brother, the Jaz drive?

Sadly I've been discovering zip disks are probably as reliable as floppy disks, because I was actually checking through my old Zip disks and a lot of them can't be read. It might just as easily be the drive itself, and not the disks.. but not being able to read them easily does show older, less standard, formats will become harder to read as we go on.
Stephen Coates 02:15 21st September 2015
I got my Jaz drive out earlier in the year and it worked fine .

Haven't used any Zip disks for a while though. My old PC does have a Zip drive mounted inside, but not connected up. I'll have to connect it up and see if it works fine.
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