Using Minidisc to Record
from Internet Radio Stations
One of the unsung benefits of Minidisc recorders is that they are
self-contained, standalone units. Despite the Recording Industry's
current love affair with Digital Rights Management and all things
copy-restricting, as long as music eventually comes out of a
headphone jack, it is a trivial matter to record it to Minidisc as
Given this facility, one interesting application of Minidisc is
recording Internet Radio Stations. However, like traditional
(and legally protected) home recording from terrestrial radio
broadcasts, it can be a hit-or-miss affair, with great tunes mixed in
among the mediocre. Minidisc's editing facilities come nicely to the
rescue here, allowing unwanted tracks to be easily deleted
You will need to install software to play the Internet Radio Station's
audio streams. Here are a few possibilities:
The Winamp player
(Mac version) from Nullsoft is a solid freeware package that can
play Shoutcast Internet radio (streaming MP3 at 128kbps).
offers a free player, but it doesn't work with Radio MX. To listen to
radio you must purchase MusicMatch Jukebox Plus ($15) and then
subscribe to Radio MX ($5/month). Radio MX offers 128kbps streaming
MP3 format audio in many genres.
- Spinner.com offers a player
that operates with their Internet Radio services.
- High Criteria's
Total Recorder recording shareware ($12) has a handy unattended timed recording feature.
Connecting PC to Minidisc
The easiest connection from your PC will be with a so-called `patch
cord' with 1/8th" stereo phone plugs at each end. These are easy to
find at electronics stores such as Radio Shack. One end of the cable
goes into your PC's LINE-output or headphone-output jack, the other
end goes into your Minidisc recorder's LINE-input jack. Be careful
that the PC's headphone output is not turned up so high that it
overloads the Minidisc's input circuitry and causes distortion;
also take care not to plug into the MD unit's red-colored microphone
jack (you may damage the unit's microphone preamplifier).
A sound card with optical output or the Xitel MDPORT-DG1 (aka Sony
digital PC link) is ideal for MD recording purposes as the connection
from PC to MD is lossless. If you have a Xitel MDPORT-AN1 (aka Sony
analog PC link) that will still give you a quieter connection to your
MD than a normal soundcard, since the analog output section of most
sound cards frequently have some low-level noise. I've been using the
Xitel MDPORT-AN1 and am very happy with it.
Unfortunately I've hit a bug in MusicMatch Jukebox Plus 6.1 using the
MDPORT-AN1. Although MusicMatch allows you to set the Jukebox's audio
output device to be different from the current Windows preferred output
device (thereby allowing you send only Jukebox audio to the MD
recorder), it seems to ignore the setting and use audio output device
Windows is using instead. What this means is that every sound your PC
makes ends up going out through the PC->MD link and getting recorded.
Getting your PC to shut-up
To silence your PC so that you can work and record simultaneously
without having beeps, buzzers and bells recorded along with your
music, try these steps (for Windows 2000 users):
The result will be a PC that is silent unless you explicitly ask it to
play audio. Others may find this distracting, to me it's blissful.
But this still leaves the DOS "BEEP" on, which needs further tweaking to mute:
- In Internet Explorer, Tools->Internet Options: "Advanced" tab, turn
off "play sounds".
- In Start->Settings->Control Panel->Sounds and Multimedia: "Sounds"
- set all "Windows" sounds to "(None)"
- set the "Windows Explorer" sounds for "Complete Navigation" and
"Start Navigation" to "(None)"
- If you have other programs you intend to use while recording, set
them to run silently (e.g. disable the audible bell in a terminal
- With the Windows Task Manager you can set audio player program you're
using (e.g. "winamp.exe") to "realtime" priority
(right click on the process's entry).
- SuperFiles recommends setting the registry string HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Sound\Beep to "No". Thanks to Thomas Craven for this link
Here are a some Internet Radio starting points. Feel free to
"Earth's largest Internet radio network" with about 30,000 stations.
- www.internetradiolist.com -
covers quite a few Internet Radio stations, but they seem more talk
and terrestrial broadcast related.
- www.smoothjazz.com/onair -
as the name implies, lots of easy going jazz at 128kbps, plays nicely
- www.spinner.com - good
selection of genres, proprietary player, audio sounds a bit compressed
(not 128kbps). Interesting "New Ground" station covering new music.
- www.shoutcast.com -
streaming MP3 at 128kbps in many genres. Works nicely with winamp.
Match Radio MX - Pay service: $5/mo. or $40/yr, 1 week free
trial. Good quality audio but stations have overly repetitive song
I've used an MZ-R900 with Music Match. It marks the tracks nicely
during the inter-song gap. I'd listen while recording, songs I didn't
like (or that I'd recorded already) I skipped (Musicmatch allows you
to skip about 5 songs -- then you must wait a while before skipping
again). Later I'd go back through the MD and delete those skipped
tracks, they'd be obvious because their durations were too short for
The problem with Radio MX (and the reason I unsubscribed) is that the
number of songs they have in rotation is pretty small. After just a
few recording sessions of the World Beat channel (in LP2 mode) I was
able to capture all the songs that I thought were worthwhile. I don't
know what their new song insertion rate was, but it was too slow for
I'm still quite a newbie at the Internet Radio Recording scene. I'd be
happy to receive email from others with updates or suggestions. Thanks!