back to article Sony to can MiniDisc Walkman

While the news will prompt an uncomprehending look from 99 per cent of Brits, the few remaining fans of Sony's MiniDisc format will mourn the MD Walkman's passing when production ceases in September. Last year, Sony canned production of cassette Walkman players. The MD Walkman was launched in Japan in 1992, and that's one of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Another Sony Success

    Your laptops are crap too.

    This is one messed up company who are only going to find the going tougher. If they actually gave a flying damn about their customers then they might claw back some sales.

  2. Greg 16


    I quite liked mine, but it was quickly made redundant by ipods etc. It was much better than CD or cassettes if you did alot of travelling.

    I was quite shocked to sell all my old MD stuff for quite a high price on ebay recently. Apparently it is still the format of choice for radio station jingle producers and other niches.

    1. L.B

      All my kit still works perfectly.

      I got a tiny portable player around in 2001 for the commute to London, at the time the quality was vastly better than any of the MP3's around at that time, even when using the high compression mode that allowed 4+ CD's per mini-disk in full stereo. Carrying a couple of disks (slim & light) gave many hours of music, plus one AA battery lasts ~40 hours so cheap to run. Even when the generation iPod came out, the MD player was still much lighter and less than half the size.

      I later purchased a Sony CD/MD Hi-Fi unit that allowed quick CD copies and also got a Kenwood player for the car, which also stayed with me when I changed car.

      In fact changing the built-in CD player that my VW Passat came with for the Kenwood was quite amazing. The VW unit was flat and tinny to listen to, the Kenwood was a vast improvement without changing speakers or anything, I assume the VW unit just didn't have the power to actually drive the 6 (or is it 8) speakers.

      In many ways I prefer it to MP3 in the car, as I can chose a disk with a decent selection of music, that I feel like listening to at that time, just pop the disk in and let it play for ~4.5 hours. No fiddling with menus, play-lists, etc.

      The portable player is mostly unused these day as I carry my DSi on the trains, with an 8GB SD card full of music and a bunch of games it does just the job; and if the battery fails my phone still works!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Radio Use

      From what I remember, when I was at the BBC on work experience in around 2000, all of the music for Radio 1 (at least) was on MD. Which ment there was a nice box of pre release CD's (that had been transfered to MD) to take my pick from!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Radio 1 and MD

        Part of my summer job at Broadcasting House in summer 95 (I'm suddenly feeling old!) included commissioning the brand new Denon Minidisc players in the Radio 1 studios (Egton House IIRC). At the time they hadn't even worked out what levels they were going to drive them at.

        They certainly make a very useful tool in the radio environment - easy to edit, allowed naming of tracks, and some silly number of tracks per disc. Even my university radio station adopted them around 96-97.

  3. coppice

    Sony was only one of many

    While Apple dominates the MP3 player market, nobody dominated in mini-disc players. Almost every Japanese consumer electronics maker made mini-disc players by the shed-load in their heyday. If Sony made 22m, the total number must have been impressively large. On the other hand, their heyday was only about a 5 year window at the end of the 90s. I'm amazed to find Sony didn't end production several years ago.

    I wonder what percentage of mini-disc players sold in Asia? I assume is was a pretty high figure.

    1. The Fuzzy Wotnot


      I had a Samsung portable MD, with in-built record and FM radio, digital EQ, it cost a me shed-load at the time but this was before MP3 players came along. MD was a stunning technology which beat everything else hands down at the time. I even had a HiFi seperate with a MD recorder in one side and a CD player in the other, so you could copy CDs straight to the MD discs as you needed.

      I don't like Sony kit much but MD and the PSP console were the two things they got perfect!

    2. Neil 7

      I owned a couple of Sharp MD players

      They were great little devices, and I still have the last one and a bunch of discs somewhere.

      I always thought it a great shame that Sony never made more of a play in the computer data market as MiniDisc would have made a pretty decent (and extremely cheap) replacement for the 3.5" floppy disk which was still hugely popular at the time (late 90's).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        PC use

        Yeh, I always thought that they would replace floppy discs. AFAIK they MDs are about 140Mb, which was around 100x the size of a floppy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had two Sony MD walkmen years ago...

    They filled the gap beautifully between tape and MP3 players that could hold a reasonable amount of music. At the time I had mine you could only get about one album on an MP3 player, so a minidisc player and a pocket full of discs was far better.

    Of course, hard drive based players like the iPod soon put paid to that.

