MD Use in Radio

Sony MDS-B5 at a Phoenix radio station

I wanted to let you know of my exploits with the Sony MDS-B5 recorder. I work at a radio station in Phoenix and we specialize in news. We normally put all of our news on carts(8 tracks :) and we run our news that way. Well lately the carts have really failed us and we finally bought the MDS-B5's for our newsroom and I have to tell you they are the greatest thing since sliced bread!!!

I am the technical director for the morning show there and instead of putting things on carts, I transfer everything to MiniDisc and run my morning show features on MiniDisc and must I say, it is a totally new experience. Everything is so clear and everything is finally cued up for once!!! The B5 is such a joy to work with. It is a total workhorse. It will do everything you tell it to and then some. It truly is a God send for us, and I just wanted to pass this on to you and the other minidisc users.

Ed Cole
Avondale, Arizona

From the UK Radio Mailing List

Graham Baker ([email protected]) posted a question to the UK Radio Mailing List:

As well as subscribing to the UK radio list I also subscribe to a list run by minidisc enthusiasts. MD is about to go through a relaunch in UK & USA. The audio quality of the recent models is extremely good and there has been some mention of MD being used by the Beeb and various radio stations in the states. I was wondering if MD is used by any of the commercial FM stations in the UK?

If so, where is it used (jingles or music, etc.)? What models do you use - Denon professional, etc. or consumer models? What's the reliability like?

And received these answers:

At Radio WAVE 96.5fm in Blackpool we have been using Mini Disc since the very early Sony Models.

Our main units now are Pro Dennons which we are very pleased with as well as some Sony domestic machines.

In the early days, we had many compatability problems between Sony and Dennon and also discs failed when the TOC was edited too many times. Thankfully with software upgrades these problems are a thing of the past.

Our main use for MD is archiving commercials and presenter's own jingles etc. to save space on our digital playout system (DCS)

Hi Graham,

Saw your message in the UK Radio Forum the other day. We abandoned NAB carts in favour of Minidisc several months ago. We have two Denon model DN-1100R recorder/players, one in each on-air studio, as well as the excellent ASC MD-Report! portable machine which we use for recording interviews with hospital patients, staff, etc. (ASC MD-Report is an MZ-R3 kitted up with XLR inputs, monitor spkr & extra battery - GB)

The Denon machines are fine and the ten so-called 'hot start' buttons are a boon. Most presenters each have their own disc with all their idents, promos, music beds etc. on the one disc. The ten most frequently used cuts are assigned to the ten hot start buttons. I gather that BBC Radio 2 (who use MD in a big way) have a different approach: they have one minidisc for every cut.

We have one or two reservations however: the disc transport mechanism can be somewhat temperamental and occasionally a disc sticks in the slot. You then need to power down the unit at the mains to reset the logic. Editing, 'topping and tailing' and titling is comprehensive and split-second precision but is rather fiddly and time-consuming. One limitation is that if you're trying to combine two cuts into one, the latter of the two has to be at least 8 seconds long or the combine operation will fail. Get round this one by recording a few seconds of silence on the end and trim it off again later. Subjectively, the edits sound seamless and perfect.

We're currently looking at PC-based .WAV file editors as a better solution for editing - check recent Forum messages for software suggestions.

So far we've had no trouble with unreadable discs - touch wood! We use the standard (domestic) Sony discs.

Graham Baker asked about Minidisc usage in UK Radio...

Croydon FM, the RSL group in South London has used MD since Christmas 1994.

We used it for all sorts of production from jingles to outside news gathering and interviews.

Quality - very good

Ease of use - not at all bad (the early portables we used had built in editing features enabling rough cuts, and some final cuts, to be done extremely quickly)

Robust - no way. All sorts of software faults occurred, eventually making use of the early portables quite difficult. The fixed base machines are somewhat better, but obviously no good for ENG / OB work.

Will we use them again? Oh yes.

We are suppliers of both the Denon & Tascam Professional range of MiniDiscs as well as a very wide selection of studio and transmitter equipment.

We have supplied a number of ILRs with the Denon DN990R and DN980F machines. There is also a HotKey version which is great for jingles and spot-effects.

We have found that the domestic machines are not at all reliable and have had several machines of a particular brand fail. Whilst okay for use at home occasionally, they do not stand up to the rigours of a broadcast studio.

