Sony Ends Production on all MiniDisc Players
By Ariel Bitran for STEREOPHILE Magazine
Today, Sony announced an end to production on all MiniDisc players. In a few years, MiniDisc production will cease as well. I know what you’re asking yourself: “They still make those things?”. But the MiniDisc was cool, if slightly deficient, and like many extinct formats, to some music lovers, it meant a lot.
Before the iPod but after my Discman, I owned a portable MiniDisc player. In fact, I still have it, and all my Minidiscs. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to audio gear—good or bad I need to keep it because I never know when I’ll need it again. I considered selling the MiniDisc player on eBay, but I saw similar models posted, and nobody was bidding. Maybe the value will increase now that they’re not being made anymore? Wishful thinking.
My brother was convinced that the MiniDisc would make all other mediums obsolete. Barry Willis shared the public’s and retailer’s excitement over the MiniDisc here at Stereophile: “Sony’s MiniDisc appears finally to be winning serious numbers of converts.” Unfortunately, three years later the iPod came knocking on retailers’ doors.
So just what was so appealing about the MiniDisc? It was small. The discs came in cool colors. And you could record live directly with your playback device if it had a microphone input. John Atkinson and Tom Norton highlight the flaws in the ATRAC compression utilized by MiniDisc in their measurements taken in 1995: “MiniDisc encoding both raises the noise floor way above that of either of the DTS Zeta examples—240kb/s and 128kb/s—and discards the signal components above 18.5kHz.” Eeesh.
But forget that stuff. The MiniDisc was important to some, and the fact that they are ceasing production on MiniDisc players just closes the book on one more piece of the history of audio playback. The fresh corpse of CD players will be rotting in the not too distant future. As computer manufacturers ditch their optical drives and the DAC becomes the new vehicle for files and streamed material, music lovers are left to wonder when the CD player will go next.
Although, here’s my fear, one installed by our Music Editor Robert Baird and pal Steve Guttenberg: Files can be deleted, lost and gone forever, and where is the cloud? You can’t hold it. In just a second, it can dissipate into the sky and your entire music collection disappeared. Take a visit to Baird’s house, the first thing he’ll show you are his CDs of New Orleans music and Delta Blues from the early 1900s: “This is where the real value of CDs are. Digitally cleaned up old material.” Unfortunately, Sony didn’t release too much music on the MiniDisc, and instead, it served as a more portable alternative to the blank CD. The memory of MiniDisc will evaporate into the ether, but CDs may still hold value for archiving purposes.
The universe must be listening. Yesterday, I sent back an old Denon DMD-M7 MiniDisc recorder to Denon that I found in our storage closet. As this chapter closes, another will open. What’s the next step from the cloud? Music implanted in our brains. I’m sure of it.