    I also used mine to record and edit interviews for our student radio station, which you certainly can't do on an iPod Classic.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      @Tony Chandler -09.38GMT

      Then I take it that, you never heard of the Belkin Voice Recorder (, or the Griffen iTalk (, then now have you?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @Michael Habel

        Some people actually needed to plug PROFESSIONAL microphones into small location recorders. Cheap tat from Belkin doesn't always cut it. Even relatively cheap minidisc recorders used to have acceptable AD converters in them

      2. Ross K
        Thumb Down

        Ho Hum

        Wow. Even in a discussion about Sony gear the Cupertino fanboys can't resist the urge to give their Apple -related tuppence worth.

        Nobody cares guys. Nobody cares.

  5. Bunker_Monkey


    "DAT found a home not in audio but as a data back-up medium"

    DAT was foremost the default medium for professional recording and mastering in music studios around the world. I too used DATs for all my masters!

    Most cassettes too that I purchased from raves was labelled - 'DAT mastered' cause they were recorded straight from source to DAT tape.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge


      Indeed. SImply because it was a pure uncompressed (data compression) format. DCC and Minidisc were lossy and you don't spend thousands or millions recording an album to then throw away much of the signal.

      Sure, you can do that when you're on the move and portability is key.

      It may have caught on but the RIAA in the US hated the idea of consumers making exact copies of CD. It was always quite expensive too as it was more like an audio VCR with it's helical scanning head.

      Of course if CD recordable had been around I think things would have been a lot different.

  6. brudinie

    They were still making them?

    Wow - I really am surprised that they had continued to produce them for so long.

    I remember my mini-disc player very fondly.

    It was a great piece of tech in its day.

  7. LuMan

    Still a use for them.

    MiniDiscs are still the format of choice for a lot of musicians, singers and sound engineers. They're incredibly reliable, robust and have a high enough quality of sound for professional and broadcast use, so I think the actual format will be around a little longer.

    The story does only say that MD Walkmans are ending, which doesn't surprise me. I only use mine as a backup now I've got an iPod that can hold stupid amounts of MD content.

    1. WoodchipSFD

      Loads of use

      They're still used in theatres for the house music and many sound effects as well. Minidisc is far from dead, just becoming more specialised.

    2. SteveBalmer


      You used professional sound quality and iPod in the same sentence!!!

      Really only an dead idiot would actually rate iPod anywhere other than the bottom of the list based on audio quality, they sound absolutely horrendous, and are for people that value style more than function.

      1. LuMan


        Er.. I actually said I used my iPod in place of my MD Walkman. Not as a replacement for my pro MD stuff.

        Only a dead idiot would find my first post confusing!

  8. serviceWithASmile

    RIP, md

    when I were a lad (not very long ago) minidisc players were what cool people used to listen to metallica on the bus to school.

    I spent £100 that I earned washing dishes to own one and I loved it dearly until some twunt nicked it.

    So long and thanks for all the manual track markers.

    *trawls ebay for minidisc players*

  9. Jay 2
    Thumb Up

    So long, and thanks for the tunes

    Like may other peeps here my MiniDisc players (first an Aiwa, then a Sony) replaced my trusty Walkman. The standout feature for me was the fact that you could make your own compilation and then hit random (and that MDs were small and re-recordable).

    I think I was using MDs for about 2-3 years before a Discman appeared that played MP3 CDs, and that was fairly swiftly replaced by the ubiquitous iPod (of which I'm now on my 3rd, mainly for storage and battery reasons).

    I'm surprised that they're still around now, but have very fond memories of them!

  10. Munchausen By Taxi


    I really liked my portable minidisc player/recorder. It was a quick way of making quick and dirty digital recordings of some of my half finished music projects, without having to deal with all that computery shenanigans. You had all the fun of making yer own mixtapes from CDs, but the recording quality was so much better. *looks forlornly at tower of dayglo minidiscs on his desk* *sniff*

  11. Mark Wilson

    Big in Japan

    I still have mine kicking around somewhere but they were never a real hit here but in Japan they were quite popular and there was a 1 Gig version released which allowed for much more music on a single disc.

    Now of course you can buy a Sansa Fuze which plays back FLAC lossless audio from a micro SD card upto 32GB in size which allows for a lot more music with the advantantages of removeable media.

    The future of MD was doomed.

