Monday, June 14, 2004

MiniDisc Guide

In my ongoing battle to be independent and learn things on my own, I discovered this guide at, which seems to be a major source for all information radio, especially indy prod.


From Alan Weisman
Sony MZ-N707
In an emergency last month, finding myself with a dead DAT back-up machine and leaving for Chile the next day to do pieces for the new Homelands Productions series Worlds of Difference, on the advice of our executive producer Jon Miller I picked up a Sony MD (MiniDisk) Walkman MZ-N707.

Right here let me introduce a caveat: I called Circuit City, they assured me that had Sony minidisk players. But when I got there, I found that the newest models did not have microphone jacks -- only USB-type connections to download music from computers, which is seems to be the main use for minidisk players, since they're so light and portable.

Same problem at Best Buy and Target.

I finally found the MZ-N707 at a store that specializes in professional music recording. List was $249, they took pity and charged me $229, but I've subsequently found them on the Internet for as low as $179.

If you buy, make sure there's a microphone jack, and don't trust salesmen to know.

I'm pretty sure I love this machine.

Sony minidisks give 80 minutes and this far are trouble-free. The MZ-N707 itself runs off a single double-A battery, which is good for three 80-minute disks.

Caveat #2:
There's a battery-life read-out, that seems to register full until near the end, then drops to half and fairly quickly to zero and the machine quits -- I learned this the hard way.

Another issue is limiter: That's the default position. The rather thick manual explains a procedure to control levels manually, but I admit that I've followed advice to trust the limiter because it's so intelligent, the audio equivalent of a great digital auto-focusing camera.

So far, it's very impressive.

The sound is excellent -- I guess engineers decry the difference between minidisk and DAT tape range, but some very seasoned radio producers have told me that the human ear can't tell.

I'm using it mainly for interviews, while I continue to use mainly DAT for gathering ambient sound and music.

But on the occasions when good sound erupted while I was using the minidisk, the recordings have been just fine. I've used it, by the way, with all my mikes: a Sennheiser shotgun, a Shure stereo, and an RE-50, with good results all around. It also seems pretty shock-resistant.

I'm addicted, as other producers who only use minidisk told me I'd soon be.
There's more extensive information on all things minidisc, including helpful feature-comparison charts and links to other resources at

Ah, I feel a lot less nervous, now!

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