What that first MD recorder had that has never been seen on a Sony portable since (and should be available): Optical digital out. Where has that feature gone?
Disc prices have plummeted, believe me! When I first purchased the MZ-1, only 60 minute discs were available and they sold for $13.99 a piece! Needless to say, there wasn't a big line waiting to buy them.
My beef As much as I love MiniDiscs, I have one major beef about the gear: Where are the MD boomboxes that run on batteries? Casio made one briefly (the ZD-1), which I own, but no one, not even Sony has touched that area. WHY? Isn't this medium supposed to be about portability? Listen up, Sony: Battery-powered boomboxes! Now! Thank you!
Anyway, let's move on to blanks. As a collector of MD blanks, I'm always on the hunt for an MD I've never seen before. I scour all the MD e-tailers, I once purchased some rare MD's on ebay, and I recently had a friend return from Japan with $300.00 worth of rare blanks. So, I have a pretty sizable collection. I've been collecting them for a few years now, and I give my short list of favorites below.
Sony I gotta say, I like those Neige discs. Don't know how to pronounce Neige, but I love those discs. Simplistic. Futuristic. Shiny and fun. The New Color Collection is also impressive: rich colors, clean design. And how 'bout those Lumina discs? Aren't they precious? Don't they make you want to go take a nappy with your "bankie"? But for a real kick, seek out those Utada Hikaru Red Hot discs. (Got mine through Hyperjack.) Did you know Utada is the name of a Japanese pop star? (You can check her out and hear some of her music at http://utadahikki.homepage.com/) She's so big, she's got her own blank MD's. And each three pack of discs comes with a little baseball-card-sized picture of the young diva. Sure to be a collector's item. Sony's boring discs: The new Sparkling discs. Terrible art direction, bad typeface choice. That and the original grey, computer disc-looking 60's. Yawn. The ES discs are notable because they're the only all-lilywhite discs I've seen. But considering the parity they have with every other disc out there, the pretense seems a little presumptuous.
TDK Music Jack discs are a favorite of mine. All the MJ colors are nice, but the gold discs in the nearly clear case are exceptional. Did you know TDK is releasing these now and calling them TDK Color? Comes in "five flavors", says the package: "Ice Blue, Orange, Wintergreen, Cherry, and Spearmint." Funkalicious! (I bought some TDK Color through Planet MiniDisc.) Identical to MJ discs, but with a less cryptic name. I suppose they've been getting that "what the hell does Music Jack mean?" for too long. Still, I like Music Jack. The name's meaningless, but some Japanese marketing guy must have thought it would mean something cool to Westerners. (P.S. Anxious to get my hands on some of those TDK XS-iv discs. Coming soon and created by artistic-types!)
Maxell Nothing too outrageous or impressive coming out of these guys, design-wise, although I do have a couple favorites: the GS (kind of a pre-Neige-like clear disc with a teardrop shaped clear window) and the XL MD (mostly white, but with a uniquely circular stripe of a window). (I purchased both through Hitmall - back when they actually had product in stock.) Otherwise, I think the MD Twinkles are kind of "stinkle" (bland, at least) and the most outstanding feature of the Pure Gold and Pure Platinum 80 min series is the drawings of eagles and cheetahs on the packaging (although my wife thought the gold design on the disc looked kind of cool.)
Axia Can you say "Hello Kitty?" How could you not love these discs? (Well, unless maybe you're afraid they might threaten your masculinity.) I like both the 74 and 80 Hello Kitties. But Axia has some other really innovative designs. Their Major Hits MD's (which I found at MiniDiscMall) come in what's call a "chrome" color and, much like the blue SlimCase 5-pack sold at MiniDisco, they have the look of shattered glass. My wife, Pam, an artist and graphic designer calls these some of her very favorites. The "im"80's MD's also come in very bright, vibrant colors: red, blue, purple, orange, and yellow. Their CS line is the only one I know that features a brown MD. Yes. Brown. And the PS line has a picture of a trumpet on the shrink wrap. Don't ask. I have no idea. But my most precious and rare MD's are Axia's MD J'z's. A friend of mine brought them back from Japan for me and I've never seen them anywhere. The shrink-wrap packaging art is totally cool and computer generated-one shows a transparent apple hovering over a sandy shoreline, another a clear lightbulb wearing a pair of headphones - yet another a close up of an egg, sunny-side up. And the discs themselves - well, I can't bring myself to rip off the shrink wrap, so I've never actually looked at one of the discs close up. But wow! What packaging! [Right, he's clearly gone overboard. -ed]
Denon I found these at MiniDisco as well, and I just love the colors. There's nothing fancy about the packaging or presentation - they're nearly transparent, single-colored discs. But the color choices are very tasty and colorful, which I like a lot. My wife's all-time favorite MD colors are in this 5 pack.
Victor Like those PopBeat discs. All bright and sparkly. Very Seventeen magazine. The red Car MD's, with the tachometer on them, are pretty cool, too. I bought some Victor Crystal discs in blue, purple, green and gold, but I can't comment much on them, since I haven't had the nerve to take them out of the shrink wrap. (I know. I need to get a life.)
Rare & Notable: TDK XA Pro It's pointless to pay this much for a MiniDisc. But cripes, these things are built like tanks! They're made out of aluminum for goodness sakes! Still, you've gotta own one just to feel the heft and to admire the propaganda that comes with it. KAO MiniDiscs My first bright-colored discs. Bought them through MiniDiscnow, before Frankie went bonkers. Haven't seen the brand since. Megadata discs Nothing outstanding to look at, but they're made in Korea. I found someone selling them on ebay. HHB purple discs A solid purple disc. Nuff said. Quantegy discs Just because they say "Quantegy" on them. Mitsubishi discs Also purchased through MDNow - back in the day. And hats off to MiniDisco for branding their own Hi Space discs. I like their "mascot" on the discs. That, and that heavy duty case they come in, really make a statement. And finally, an honorable mention to Memorex for making their Cool Colors collection colorful and affordable ($29.99 for 20 at circuitcity.com). I know some have dissed Memorex for manufacturing inferior discs, but my experience has not borne that out. But then, I haven't used that many of them. I could be mistaken.
Well, thanks for slogging through this. If you got this far, you must be an MD junkie and I'm sure you've got your own favorites. Thanks for your time.