  12. FreeTard

    One of the customers here

    Minidisk walkman purchased many years ago now - but rarely used because mp3's are simply handier than carrying around disks.

    minidisk home stereo still used though, but even that gets its music from my mt-daap server.

    RIP minidisk, fantastic quality, killed off by low quality MP3s. ah well

  13. Lottie

    Still producing the media though!

    That's good. I love my MD recording walkman. It was quite advanced for its time with the stereo in accepting TRS jacks OR a digital optical lead and the compression was good enough to bung loads of CDs on there and still have decent quality.

    Guess it's off to ebay to look for spare parts just in case...

  14. jason 7

    A good format for the time.

    Fantastic for in the car and on the move with its protected discs. It was pretty cheap and reliable too.

    I still miss my Ford Puma with the Sony 6 MD changer in the glovebox.

    The main trick Sony missed was not pushing it as a data format. They just made a few units and forgot about it.

    Sony had a solid and reliable re-writeable data format (fairly cheap media too) a few good years before affordable and reliable CD burners and CD-RW came along. I would have killed for a 150MB disk format in 1993 for my PC. It could have killed floppies. I could have backed up my entire 1993 PC to one MD!

    Zipdrives certainly wouldnt have flourished.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Short-changed as a music format too

      @Jason7: "The main trick Sony missed was not pushing it as a data format. They just made a few units and forgot about it."

      It's been argued Sony's paranoia and insistence on locking it down made it less than it could have been as a music format too. The copying limitations, the clunkily forcing people to copy audio via standard analogue inputs meant it was effectively an improved cassette with many of that format's limitations artificially retained.

      Whereas if they'd exploited rather than hobbled the freedom provided by the underlying digital technology, it could have been a forerunner of the MP3 player the better part of a decade in advance.

      One mitigating excuse might be that MP3s typically need a computer to store and manage them, and most people didn't have computers powerful enough to do that back when MiniDisc launched. Still, what a waste.

      1. serviceWithASmile

        re: anon / analogue inputs

        I'm not sure if this was a standard thing or not, but when I got mine it had an optical input which you could use (admittedly with a PS2) to record tracks, including track breaks and (might be wrong about this one) track info.

        After that, the net MDs let you do it over USB, and I think they were a bit faster than real-time.

        Agree with the rest of what you said, it's a shame when something so good dies when it could have been so big.

  15. Andres


    Jason 7, you hit the nail on the head. Sony had the market open to themselves when 3.5 disks were becoming restrictive and before CDRs etc became affordable. There was no other rewritable tech close to it for speed, convenience and size. I was so desperate I bought a ZIP drive but always wondered why Sony didn't capture the market by replacing 3.5 disks with minidisks. A(nother) big missed opportunity for them.

    1. chr0m4t1c

      If I recall correctly

      Sony specified that MD was not to be used as a data storage medium, presumably because they're also a music publisher and they feared piracy.

      I agree that they almost certainly missed a massive opportunity to replace floppy disks in the 90s and slow the take-up of the various mp3 music players into the early 2000s.

      Not that Sony would have been the first big company that kneecapped one of its own emergent products to protect a different established one.

  16. GazElm

    Title, etc.

    The MD player/recorder itself was pretty good - the software that came with it (Sonic Stage?) was truly abominable.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Classic Sony....

    Their product was great but their timing sucked. I think their last big minidisc push was just as the solid state mp3 player made them obsolete.

    The other big problem was Sony's music publishing arm getting paranoid about piracy; which meant ATRAC and SonicStage.

    ATRAC is Sony's useless proprietary compressed audio format and SonicStage is a piece of synchronisation software so evil that it should have resulted in a tribunal in the Hague....

    /mines the one with the battered looking Aiwa NetMD in the pocket.

    1. Richard 116
      Thumb Up

      Spot on

      Totally agree and further to my other post, coming back to SonicStage recently I was struck by how restrictive it was. Apple has nothing on Sony. The software was obviously created with DRM as it's starting point rather than ease of use or user friendliness. ATRAC audio isn't too shabby though.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @Richard 116

        'The software was obviously created with DRM as it's starting point rather than ease of use or user friendliness.'

        The real kick in the nads was that the DRM was effectively useless anyway....

        You could only upload a given CD a certain number of times before the DRM stopped you, but it was so unsophisticated that all you had to do was rip the CD to an image and mount it with daemon tools. SonicStage saw the mounted image as a distinct CD and let you carry on uploading.

