The Minidisc Music Revolution

Thanks to Sony's Minidisc (MD) technology, the ability to make good quality recordings of live music is available to anyone with a total cost of under $500.

In addition, the cost of Internet web space is decreasing. I think this will revolutionize how music is created and shared.

My prediction is that in 10 years, all musicians will have the capability to record every performance they make, and post it on the Internet to share with anyone else. This is already starting to happen (just check out which has recordings of live concerts from hundreds of bands). Currently, the major problem is that the steps needed to record, transfer the recording to a computer, and then publish on the Internet are quite involved, unless you are very patient and have some friends who can help you with the tricky computer bits.

As a musician myself, I have found the Minidisc recording capability to be invaluable. With the new Hi-MD Minidisc players from Sony, you can quickly move (or "upload") the audio directly from the player to the computer, and then convert it to a format (WAV) that lets you burn it to CD or easily make MP3 files that you can put on a web site.

Here are the steps involved in making a recording and then sharing it on the Internet:

Minidisk RecorderWhat you need:

  1. A Sony Minidisc player/recorder. It is recommended to get a new, HiMD model because they can store more music on one disk, and are much faster to transfer music to the computer once it is recorded. Make sure that your model has Mic-in and Line-in features. HiMD Minidisc players may cost around $300 but the prices have been dropping lately. Note that HiMD players have a "direct upload" capability (using USB), whereas the older NetMD players do not.Minidisk HiMD Media

  2. Some blank Minidiscs. The new HiMD disks can hold up to 7 hours and 55 minutes of CD quality audio, and cost less than $10 a piece.

  3. Microphone for MinidiskA microphone and stand. Sony makes an excellent stereo condenser microphone (ECM-MS907) that sells for less than $100.

  4. Optional - a Stereo RCA to Miniplug cable - useful if you want to make recordings directly from sound/mixing boards. (approx $10)

  5. Optional - Some audio editing software on the computer. A good software program that is quite reasonably priced is Magix Audio Cleaning Lab which even lets you remove hissing and noise from recordings. This software costs $30 USD and is available for purchase over the Internet.
    Audacity is a free program with most of the same features, but may be slightly more difficult to use.

At the performance:

  1. Set up a microphone in front of the stage, or hook the sound board directly to the Minidisc player. You'll need the right cable to do this.

  2. Test the recording. Try recording a little bit of a rehearsal and playing it back, to make sure it is working. Important note: To get a better quality recording, read your Minidisc manual to find out how to turn off Automatic Gain Control and set a manual microphone gain. This will give a much more natural sounding recording.

  3. Start recording the performance. If you are using a HiMD recorder you can just set the unit on record and let it record the whole concert (as long as the concert is less than 7 hours). Don't worry about starting and stopping it for each song, because you will edit everything later. To be safe, you should use the AC adapter while recording to prevent the unit from running out of battery.

  4. Stop recording, by pressing Stop on the Minidisc recorder. Before disconnecting the unit, allow it some time to finish saving (it takes about 30 seconds for it to finish saving the data after you stop it).

Note: Sometimes after a concert, the sound engineer might unplug all of the wires at the mixing board, including the Minidisc power adapter. Be sure to have a fresh battery installed in the unit, so that the Minidisc recorder will be able to save the data in this case. Otherwise if the Minidisc recorder is unplugged from the outlet, and does not have a battery, you might lose the whole recording.

After the performance:

  1. You first need to install the right software on your computer. You only have to do this once, and if you are not familiar with installing software, get a friend to help you. See the section on Installing Software at the end of this document.

  2. Use Sonicstage to transfer the recordings from the Minidisc player to your computer. Sonicstage software comes with every HiMD Minidisc recorder, but if your recorder is a few years old, it is best to download the Sonicstage update from Sony.

