While on a recent trip to Hong Kong, I dove in and purchased the JVC XM-R70 MD recorder. Shopping for an MD in Hong Kong is bit like deciding on which type of beer to buy at a good package store - unlike in the US, you're certainly spoilt for choice - although I did have the XM-R70 decided on before I set off on my MD adventure. I printed out Peter Lee's ``MD Shopping In Hong Kong'' map and set off on the MTR to Mong Kok, exit E2 on Nelson street!
More about choice: Nearly every shop had the latest Sony R90 and R91, as well as R55, R50 and even a few older models. The Sharp 831 was also prevalent. These ranged from HK$2500 or US$324 to HK$1980 or US$257. There were tons of player-only models as well. Note for potential R90/91 buyers: the "official" Sony store didn't have them as the release is December 1999, and did warn -"not official no warranty" - against purchasing the ones I would see! But having seen/touched the R90/91, it's too small, really, diminishing returns! Most sales clerks are eager to help if they think you are going to buy, however as soon as they realize your "just looking", don't expect much of anything! Peter Lee's comments were spot on about this! While in a shop on Sai Yeung Choi, a British guy buying an MD for his son inquired about pre-recorded discs, to which the shop clerk replied: ``MD is your music''...
All in all, there seemed to be two price tiers for MD units. First, the more expensive, would be chain-like shops that are similar to a Best Buy or Circuit City in the US. Both Fortress and Broadway had the XM-R70 for HK$2098 or US$272. Certainly no bargain, it goes for about the same in the US. The second tier were the smaller shops a few blocks up from the MTR on Tung Choi and Fa Yeun streets. They advertised the unit for HK$1710 or US$222. I ended up finding the recorder on a small shop, Stereo Ltd. on Argyle St, which also did photo developing. Price? HK$1570 or US$203! Who says there aren't bargains in Hong Kong!
The purchase was classic. I asked to see the unit after digging through the box, asking questions (``is the manual in English, what about the warranty, is this new?''), another sales rep muttered something about ``show us money''! I laughed! I didn't go as far as having the clerk actually play/demo the unit, but in almost every shop I went to that seems to be standard practice. I asked again if this was ``best price'', the guy said yes, however I told him I didn't have enough cash and asked to use a credit card. The guy said okay but 2% more to which I replied I would come back tomorrow with cash. He went on about how it would cost that much to get back on the MTR and to ``quit wasting time''! I turned to leave the shop then he punched the final price in a calculator: HK$1580 or US$205! A deal was struck and I'm a proud owner of the XM-R70BK!
He stamped the warranty card with the store mark and was really diligent in comparing my signature on the back of the credit card. He also said I had one week to return it if it was defective, which was reassuring. The warranty card does state that ``for Overseas Countries' user, return for International warranty''. A quick call to the JVC office listed on the warranty card verified the model and serial number of the unit I bought as authentic. I would highly recommend to anyone to bring a cell phone and make that call before you buy! The next day I brought the original invoice and Asia warranty card to the JVC office in Tsimshatsui and exchanged it for an International warranty. This was my only apprehension in buying a MD in Hong Kong - leaving the country without a valid warranty.
Other shopping notes: there are a ton of MD blanks! They range from HK$11 or US$1.42 on up, depending on color, type etc. (I thought the `Hello Kitty' ones were quite over the top). The best deal were on 5 packs, usually around HK$48 or US$6.24 - that's only $1.25 per disc! I did find TDK 80 minute blanks for HK$20 or US$2.59. Should have bought more. There are also lots of accessories - carrying cases, bags, cleaners, again certainly spoilt for choice. If you go to an HMV or Fortress, you'll pay more but the selection is still quite extensive. The Pre-recorded selection at HMV however wasn't and ranging from HK$49 or US$6.50 for budget Naxos classical to approx. HK$140 or US$18 for most popular titles, this shouldn't suprise anyone. Like that well trained clerk said... It's also worth the MTR trip to Sham Shiu Po to the Apliu street market for the absolute best deals in the world for any cabling needs. You name it, you'll find it, even 2 pin digital I/O cables for CD-ROM. I picked up some adapters for the XM-R70's battery charger.
Take the trip to Mong Kok - remember to call it ``em dee'' - and enjoy one of the World's greatest MD shopping areas!