Newsgathering is one of MiniDisc's strengths with its superior quality and editing facilities. We supply reporters' packages with either the Sony MZR3 or the new Sharp MD-MS100H portable machines.

However, the best and most reliable machine for News is the Denon DN-80R Professional Portable MD Recorder. This has over four hours recording on a battery charge, shock proof memory and easy editing facilities.

I would be grateful if you could let me know the MiniDisc web site and the list for enthusiasts.

Carl Landsbert Marketing & Operations Manager

*                                    *
*        ROY PARSONS LIMITED         *
*    Music, Radio and Television     *
* Equipment, Design and Installation *
*      Tel: +44 (0)181 992 7109      *
*      email: [email protected]      *
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Just as a warning to Mini Disc users, I've just had a Sony MZ-R2 fail in interesting fashion, on immediately the 'edit' function is used it deletes the TOC permanently! There is nothing more devastating than reading 'blank disc' where once you had a recording!

I know its a domestic portable, but several of you have mentioned using them. Sony tell me they have never heard of the fault before, can any of you tell me otherwise? (incidentally the repair bill comes to marginally less than the cost of a new unit according to Sony, again - I get this nagging feeling they don't really lnow what fault they are fixing and are going to effectively swap the machine)

Tony Miles Manchester Metropolitan University.

Yep, B1000 and some other student stations have had this problem with the Sony models. If you record something, and then edit it without playing it first, the TOC is deleted..

If any of you are thinking of getting minidisc I would splash out a bit extra for the Denons. Generally they are excellent bits of kit, well IMO anyway.


I used the portable SONY machine in summer 95, and whilst attempting to record some vox-pops I managed to wipe the whole disc. I wasn't a happy chappy! But the new full-size Sony machines have an "undo" function which can be useful in some situations.

The Denons have switchable SCMS, which would be useful...

Most stations in the UK are now using minidisk in some form or other. Radio One have just ordered a load of the Denons, which are probably the most widely used.

The Denons are good machines, and are easy to use on air. They are reasonably reliable, but they do go wrong sometimes. The trouble is, without either specialist knowledge or specialist equipment, they are difficult to fix. They usually end up getting sent back to Haydon Labs, who are not cheap and can take up to four or five weeks to repair them.

You have been warned.

Bob Edgar, Engineer, 2CRFM/Classic Gold 828

On Mon, 20 Jan 1997, A.J MILES wrote:

> Thanks to all those with mini disc info. so far,
> Out of real curiosity is anyone using DCC at all anywhere?
> I have met one or two people who think it is (subjectively) better 
> than Mini Disc etc. (swear on their lives they'll never touch MD and 
> so on)
At Deva Radio we use both!

We had a tie in with Philips whereby we got some machines, and we prefer DCC for portable recording, as you can't press the wrong button and wipe everything. We also pre-record shows onto DCC at times, though the limit of only 45 minutes of continuous recording time is a bit bad.

Myself and Wim our production guy both own a Marantz DCC deck which has every feature and socket you could ever imagine, but the "home" machines made by Philips can be really awkward to use!

However DCC is a dead format, and we are in the minority.

Want any more info? Mail me.

Chris Stevens, Deva Radio

Minidiscs are pretty much standard format here in Ireland (incl. Atlantic 252) - for jingles, liners, recording calls etc. (some stations use them for ads although the price makes it a bit impractical). As for reliability it all depends on the machine (we use Denons) and the discs (we use Sony Pro). I've had some drops on the same disc and used them daily for over two years and have never had any real problem with them.

*** Rick O'Shea - The Funny Farm ***
*** FM 104, O'Connell Bridge, Dublin 2, Ireland ***
*** Ph: +353 1 6777111 Fax: +353 1 6772286 ***
*** Mail: [email protected] Site: ***

We at Deva Radio use it a lot as well. Jingles, adverts, editing, they're great, if a little flimsey. I've just got one of the new full-size machines, currently retailing at just under stlg300, and it's great. I would recommend it to anyone.

Chris Stevens, [email protected]

We use it a great deal here at Thames Valley University too. In fact all our radio students use portable minidiscs for recording interviews, vox pops, jingles, etc.

I agree that they are a bit flimsy though - and expensive to repair when things do go wrong. But the in-built edit facility is very handy, and the discs themselves seem to last forever (so far anyway!)

Eryl, Thames Valley University Radio

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