    Below is a screenshot of an old version of the Sonicstage software. To transfer the recordings click the left arrow button in the center of the screen.

    sonic-stage.jpg (63810 bytes) (click the image to enlarge)

  3. Convert the recordings to WAV format using the Sonicstage software. This can be done by right-clicking on the recording that you transferred to your computer, and selecting Save in WAV Format. This option is only available in newer versions of Sonicstage (such as 4.0 and higher).

  4. Once the recordings are in WAV format, you are free to burn them to a CD, or do more advanced things such as audio editing, or making MP3 files which you can publish on the Internet.

Have fun!! If you have any questions or run into problems, check out and the Minidisc Forums.  If you can't find your solution there, as a last resort you can also email me at


Here is an example track that I recorded using a Sony Minidisk MZ-NH700 and a Sony ECM-MS907 condenser microphone. I placed the stereo microphone in "180 degree mode" using the switch on the microphone, and pointed it towards the band.

Click here to download the free MP3 sample. It is a recording of the Geoff Peters Band performing an original improvised composition.

Hopefully that recording will give you an idea of the kind of quality you can expect, using less than $500 worth of equipment. For another whole jazz concert that I recorded using Minidisc, please click here.

(Below: Saxophonist Neil Peters performing with the Third Stage Jazz band at The Hot Jazz Club on Main Street in Vancouver, BC, Canada in May 2004.)


Installing software:

This section is the most confusing of all the sections. If you are not familiar with installing software, please ask a computer-savvy friend to give you a hand.

Installing Sony Sonicstage 4.0 or higher

  • First install the version of Sonicstage that came on the CD with your new Minidisc recorder.

  • Then, if the version of Sonicstage you installed is less than 4.0, you should install the Sonicstage upgrade.

    • The Sonicstage upgrade that you need differs based on which country you live in. Go to the Sony home page for your country, go to Product Support, and locate the support information for your model number. You should be able to find the correct software upgrade for your model.

      • If you bought your product in USA or Canada, go here, and look up your model number.

      • Other countries, just search for your country name and the word Sony on Google.

Optional Software

(Optional) A piece of digital audio editing software, such as Magix Audio Cleaning Lab, Soundforge, or the free Audacity.

(Optional) A piece of MP3 encoder software, if you wish to create MP3 files to share on the Internet. The software should be able to convert from WAV to MP3. An example of such software is DBPowerAmp.

Other Reading

A Guide to HiMD Uploading




I do a radio show and the radio station was helping me to record the shows but now has decided not to.
I can use a mini disk at the time of doing the show to record on their board but then
need to now transfer to CD.
I bought a mini disk player recorder but the software  will not let me transfer  due to copy write. Do you have any suggestions?

The newer "HiMD" capable recorder units can transfer directly from the unit to your computer. However, the older "NetMD" units are unable to transfer (even though they have a USB cable). I would check if you have a HiMD unit or a NetMD one. You can probably find a used HiMD unit on Ebay but make sure you get one with a Line In input (and a Mic In as well if you want). Some HiMD units only have outputs, no inputs.  You should also install the latest Sonic Stage program.

p.s. you need to make the recording with a HiMD recorder to transfer it. You can't record it on a NetMD unit and then put the disk in a HiMD unit and then transfer it - it is a different encoding and won't work.

If you are stuck with Net MD you can still play back the recording and record it on your computer in real-time with the right audio cable and a program such as Audacity. (see: http://audacity.sourceforge .net/help/faq?s=recording&i =records-tapes) Get a cable that plugs into the headphone jack on the Minidisc player to the Line In jack on the back of your computer.


Links - a community of Minidisc users (go to the HiMD section).

Minidisc Forums where you can ask questions about using Minidisc.

Audio editing software:
Magix Audio Cleaning Lab, Soundforge, or the free Audacity.


About the Author

Geoff Peters is a music and computer science aficionado in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He writes a music weblog and performs frequently with his jazz trio.

He also likes eating out at Vancouver restaurants and writes restaurant reviews for

This web site is copyright (c) 2010 Geoff Peters. All rights reserved.