Sunday, November 1, 2009

Old Tech: Sharp 722 Minidisc Recorder

Who remembers the minidisc?

Well, if you liked recording live shows or your own playing or just walking around collecting ambient noises and weren't born with an ipod mic in yr hand, you might. And you probably loved them. Sharp units were nearly everybody's favorite as you could change levels *while* recording, a simple but damn near essential feature seemingly unique to that brand.

I got this, definitely used but in box w/most accessories for $10 from a thrift shop. And it shows just how cool old tech can be. OK, you save money and save a useful and even cool product from landfill. But the 722 is the perfect companion for my Kaossilator, which is just why I bought it. I was sick of coming up with cool riffs and whole songs on the Kaossilator and forgetting them. Yeah it's gotta line in (doubles as optical) and the sound quality is great. Stick it in a bag with Kaossilator and a patch cord (yeah, you need one, the 722 came with it) and you are ready to go.

Kaossilator + 722: like peanut butter & chocolate, ebony & ivory. And the tiniest electronic music studio?

What else is cool? (and what sucks)

1. Rugged metal construction. This model is about 10 years old. Made in Japan (which may be overrated as plenty of good crap's made elsewhere in Asia now) but Sharp knew how to make good crap there. This seems like it's from another age. And it seems to have outlasted my iPod.

2. The mechanical age design, which apart from its sheer arseyness, is quite easy to grok. Buttons for most every function and that cool gearshaped jog dial and little sliders and levers. It looks like it's going to transform into something the moment you walk away. In truth, it's probably one of the more interesting MD designs that made it Stateside. It's also a middle finger to Apple's Starbucksy aesthetic, which tries to be all simple but ends up cheaper and more fiddly.

3. And yeah, it's be even cooler if it housed a hard drive but MDs are cheap and durable.

4. Cool backlit remote. Too Bad main screen is not

5. 24-bit ATRAC, it says so! Better'n mp3. Note; the early Sony MD recorders in the 90's were supposed to sound a bit nasty, by 2000, they'd fixed that. Did I mention mic (with power!) and line in jacks?

6. Removeable gumpack battery! Screw you fruity Cupertino pod people! Heck, they even give you an extra external battery pack that houses a single AA. I have to use this since I didn't get the wallwart with mine (boo).

7. True gapless playback! Ah yeah. Back in the 90's, I think it was Warp who put out MDs with a bunch of tiny snippets in the same key and bpm, put play on random and you'd get a different performance every time. Note: I am planning to do something like this. Also, since you can split tracks later, it's great for DJ sets. See...

8. Edit and name tracks right on the player. Yes. Great for recording yourself. Note: editing is not that accurate. On rack units, and for some reason, some Panasonic players you could get further down.

9. It says hello and goodbye to you when you turn it off and on

But what sucks?

1. OK, I lied. This particular model has a known bug. Something happens when it can't read the TOC and it just. won't. work. Sharp fixed this on subsequent models, most of which weren't sold (officially) in the US. So while I love my 722, I live in constant fear of it crapping out.

2. Removeable media. You gotta swap them out. And like cassettes or CDR's they pile up. Also, while I got two MD's in the box, who knows how much longer I can find more, if at all? (Actually I see TASCAM @ least still sells MD recorders) Heck, I can still find cassettes.

3. Zero computer connectivity. Want your recordings on your hard drive? Record them out the headphone jack.Later MD recorders did let you transfer tracks *to* them over USB, but not vice versa. Sony's Hi-MD finally rectified this, by which time hardly anyone cared too much. These days we have solid state recorders with no such limitations.

Hmm, yeah, OK then. But 10 bucks? Cheap and cheerful and gets the job done. Sure solid state is smaller and slicker and more convenient and so may be iPod mics, but I can actually buy a good mic with the extra moneys.

Now for more blank MDs.

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