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MiniDisc Glossary

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

Analog input
Lets you connect an analog source, such as a tuner or cassette player. For home MD decks, the analog input is stereo RCA, while for portables it's a stereo minijack.

Analog output
Lets you connect your MD player to any component with an analog input, such as a receiver or cassette deck. For home MD decks, the analog output is stereo RCA, while for portables it's a stereo minijack.

Analog-to-digital (A/D) & digital-to-analog (D/A) converters
In A/D conversion, analog audio signals (from cassette, LP, radio, microphone, a CD player without digital output, etc.) are converted into digital data by high-speed sampling.

The A/D converter takes samples, or "snapshots" of the analog signal's amplitude at regular intervals; MiniDisc recorders have a 44.1kHz sampling frequency, the same sampling rate as CD audio. These amplitudes are then represented and recorded in binary digital code as "1" and "0" pulses.

This binary digital data is an accurate, noise-free reproduction of the recorded signal, but in digital form it doesn't sound like music to your ears. Your MiniDisc player uses a D/A converter to change the digital 1s and 0s back into analog audio signals.

ATRAC™, ATRAC3™, & ATRAC3plus™
Short for Adaptive TRansform Acoustic Coding, ATRAC is the digital data compression technology that makes it possible to fit up to 80 minutes of high-fidelity stereo digital audio onto a tiny 2-1/2" disc. Ultra-compact MiniDiscs can hold only about 1/5th of the data of a CD, but thanks to ATRAC, MiniDisc offers CD-like specs for dynamic range, frequency response, and low distortion.

ATRAC3 is a newer data compression technology that allows more audio to be stored on a MiniDisc. ATRAC3 recordings are also called MDLP (MiniDisc Long Play) recordings. In LP2 mode, you can record twice as much audio as would normally fit on an MD; in LP4 mode, you can record four times as much. Both modes record in stereo.

Since ATRAC3 uses more compression than ATRAC, the sound quality of MDLP recordings is slightly lower than that of standard ATRAC recordings, and LP2 recordings sound better than LP4. Non-MDLP-capable players cannot play back MDLP (ATRAC3) recordings.

ATRAC3plus is the newest of the three compression technologies, and Sony has incorporated it into their sophisticated Hi-MD™ line of recorders. A more advanced version of the previous ATRAC formats, ATRAC3plus offers better sound quality at lower bitrates than its predecessors. It can be used to store up to 45 hours of audio on a 1GB Hi-MD disc.

Digital input
MiniDisc recorders may include optical (Toslink) and/or coaxial digital inputs. You'll need a special type of cable to connect to the digital outputs of your receiver, CD player, or DAT deck.

Direct digital recording yields a crystal-clear copy of the original. Digital recording is also easy, since you don't have to set record levels. For more information on the advantages of using digital connections, refer to our section on CD-to-MiniDisc recording. Keep in mind, though, that SCMS technology will not allow you to make a second-generation digital duplicate of copy-protected audio.

Digital output
MiniDisc players may include optical (Toslink) and/or coaxial digital outputs. You'll need a special type of cable to connect to the digital inputs of your receiver, CD recorder, DAT deck, or external D/A converter.

Keep in mind that most portable MD players do not have digital outputs. Also, SCMS technology will not allow you to make a second-generation digital duplicate of copy-protected audio.

Direct track access
Feature which allows you to push a button for instant access to any song on a disc. For example, to hear or program track 7, just push "7."

The MiniDisc format offers a number of powerful but easy-to-use editing features:

  • You can easily change the playback order of songs without having to re-record them, and you can add or erase track markers during playback, which lets you divide and combine songs and sections of songs at will.
  • "One Erase" and "All Erase" functions let you instantly erase a selected track or the entire disc.
  • Disc and track titling with easy character input lets you label your MiniDisc recording and every individual track on it. Your titles then appear on the player's display panel.

Frequency response
In regular recording mode, the MiniDisc format accurately reproduces the full range of frequencies audible to the human ear — 20 to 20,000 Hz. (MDLP and ATRAC3plus recordings may deliver a narrower range of frequencies.) However, compressed MiniDisc audio (that is, audio recorded in any mode other than the PCM mode offered by Hi-MD recorders), does offer slightly lower sound quality than uncompressed CD audio.

Introduced in early 2004, Hi-MD recorders use advanced ATRAC3plus encoding and specially designed high-capacity media to fit up to 45 hours of music on a single 1GB disc. Hi-MD recorders are also backwards-compatible with standard MiniDisc media, and can even record to regular MDs in ATRAC3plus format, fitting up to 13 hours on an 80-minute disc.

Along with Hi-MD came three significant firsts for portable MiniDisc recorders: 1) the ability to digitally transfer MiniDisc audio (including live recordings) to a PC; 2) the ability to store data on a MiniDisc (either standard or Hi-MD), and 3) the ability to record uncompressed, CD-quality audio (PCM) to Hi-MD media.

Level control
The MD recorder will set the record level automatically, or you can set it manually. A proper recording level ensures that your recording will be as free of distortion and noise as possible. Most MD recorders now offer level control for digital recording, as well as analog.

Stands for MiniDisc Long Play. Recorders with MDLP mode can use ATRAC3 compression to fit more material onto a single MD. However, MDLP recordings will not play back on non-MDLP-capable players.

There are two MDLP modes: LP2 mode doubles the MiniDisc's normal record time, while LP4 mode gives you four times the disc's normal record time. (This means you can record over five hours' worth of audio onto a single 80-minute MD.) Both modes record in stereo, but the more compression you use, the lower your recording's sound quality.

Program play
Feature which lets you specify a temporary order in which tracks on a disc will be played.

Random play
Also called shuffle play, this popular feature lets you hear songs in random order.

Sampling rate
When an analog-to-digital converter digitizes an analog audio signal, it rapidly samples (or takes "snapshots" of) the analog signal's amplitude at regular intervals. These amplitude measurements are then converted to binary digital data — 1s and 0s — for storage on a CD, MD, or other digital audio medium.

The sampling rate, or "sampling frequency," is the number of samples taken in one second. The MiniDisc format uses the CD-standard sampling rate of 44.1kHz (44,100 samples per second), so it's a perfect match for recording from CDs.

Sampling rate converter
Converts incoming digital source signals at other sampling rates to the MiniDisc-standard 44.1kHz. MiniDisc recorders with this feature give you more options when recording from digital sources. You're not limited to signals that use the CD-standard 44.1kHz sampling rate — you can record DAT material at 32kHz or 48kHz, or DIRECTV® digital satellite audio at 48kHz.

Stands for Serial Copy Management System. This copyright protection technology used by most MiniDisc recorders restricts you from making a second-generation digital duplicate of copy-protected audio. Analog copies are not restricted.

Shock-resistant memory
Important for car and portable MiniDisc players, a shock-resistant memory feature like Sony's G-Protection™ helps eliminate skipping due to shock or vibration while you're in your car or on the move.

The laser scans ahead on the disc and stores music in a memory buffer, from which the music is actually played. If the player is bumped or jarred, the music from the memory buffer continues playing while the laser tracking mechanism quickly returns to the proper place on the disc.

Signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio
The measure of the musical signal relative to background noise. The higher the rating, the cleaner the sound.