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Computer-to-Minidisc

Note: this page is NOT intended to make everyone who reads it an expert in making perfect recordings. To get it sounding exactly the way you want might take many hours (or years) of practice and experimentation. Rather, this page is intended only for those "newbies" who want to get "up and running" quickly.

There are many different ways of connecting your MD to your computer. Which ones you can try will depend largely on which hardware has been installed on your computer. What follows is a description of four different ways to record audio from your computer to a portable minidisc.

Analog miniplug to analog miniplug: This is recommended for all beginners. It will work with any computer and minidisc recorder. Beginners should try this method FIRST before trying any of the others. Mastering this method first will allow you to have more success learning the other methods.
Digital TOSLINK to optical miniplug
USB to analog miniplug
USB to optical miniplug

 

.Method 1: analog miniplug to analog miniplug...
Portable MD recorder This is the simplest method of recording a minidisc from the computer.

First, identify the plugs that you have on your computer and minidisc recorder so that you know what you are working with. The picture at the right shows the side of a minidisc recorder. The plug to the far left (with the white shielding) says "line in (Optical)". This actually means that the same plug is being used for the analog line in AND the digital optical line in. In this case, we are only interested in the analog line-in capability.

Soundcard Next, check your computer's soundcard. On even the most basic soundcards, there will be a "speaker out". You can see in the soundcard pictured at the left, it is labeled "speaker". Not all soundcards will look exactly like this, but any soundcard should have a "speaker out" jack. For a brief look at some of the variations in soundcards that exist, go to the page on soundcards. Some soundcards may also have an additional "line out", and this would be even better to use to record from than the speaker output if you do have it. However, the speaker output will work just fine in most cases.
Analog cable You will need a 1/8" miniplug-to-miniplug cable. If you need to buy one, be very careful to buy a stereo one and not a mono one. I have had countless people email me desperate for advice because their recordings were not being made properly, and the cause was that they purchased a mono cable. If you are not sure how to tell the difference between a stereo cable and a mono cable, check the page on computer audio cables.

The cable itself can be easily purchased at any electronics store. If you live in North America, simply march down to your local Radio Shack and they will have one. Also, they are the cheapest cable you will probably ever buy, probably only costing a few dollars. Again, be sure you know that you are buying a stereo one because sometimes the salespeople don't know.

MD to soundcard connection Next, you will need to make your connections. At the left is an oversimplified diagram of the connection needed. Unplug your computer speakers from the speaker out plug of your soundcard. Plug one end of the 1/8" miniplug into the speaker out jack, and plug the other end into the "line in" jack on the minidisc recorder. You are now set to record!

Before recording, it is a good idea to shut down any Windows programs that make sounds, because ALL sounds on your computer will be recorded to the minidisc. This includes such programs as ICQ, which can pop-up with a loud noise when you least expect it.

Windows Speaker Control

 

Windows Volume Control

The next thing you will do is adjust your speaker volume. Since this page assumes that the user has a certain level of knowledge about computer audio such as MP3, it is not necessary to go into much detail about this issue here. However, adjusting the volume that goes "out" of your computer and into the minidisc can be done by first double-clicking on the speaker icon in the Windows system tray at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, as shown to the left. This will open the computer's "volume control" panel.

The "volume control" on your computer may not necessarily look exactly like the one shown here. The panel itself will vary according to the computer and soundcard setup. Some machines will have more controls here, while others will have less. There may even be "advanced" options available for some controls. However, all computers will include a "volume control" setting which controls the speaker volume. This will most likely be the control to the farthest left on the screen, as shown.

When you have located the volume control, ensure that the volume setting is set to somewhere between 50% and 75% of the total. This is most appropriate for minidisc recording. Later you can experiment with louder or softer volume settings. If the setting is too high it will cause distortion and if the setting is too low then the sound will be weak; however somewhere in the 50-75% range is appropriate most of the time.

Now...record!

Press "record" on the minidisc recorder and "play" on the computer's source (if you are recording from a playlist on Winamp, click "play" in Winamp). You will need to wait for all tracks to be recorded to the minidisc in real time. That's it...you should now have a minidisc with the audio from your computer on it.
A note: You will find that with analog recording, the minidisc recorder will automatically add a track mark for every 2-second silence it detects during the recording process. This is because the minidisc recorder interprets this 2 seconds (or more) of silence as the "gap" between songs. However, sometimes your songs are too close together, so that they have less than 2 seconds between them, or, as can be the case in classical music especially, the silence may actually be part of the song. This can present some problems.

