Recording the "Off Air" ShortWave Signals
Mini Disc (MD)
vs Compact Cassettes

Sony's last home Mini Disc home deck, the MDS-JE480 (discontinued in early 2008).
Sadly....Sony no longer sells a "Mini Disc" home deck.

Teac offers the feature loaded

As I indicated on the AR7030 page, I very much like to make recordings off my shortwave receivers to enjoy the good catches again. When I first started doing this back in 1977, I was just using the good old "Compact Cassette" to archive on. How it has all changed.

Shortwave Radio Recording......Hit that "Record" button....

Just about anytime I'm hearing a signal that even sounds remotely interesting on my receivers, I automatically switched on a Reel to Reel tape deck . Most of the time was nothing, but I have had too many times where I have said, Darn..missed that. So its a natural reflex now to just hit the record. Reel to Reel had worked great to make the "Catch" off the air. Then I edited this (if needed) down to the Mini-Disc, to really save into my archives. But now I use mini-disc or a flash audio recorder in place of the Reel to Reel to even make "the catch" and sounds even better . No real degrade at all of the original reception. I can make one digital to digital copy with no problem, so now edit from the one mini-disc deck (or flash recorder) to another MD deck where I make the master to keep and archive.

The lousy "Compact Cassette"

Just as the title says, and it sure is. Oh, I have used it over the years to archive onto as it was the most easiest and smallest package that you could have used. But, as anyone knows, that uses the compact cassette format , it has way too many problems. Jammed tape in the housing (from fast forwarding and rewinding), stretched tape, dropouts (caused by the stretching), pressures pads that go sour. Cassette's are very sensitive to head alignment..and can sound wavy real easy. And of course the MAIN real problem is the actual audio quality...hiss...hiss....and more hiss. Dolby I have never liked, and does not work on SW signals well anyway. Making any dubs from Cassette to Cassette are a bad deal...quality of the recording only goes down hill. We could go on...but the point sticks, cassette's stink for any audio archiving.

The recordable "Mini Disc" format is pocket small and has more protection over a standard CD.
Mono mode doubles the time (non LP modes).

What is this "Weird" looking thing ??

In a nutshell, its a digital format, uses a laser to record and pick up the data off the disk. Using standard mode (74 min on older discs) 80 mins can be recorded (Stereo). If you don't mind a bit of "degrade" of the recording, new "LP2 / 4" and Hi-MD modes that will give you hours and hours on ONE disc. Most newer Decks have a "Mono" mode which double the recording times (cannot be used with the new LP or Hi-MD modes however). Being I use Mini Disc for recording shortwave signals this is what I of course use, and can get up to 160 mins of recording time on just one disk using the standard mode. Access is just like on a no more Fast Forward and Rewinding to hunt down a segment as much. Just like a CD, you can have tracks (any way YOU want it).

You can also put alpha tags on each one of these track's . Again, you are able to make one Digital to Digital dub (Mini-Disc's have a copy protection for digital to digital copies , you can make one), so a back up sounds just as good as the first. As far as storage goes, you can put 16 of these in some 3 by 5 index card boxes.

So why not (CD) CDR / CDRW or even MP3's ??

OK, the format has near faded away to the latest and greatest (iPods, MP3 players, flash memory....etc). So it's a on the back burner these days even for me. I even use digital flash recorders to capture the audio off the air now (but not always). However, I still use and archive to the "Mini Disc" format and listen to them just as I have always been doing. I will admit that at the same time I now also archive to a CD-R (using WAV files) when I have enough to fill one up. I normally do not use MP3 files for transfer of my own "off air" recordings to a CD-R. But with CD-R's having no "mono" mode, it takes TWO CD-R's to transfer the audio that would fit on ONE 80 min. mini-disc (high quality standard mode). MD is still a excellent format for storage of archive radio audio. Of course there is always the used market, A.K.A. "ebay".

(ATRAC) MD Data Bit Rates


SP (standard)


LP2 (Long Play 2)


LP4 (Long Play 4)




Read these comments from Ken Pohlmann
(this text is dated , but still very good information).

MiniDisc: Roll Your Own
by Ken C. Pohlmann

With literally thousands of commercial recordings available there should be a recording to meet even the most obscure taste. Add in new releases, re-issues, retrospectives, and collections and the selection is infinite. But even with all that is currently available in the pre-recorded format, many folks still feel compelled to roll their own. Simply by using that red record button, you can have Zappa, Beethoven, Everclear, Led Zeppelin, Boys II Men and Bach jamming together. Hey, why not? For legal, private use, copying can increase your music collection considerably.

There are a couple of ways to make copies. Most people are content to make cassette tapes. However, cassette copies don't always sound very good, they wear out, and in general, are low-tech. A few people make their own CD recordings, buying blank discs and a CD-R recorder. However, these recorders are relatively rare, and CD-R recording is unforgiving. If you make a mistake and record something you don't want, it remains on the disc forever (even though you can skip over it). Although cassette and CD-R are great, the recordist's dreams are perhaps best answered by the MiniDisc.

The MiniDisc was specifically designed for two things: to allow people to make their own recordings, and then take those recordings with them. The MiniDisc is thus very easy to use, extremely flexible in its recording and playback abilities, and extremely portable. In fact, there is a lot to like about the MiniDisc. It is small and cute. It is both writable and erasable, and provides fast random access and robust shock-resistant portability. A MD recorder uses a data compression algorithm called ATRAC to store 80 minutes of music (many recorders let you optionally record 160 minutes of mono audio). The ATRAC algorithm has been steadily improved, and most listeners cannot hear a difference between a CD and a MD, especially in the portable environments where MD is at its strongest. Whether it is as a home player/recorder, car player, or shirt-pocket player, MD has many applications.

Making a MD recording is extremely easy. In many cases the source player and the recorder can be interconnected, allowing one-button operation. Simply put in your source, and a blank disc, and hit the record button. If you want to compile a number of songs from different albums, you'll will have to swap from one source to another, but its pretty painless. If you can operate a microwave oven, you can make your own MD recordings.

MD offers a number of very interesting perks. Virtually all MD recorders let you enter an alphanumeric title for the MD disc, as well as titles identifying each song and artist. Using a keypad or a jog wheel, you simply dial in the titles you want, and they are permanently stored on the disc. Then, each time you play the MD, the titles scroll across a display. This is especially convenient if you have put together a diverse compilation. Many recorders let you skip through the song title list (instead of track numbers) to find the song you're looking for. This is a great feature.

Most MD recorders also let you perform very sophisticated editing on recorded material. A MD disc is a lot like a computer hard disk; the data is stored on disk in whatever order it happens to fit. In many cases, songs are not recorded continuously; the data is simply picked up from wherever it is, and played back continuously. This makes the MD very flexible. For starters, when adding a song to a partly-recorded disc, you don't have to find the end of the last recording. You simply hit the record button, and the recorder puts the data wherever there is room (this is a revelation to those accustomed to the hassles of making tape recordings). Once you have recorded material, you can edit it. For example, most recorders let you move tracks (changing their order) or move segments of tracks. You can also erase all or part of a disc, and divide a track into smaller tracks, or join several tracks into longer tracks. In many ways, a MD recorder is like a miniature recording studio. With a little practice, you'll be able to make amazingly good custom recordings. Of course, if you make a mistake, or simply get tired of a recording, you can simply hit the erase button and start over.

MiniDisc is truly a recordist's dream come true. Using its powerful recording and editing features, you can make professional-sounding recordings. If you like music, and you want it YOUR WAY, then check out MiniDisc recorders and players.

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