Though MP3s necessarily degrade the audio quality of the source audio, once they're in MP3 format, there's no loss in quality when transferring that file to your portable audio player. Why? Because all you're doing is copying a file over a digital interface. Generally, MiniDisc recorders take feeds from analog outputs on a sound card or other audio source. They're thus prone to losses in fidelity as the digital signal is converted to an analog one. The solution seems simple enough, and it is: just switch the audio feed for the MiniDisc recorder from an analog port to a digital one.
Does Xitel's DG2 digital MiniDisc port really make it that easy? Can you even tell the difference between analog and digtal sources? Let's find out.
For those of you who attach legitimacy to a brand name, the name Xitel probably doesn't strike a chord. However, Sony might. Sony is so impressed with Xitel's MiniDisc ports that it bundles them with the majority of its MiniDisc player/recorders. The fact that Xitel products, including the DG2, have Sony's stamp of approval is certainly impressive. As diligent as we are at here at TR, Sony has no doubt run Xitel's MiniDisc ports through an even more grueling gauntletwith success.
The little silver box that is the DG2 attaches to your PC via an included USB cable, and to a MiniDisc player's digital port with its own TOSLINK digital cable. All the cables and digital ports come with caps to protect their internals, which is a nice touch. The caps really do make sense, and their inclusion shows a meticulous attention to detail on Xitel's part.
Included with the DG2 are the two cables and a CD containing the full version of MusicMatch Jukeboxno installation CD or drivers. The DG2 is a perfect example of what a USB device should be: you plug it in, it installs itself automatically, and it works without even a reboot. This kind of simple installation is something I really hope to see from more USB devices in the future, and Xitel should be applauded for making things dead easy on this front.
Device-wise, the DG2 installs itself as a generic "USB Audio Device." This got me rather excited at first, as I imagined the DG2's potential as a purely digital sound card. However, the DG2's audio functionality is limited to media players; no amount of fiddling could produce a signal from Quake 3. This means you're out of luck if you want to use the DG2 for gaming, but you can still use it for playing MP3s, or anything else out of a media player. There's a little more to the DG2 than just MiniDisc recording, but I can't help thinking how much more versatile it could have been with more than just media player support.
Recording onto a MiniDisc is as easy as plugging everything in, selecting the USB Audio Device as your preferred audio source (if more than one is installed), and recording as you would with a normal cable. Newbies can use the included MusicMatch software for all their ripping, encoding, and playing, or you can opt for any other audio software.