Getting into Minidisc

Originally published 19th August 2021 on Gemini


So my iPod classic broke a while back. What happened was that I was walking around one night, and I took out my iPod to switch to a specific song or artist, and then a moth or something flew onto the screen out of nowhere, and as a reflex or something, I suddenly dropped it onto the hard pavement.

Since then, it had been skipping certain songs, and syncing never worked the same.

I took it to a repair shop, and they basically said I was fucked. The hard drive was damaged, and the hard drive used in those devices are proprietary (classic Apple...), and only 2 devices ever used it, and both are discontinued. (The other device being the 1st Gen MacBook Air btw.)

So yeah, I had no choice but to fork out for a new player. I don't want to rely on my phone and on Spotify because

  1. That's not my style
  2. I don't want to rely on the internet or digital media.
  3. I loathe smart phones. Any convenience they may provide is cancelled out by how long it takes for you to wake them up, unlock them and then load up the app you need.

So it was time to think about what I wanted to get next.

Finding a new player

So what now? Well, I've always wanted to get into Minidisc. I've heard a nothing but good things about the format. It's almost like the Dreamcast of music formats, nobody has anything bad to say about them! They seem like the most 1990s format ever, but at the same time, very futuristic (Probably thanks to the Matrix!)

They're also making a small comeback, with Minidisc Store Day being a thing and new albums having limited Minidisc releases, getting new discs from the only factory left in the world making them!

It cost £180 for a new iPod Classic, and up to £100 for a Minidisc player. Neither are being made any more, so I figured, Minidisc it is!

I found this auction by a charity shop for a player, a carry case, and 15 new old stock discs! This one was mine!

It was a NetMD player, which allowed you to copy to and from the disc almost like an MP3 player. (Before NetMD, you had to manually record everything and split the tracks yourself.)

Only thing was there was no remote, which is something that goes between the player and your headphones which lets you switch tracks, rewind, change volume, etc, without pulling the player out, but seems I can easily get those anyway, and I don't ultimately need one.

So I put a maximum bid for £100, and waited. It went up to £78 when it ended. Including £5 for shipping and such, so about £84 in total. I won it! I was so excited to get it! I literally watch every Minidisc video I could fine on Odyssee and Youtube in anticipation, just picturing myself using it.

Fortunately, I didn't need to wait long, as it turns out it was being shipped from Glasgow, so it only took a day to get here!

Getting the player

I got the player, and it looks and feels great, and the discs look so cool, too!

I was worried at first about not being able to transfer songs to and from it on Linux, but it turns out that right now, I can *only* do that on Linux. Windows 7 isn't playing ball with the drivers.

Platinum MD doesn't seem to work on either, no matter what I tried, to I have to settle with a program called "WebMinidisc", which is a website (or web app) that only works on Chromium based browser. Wished there wasd a better way, but it's all I got for now.

So I unsealed some of the discs (I felt a wee bit bad, but discs are still being made, so whatever), and copied some songs.

So there are 3 quality options. You have:

Each Minidisc can store up to 1hr 20m 59secs of SP footage, and obviously up to 4 times that if you only use LP4, but you sacrifice quality. You can mix the 2 qualties on a single disc, though.

I used SP for every song, initially, but found I couldn't store many songs on it, so decided to only reserve SP for the songs I really like, LP2 for songs I still enjoy, and SP4 for songs that either don't need high quality, or extra songs I might listen to now and again.

I got reoughly 30-40 songs on each disc this way, and have filled 5 discs so far. So far, I enjoy it, it's slow, but that's expected, but I love the noises it makes!

So now that I had some discs chock full of songs, times to test it out!

Test Drive

So I went on a stroll around my block with it, and the extra discs I made, and honestly, I love it! The form factor for the player itself was fantastic! It feels more suited to my hands than my iPod was! Buttons, even without a remote, felt easier to access, and buttons gave more feedback.

Only thing is you need to turn shuffle on every time you start it, and you need to carry extra discs with you, but I usually carry a bag with me when I go out or wear cargo trousers, so that's a non-issue!

It's a bit difficult to tell the difference between SP and LP2, especially with the low quality headphones I have for them, and both sound no different than my iPod classic did, but LP4 is noticably worse, but some songs sound fine on it.

Overall, despite it's flaws, I love it. The discs feels satisfying to use and the sound quality isn't any worse than what I'm used to while I'm out. I'm definitely going to use these from now on and will be on the look out for new album releases!