Thursday, March 02, 2006

Newest Standalone MiniDisc Software have done it again, providing an all-in-one standalone installation file for Sonicstage 3.4, the Windows software interface to MiniDisc recorders.

This is perfect for installing on computers that lack an Internet connection. But even if you have a connection it's a more straightforward method of getting the latest release.

Best of all, you can put this file on a blank MiniDisc and use it to install onto any computer you may come across. That's because Hi-MD recorders are perfectly capable of connecting as WinXP drives without any special software. This makes the 1GB disks ideal for use as removable storage. You can even transfer music files.

The limitation is that you won't be able to play this music on your device. For that you need Sonicstage.

One of the more intriguing new features is the support for the new "ATRAC Advanced Lossless" format. This produces file sizes compressed by 20-70% without any loss of musical information. I have not tested this, since I do not use Sony software for my audio file conversion tasks. I wonder if instead of proprietary schemes they will ever support FLAC? Seems unlikely.

Here's a complete listing of enhancements:
* display of CD information in Sonicstage
* display of song lyrics in Sonicstage
* CDs can be ripped to lossless format
* WAV files can be converted to lossless format
* tracks can be transferred to MD in ATRAC 192kbps format
* all ATRAC files can be converted into WAV format

This last feature is a big deal since it removes the last remnants of Digital Rights Management (DRM) from MiniDisc products. Specifically, you can now record from the digital inputs (as well as analogue and microphone), upload these files, and have them save automatically to the standard PCM format.

Given their corporate nature it's difficult to believe Sony has taken this step towards the open world. Now if only they'd remove the need for SonicStage completely. (Well, a guy can dream.)

Just so you know, the complete list of bitrates now supported is 48, 64, 132, 192, 256 and 352kbps. There is also support on Hi-MD units for older ATRAC formats in use by the first generation players (SP, LP2, LP4) but only if you transfer this to a Hi-MD disc. You cannot now, and likely never will be able to, read low-density MDs with old format files from your HiMD device. This is only an issue for people with large collections of old MDs that they do not already have backup up in some other format.

Here's the thread announcing the release and a direct link to the download. Note that you will need to register with the site first, but this is painless.

You may wish to check out my extensive review of the MZ-RH10 recorder, as well as the articles Apple Compatible MD, MicroTrack vs. MiniDisc Chart and MicroTrack versus MiniDisc.



Jesse Tinsley said...

This is an old topic, but I was discussing some handy new gadget from Sony and was reminded of the DRM software in SonicStage that led to the loss of important field recordings for work.
Sony's clunky software, DRM limitations on everything, and their arrogance has led me to hate Sony with the white hot passion of a thousands suns and I will never ever willingly buy a Sony product ever again.

Rich said...

I remember YEARS ago when I tangled with the bedamned SonicStage software. Many times it would crash with an error dialog box, and when it did "work" I couldn't figure out how to use it. As a result I never did make much use of my "NetMD" portable unit. My disappointment with Sony as nearly as deep as yours. I still do like my largish collection of MDs but I realize the need to port these to WAV or MP3 for my flash player. I still like some Sony hardware.

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