Reply to Stereophile, re: MD's Relaunch

Reg Smith ([email protected])

Dear Mr. Iverson:

Having read your opinions on MD technology and Sony's new promotion campaign, one must wonder just how closely you have actually come to the subject of your article. You made a number of misleading statements which do neither your readers nor Sony and the numerous other manufacturers of MD hardware any good. Perhaps you would be well advised to do your homework before unleashing your pen or keyboard in the future.

To begin with, MD was never considered feeble. Its early problems had more to do with the fact Sony had to rush the technology into production to try to head off the threat of Phillips' DCC. In so doing, they ran to market with a format that was sound, but one which was as yet unpolished. The initial ATRAC version 1.0 left much to be desired and when the press and consumers made that inevitable A:B comparison between CD source and MD copy, the gap was readily apparent, even to those without gold-plated ears.

Secondly, the price point was so astronomically high that very few US consumers could be enticed to pluck down $750.00 for an MZ-1 machine. To make things even worse, the pricing and availability of software, whether blank discs or the pre-recorded variety, was outrageously expensive and hard to find, even in larger cities; forget about smaller communities or stores where mainstream America shops - KMart and the like.

Most of that has now changed, in a big way. Current machines use ATRAC 4.0 or higher, and the sound quality is so good that it is nearly impossible to reliably tell which is source and which is copy, in a fair, blind listening test. Many listeners cannot discern any difference, and others who say they can are unable to reliably say which is which. If you want to test my statements I invite you to get a Sharp MD-MS702 portable recorder or a Sony MZ-R50 walkman recorder. Both are current state of the art, will easily fit in your shirt pocket and will make a believer out of you or any other skeptic.

From reading your article, it would be easy to presume that Sony is the only company behind this system today. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, virtually every major electronics company is now heavily into manufacturing and selling MD equipment. Big names we are all familiar with like Sharp, Aiwa, Denon, Onkyo, Sansui, Sanyo, JVC, Panasonic, Alpine, Clarion, Kenwood, Yamaha, Pioneer, Tascam (Teac) and Marantz are all producing and selling MD based consumer and pro equipment in Japan and many countries in Europe. You imply major sales in these areas are only a rumour; let me assure you from firsthand experience, any shop you go into in Japan, you will see loaded with MD systems. Even the 7-11 type convenience stores there carry blank MD's in multicolored variety packs just as we might find cassette tapes for sale here.

Germany, France, Great Britain, Finland, Spain, Sweden all are selling MD very well, particularly since last year. Hardware and software prices have fallen dramatically, making MD much more affordable, if not quite yet on a par with cassette. For example, blank discs are now about $4.00 each here in the US, pre-recorded discs are at or slightly less than CD's, portable players can be found for just a bit over $150.00, portable recorders for about $350.00, and home decks at about $270.00. I recall the first CD player for sale in my town in 1983 was priced at $1000.00, and it took that a while to drop, too.

Please stop perpetuating the misconceptions based on previous and less well-developed machines from two or three years back. I have no affiliation with Sony or any other MD vendor but Sony is 100 percent correct that MD is deserving of a fresh look by American consumers. It has grown up and is a fabulous, reliable and ingenious system that is the ideal replacement for the antiquated cassette tape, and perfect complement to the CD. I have heard of not one person who used a portable recorder long enough to learn its capabilities who didn't really want one of his or her own. Why don't YOU get one and see what you think then?


Reg Smith
Perfect Pitch Restorations
Precision Repairs of Antique Music Boxes
Athens, Georgia

Return to the MiniDisc Community Page.