Here is a running compilation of various user's comments on the new MDLP modes. If you're curious to see what people have to say about these high-compression modes, read on...

--Comments from Keith Whitfield on the MD (ca. Fall 2000)--

I have just brought the Sony jb940 and while I havn't got the best setup in the world I can here very slight differences in the sound between stereo LP2 I can only here it with headphones. you can here it more if theres phaseing between left and right it's hard to put into words but it's the sort of effect when the music sound as if it's going around you rather then just fading left and right and only when it involves a 1 or 2 instruments. Other then that it's a great space saver but it's not compatible with my car md head unit so it's upgrade time again. hope my poor description is of some help.


--Comments from Marc Wielage on the newsgroup (ca. Fall 2000)--

Nobody has really talked much about the sound quality of MDLP yet, so I thought I'd toss out this mini-review for the group. I finally received the MDS-JB940 that I had ordered about 7 weeks ago (!) from Crutchfield here in the U.S., and here's a quick report:

For the test, I used a fairly well-recorded CD with mainly solo vocal and piano, which I figured would probably be the hardest thing to reproduce. The new MDLP-capable models use ATRAC-R for the normal MD modes, and the new Sony ATRAC-3 mode (not to be confused with ATRAC 3.0) for MDLP recording & playback.

1) For sound quality: the normal mode ("SP"?) sounded fine -- to my ears, essentially identical to the original CD, and equal to the standard MD for the last couple of years.

2) the LP2 mode -- which doubles existing playtime in stereo, to a maximum of 160 minutes on an MD-80 disc (or about 148 on an MD-74) -- actually sounded pretty good. I thought I heard just a hint of extra distortion on transients, particularly bells and cymbals, but we're talking very minor. My gut feeling is that LP2 is pretty much identical to FM quality.

3) For S/N, LP2 added no additional hiss or noise that I could hear to the original signal.

4) the LP4 mode was another matter. This mode quadruples playtime in stereo, to a maximum of 320 minutes on an MD-80 disc (or about 299+ on an MD-74). With LP4, I thought I heard a bit of "fuzz" around a lot of high frequency sounds, and on piano chords, it was apparent that there was that familiar "phasey / swirling" kind of quality that you get from marginal MP3 files or RealAudio material. Sharp transients, like cymbal hits, kind of had a "blat" sound instead of a solid peak.

5) like LP2, LP4 didn't seem to add any noise or hiss to the original signal, but I got the feeling the background dither had changed. I thought I could hear some increased distortion in a fade-out, but I wasn't 100% convinced I wasn't hearing things.

6) The good news is that for just spoken word, like talk radio shows, the quality seemed totally acceptable. It's good enough that I've decided to get rid of the VHS Hi-Fi deck I had been using for daily talkshow backups, and start doing them instead on MD LP4, which will hold one 5-hour show per disc. I'm doing these only as a backup to using the regular MD Mono mode

I also have the R900 portable, but have not yet tried recording anything in the MDLP modes. I have played back MD-LP2 & LP4, just to confirm that it works, and they sound identical to the table-model machine, as you'd expect.

The bottom line: there are problems with both MDLP modes, but they each sounded much better than I had feared. I'm curious to see what the mainstream audio mags will have to say about the machine. I know that HFN&RR in the UK gave the previous 930 a near-rave review, but I suspect they won't be as fond of MDLP.

I would have liked to have run test signals through the thing to see what it would do. The only problem there is that I don't think conventional sine waves will tell the whole story; I think because of the way these compression schemes work, you need some fairly complex material to expose their weaknesses. I suspect that if you threw some fairly complex material at it -- like pink noise on the left channel and orchestral music on the other -- you might get some weird results. Hopefully, David Ranada at SOUND & VISION will do something like that when they test the new MD units.

As far as I know, Sony has not yet published any AES or SMPTE papers discussing exactly how the new codecs work, and how they differ from MP3.

Given how many people totally accept the quality of MP3, though, I suspect that most will find LP4 acceptable for everything. Now, the only question is whether Sony can get people to buy the thing...


-= Marc Wielage | "The computerized authority =-
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