Mini Disc is a digital format developed by Sony which stores audio at “near CD quality.” The audio is recorded to a small disk that uses optical technology. Think of it as a custom mini CD held in a plastic case similar to floppies.
The format was invented by Sony and the storage method is proprietary.
MiniDisc recorders come in two flavors:
Old, standard MiniDisc: Low density that stores audio only
Newer (2004) Hi-MD: Storing audio and digital file format.
Older disks can be reformatted to hi-density (that’s my method, since I bought a bunch of low MD disks)
MiniDisc, at one time was a format for commercial recordings, sold for Walkman-type crowd. Some disks came pre-recorded, or you could buy recordable disks. Over time, the recordable disks took over, and miniDisc is a format used in radio stations.
With Hi-MD has come the ability to store digital data files, and the HiMD recorders come with a USB connection port.
The latest iteration of the recorder is fully backward compatible with all previous Low-density Minidisc format—if you’re using windows. Upload and data transfer depends on Mac users can upload recordings made on that particular recorder.
You can also transfer the audio to your computer using real-time playback—sound out through the headphone jack (analog) and re-digitize it as you import.
The Hi-MD recorders are all portable, and Sony is the only manufacturer of Hi-MD recorders. (The old ones were made by other companies. In addition to Sony, you could get a nice MiniDisc portable recorder by Sharp.)
Advantages: For the traveler or someone who needs to make recordings away from a computer to download to, the minidisc is a good way to go.
Finally, with the Sony MZ-RH1, there’s a minidisc player worth having.
Disadvantages: Proprietary storage format and being beholden to Sony for software to transfer. Reliance on a single vendor to keep development and software to move forward. How long will it take for updates and changes in operating systems to make SonicStage obsolete is an unknown.