Latest Sony Minidisc MZ-RH1
A [p]review of the RH1 (called preview because it’s with a pre-release model). Overall, things look good. Most importantly: Both Mac and Windows users can upload recordings made with the minidisc to the computer over a USB connection using Sony’s Sonic-Stage software. Even better: Directly upload recordings made from older, low-density. The upshot, overall, looks good. With this model, both Mac and Windows users can record onto minidiscs and then directly upload to the computer via USB and Sony-supplied software. Highlights follow.
Some background: In the olden days, there was something called “regular MD.” More recently (January 2004), Sony introduced a new format called Hi-MD. “Hi” stands for high-density. With the new format came a new 1GB Hi-MD disc, or old standard discs could be reformatted for double the capacity. Two years later, Sony is now onto the third generation Hi-MD portable recorders. (Some of the [p]review discusses 1st, 2nd, and now 3rd generation recorders.)
With the MZ-RH1, Sony has abandoned its old strategy concerning Hi-MD. The MZ-RH1 is no longer meant as a competitor for Mp3 players, but is aimed primarily at people looking to buy an MD with unequalled upload capability and an affordable price. The MZ-RH1 is therefore ideal for musicians and journalists amongst others, who for these reasons require a portable recording studio. [emphasis mine]
The Good News:
Perhaps the most important new function of the MZ-RH1 is the possibility to upload standard format MD recordings. Whereas with earlier generations of Hi-MD it was only possible to upload Hi-MD format recordings, with the MZ-RH1 this is now possible for all recordings (and therefore recordings made with old MD devices). In order to be able to make full use of this functionality you need to use the updated version of SonicStage 3.4 supplied with the MZ-RH1.
Cool! Now you can upload older recordings made with standard MiniDisc recorders. (I have made recordings using standard MiniDiscs, so this is very exciting news.)
The Bad News:
Because the MZ-RH1 itself has had to be specially adapted to allow MD uploads it is not possible that you can use the new Sonic Stage version to upload with old Hi-MD devices. The upload of MD recordings will only work on devices that were designed to do so from the beginning. At present therefore only the MZ-RH1.
This doesn’t apply to you if you haven’t gotten any minidisc portable recorders before. But if you have (and I have), Sony is saying, in effect, “Did you buy one of our earlier models? Sorry, you’re screwed. If you want this functionality, you need to spend another few hundred dollars.” (and who knows what Sony will come out with in the future that will make this current drool-worthy portable MiniDisc recorder obsolete? How many spare sets of three-hundred-fifty dollars do you have lying around?) If I sound bitter about this, it’s because I have the first generation Hi-MD recorder. And the new capabilities are in a combination of hardware-plus-software. I can’t use the new software on my older recorder. But if I didn’t have one already, and if I hadn’t recently sprung for another digital recorder, I’d seriously consider getting this one.
Check it out at The Sound Professionals (including a link where you can download the manual in pdf format to check out details)
(What might be) Quirks:
I read that the unit is charged through USB; there’s no power adapter plug on unit. Happily the RH1 comes with all the cables so that you can plug the USB end into the recorder, and, using an adapter, plug the other end into the wall socket. (I was trying to picture charging battery only from computer—I didn’t like that option. Happy to be wrong, there.)
Playback is controlled only from the remote (which plugs into a special controller socket; you see it in the iamage as the small part with the blue-green window.
You can’t press “play” on the unit itself. Strange.
[simple playback is possible, as reported by Frank Wortner in the comments; see below.] The manual says, “Menu for playback can be set with the remote only.” This is further confirmed by a post to a minidisc discussion board. Ah well.
But all in all, to have the ability to upload a file directly to Mac and Windows via USB, and no longer have to “play it back” in real time—this is exciting and makes MiniDisc an Option To Seriuosly Consider once again.
“You can’t press ‘play’ on the unit itself. Strange.”
Not true. Simple playback functions (play, rewind, forward, stop, pause, and volume control) are all accessible from the recorder itself. The remote adds features like shuffling, some playlist support, reverb, etc. It is not required for just plain playback.
Cool! Frank, thanks for reporting that; I’ve corrected my post based on your statement. My statement was based off my reading of the article; I haven’t tried out the unit myself. I’m assuming (?) that you have the unit? Would love to hear any comments about what it’s like for you.