The MiniDisc. 1992-2013…

You may be too young to remember this, but…

It was Big In Japan, but never widely embraced on the global stage.  And ultimately, the MiniDisc was beaten by cheaper CD-Rs, dirt-cheap portable cassette players, early MP3 players, and ultimately, the iPod (among others).

And of course, the CD, the proud driver of a 90s music industry boom and now the last-standing relic of a physical dynasty (with vinyl its nostalgic sidekick.)

And with that, Sony just announced that its last MiniDisc stereo system will be produced next month, with the discs themselves and support continuing for a few years.  Other manufacturers will also lend support, including Onkyo.  Smaller, portable players were quietly retired by Sony in 2011.

The MiniDisc: September, 1992 – March, 2013.

(pictured: the Sony Net MD Walkman NZ-N707 MiniDisc player/recorder; the Kenwood MDX-JP MD-compatible boombox.)

7 Responses

  1. wallow-T

    MiniDisc was popular with some musicians I knew for quick and dirty live recordings.

    I played with the format for about two years. Eventually I gave it up. The problems: Blank discs cost about $2 an hour (my recollection) as opposed to MP3 and CD-R which became essentially too cheap to count. And, the copyright-defense provisions in the MiniDisc system made it extremely difficult to extract the music from the MiniDisc — even when it was your own recording of your own classical vocal performance. (Does anyone still implement SCMS?)

    Also, the sound was notably “brittle,” though we were willing to put up with that for the convenience and the shiny new-ness.

    Most missed MiniDisc feature: the ability to trivially add track marks to an existing recording.

  2. alexbhlz

    Wait a sec, companies were STILL producing MiniDisc players? Who runs these companies?!

  3. hippydog

    someone might want to fact check me.. 😉

    but if my memory is correct.

    The “MP3” codec came from the research that was used to make the MiniDisk..

    so, in an indirect way, The Sony MiniDisk was a major stepping stone to our new digital era (IE: without it, we might not have had the .mp3 that became so common)

  4. Peter Bogdanoff

    I’m at a university department that loans out portable recorders to students. At one time I had 8 or more of Sony and Panasonic mini disc recorders available. They filled a gap between DAT (great quality but bulky and extremely expensive) and the digital recorders available now.

    Mini disc sound was pretty good in spite of the compression they used (5″ audio CD data compressed to fit a mini CD) when recording with external mini binaural mics. We used them for live music, voice, and ambient recordings. The portable player/recorders were relatively small and handy to use. However, we had to move the audio off the recorder using an analog cable in real time. Also they tended to break. Something would go wrong and you would end up with a unusable brick.

    These devices definitely had their place at the time for inexpensive, portable, low-detectability recording (surreptious recording at concerts–when you attached the mini-mics to your headphones it looked like you were just listening to a Walkman).