For those unsatisfied with a mini-iPod
January 9, 2004 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Sony to Introduce HI-MD Walkman For the people who were unsatisfied with Apple's iPod mini, this might provide an alternative. Sony is going to release a HI-MD Walkman, that uses a 1 gigabyte minidisc. As points out, it will also allow transferring data from the minidisc to a computer, and not just the other way around.
posted by synecdoche (24 comments total)
I'm very keen on MDs (I use them to record live performances) and this is very good news - I'll probably upgrade my old Sharp MD recorder once Sharp adopts this new Sony technology. I won't consider buying an iPod until they make one that records.
posted by prolific at 1:32 PM on January 9, 2004

Belkin makes a voice recorder accessory for the iPod. My brother got one for Christmas.

I can't afford any kind of mp3 player yet, but if I have to wait until April I'll probably get one of these instead.
posted by starvingartist at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2004

I know there's a voice recorder, but they're no good for live music recording. I use binaural mics. iRiver's IHP120 is currently the best alternative - but you can't adjust recording levels on it yet.
posted by prolific at 1:43 PM on January 9, 2004

Sony's way of controlling just what you do with the audio you record yourself on your minidisc player doesn't make me very excited about the format, but one of my bands routinely records our live shows on MD.

iPod recording: Griffin's iTalk is coming in April. Current limitations of the iPod software keep the recording quality at 8K/16 bit mono, but maybe Apple will eventually bump that up. a 40 GB iPod could store a helluva lot of 16 bit mono audio, though.
posted by emelenjr at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2004

I'm sure, with Sony, a major record label as well as electronics manufacturer, there's got to be a catch.

prolific - I have an Archos Jukebox Recorder 20GB and it seems to have the same microphone input type as that iRiver (no phantom power). You can adjust the recording levels on it, as well as the MP3 compression level. It's also got a digital in/out port I've never really explored. I'm no audio expert, but if you're not familiar with the device, check it out.

Seriously folks, on the subject of recording, don't even bring up the iPod.
posted by scarabic at 1:53 PM on January 9, 2004

I feel trapped to the iPod because iTunes is so excellent.
posted by the fire you left me at 1:56 PM on January 9, 2004

I think the near future will see some serious audio and video improvements to the iPod, so I wouldn't dismiss it just yet, scarabic. It's now possible to record DV and audio straight into iMovie using the iSight FireWire camera. The iPod has a FireWire port, so I bet hooking a camera or other FireWire device up to an iPod and hitting record will soon become an option.
posted by emelenjr at 2:06 PM on January 9, 2004

I bought a Sony MiniDisk several years ago and have been very happy with it, given its limitations (must convert to analog to get audio off of it, lossy compression). I have used it for field recording (mostly voice and low-volume music) and have been very happy with the quality.

It's too bad Sony can't get with the standards, though. If the new unit they have out won't let you record MP3 or WAV/AIFF, I don't see this as much of an improvement. Their proprietary RW floppy has a slightly larger-capacity.

As a portable music player, its drawbacks include having to convert all of your already compressed MP3s to their ATRAC3plus (I thought it was a razor!) format, essentially doubling your local music storage. I think that in the short run MP3 has won the format war and Sony ought to let their MiniDisk read and write them.

Scarabic, Apple will have record-enabled iPods before long. And I'm going to put one on the end of a stick and chase you around with it. Ewww... Apple... Aaaapple!
posted by squirrel at 2:09 PM on January 9, 2004

squirrel, Sony is to standards as Ron Jeremy is to post-structuralist criticism.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:15 PM on January 9, 2004

Sony, feh! If they are so concerned about me stealing their music that they cripple the hardware, they can keep it.

(I have a big stack of old MD players and recorders and I still use them for various projects,
but all the new stuff has crappy DCMA stuff, so no more.)
posted by milovoo at 2:16 PM on January 9, 2004

emelenjr's comment prompts this small aside: hard drive storage cost has dropped to the point where it's cheaper to store DV video in hard drives than it is to archive it to DVD-R. Especially when you consider the archiving and retrieval time. You can store 20 hours of DV-compressed video (which most digital cams record) onto a 200GB drive.

Also, a pox on the house of ACC!
posted by squirrel at 2:23 PM on January 9, 2004

Apple will have record-enabled iPods before long.

Archos has had them for over a year. I'm too busy using and enjoying it to chase you around. But still, when Apple releases one with line-in, adjustable recording levels, and no copy-restrictions of any kind, I'll meet you on a field of green, and at twenty paces all will be decided.

