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Sony's MZ-R70 Minidisc player

Minidiscs rocking after all these years

Manufacturer Sony
Model MZ-R70
Availability Now

The Minidisc player/recorder under the microscope here today is Sony's MZ-R70. It's actually not one of the newest models (which were recently announced and are only now becoming available, albeit at a price premium over older models), but it's a good example of an MD implementation. It shows where MDs excel, and where they fall short. While this is a review of Sony's MZ-R70 device, I'll be making some comments about Minidiscs in general along the way, and also about some options offered by other MD devices, just to keep you interested.

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music under a lot of different circumstances, so the R70 got a full workout for this review. You'll see what all the Minidisc fuss was—and maybe still is—all about.

Look retro to you?

The hardware
Measuring 81 x 26.2 x 74mm, the R-70 weighs in at 115g (155g with battery and a Minidisc inside). Its dimunitive body comes in black, blue, or silver and seems to be solid and sturdy, though I wouldn't suggest dropping it from any significant height. There is a slight bulge on one end of the unit to accomodate the battery, so the unit isn't totally squared. I actually found the unit easier to hold with the battery bulge, since it gives you something to grab onto on the otherwise tiny casing.

The casing has several buttons, all very easy to use and intuitively marked. The R-70 also comes with a tethered remote that plugs into one of the headphone jacks (there are two), so you can stick the R-70 in a bag and control it with the remote. In addition to the two headphone jacks, the R-70 also sports digital and mic inputs, and an input for the included power adapter/charger. The R-70 comes with a standard pair of ear buds which, while nice compared with other ear buds I've used, don't match the feel of even low-end ear muffs. It seems every manufacturer skimps and goes with ear buds these days. Maybe it's just me, but I find buds to be more of a hassle than their small size is worth.

The R-70 also comes with a pretty detailed manual that covers everything you'll need to know about it. Also included is a cloth carrying case and digital cable for recording.

Rounding out some of the standard features are several playback methods (shuffle, repeat, etc.), and pretty much everything you'd expect from a portable CD player. One interesting feature that I haven't seen elsewhere is the AVLS (Automatic Volume Limiter System), which caps the volume to avoid ear damage. While you can turn this system off (and I did—sometimes I want things really loud), it's nice to see Sony include this kind of a failsafe.

Jacks 'o plenty: 2 headphones, 1 microphone, 1 digital, 1 remote interface.

The only gripe I have with the R-70's package is the lack of a belt clip on both the unit and the remote. Though you don't see clips on many portable devices (perhaps it's a lost art), I find them incredibly useful, especially for remotes. I'm not sure why Sony ditched clips on the R-70 and its remote, or why this is a trend I'm seeing more of, but I would have liked at least a removable clip on the R-70.