        Rinse and repeat to completely circumvent the restriction.

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Sony consistency

      Yes, Sonic Stage has to be on of the most awful pieces of software I’ve ever had the misfortune to use…. Until I got the sony ebook (birthday pressi, I wouldn’t buy sony now), same horrible shitty style of interface, but I suppose when your real software skill is writing root kits you don’t need a nice user interface

      Still there was one good thing about sonic stage, plugging a MD into a computer didn’t install constantly running processes like “apple mobile device helper” that can’t be killed in the windows process manager. It pisses me off that every time my son plugs his ipod into my computer I have to then go and delete the itunes software crap.

  18. Richard 116

    A shame but things must move on...

    I'm still quite fond of MD and recently dug out the last player/recorder I purchased, an MZ-RH1. A great little machine, this one also supports Hi-MD so I picked up a few new 1GB discs off Amazon. I'd quite forgotten how good MD sounds even with Sony's ATRAC format. The inevitable nightmare is SonicStage. A not often mentioned reason why Sony will forever be playing catch up in the portable audio market. However, the good people over at Sony Insider Forum do have a tweaked version of SonicStage that will run quite happily on W7 64bit.

  19. Southern


    They were still making minidiscs? Unbelievable...did they not see what happened when the iPod came out? Did Sony just put on a pair of blinkers and keep trotting on? Did the success of the Playstation hide the fact that minidiscs were becoming a minority format?

    Count me in the 99% of incredulous Britains.

  20. Drummer Boy
    Thumb Up

    Awesome replacement for compact casette tapes

    I have 2 portable players, one a recorder player, and a HiFi unit.

    All used until recently. As someone else mentioned the ability to record in digital, at reasonable quality was great, and I used it until recently, when I bought a Zoom portable solid state recorded.

    I still have all the mixes from my old digital 8 tracks band recordings from the lates 90s/early noughties on MD.

    The lack of proper computer hook up stalled their use for me.


  21. NogginTheNog


    DAT found a firm hold as a digital mastering/archiving format in many studios (48k better-than-CD quality).

    Minidiscs found a niche in broadcast and live theatre, thanks to the digital quality (the compressive loss over CD wasn't all that noticeable) but also because of their instant-start capability - priceless for sound effects and critically timed music and jingles.

  22. AceRimmer1980

    Good hardware, poor marketing

    I still have an MZN707, which I bought in 2000.

    Good points~: sound quality, build quality (a mechanical mechanism, still works perfectly) battery life (approx 45 hours on 1 AA, pack of 4 should do you for a holiday, if not, easily obtained)

    Bad: No FM radio, poor/buggy transfer software, poor MP3 compatibility, no easy way to edit your Minidisks from a PC

    Storage capacity not great, you could get 4-and-a-bit CD's onto an 80-minute minidisk. The HiMD came too late, but by then removable media in devices like this was already on the way out.

    If it was handled better, they could have been as pervasive as iPods are now. Things like uploading your own recordings at full USB speed were easily doable, but Sony were never bothered.

  23. jai

    RIP a sad day

    Admittedly, i stopped using my Minidisc players many years ago when i got a 2nd gen ipod, but before then I'd had about 4 sony minidisc players and they were brilliant.

    I agree that in this age of mp3, it's as archaic as cassette tape, but I do get a touch nostalgic everytime i see my old minidisc players gathering dust

  24. circuslights

    Sony did finally get it right

    I used minidisc for about 12 years - it was a great format for recording live music, and for a few years, it was convenient for taking music with me when I travelled (but iPod replaced Minidisc for that purpose about 7 years ago for me.)

    The last of the portable recorders, the MZ-RH1 did allow for fast transfers to a PC. Yes, you do have to use Sonic Stage, but SonicStage then converts the uploaded tracks to WAV files. The 1GB decks could also record in uncompressed mode (getting about 90 mins on a disc)

    I will still use MD for recording - although I will look for a solid state device one day.

    It's a shame that the technology is now end of life - although to be honest, I thought Sony had already dropped it! Had they made it easier to get stuff from disc to a PC earlier, it might have lasted longer.

  25. nemo20000
    Paris Hilton

    Nothing but praise

    Ripping CDs to MD via an optical cable. Recording stuff in great quality, then inserting edit points, instantly deleting sections, reordering, then amalgamating into a single track. Named discs, named tracks, brilliant little in-line remote control. All in a tiny, well made and extremely sturdy box that easily fits in a pocket?

