Newfangled Field Audio Recorder Shootout: Edirol R-1 vs. Sony MZ-M100 Hi-MD

EQ magazine features a short, but useful, comparison of the new Edirol R-1 compact-flash audio recorder and Sony’s top-of-the-line Hi-minidisc recorder.

edirol_v_himdThe reviewer finds them to be pretty equal, with each having its advantages: the Edirol is bigger but has built in mics; the Hi-MD media is a lot cheaper than CFs, and isn’t quite as musician oriented.

As long-time readers of this blog probably know, I’ve been a fan and user of minidisc for a long time. But I also acknowledge that the format is aging, and that Sony hasn’t done a great job of promoting it and making it as interoperable as newer recorders. For instance, Mac support was just added last year, and only for the newest Hi-MD models.

That said, for $200 you can still get a Hi-MD recorder with a microphone input that records uncompressed WAV audio to 1 GB discs with high quality. CF-based recorders aren’t at that price level yet, though I believe it’s just a matter of time.

At work I’m often asked to recommend audio field recorders for research and radio production purposes. By and large what I recommend depends on what a person’s budget is, and if she’s ever used minidisc before. If you can spend $400 or more and have never used or owned a minidisc recorder, I honestly recommend buying one of the new CF recorders like the Edirol or one of the Marantz ones. At closer to $500 – $600 the Marantz’s have XLR mic jacks, which I consider to be a major advantage for both sound quality and durability. The Edirol and minidisc just have mini-jacks.

If someone is a current minidisc user (but not Hi-MD), and wants to upgrade to something that will upload audio directly to a PC via USB, then I tend to recommend the Hi-MD, since you can still use the same media and your old recordings (though they won’t upload). I also recommend Hi-MD to people who really can’t afford to spend much more than $250, since they can get recording right away, rather than waiting until CF recorders drop more in price.

I believe minidisc will be with us a little while longer. There are rumors that Sony is going to kill it, but those rumors have floated around before. Sony as a company has had better times, and much of it has to do with disastrous decisions made by the music division. However, minidisc is a popular format worldwide, and Sony tends to stick with their formats a long time.

Choosing any technology these days is a bit of a gamble, between fly-by-night formats and brands, and planned obsolescence. It’s sad, but if you can get a few good years out of a recorder, you’re probably doing well. I figure if you want to go minidisc, you’ll get those years.

I did buy my first minidisc recorder back in 1997 and it still works just as well today. Nine years ain’t too bad.

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