Minidisc 2020

Previous articles (not required reading – but good anyway :) )
First Minidisc article: http://www.roxics.com/ode-to-the-minidisc-the-forgotten-format/
Second Minidisc article: http://www.roxics.com/minidisc-instead-of-vinyl/

It’s been three years since my last Minidisc article (Minidisc instead of Vinyl), so I figured it was time for a new one. Not a tone has changed for me. I got one new portable player, a Sony finally. I also discovered newly prerecorded minidisc albums. Though I have yet to buy any. Both are very cool though.
This post is more of a show and tell, along with a few thoughts on where the format is today.

 

First let’s start with the Sony MZ-E700 which I bought off ebay back on August 5th of 2018, but didn’t get in my hands until September 9th of 2018. Paid $36 plus  $7.90 for shipping. Not bad at all. I’ve noticed these same players these days are way higher. But oh man! What a gorgeous player! Just a player. No recording ability there. But that’s ok, I already have a Sony component deck I can use for recording and my other portable Sharp recorder. I love how tiny and thin this things is. Barely bigger than a disc itself. It uses the gumstick style batteries. I had to find a couple of those new on ebay or Amazon (can’t remember where). Luckily I already had a battery charger that would work for them. There are only two downsides to this player. The first being the lack of a pause button and the second is a lack of screen. The screen isn’t that big of a deal. It’s like using an iPod shuffle, which I spent plenty of years doing.  Both the screen and the pause button can be found on an external wired remote (Sony RM-MC11EL) which can plug into the headphone jack, but I didn’t get that with my player. So I would have to find one separately. Which isn’t that big of a deal to me. For the completeness however, this is what they look like.

 

Sony RM-MC11EL

I have been enjoying that player now for nearly a couple years. It’s become my main portable player. You can also get one of those AA battery side carriages for it. But that just adds bulk. I’m happy with the small gumstick batteries. They’re rechargeable and go directly inside the player.

The next thing I discovered was new prerecorded music on Minidisc. Apparently this is a thing now. Indie bands recording and releasing small runs of Minidiscs. And I have to say, they look better than ever. There is a company in the UK that is doing an amazing job with these UV printed Minidiscs. I posted a few pictures of their work below. Again I’ve never seen these in person. I don’t own any of these, but look at those pictures! Look at that artwork, printing, and packaging. Nice!


That is some gorgeous work. Way better then the pre-recorded minidisc albums that came out in the 1990s.
I know some minidisc fans will come down on me for saying that. But I just think the full disc printing, combined with the newer cassette style jewel case and J-card insert is such a better fit for the minidisc format than the older, bigger, jewel cases they used to come in. This older style case and disc/art. (below)


Granted, you can fit a bigger book and artwork in the older style. I get it, they aren’t terrible. I just think they’re a bit bulky. They’ve never been my thing, even when I saw them lined up on shelves at my local Best Buy in the early 90s.
The older style is more CD-like and I believe that was the goal at the time. Create something that could compete with CDs. But the newer style feels more cassette-like to me and I just think it’s a better fit for the overall aesthetic of the Minidisc format. Of course that might be hindsight kicking in for me. I mostly look back at Minidisc as a record-it-yourself format. Which is how I look back at cassette tapes. That’s how I used both those formats. Granted I owned a couple pre-recorded albums and singles on cassette, but I mostly dealt with the format for recording my own. So I think the feel of the cassette style jewel case and J-card works better for MD. Even pre-recorded MDs.

Speaking of blank MDs for recording, I picked up some myself within the last couple years. The first set were the three Memorex discs you see in the back of this case (in the picture below). I found those sitting on a shelf at a local used record shop and nearly jumped for joy. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen brand new Minidiscs? Probably over a decade. Maybe longer. I also probably paid too much for them this time, I don’t even remember what, but I had to have them. Just for the experience of buying brand new MDs in a physical store again. Plus just having them.
Then, a handful of months later, I found a guy on Craigslist who was selling this seven pack of brand new Sony Minidiscs with the case for $10. I couldn’t pass that one up. He had no idea what they were for, he just wanted to make a quick ten bucks. Talk about a find. I was excited.  I just haven’t been able to bring myself to crack any of these open yet. They all look so pretty in their wrappers and in that case. It was also fate there were three empty spots in the case that could fit my three Memorex discs I bought previously. :)


I realize there are folks out there with huge Minidisc collections. People who have walls (or drawers) full of new discs and collectors discs and so on. Who are overflowing with portable players, recorders, component and shelf units. By comparison my four players (3 recorders – one of which is broke :( ) and 25 or 30 recorded-on discs from years ago (as well as this ten pack of brand news discs), may not be much, but they make me happy. I’m still enjoying the format.

Back in 1999-2004 Minidisc was a utility format for me. I used it as a way to make mix discs from the MP3 on my computer and take them with me on the road. I also used it as a recording medium for voice memos and an audio recorder for my indie filmmaking ventures back then.
Today it’s an unnecessary luxury experience. It has no real utility for me. I can take my MP3s with me on my smartphone. I have small solid state portable audio recorders for video work. The Minidiscs aren’t necessarily anymore.
So I put on a Minidisc these days to be nostalgic. Because I think it’s fun. I love the way they look and work. I love how small the players are, and I kind of miss playing with them.
But… there is one other reason. Some of my older Minidiscs have music on them I no longer have on my computer. That I haven’t had on my computer in decades. I could put those songs on my computer, but I decided not to. It’s become a treat to listen to those songs on Minidisc. After all it isn’t every day I put a Minidisc on. I even recorded a new disc for just that purpose about eight months ago. I think this is going to become a trend for me going forward. Reserving some songs I really like for just MD and purpose driven every-so-often listening. Not wearing myself out on those songs by keeping them in constant rotation on my computer and phone. It gives me a reason to listen to my Minidiscs occasionally. A reason to dust everything off, put in a disc and hit play.

What about the future of Minidisc in the world at large? I don’t know. It seems like it got more popular in the last few years. I can tell by the prices of used players. Yet the only company producing new media still is Sony and only one kind of blank disc. And for a premium price. At least it’s still out there, new, but at around $5 a disc, it’s not very reasonable. Of course you can still find deals, like I have.
At some point I’m going to pick up some used discs and do some more recording. Just haven’t got there yet. I would still like to pick up another portable player or two as well. Maybe even another component recorder or all-in-one shelf system. I don’t have an all-in-one shelf system with and MD player in it. Also I plan to dig up those photos I shot in that store in Germany back in 1998 where I was so shocked/impressed with the amount of MD shelf units in the store I shot photos of some of them. On film. Back when it used to cost money to take pictures. So you know I must have been impressed. lol I’ll keep you posted.