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Mini-disc recorders

For several years minidiscs were many people's choice for recording oral history. However, they currently reside in the 'where are they now' file for obsolete recording technologies as people have switched to portable solid state recorders. We have left the information below for reference but refer you to the solid state page for information about digital recorders.

Having said this, it is still possible to find minidisc recorders. These machines do not come with a microphone, so you will need to buy one. Be careful if you have a high quality hand held microphone such as those used by radio or TV reporters. These may require a pre-amplifier to work with the minidisk. Also, be careful as some models don't have microphone inputs. Don't rely on a shop assistant to point this out for you, check for yourself.


Since the summer of 2005 it has become increasingly difficult to find 'standard' minidisc recorders as Sony have been pushing their Hi-MD format on to the market - the MZ-RH1 may be their best unit yet. The advantages of Hi-MD are that the disc will hold a large amount of information which can be loaded onto computers quickly.

Andy Kolovos of the Vermont Folklife Centre has neatly summarised the pros and cons of Hi-MD, while this article by Philip Colmer is worth reading if you're thinking of buying one.

Further Information

Further information about all things related to minidisc can be found on the Internet at:

Having tried out both Sony and Sharp models we at EMOHA have decided that, for oral history interviewing, Sonys are the better bet. They have automatic recording levels and good track marking facilities. Read the EMOHA review of the Sharp and Sony models.

Two other points worth making are that a) the buttons on these recorders are always small and fiddly, and if your fingers aren't nimble you may have problems, and b) you have to be willing to read the instruction booklet thoroughly or you'll never get the hang of it.


Mainly applicable to older models: MDLP - 'Mini Disc Long Play' - most machines have this and it is a useful feature which allows a 74 minutes minidisc to record 148 minutes of sound at an acceptable quality, and even more at an unacceptable quality.

You will notice that some models are 'Net MD', which means they can download sound off the Internet via a computer. However, this feature doesn't make it any easier to transfer sound from the minidisc to the computer, and it is not of much use to the oral historian. For a fast transfer from minidisc to computer you will have to look at Hi-MD.

Where to buy mini-disc recorders

If you are thinking of buying a mini-disc recorder you may wish to visit the following companies. They should should not be considered to be approved or recommended by the East Midlands Oral History Archive.



Sony mini-disc
Sony MZR500PC

Sharp mini-disc
Sharp mini-disc recorder

[Comparing the size of various media]
CD, cassette and mini-disc compared.

A mini-disc ready to use

Last updated: 07/02/2012
East Midland Oral History Archive Web maintainer
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.

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