CES '97 MiniDisc News

Marc Wielage (mfw@musictrax.com)

At the Winter CES I spoke to a MiniDisc rep at the Sony exhibit, and they had on display the MZ-R30, which will be on-sale in the U.S. in the next couple of months for $599 list price!

The rep pointed out that this is actually cheaper than the MZ-R3, which it replaces, even though the R30 is a better unit, with more features. The R30 has the mono recording mode feature, which I particularly like for dictation and interviews and so on.

He also said that the high-end MDS-JA50ES recorder would positively be on-sale in the U.S. "sometime in the spring," but couldn't say exactly when or how much it would cost. He didn't dispute my guess of a list price between $1600 and $1800. Still no plans for a MiniDisc AC-operated changer for the U.S. just yet. He also admitted that they were pushing hard to cut blank MD prices -- partially due to pressure from CD recorders. Reportedly, Pioneer has announced plans to market a $1000 consumer (not computer) CD-R, with blank 74-minute discs at $10 -- considerably less than the 1996 version.

BTW: The MD spokesperson also commented that Sony does monitor the MiniDisc list and the Web site, so they're keeping tabs on at least some of what is discussed here. However, my opinion is that the key marketing decisions are still being made in Tokyo; they still pull all the strings on products released in North America.

Also of interest (but not MD) is a new Sony "10th Anniversary of DAT" portable DAT deck, which I think was the TC-D100 (or a number similar to that), which is an all-silver metallic smaller version of the TC-D8. It has basically the same features as the D8 with some cosmetic refinements, but will cost about $1000. The D8 will continue in the line, as will the SBM-1 A/D converter.

Denon showed a new consumer table-model MD recorder, though it appears essentially identical to Sony's MDS-JE500. No info on pricing or availability yet.

... and more from a Sony Staffer

I just got back from CES yesterday. I really didn't have much of a chance to walk the floor. However, I do have great things to say about MD. No. 1... It was bulletproof... every time someone approached with criticisms about MD, we were able to turn it around. Only one person was upset at Sony and this was because we keep having new formats such as DAT, MD, CD, soon DVD. I understand his frustation, in his view there are too many technologies and he thinks consumers want just one thing. This would be true...if consumers were all the same. But, they are not...they all have vastly different needs such as home use, portable applications, and high end recording. I really think his frustration stemmed from a) not accepting that people are different, and b) not being able to target products towards these different people. Besides him, everyone with questions about MD left with a knowledge of a really cool product.

This year at CES marked a transistion for MD. I have worked the previous 2 CESs. At these shows a very large percentage of the people were either anti-MD (because it was yet another format) or they simply didn't know about it. THIS YEAR I can't tell you how many people would approach us with "Hey, I have the MZ-1 and what new stuff do you have?" Lot's of really excited people. I even met a few MD mailing list subscribers.

I also had an opportunity to give some feedback to both the executives about bringing the remote titler RM-D10P into the US... hopefully they will get the idea that we need more tools to support MD for us enthusiasts (I can't promise anything). More good news... Sharp had quite a few MD units. (i.e. units with CD, digital tuners, and MD recorders) I think there were 3 or 4 such units on display. Likewise Denon showcased a home 20 bit MD recorder selling for around $700 and a MD component to their mini component system as well. Kenwood also showed an MD recorder... apparently all to be entering the US market. Finally, there will be other manufacters besides Sony and Sharp in the US. Sharp said that some of their models may be brought into the States... they're still waiting to see what the market is like.

The new product Sony showcased at CES were the MZ-R30, MD-MX4 ($1250), and the Pro Cart MD-MB5 a 4X speed duplication unit for radio stations costing $3300 suggested. Nothing was seen of the MZ-E30 or the MZ-F40, it's still too early before their release.

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