If track marks were added that shouldn't be, you will have to edit them out later. You can do this by "joining" 2 tracks on the minidisc. Refer to the manual for your minidisc recorder on joining tracks.

To make the MD recorder add track marks, it may be necessary to add a 2-3 second gap of silence between each song on your playlist. You can do this by creating a 2-3 second track of silence yourself. You can also do this by getting a Winamp plugin that will add this gap. To look at some known plugins, check out the links below:
Wincue  
[no name]  

.
.Method 2: Digital TOSLINK-to-Optical Miniplug
NOTE: Do not assume that digital recording will necessarily sound better than analog recording. Analog recording, when done properly, can sound indistinguishable from digital recording to human ears. MP3's in particular will most likely not sound ay better when copied through a digital or analog connections, provided the file was recorded properly. For more information about digital versus analog recording, see the section on analog vs. digital.
Portable MD recorder Recording via an optical miniplug is the "original" method of digital recording to a minidisc.

The picture at the right shows the side of a minidisc recorder. Check to find the optical input. In this case, the optical input is the center jack in the picture, labelled "Optical/Line In". This is because the minidisc recorder uses the same plug for the analog line in AND the digital optical line in. Since we are recording digitally, we are only interested in the digital optical line-in capability.

Soundcard Next, check your computer's soundcard. In order to record digitally directly from your soundcard to the minidisc recorder, you must have an optical out on your computer. Not all soundcards have an optical out, so be sure to check your soundcard before proceeding. If you are unsure whether your soundcard has an optical out, you can check it by referring to the page on soundcards. In the soundcard pictured to the left, the optical out is labeled "TOSLINK Out". Not all soundcards will have the same term for any one connector. Some cards may label it "Optical out", others may label it "TOSLINK Out", etc.
TOSLINK to optical cable You will also need a TOSLINK-to-optical miniplug cable. This is not as easy to find as an analog cable. In fact, from what I understand it is actually quite difficult to find one of these cables in North America.

This cable is very easy to identify. One end will have a TOSLINK plug on it, and the other end will have a miniplug on it. Like all TOSLINK cables, it will glow bright red at the tip of the cable when plugged into a TOSLINK out jack that is powered up.

The cable can be purchased at high-end electronics stores, and possibly from Radio Shack in North America, but I am not sure about this. If you are unsure about what cable you need, see the page on computer audio cables.

Computer to MD connection Next, you will need to make your connections. At the left is an oversimplified diagram of the connection needed. Remove the plastic cap from the TOSLINK out and plug the TOSLINK end of your cable into the TOSLINK out (make sure you plug it into the TOSLINK out and not the TOSLINK in). Plug the miniplug end into the "line in (optical)" jack on the minidisc recorder.

As with analog recording, before you begin to record, shut down any Windows programs that make sounds, because ALL sounds on your computer will be recorded to the minidisc. This includes such programs as ICQ, which can pop-up with a loud noise when you least expect it.

Windows speaker control

 

Windows volume control

Now adjust your speaker volume. Since this page assumes that the user has a certain level of knowledge about computer audio such as MP3, it is not necessary to go into much detail about this issue here. However, adjusting the volume that goes "out" of your computer and into the minidisc can be done by first double-clicking on the speaker icon in the Windows system tray at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, as shown to the left. This will open the computer's "volume control" panel.

The "volume control" on your computer may not necessarily look exactly like the one shown here. The panel itself will vary according to the computer and soundcard setup. Some machines will have more controls here, while others will have less. There may even be "advanced" options available for some controls. However, all computers will include a "volume control" setting which controls the speaker volume. This will most likely be the control to the farthest left on the screen, as shown.

When you have located the volume control, ensure that the volume setting is set to somewhere between 50% and 75% of the total. This is most appropriate for minidisc recording. Later you can experiment with louder or softer volume settings. If the setting is too high it will cause distortion and if the setting is too low then the sound will be weak; however somewhere in the 50-75% range is appropriate most of the time.

