Mini-Disc was technical but proprietary marvel from Sony, sadly it failed to gain traction in the US, with moderate sales in Europe and some success in Japan.
Right now I’m writing an article about Mini-Disc which made me think if this format is still worth it for music enthusiasts, anyway if you don’t mind reading about an now old and dead format so bear with me for a while.
In a way the being “forced” to use Mini-Disc is a return to old habits, with all the inconvenience of a physical medium and what that brings to the table. Not that I mind inserting a MD inside the drawer, it has a certain enjoyable sound and in a way, it’s quite rewarding hearing the motor pushing the optical block on an old MD Walkman.
From one side you have a format with really great editing and recording functions, but on the other hand, you got a very strict SCMS copy protection on a format based on the ATRAC lossy compression (the last players could record Linear PCM on Hi-MD and also had a way less strict SCMS ).
ATRAC being a lossy codec meant that making a copy of a copy would degrade the sound more and more until artifacts appeared (some claim this improved with later ATRAC compression).
I think ATRAC sounds fine for daily portable use and I still remember bootleggers recording concerts using this format, back then only some people could afford portable DAT recorders and Mini-Disc was easy to edit, sturdy and above all very discrete.
Had Sony pushed lossless linear PCM with something similar to Hi-MD earlier in the game and maybe audiophiles would now have a different regard for this format.
So yes, I think this format is great to hear some music on the go if you enjoy playing and carrying around discs.
For nostalgic enthusiasts traveling with a Mini-Disc player is probably fun but it’s not very practical if compared with the now ubiquitous smartphone which can do the exact same thing.
Is it still worth using an MD Walkman these days?
Well, if you are a nostalgic go for it and have fun, for serious audiophiles any digital audio player is better than this format.
Don’t get me wrong I love Mini-Disc but it had it’s time and place just like the cassette had and 8-track tape before it.
I have to admit that nothing really beats watching the reaction of people when you pull out a Mini-Disc Walkman.