Product Type: Sony portable MD players
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Sony MD Walkman MZ-R900
Member Name: njmorf
Sony MD Walkman MZ-R900
Date: 06/05/02, updated on 06/05/02 (739 review reads)
Advantages: Very good looking, good sound, good feature list
Disadvantages: Occasionally slow track access, ugly battery pack
I made a snap decision to by an MD player recently, having seen a friend's Panasonic and my brother-in-law's MZ-R900. Having compared a few models online, I plumped for this one mainly because I found it from QED-UK for about £30 less than the Panasonic.
Lookswise, it's very good. The UK models don't come in as many colours as the US ones do, but the metallic blue paint on my model is very nice. I was slightly disappointed by the battery compartment cover, which is in plastic and not quite the same tint as the rest of the unit's metal shell. I have heard of it breaking off, so I try not to use it too often. Since the battery recharges in the unit, that's not such a problem. The external AA battery pack is plain blac plastic, with no effort whatsoever made to make it match the case either in colour or shape.
The controls on the main unit are nice. There are seven small, silver buttons for volume, stop, pause, track marking, record mode and end search (skip straight to the end of the final track so you don't accidentally record over anything) and a safety-catch operated slide for recording. The majority of the operations, such as labelling, play mode section, track skip/search, audio input settings and the like are controlled using a pair of 'jog-wheels' which are intuitive but make your fingers sore after extended use. They can either be pressed to make a selection or rotated up or down to move between options.
The in-line remote is very nice, but the position and direction of the clip is in the wrong place in my opinion - with the earphones in the correct ears and the cable running down your left shoulder (the supplied earphones are on a seperate cable, about 50 cm from the left earpiece to the connector, and about 40cm from the right to the joint on the main cable), the clip forces the LCD display to sit there upside-down. If you clip it to a right-hand pocket, it wil sit better but you'll have th
e cable across your body, which I find a little annoying (too used to remotes hanging fromthe left inside pocket). The best thing about the remote, in my opinion, is the green electroluminescent backlight, which glows brightly for a few seconds when any button is pressed. The track selection and volume control is made via a rotating section at one end, operating in much the same way as the jog-wheels on the main unit. Pulled out, it adjusts volume, pushed in it skips or searches through tracks.
Oddly enough, there are a number of functions that can only be accessed by only one of the main unit or remote, but not both. Notably, recording can only be started from the main unit, and the sound can only be fine-tuned (bass and treble only, no graphic equaliser or presets) from the remote. Both displays have a dot-matrix section for the names and a numeric setion for track numbers and lengths. The main unit does not, for some strange reason, include a backlight, so selections in the dark must be performed in with the remote, which could be a problem if you want to record something in the cinema (not that I'm condoning this, you understand :-) ).
The inputs on the MD are line-in and MIC. the line in is a dual analogue and optical digital jack. If you're connecting optically from a compatible (Sony) joint-text CD player, you can copy the track and album names directly from some CDs, and get the track markings in the right place automatically. If recording via analogue, the unit automatically starts a new track after more than two second of "silence", although in practice, any track with a very quiet section will fool the machine into starting a new track when you don't want. For long recodings, you can automatically add track marks every few minutes, or add them by hand as and when you want.
Track and disc labelling can be done during recording or playback, via the unit or the remote. It's a long-winded process, wearing o
n the fingers. The jog-wheel operation makes the fingers sore, and the controller on the remote is too smooth - as your fingers perspire, you lose your grip. All in all, either method takes a long time and makes your hands tired. The problem is eased somewhat by the "name bank" which stores up to a maximum of 600 characters of words and names. You can retrieve them in order of their saving or by searching by the first letter in the word (case sensitive so you need to be consistent and put all words in one case to make it worthwhile).
The sound quality is good, although since the supplied earphones are not too good its hard to be sure. The normal recording and the LP2 half size are indistinguishable to most people and the LP4 is very close to this as well. Given better earphones, you could probably tell better. (If you want to buy replacement earphones from Sony UK, you won't have much choice - the only short length earphones they do without in-line volume controls are the MDR-ED238ML, apparently, though the brochure they were going to send me with more details has yet to turn up. I personally find the earbud that came with the player (MDR-E805's) to be too big to fit comfortably in my ears so I was looking for a replacement. You'll have to buy from abroad if you want Sony earbud replacements.
The forty second shock buffer means that the disc doesn't spin all the time, so skipping tracks sometimes takes up to 4 or 5 seconds while you wait for the MD to catch up with the command, but it is virtually impossible to shake the machine for long enough to stop the music (without breaking it in the process).
All in all, a very good machine. I worry that the controls may be too flimsy, the lack of a graphic equaliser is annoying, and labelling is quite longwinded, but the playback time is excellent and if you listen in noisier environments you won't notice the difference between normal play and long play x4 (except for
the very nearly five hours of music on one 74 minute MD). Since you can't record at fast speeds (like you can with the new Net MDs) you'll have to get used to waiting for the recording to finish, though.