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Consumer MD quality

Subject: Consumer MD quality
From: Rob Danielson <>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 11:26:16 -0500
Waiting for the 744T recorder to roll out, I've recorded many hours 
this Summer using several consumer grade SHARP MT-90 MD decks (and 
all my DATS resting in peace). I've experienced 100% technical 
reliability, MD is an amazing, _little_ medium.

I've noticed two qualities/differences comparing them to recordings 
made with the Sony D7-D8/M-1 DAT recorders I've used for years.  All 
recordings were made with the same low noise mics and MP-2 preamps 
and all transfers were made digitally.

1) The analog to digital processing circuits in the Sharp MD's is 
understandably not as transparent. This results in a "harmonic" 
structure in the sound that can be heard as a subtle chord of tones. 
It creates a more "musical" sounding recording with broadband 
original material (like location "air") but it also makes such 
sources sound more similar than they are. The a-d quality in the 
MT-90 is better than I thought it would be, but limited if one hopes 
to do things like make subtle contrasts in post. Using the optical 
digital input could get around the a-d lI assume.

2) Frequency nodes/artifacts. There are often some very narrow 
frequencies that are not reproduced correctly or as accurately as 
with non compressed 16bit.  These narrow bandwidths are either 
significantly attenuated or, instead of one tone, there's a blend of 
two tones fighting for the same location on the frequency spectrum. 
I've heard this at times with 16 bit recordings-- but its much more 
pronounced with the MD recordings I've been working with. The dip in 
response or discordant tone seem to create false tones that one has a 
hard time balancing with EQ. I've encountered enough of these "spots" 
now that I'm confident that they are somehow produced by the Sharp MD 
recorders/MD media.

I'm happy with the recordings and its likely that one could not hear 
these quality differences when making analog MD transfers because of 
the additional noise, distortion and a->d step. Of course, consumer 
MD's use different a->d circuits than the Portadisc recorders and 
this is important to remember.

Is it likely these traits occur with other or all consumer-grade MD 
recorders? I really couldn't say as my use of other MD recorders is 
limited.  Best,  Rob D.

Rob Danielson
Film Department
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


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