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Sony MZ-R900 MD Player Review

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I went to buy a new stereo last weekend. As you know, I have my heart set on a new Sharp Auvi SD-NX10. I was so excited taking the train over to the store. I finally arrive ready to plunk down my credit card, when I was stopped dead in my tracks — SOLD OUT. Darn. The anticipation of wanting to buy something, and then not being able to buy it, is pure frustration. So I walked the street aimlessly and after 40 minutes, I couldn’t take it any longer. I finally succumbed to my buying urge and bought Sony’s latest MD player, the MZR900. (A free Sony “backpack” helped ice the deal.)

The MZR900 is the latest portable MD player/recorder that features Sony’s new MDLP standard. The MDLP does exactly that, record/play MDs in LP (long-play). You have the option of selecting LP2 or LP4, which effectively doubles or quadruples the recording time respectively. Obviously, with MDLP4, compression is at its max (we’ll get into quality of sound in just a bit). I like listening to MDs and the LP function is a great option because I don’t want to have to carry around so many different MDs. Incidentally, the nice thing about MDLP is that you do not need to buy new MDs to record at MDLP, you can use any existing MD.

The argument continues, even for me — MP3 vs. MD. I’ve tried MP3 for some time now; back in the days when my dial-up was 19.2k I was already trying to download 4MB music files. Having done the whole napster thing, not to mention “ripping” my own, I’ve given up on MP3. Why? Well actually it started with the Sony fiasco (as I like to call it). The Music Clip forces you to use Sony’s own proprietary format (ATRAC3). Hence, you have to convert MP3 files to ATRAC3 and record all future tracks in ATRAC3 to use the Music Clip. While ATRAC3 isn’t bad, it’s just a pain to first find then download an MP3, change it to ATRAC3 and then transfer the file to the Music Clip. Worse, now with the iPaq, I have to “rip” everything twice as well, once in Windows Media format, the other in ATRAC3. Also, with the Music Clip, I’m limited to 64MB. Sure you have compact flash/smart media MP3 players today, but how much do they cost? MDs are still a cheaper alternative. I want something quick and easy. That’s the beauty of MD. You don’t have to input the title, artist name, etc. for every song you record. Just load a CD, put in a MD, and press record. Simple, fast, cheap, and reliable.


The MZR900 is really sharp, coming in a solid metallic case. You get the choice of four different colors — I chose the blue one, because my favorite color happens to be blue. The player feels really sturdy, but because of its size, and based on my past experience, its actually a lot more delicate than it looks. Do not drop these babies or they will break! The MZR900 is really tiny in your hand and has to be one of the smallest recordable MD players out there. It’s extremely small compared to previous MD players I’ve had. I really like the jog dial control that comes with the player. Although they are very similar to past ones, Sony has truly mastered the design and placement of buttons/knobs. Based just on size and looks, I think the MZR900 is Sony’s best MD recorder to date.


So how does the MDLP sound? At both MDLP2 and MDLP4, the loss in sound quality is hardly noticeable given the compression. In fact, I made the same MD recording for each different mode and I could not tell the difference. Recording is a simple task with the MZR900. Included with the player is an optical cable that allows you to hook up the MZR900 to another optical output source, like a Sony Discman, and make digital recordings. Press “record” on the MD player (after you select MD, MDLP2 or MDLP4) and then press “play” on my Sony CD player. Easy enough.

There is of course one slight problem, any recording made at either MDLP2 or MDLP4 is only playable on these newer MDLP players. Hence, my other MD Walkman and my stereo cannot play back any MD recorded at MDLP2 or MDLP4. Also, as my current stereo does not have MDLP, I have to use the MZR900 exclusively to make recordings. While I don’t have a MDLP stereo to make recordings easier (by easier I mean a stereo allows you to “program” songs from multiple discs for example and then just press one button to record them), actually you don’t need one. If you think about it, a 74-minute MD can be extended to 296 minutes at MDLP4. If you’re recording individual songs, do you know how many times you’ll have to change discs? You can squeeze in over 60 songs on one disc. Still, if I’m going to make an MD, I probably won’t have 60 individual songs, but rather, something like 15 in which case I can just fit it all on a standard MD at normal speed. The purpose I see for MDLP4 is to “fit” three or four different albums onto one disc. That way, you can listen to the entire ABBA (or Sasha and Digweed) collection on just one disc.

Battery life is outstanding. Rated at some 66 hours, the battery lasts long enough that I didn’t have to charge it for a week while using it periodically during office hours. That’s a real bonus. You don’t have to worry about carrying around the extra ‘AA’ battery pack – as a result, the MZR900 is as small and as light as ever. The MZR900 also has multiple “dials” on the side of the display. This allows you to quickly navigate through the different menus. It also allows you to input titles of the songs relatively quickly. Nice, but I still think it’s a pain to do. If I were going to do that, I’d stick with MP3.


I’ve been waiting to buy a new MD Walkman for sometime now. Fortunately, I managed to wait long enough that Sony came out with MDLP. Ok, it’s a gimmick to get fools like me to replace all our “old” equipment, but hey, that’s fun too! I’m glad I waited because I really like the MZR900. It’s small, the battery lasts forever, and the MDLP is a great function. MD IMHO beats MP3 any day (ok, with the exception that you can get free downloads off the Internet). But Sony already has a PC link for its new stereos so you’ll be able to transfer MP3 to your MD. I’d much rather own a portable MD player right now than a portable MP3 player. If you already have a MD player, then maybe its time to get a new one because technology is getting better all the time. If not, then this should be your first one because it’s an ESSENTIAL item for any music listener. I can’t tell you know how many MD players I’ve had (it’s a lot), but this new one is definitely one of the best.


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