Before you begin recording, you may want to set the "Sync record" on your minidisc recorder to the "on" position. This feature will ensure that the minidisc will go immediately into "pause" mode when you press "record" and will not begin recording until you press "play" on the source (in this case your computer). It only works with digital recording, and it does this by detecting that the digital bit stream has started. The advantage is that this can help start recordings more conveniently. The disadvantage is that some minidisc recorders have a tendency to not start fast enough and may "cut off" the first second or so of a track. The only way to know is to try it.
Now...record! Press "record" on the minidisc recorder and "play" on the computer's source (if you are recording from a playlist on Winamp, click "play" in Winamp). You will need to wait for all tracks to be recorded to the minidisc in real time.
A note: You will find that with digital recording from a computer, the minidisc recorder will not insert track marks between the songs. You must do this yourself after you have finished recording. For some reason computer soundcards do not emit track marks.
.Method 3: USB to analog
Recently, a method of recording from the computer's USB port has gained a great deal of attention. In practice it differs little from the more traditional methods of recording, but it does offer some advantages. Firstly, the USB cable used for minidisc recording comes with software that makes recording quite easy. Second, many low-end soundcards have noise which is recorded to minidisc, and recording via the USB port can eliminate this noise.

As with other methods of recording, you must be familiar with the input into your minidisc recorder. You must find the analog input. Have a look at your recorder, and consult the manual if you are not sure which one it is. To the left is an MD recorder. The plug in the center, with the white shielding, labeled "(optical) line in" is the plug which is the jack which will be used. The label "(optical) line in" actually means that the same plug is being used for the analog line in AND the digital optical line in. In this case, we are only interested in the analog line-in capability.

USB port Next, make sure that your computer has an available USB port. Many times the USB ports are not actually labelled "USB"; rather they only have a symbol which looks like the one pictured to the left. All modern computers are equipped with USB ports; however there still could be some older machines out there which do not have them. Many computers have the USB ports located at the back of the machine; however there are some newer ones that have some USB ports on the front.

Besides checking for the USB port itself, check your operating system. If you are using Windows 98, 2000, or ME, you will have no problems. using the USB port. Windows 95 generally does not have USB support unless you have OSR2, and even then I have been told that it does not work. If you are running Windows 95 and want to use the USB, your only option may be to upgrade your operating system.

To Windows 95 users: If you are using Windows 95, your USB port won't work unless your release of Windows 95 also includes OSR2 and the USB supplement. The only way to check this is to look at the following: Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager, and look for something called a "USB Root Hub". If this hub is present, you should be OK to use your USB ports. If it is not, this means that your release of Windows 95 does not include OSR2, and you will need to upgrade your operating system before you can use your USB port.
USB to analog cable Most importantly, you must have the appropriate USB-to-analog cable before you can proceed. Sony bundles this cable with some of its minidisc recorders, and there are various places where it can be purchased. The manufacturer of these cables is .

The cable installs very easily and Windows will install the necessary drivers. The cable also comes with music software, similar to Winamp. This software allows the user to make playlists and organize the music to be recorded. Although the software itself is not actually needed (you can record any audio that is coming from the computer regardless of the source), it does make the recording process simpler. 

Computer to MD USB connection Next, you will need to make the right connections. At the left is an oversimplified diagram of the connection needed. Simply plug the USB end of the cable into the computer's USB port, and plug the miniplug end into the minidisc's "line in (optical)" jack.

Remember that before you begin to record, you should shut down any Windows programs that make sounds, because ALL sounds on your computer will be recorded to the minidisc. This includes such programs as ICQ, which can pop-up with a loud noise when you least expect it.

Windows speaker control

Windows volume control

Adjust your speaker volume by first double-clicking on the speaker icon in the Windows system tray at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, as shown to the left. This will open the computer's "volume control" panel.

When you are using a USB audio cable, the panel that appears when you click "speaker" will be different from the regular one that you see when the USB device is not plugged in. The illustration at the left is an example of a control panel for a USB device, although yours may be different from the one pictured. Note how it says "USB Audio Device" at the bottom of the panel.

Locate the volume control and ensure that the volume setting is set to somewhere between 50% and 75% of the total. This is most appropriate for minidisc recording. Later you can experiment with louder or softer volume settings. If the setting is too high it will cause distortion and if the setting is too low then the sound will be weak; however somewhere in the 50-75% range is appropriate most of the time.

Xitel MusicMatch software If you are using the MusicMatch software that came bundled with the USB cable, create a playlist of the tracks you want to record. This software makes the recording process easy. If you are using Winamp or any other audio software, prapare the appropriate playlist or other files necessary for the recording.

Note that while you are using the USB method of recording, no sound will come out of your computer's speakers. Your computer will bypass the soundcard altogether and use the USB until the USB is disconnected.