    MD was amazing at launch and still impresses, and now that part is over. As usual, I blame people. Paris wouldn’t have one – tiny buttons incompatible with fingernails being only the start of it.

  26. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    'Golden Ears'

    My ex g/f lent me one to do some location recording - she had bought it on ebay for £25 with a stereo mic and 10 minidiscs of trash (to record over) thrown in.

    Amazing quality - I don't know if it was the mic or the unit itself, anyway coming from compact cassette everything sounds great. The advantages over that and DAT as a location

    recorder are legion, when *most* people would not be able to tell the difference anyway.

    But you Audio Engineers amongst you knew that already didn't you. You knew that it is physically impossible for a human being to tell the difference between an encoded at 320Kbs Mp3 and a 16 bit 44.1KHz CD, track?

    If you *CAN* spot a difference in a scientifically controlled test, there are some people

    that want to talk to you, and probably hire you for your 'golden ears'.


    Me? My hearing cuts out at 15KHz, which is the norm for my age. But there are other artifacts

    that come into the equation apart from frequency response, when it comes to having 'golden ears'. I have 'golden ears' in as much as I have a 'golden brain' - trained to spot anomalies

    in both the audio spectrum and musical spectrum to boot - other than that, the 'golden ears' theory is a load of the proverbial. There is no such thing as 'golden ears' in other words.

    It's basically a case of 'train your brain ffs darling' ( something I always end up saying to

    prospective g/f's that never seem to materialise)....

    Anyway, I have a nice little collection of DAT tapes from my studio days and am in a quandary

    whether to buy one and risk it not working, and shredding my tape, or hiring one from a studio for the same amount and my tapes shredding the machine.......mmm.. what to do.......

    If you can find one at a decent price in decent nick and you do sound-recording - snap one up. They are great really. Others have mentioned the politics of why they didn't catch on in this country (UK).

    (Sorry for the formatting - I will figure it out sooner or later, I suppose)


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      is that all :)

      "Me? My hearing cuts out at 15KHz, which is the norm for my age"

      I'm in my 30's and can hear up to about 17.5khz :)

      'Noisy' electronic devices bug me, nevermind the audio quality on actual music!

  27. Christian Berger

    Well it's time has gone

    Even if Sony wouldn't have introduced DRM-ridden software with the net-MD recorders it would still be dead by now. Today it just makes sense to build a little device with good A/D converters and a SD-Slot and just record the raw values of the converter. That can be made for a fraction of the cost.

  28. Neoc

    Biggest problem was media

    I bought a MD walkman/recorder when I was in the States back in '98 and, at the time, there was nothing to beat it.

    ...Except for the price Sony charged for pre-recorded media...

    I have no idea what was going through Sony's mind at the time they priced up their MD catalogue, but when buying a MD album is more expensive than buying a blank MD, the equivalent CD and spending a bit of time hooking up your portable recorder to your CD player... it's no wonder it never really took off.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Halcyon Days

    I remember the late 90s. A few friends had these to listen in school.

    Remember thinking that recording MP3s onto a mechanical magnetic storage mechanism was taking a step back from the digital era that was starting.

    Nonetheless, I saved my pocket money and went down to the local electrical store.

    There, the man at the desk said that even then, MD was on it's way out, MP3 player capacity wasn't great but was going to increase while price decreased (this was approx. 1 year before the 1st gen iPod). So I compromised and purchased an MP3 CD walkman that gave many years service, cheap CDs stuffed with MP3 files (that are still reusable today in PCs and the car stereo).

    Remember seeing an MD player in a Toyota MR2, and a friend at university had one. Seemed great sound quality, but just not proper digital.

    Strangely, I never ever saw a "release" MD, even in the record store! Just recorded blank MDs.

    Sony didn't seem to have much of a clue when it came to marketing formats, just as UMD died later. With Bluray thank goodness someone else took over the marketing.

  30. Big_Boomer

    Dear Sony,....

    Elcaset,.... flop.

    Betamax,... flop.


    Yes, some successes too like PS2/3/P but many flops.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      May be flops

      But all were good

      I am one of the few who managed to avoid Vhs by careful use of Beta HiFi VCRs until PVRs appeared and the gap between Beta rental and DVD was only a couple of years.

  31. MJI Silver badge

    Just seen this thread

    I love Minidisc, got portable and car head unit, so much better than cassette

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