[...in response to a reader disappointed with his Sony MDS-JE510]
As for MiniDisc, the format requires a form of digital compression that actually "throws away" data in order to make 74 minutes of two-channel digital recording fit on one small disc. I think our different reactions to the sound are matters of expectation.
Would I wish to listen to MiniDiscs on my home audio system? No. I don't even enjoy listening to CD's though when that's the only format available, of course I do. The music comes first. But in the car, in an airplane, or while jogging, I find MD sound more than acceptable, and better than cassettes recorded on a Nakamichi BX-300 -- a pretty good machine.
When you add the convenience factor in recording, editing, and playback, MiniDisc strikes me as an unbeatable portable system. Once you've been on an airplane with an MD player and a stack of "bulky" CDs and sitting there with a portable CD player on your tray become an almost unthinkable hassle. I put the MD player in the seat pouch in from of me and get 74 uninterrupted minutes of programmed material. The remote control allows me to adjust volume, fast-forward, and rewind and skip tracks with ease.
Your letter has prompted me to get off my butt and send JA a DAT transfer of two MD recordings I made on my portable MZ-R50; on of a steam train that passed through my town recently, the other of live music off a board mix at Rega's Roy Gandy's house. I think the sound is excellent by any standard.
Stereophile February 1999 p12 - Michael Fremer