Record! Click "Play" on the computer audio software and "Record" on the minidisc. You will be recording in real time and you will have completed your recording.
.
.Method 4: USB to digital optical
USB-to-optical cable/adapters are becoming increasingly popular with owners of Minidisc recorders. These cable/adapters allow anyone to record digitally from their computer even if they do not have a digital soundcard. One popular supplier of these cable/adapters is .

A word of caution here: It may not be worth your while to try recording digitally from the USB port, for the following reasons:

  • If all you are recording is MP3 files, you are wasting your money. MP3 has a much higher compression ratio than MD, so the sound is already inferior to an MD recording. Recording via an analog cable (with the levels set properly) will produce no audible difference in sound quality.
  • Portable consumer minidisc recorders in practice have a difference in specifications between machines, even if they are the same model. One effect of this is that the amount of time it takes the machine to "start" once it begins receiving a digital signal may vary from machine to machine. The USB-to-optical cable is notorious for "cutting off" the first second or so of a track, and can be frustrating for some users.

Again, the description of the jack on the minidisc recorder: The jack on the right-hand side in this illustration says "Line in (Optical)". This means that the same plug is being used for the analog line in AND the digital optical line in and in this case we are interested in the optical-in capability.

USB port Of course, you must make sure that your computer has an available USB port. All modern computers are equipped with USB ports; however there are still some older machines around which do not have them. In addition, check your operating system. If you are using Windows 98, 2000, or ME, you will have no problems. If you are using Windows 95, your USB port won't work unless your release of Windows 95 also includes OSR2. The only way to check this is to look at the following:

Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager, and look for something called a "USB Root Hub". If this hub is present, you should be OK to use your USB ports. If it is not, this means that your release of Windows 95 does not include OSR2, and you will need to upgrade your operating system before you can use your USB port.

USB to digital cable Most importantly, you must have the appropriate USB-to-optical cable before you can proceed. Sony bundles this cable with some of its minidisc recorders, and there are various places where it can be purchased. The manufacturer of these cables is Xitel, which sells it as the DG-1.

The software for this cable must also be installed. It will make this type of recording relatively simple.

Computer to MD USB connection Next, you will need to make your needed connections. At the left is an oversimplified diagram of the connection needed. Simply plug the USB end of the cable into the computer's USB port, and plug the miniplug end into the minidisc's "line in (optical)" jack.

Again, the standard reminder that applies whenever recording from your computer: Before you begin to record, you should shut down any Windows programs that make sounds, because ALL sounds on your computer will be recorded to the minidisc during the recording process. Especially troublesome are programs such as ICQ, which have a habit of popping up with a loud noise at the worst possible moment.

Windows speaker control

Windows volume control

Adjust your speaker volume by first double-clicking on the speaker icon in the Windows system tray at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, as shown to the left. This will open the computer's "volume control" panel.

The "volume control" on your computer may not necessarily look exactly like the one shown here. The panel itself will be different from the panel that is shown when there is no USB audio device plugged in, but it may also look different than the one shown. However, you will see a "volume control" setting which controls the speaker volume. This will most likely be the control to the farthest left on the screen, as shown.

When you have located the volume control, ensure that the volume setting is set to somewhere between 50% and 75% of the total. This is most appropriate for minidisc recording. Later you can experiment with louder or softer volume settings. If the setting is too high it will cause distortion and if the setting is too low then the sound will be weak; however somewhere in the 50-75% range is appropriate most of the time.

Winamp If you are using the MusicMatch software that came bundled with the USB cable, create a playlist of the tracks you want to record. If you are using Winamp (pictured on the left) or any other audio software, prepare the appropriate playlist or other files necessary for the recording.

Note that while you are using the USB method of recording, no sound will come out of your computer's speakers. Your computer will bypass the soundcard altogether and use the USB until the USB is disconnected.

Before you begin recording, you may want to set the "Sync record" on your minidisc recorder to the "on" position. This feature will ensure that the minidisc will go immediately into "pause" mode when you press "record" and will not begin recording until you press "play" on the source (in this case your computer). It only works with digital recording, and it does this by detecting that the digital bit stream has started. The advantage is that this can help start recordings more conveniently. The disadvantage is that some minidisc recorders have a tendency to not start fast enough and may "cut off" the first second or so of a track. The only way to know is to try it.
Next...Record! Click "Play" on the computer audio software and "Record" on the minidisc. You will be recording in real time so you must wait until all the music stops before your recording is finished. You can monitor the recording by listening to the headphones of your portable minidisc recorder while it is recording.

When the music is finished, press "Stop" on your portable minidisc. You are now finished recording, and you can listen to your newly recorded minidisc.