Excerpts from August '97 What Hi*Fi?

Test, Personal Stereos

Sharp MD-S50H

(MD Personal 300 pounds sterling SRP)

This tiny MiniDisc marvel from Sharp will sit happily in a back pocket with both the controls and the display conveniently located on the headphone chord.

Instant track access and scrolling song titles on the display are just some of the benefits of the MD format, the compact nature of which certainly lends itself to portability.

Digital playback of pre-recorded software beats any tape Walkman for accurate sound quality and rivals the best CD personals around with a snappy, clean-cut performance. Classical music full of quiet passages and crashing climaxes demonstrates the Sharp's impressive dynamic ability to the full.

The in-ear phones are well suited to the sound here, and can be upgraded without losing the remote control. The plus points of this fine sounding, great-looking personal are many, but there are drawbacks. It's playback only and has no line level output. The Sharp also has a formidable rival - read on.

Sony MZ-R30

(MD personal 300 pounds sterling SRP)

The Sony is an incredible little machine: not only is the quality of its digital playback glorious, it makes highly accurate digital recordings, too. It also boasts all the editing features you'd find on a full-size MiniDisc deck, and offers a detailed display readout, mic input, optical line in, line out, synchro record, track labeling buttons, long life rechargeable battery, remote control headphones and fluffy carrying pouch.

Synchronised recordings from CD are a doddle to make: just press two buttons and you get accurate copies which you can label or rearrange at will.

Pre-recorded stuff sounds softer than when played on the Sharp, and there's less emphasis on vocals, but all is fully conveyed. It's true that there are formats which offer better digital reproduction than MiniDisc - CD-R and DAT for example - but neither offers such convenience at this price. And though the Sony is somewhat larger than the identically priced Sharp in this test, it will still slip into a back or top pocket with ease. So what's the catch? There's none that we can see.


A good personal should be both compact and solidly built, have an efficient anti-roll mechanism in the case of a tape player and anti-skip with sufficient memory in the case of CD. Above all, you should enjoy the sound.

Both tape personals in this test sound good, and boast a considerable size advantage over the CD personals, with Sony's WM-X5 being the smaller of the two. On the other hand CD offers instant track access and, on the whole, superior sound. We recommend the JVC as a great all-rounder. We also suggest you avoid players with less than 10 second anti-shock mechanisms.

However, our overall winner is the Sony MZ-R30 MiniDisc for its unbeatable mix of sound and features. Perhaps MD's strengths as a portable format may win more UK fans.

What Hi*Fi? Says

			format	sound	build	facilities	verdict
Aiwa HS-PX677		MC	****	*****	*****		****
Aiwa XP-560		CD	*****	****	*****		****
Goodmans GCD57	CD	***	*****	****	***
JVC XL-P43BK		CD	*****	*****	*****		*****
Optimus CD-3530	CD	***	*****	*	**
Sanyo CDP-455		CD	***	*****	*****		***
Sharp MD-S50H		MD	*****	*****	***		****
Sony MZ-R30		MD	*****	*****	*****		*****
Sony WM-EX5		MC	*****	*****	*****		*****

Phil Millard adds

This article was intended to give readers a brief sample of the personal stereo kit available. I don't believe they should have compared the new Sony MD recorder with the older Sharp player(late '95) for example. One piece of information they also omitted was the battery life of the units, apart form the Awai Cassette player which has a 40 hour playback capability.

Return to the MiniDisc Community Page.