Sony Ends Production on all MiniDisc Players

Today, Sony announced an end to production on all MiniDisc players. In a few years, MiniDisc production will cease as well. I know what you're asking yourself: "They still make those things?". But the MiniDisc was cool, if slightly deficient, and like many extinct formats, to some music lovers, it meant a lot.

Before the iPod but after my Discman, I owned a portable MiniDisc player. In fact, I still have it, and all my Minidiscs. I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to audio gear—good or bad I need to keep it because I never know when I'll need it again. I considered selling the MiniDisc player on eBay, but I saw similar models posted, and nobody was bidding. Maybe the value will increase now that they're not being made anymore? Wishful thinking.

My brother was convinced that the MiniDisc would make all other mediums obsolete. Barry Willis shared the public's and retailer's excitement over the MiniDisc here at Stereophile: "Sony's MiniDisc appears finally to be winning serious numbers of converts." Unfortunately, three years later the iPod came knocking on retailers' doors.

So just what was so appealing about the MiniDisc? It was small. The discs came in cool colors. And you could record live directly with your playback device if it had a microphone input. John Atkinson and Tom Norton highlight the flaws in the ATRAC compression utilized by MiniDisc in their measurements taken in 1995: "MiniDisc encoding both raises the noise floor way above that of either of the DTS Zeta examples—240kb/s and 128kb/s—and discards the signal components above 18.5kHz." Eeesh.

But forget that stuff. The MiniDisc was important to some, and the fact that they are ceasing production on MiniDisc players just closes the book on one more piece of the history of audio playback. The fresh corpse of CD players will be rotting in the not too distant future. As computer manufacturers ditch their optical drives and the DAC becomes the new vehicle for files and streamed material, music lovers are left to wonder when the CD player will go next.

Although, here's my fear, one installed by our Music Editor Robert Baird and pal Steve Guttenberg: Files can be deleted, lost and gone forever, and where is the cloud? You can't hold it. In just a second, it can dissipate into the sky and your entire music collection disappeared. Take a visit to Baird's house, the first thing he'll show you are his CDs of New Orleans music and Delta Blues from the early 1900s: "This is where the real value of CDs are. Digitally cleaned up old material." Unfortunately, Sony didn't release too much music on the MiniDisc, and instead, it served as a more portable alternative to the blank CD. The memory of MiniDisc will evaporate into the ether, but CDs may still hold value for archiving purposes.

The universe must be listening. Yesterday, I sent back an old Denon DMD-M7 MiniDisc recorder to Denon that I found in our storage closet. As this chapter closes, another will open. What's the next step from the cloud? Music implanted in our brains. I'm sure of it.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I've already got music impanted in my brain. The future is NOW.

Ariel Bitran's picture

will it change the track?

rockoqatsi's picture

I've still got mine too. Blue anodized magnesium-alloy and cuter than a squirrel's pacemaker.

Where in North America did they sell pre-recorded MDs? I never saw them.

John Atkinson's picture

Where in North America did they sell pre-recorded MDs? I never saw them.

I have a bunch of them, along with prerecorded DATs and DCCs. Just waiting for the prices to rise on eBay :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

MrGneiss's picture

I remember Best Buy having a small MD and DCC section in the '90s..

labjr's picture

I thought minidisc was discontinued a long time ago.  Been a while since Stereophile writers thought is was the cat's ass.

Someone gave me a minidisc player/recorder a few years back. I was gonna throw it in the dumpster but I ended up selling it on ebay for way more than I thought it was worth. I think a DJ bought it 

otroangel's picture

Minidiscs seem very useful indeed. A cheap way to have an ADC, and a DAC and a DDC (converting from optical to coaxial or vice versa) all-in-one.

John Atkinson's picture

otroangel wrote:
Minidiscs seem very useful indeed. A cheap way to have an ADC, and a DAC and a DDC (converting from optical to coaxial or vice versa) all-in-one.

For all but the latter function, the advent of SD and CF card-based recorders, that can recorded uncompressed data files, has made MD obsolete. I use an inexpensive  Zoom H4n - see - which has 24/96-capable A/D and D/A converters as well as its own mikes (which are good-sounding) and two 48V-capable XLR mike inputs.


labjr wrote:
Been a while since Stereophile writers thought [MiniDisc] was the cat's ass.

We never felt MD was any good, the lossy ATRAC codec being significantly worse than the PASC codec used in Philips' DCC, which evolved into MP3.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

otroangel's picture


I meant it is still useful to find a second-hand minidisc just for its convertion capabilities for peanuts really (~50$). But it sounds interesting this Zoom H4n nevertheless.



tmsorosk's picture

   I didn't know they were still available either .

   Didnt know Stereophile writers ever thought they were the cats meow .

volvic's picture

I also got some zip drives to sell.  I remember when they made a push to sell music through them, guess the world didn't need another format.  Did they really come out only a few years before the ipod?  Thought it was much earlier, but then again might be confusing them with the DAT, another failed format.  Still showed how talented SONY engineers could be if you let them be.  I wish SONY would come back.  


Ariel Bitran's picture

Barry Willis wrote the article i linked above in 1998.

smittyman's picture

I believe these were big in Japan at one point.

deckeda's picture

And it was the Japanese market that kept it going. Long after they ceased to be a factor in the U.S. you could still get an MD player for your (Japanese) auto from the factory.

deckeda's picture

... at a retailer. MD and DCC were introduced at the same time but in the retail space, DCC died on the vine. Digital Cassette? Cool, but where's the instant access you get from a CD player? Or MD.

It didn't help that Phillips didn't have the popular music catalog necessary to push DCC, as Sony did with MD. We got MD discs to play in the store, and did so. Phillips had us sell blank tapes.

I've never seen a DCC machine.

In my opinion the biggest contribution MD gave consumers was an easy to use digital recorder you could re-record over. DAT and DCC aside, that didn't happen again until CD-RW --- which has never been as convenient as the little MD discs.

jlock438's picture

For those of us old enough to have used cassette decks, recording and editing music on Mini-Disc was a revelation.  Tracks could be rearranged on the disc, relabled, combined, split apart, or deleted quite easily without needing a computer.  Stereo or mono (with 2X the capacity) recording was provided.  Although limited by ATRAC compression, MD still offerred a big improvement in sound quality over that of even the best cassette decks IMO.  When I got married in 2001, MD was already dead as a consumer format, but all the wedding DJ's in my area were using MD to store and play their music.  I gave our DJ music selected by my wife and I to play at our wedding on MD format, and it was very convenient for that time period.  I have since sold all my MD gear, but I have good memories of the format.

Ariel Bitran's picture

is a beautiful story

bigdobbs44's picture

I brought a MD player and connected it to my CD via optical cable and i even brought a MD player for my truck. oh well............