Like many long-standing minidisc users, I’ve been wondering when Sony will finally kill off this format. I do not live in a fantasy world, so I do realize that the tag-team of iPods, cheap MP3 players and an increasing number of high-quality portable digital audio recorders that use flash memory will spell the eventual end for this venerable magneto-optical disc format.
Yet, Sony has been known to stick with a format much longer than other manufacturers when it has a large installed user base. For instance, Sony sold new Beta VCRs in the US until the early 90s, and manufactured them for Japan and other markets until 2002.
So I was both surprised and glad to read pretty sound rumors from minidisc.org that Sony plans at least one more new minidisc recorder that also happens to be chock-full of features aimed at concert recorders and independent media makers.
The second bit of good minidisc news is that Sony released an upgrade of its SonicStage software–which provides the PC interface for minidisc recorders–that actually contains useful upgrades. Chief amongst them is that Sony has loosened the restrictions on uploading sound from Hi-MDs by allowing users to import to their PCs audio recorded through the optical digital input. Previously, you could only import audio recorded from the analog input, presumably to keep you from recording a CD (in real time) and then copying it with your PC. I’m glad to see that Sony realized that minidisc recorders are not a useful piracy tool compared to what you can do with just a PC and a CD-R drive.
The new version of SonicStage also allows users to upload audio from a Hi-MD to a PC that was originally recorded from a different PC.
Don’t know what happened to Sony, but maybe they learned a lesson about overarching DRM restrictions that don’t actually do anything to prevent real piracy.
So, while I don’t recommend any newbies jump into minidisc right now–unless you can buy some used recorders really cheap–it looks like there’s still life left in the format for folks who have been using them for high-quality recording tasks.