Product Type: Sony portable MD players
Newest Review: ... the dial away from you selects options, which feels very natural). The traditional transport controls are all on the front panel, al... more
A great little mastering solution
Sony Net MD Walkman MZ-N10
Member Name: Flup
Sony Net MD Walkman MZ-N10
Date: 04/12/03, updated on 04/12/03 (200 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent sound quality, Fast and easy to use, Really nice look and feel
Disadvantages: Display can be hard to read, Software crippled by rights management botch
After looking at various options for holding final versions of tracks from my small home project studio, I settled on MiniDisc after doing a blind A/B comparison with some other media. Despite the fact that the data is compressed (using the ATRAC3 format), I couldn't reliably tell the difference between MD, DAT, analogue tape and CD. MiniDisc seemed a great solution: cheap reusable durable media, lots of inexpensive equipment, magnetically stable.
I settled on the MZ-N10 mainly because I'm a sucker for good-looking gadgets, and it definitely falls into that category. It's silver all over, feels durable and well-built, and comes with a little cradle that both charges the battery and provides a USB connection (of which more later). On the left-hand side of the unit is a jog dial which is used to navigate menus (pressing the dial away from you selects options, which feels very natural). The traditional transport controls are all on the front panel, along with the volume control.
First, the sound quality, which I can only describe as excellent. There are three levels of compression available, the highest ("LP4") giving about five-and-a-half hours per MD. Although LP4 gives an ever-so-slightly duller sound, the difference is only really apparent when making a direct comparison, and this high level of compression allows me to record an entire band rehearsal without having to worry about turning tapes over or running out of memory. When recording a live source, the unit inserts track markers whenever the input signal falls below a certain level, which conveniently splits up such a recording. It's also possible to insert track markers at regular intervals, although I haven't found a use for that feature. Internal battery life is excellent, and on the odd occasion when extremely long continuous operation is required, an external battery compartment (supplied) can be clipped on, which holds a single AA battery.
r>Operationally, the unit does everything you'd expect, but my main niggle is the LCD display. It's not backlit, and it looks like a design decision has been made to make it look 'right' with the unit's silver styling. The upshot of this is that it can be extremely hard to read if not directly illuminated, and I often find myself squinting at it.
However, the functionality provided by the USB connection makes extensive use of the LCD unnecessary if the unit can be placed in its cradle. The supplied software ('SonicStage') is a little cumbersome and the user interface somewhat over-engineered, but once you get used to it, it's invaluable for editing track names and controlling the device remotely. It can also be used to transfer MP3s and tracks from CDs to the unit digitally (i.e. very fast), although the half-hearted attempt at rights management can make this a confusing and complex process. Regrettably, there is no provision to transfer data from MD to the computer digitally, which is a real shame: the only way to get MD tracks into the computer is to play them in.
Niggles aside, this is an extremely capable unit which has proved itself again and again. I would recommend it to anyone with similar needs to mine. However, users simply requiring a personal audio solution might want to consider a solid-state device like an MP3 player, which will be far more flexible in terms of digital track management.