Hi-MD WAV Converter Test — Looks Good

I finally got a chance to give Sony’s WAV Converter for Hi-MD a shot this weekend, and I’m pleased to say that my limited test results are positive. I recorded audio through the line input on my MZ-NH1 in PCM uncompressed format (CD quality 44.1 Khz), Hi-SP (slightly lower bitrate than normal minidisc compression, about 256 kbps) and Hi-LP (long-play compression, about 64 kbps). Then I uploaded the files to my PC and turned them into editable WAV files.

Since Hi-MD is still stuck at USB 1.1, upload times aren’t the swiftest, but no slower than any other USB 1.1 device. The WAV conversion was quite fast — less than 30 seconds for each of the 5 minute tracks.

Of course, the sound quality is dependent on the recording format. Uncompressed PCM is as good as a DAT or similar device, and SP is very good, too — pretty hard to tell the difference with most material. Hi-LP shows pretty noticeable sound degradation, but is still better than the equivalent bit rate mp3.

Hi-LP is equivalent to the LP4 mode on MDLP/NetMD recorders, which I’ve used to record long radio programs or party music mixes, where the ability to cram 5 hours on a regular MD outweighs the sonic losses.

I wish that the LP2 mode, at 132 kbps, were implemented in Hi-MD. I use that mode a lot on my NetMD units because it gives about 2 and half hours of good quality sound on one disk — like a 256 MB mp3 player, only every MD is like another 256 MB. The HiLP mode gives 34 hours of recording time on a 1 GB Hi-MD disc, and even 10 hours on a regular 80 minute MD formatted for Hi-MD mode. If LP2 were implemented you’d get about 17 hours of much better quality audio on a Hi-MD disc — a better trade off between quality and quantity in my estimation.

Still, even with standard MD quality audio, you get nearly twice as much audio recorded onto a standard 74 minute disc in Hi-MD mode: 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Now that I can transfer audio from my minidisc recorder to my PC in faster-than-real-time without an analog conversion stage, and convert in WAV format for editing, I can say that Hi-MD is an extremely useful and versatile format.

The only thing that gives me pause is the fact that to do the transfer your MD has to be unlocked — that is, it has to be set to be recordable. Apparently that is so the MD recorder can write to the disc that it has had its contents transferred, as part of stinky digital rights management. It shouldn’t be a problem most of the time, but does introduce the small risk of your MD getting screwed up.

So, I guess the best advice is that if you’ve got an absolutely irreplaceable recording, your best bet is to either copy it or do an analog capture to your PC before doing a USB transfer. I’ll let you know if I ever get burned.

With the final delivery of WAV Converter, I can now definitely recommend Hi-MD to anyone using minidisc for production-type recording looking to upgrade to something allowing direct-to-PC transfer.