But I have a feeling we'll both be in wheelchairs by then. Well, you'll be in an iWheelchair.
posted by scarabic at 2:41 PM on January 9, 2004

They also come bundled with SonicStageĀ® version 2.0 software and the Simple Burner application, which makes it easy to import, manage and transfer music collections.

Would this be where they keep the DRM? I mean, this is Sony, after all.

I just don't get it. You can buy a portable hard drive, and it's perfectly legal to copy files to and from it at will. But slap a pair of headphones onto that portable hard drive, and suddenly copying your own files onto your own device becomes criminal activity.</ot rant>
posted by ook at 3:26 PM on January 9, 2004

Scarabic, you wound me, sir.
posted by squirrel at 3:57 PM on January 9, 2004

Holy crap, ook, that's the most astute comment I've heard all day. Granted I have not left the confines of my apartment today, but still. It's the headphones... brilliant.

Not having used anything other than an iPod, do any of the other drive-based mp3 players (or whatever-you want to call them since some do more) allow the storage of anything other than music? That's been my main argument in favor of the iPod all along, simply because it's valuable as so much more than just a digital music player.
posted by emelenjr at 4:38 PM on January 9, 2004

yes, emelenjr, the Archos is a plug and play Mac/PC external hard drive, with USB 2.0 (backward compatible, naturally) and can hold any kind of file. You don't need a proprietary app, or even a driver to hook it up. Just plug it in and use it as a volume. Can iTunes manage MP3s and playlists on a regular volume? Hm... I would hope so.

If this really amounts to criminal activity, how come it's for sale? Where's the lawsuit? Makes you wonder about all the other devices, and why they're so crippled. I'd love to see the Archos feature set in the iPod's casing, but I'll take inexpensive features over costly fashion any day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Arhchos is some kind of perfect device. Shit, it's a year-old product at this point. It should be a bit lighter, smaller... What I am saying is that most MP3 players out there are deliberately crippled when it comes to recording and file storage, and that the manufacturers who've done the crippling are paradoxically the ones who charge the most for their devices.
posted by scarabic at 4:59 PM on January 9, 2004

scarabic - I have had the first Archos player (which was the first 20gig mp3 player) for about 3 years now. Lately I switched it's OS to the open source RockBox and it is very cool. It is also available for the recorder version if you are interested. It lets you do mid track resume, play games and lots of other stuff.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:33 PM on January 9, 2004

Rule of thumb: don't buy hardware or software from companies who also sell content. The hardware or software will be crippled.
posted by Triplanetary at 5:39 PM on January 9, 2004

wow! 45 hours of music! Hang on... 48kbps?!

Think i'll stick with my iPod
posted by derbs at 7:03 PM on January 9, 2004

Derbs: it sounds extremely good for 48kbps.

Since no one already mentioned it, I'm going to assume the new DRM will be the same DRM that the current netMDs has. Basically, you can only use Sony's software to transfer music, which is prone to crashing. Also, you can also only copy a certain track off a playlist to a minidisc three times. However, this is incredibly exploitable, since you can just simply add the track to a new playlist, and the software resets the counter.

The main problem is that everything is encrypted on the MD itself, so no Linux software is available yet.

My main reason for liking my MD player is that its tough. Show me a mp3 player that can be used as a weapon and not skip while being comparable in price (sub-$150), and I'll buy it.
posted by Darke at 8:27 PM on January 9, 2004

Copying the file isn't the criminal activity, of course. It's just being officially discouraged by the manufacturer, in the form of DRM software, encryption, and other inconveniences. Circumventing the DRM then becomes the criminal activity. Amounts to the same thing.

Triplanetary nailed it; you just shouldn't have the same people owning both the pipeline and what's inside it, or the quality of both will suffer. Let's hope enough consumers realize this soon enough that there will continue to be alternatives.
posted by ook at 8:47 PM on January 9, 2004

Darke: you can use other software to transfer the files. Realplayer does depend on a Sony plugin, but I understand if you have a netMD with an input jack you can use Winamp and a plugin to do the job (though I am sure it takes a lot longer to do).

So, it might be a pain, but it can be done without the prop software.
posted by synecdoche at 9:37 PM on January 9, 2004

I'd rather not have Realplayer on my computer out of security and privacy concerns. What's the name of the Winamp plugin?
posted by Darke at 1:09 PM on January 10, 2004

Understandable re: Realplayer. There are a number of Winamp plugins, but the one I hear about most is Wincue. See here.
I've never used it, as I have a bottom-of-the-line netmd that doesn't support it, but supposedly it works well.
posted by synecdoche at 4:20 PM on January 10, 2004

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