Monday, February 04, 2013

Sony bids farewell to MiniDisc

Sony have announced that it is to cease production of MiniDisc players and recorders from March 2013 marking an end to the firm's support for the system which it launched in 1992.

The format had only limited success outside of Japan and was ultimately doomed by the rise of recordable CDs and MP3 players. Data was stored on rewritable magneto-optical disks 2.5" (64mm) in diameter housed for protection in a square plastic shell.

While the company will still manufacture the recordable discs it marks a death knell for the format popular amongst sound engineers and media professionals.

It was hailed as a replacement of the now defunct compact cassette. Each disc could hold up to 74 minutes of audio which was later boosted to 80 minutes. Sony, which invented the format, claimed recordings would be safe for more than 30 years without risk of degradation. However, the discs were vulnerable from magnets which could erase recordings.

The main advantage was that the discs were housed in a protective shell, unlike CDs which are vulnerable to scratching.

However, with the recorders and players initially costing around $750 [£475] when launched in the US in December 1992, few units were sold. The portable units were less prone to skipping during playback making them useful for those on the go. But it was not easy to quickly transfer music collections to disc since they had to be recorded in real time.

CDs, on the other hand, had the advantage of being ripped and written to disc in a matter of minutes. The advent of portable MP3 players was the final nail in the coffin. Ripped CDs, stored as MP3 or other digital format on a computer, could be transferred to a portable MP3 player in minutes. Furthermore there is less battery drain on such devices, which also have the added advantage that music never skips or jumps - unless the file itself is corrupted.

Sony ended shipments of its MiniDisc portable Walkman players [pictured] in 2011. The company's decision to halt production of MiniDisc-based Hi-Fi systems effectively marks its exits from the sector. Those still hooked on the format, and needed equipment to play their collection of disc will still be able to purchase MiniDisc players from other manufacturers such as Onkyo. Nonetheless it is perhaps advisable to get any valuable recording backed up and burnt to CD, stored as MP3 files and uploaded to a cloud storage solution [BBC / Telegraph / CNET].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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