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Gear Review




 Denon MD Overview & Review

I recently received the New Denon Dual MD Pro DJ Player/ Recorder for a roadtest and review in my local association's newsletter. I also recently have read Tim Hazelwood's own review that appeared in the December/ January edition of DJzone. I feel that Tim did a fantastic job with it and I commend him on his great review!

I feel that many of you DJzone readers can benefit from some of the information that I included in my review as well. My review took a slightly different approach. Mine is a 3-part overview and review. This is a special re-edited version of the first 2 parts of my original review. I have included some of the classic MD "myths" in part 2, trying to educate those who may be misinformed about the MD format.

I think that this special overview will complement Tim's review quite nicely. If you have not had a chance to read his review, please look for it in the December/ January DJzone Back issue. I would also like to state that I have no affiliation with Denon, Sony, or any of the other manufacturer's I review...;And I would like to thank Denon for allowing me to review this ground-breaking product. - Steven M. Fernino.

Part 1 - Denon & The Minidisc - An Overview

  It all started a couple of years ago, at the DJ Times International DJ Expo in Atlantic City, NJ, in August 1996. My brother & partner Mike (and DJzone writer) and I were stopped in front of the Denon booth, and were posed this question...;"What will it take for you to buy one of our MDs." This question was posed mainly because of the release of the Brand New Denon rackmountable single MD unit with Pitch control (Their first generation of their Pro DJ version). Mike & I took a good look at it. Well first we pointed out that it was huge...;3RU for only 1 MD. Also, it had a basic pitch control (not the standard DJ Style slide) and no Pitch Bend. I liked the idea of hot start buttons, though. I thought they had potential. We answered the question simply by saying " Give us a MD unit that is similar to a dual transport Denon CD player and add proper Pitch control with pitch bend...;That will make us buy it!" The Denon rep responded, " I don't know if there would be a demand for such a unit, and it would be costly to produce...;But give us 3 or more years and maybe you might just see it." The following year, Denon added a Proper Pitch Control w/ bend...;A positive step in the right direction. And now, only 2 years after this conversation took place, I have in my possession (unfortunately only temporarily- well, Not if I can help it!) their 3rd Generation DJ MD product... The world's very first dual deck Pro DJ MD player / recorder! The DN-2300R. In fact, it isn't just a Denon 2000 that plays MDs; instead it is much more. This unit is feature packed and at what I consider a reasonable price for this incredible take on this great technology.

Now that I set the stage with how I was introduced to Denon's world of MD, I should now tell you about Denon's introduction, as well. This new MD may be Denon's 3rd generation Pro DJ MD, but it is not 3rd generation MD technology. Denon was not just tossed into the MD market only a few years back. They have been manufacturing MD Cart Machines for use in professional broadcast applications for several years. In fact, Denon embraced this format early on in the pro broadcast ranks. So overall, Denon has a similar amount of experience in the MD market as Sony (it's creator) does. But, where Sony has spent most of its MD time with the consumer market, Denon has spent the majority of its time with the broadcast market! What this all really means is that you don't have to worry about the technology in these Denon MD machines, as it is very sound and it's solidly established. This also means that if you were fearful of going with any other company than Sony for MD technology because you thought that it might not be as advanced or perfected as Sony's, think again! Denon is most definitely a worthy competitor to Sony in the world of Professional MD.

Part 2- A few words about MD

I think it would be in my readers' best interests, if I said a few things about the minidisc format itself, and how it performs overall in the very volatile word of Digital Audio and Digital Recording mediums. Unfortunately, there have been many misconceptions about this and other formats. I think that accurate information about these formats should prevail, instead of letting rumor & ignorance spoil it for those who could otherwise benefit from the technology, if they were to give it a fair shake.

One of the biggest misconceptions about MD is that the sound is terrible. That is just not true. Some of the best "Golden Ears" in the music business can't tell the difference between a MD and a CD even in a critical listening environment. In a live, real-world situation, such as DJing, it is even harder to tell. In fact, it is practically impossible.

Yes, MD does use a type of "lossy compression". And yes, the sound wasn't actually the best during the first generation of the product, but neither was this so with the first couple generations of CD technology. Now, MD is certainly perfected, and it sounds great!

Remember also, MD is NOT supposed to be a replacement for CD. So, taking into consideration that it is so hard to tell the difference, I think that its sound performance is incredible. Rather, the MD was supposed to be a replacement for analog cassette (a medium that was never meant for music, but really for dialogue only, but miraculously is still very popular as a music-listening medium).

O.K., since we mentioned compression, it is time to state another misconception.

Someone once told me in a DJ chat room, that even though he has never tried MD that he would never use it, because he does not want compressed sound. If, he wanted that, he would go get a compressor. First of all, the ATRAC compression that MD uses is a form of data compression (compression of 0s and 1s) and NOT audio compression.

Sure, there are some unavoidable artifacts to such a procedure, but, as stated above, these are very hard for even the best-trained ears to hear. It would take many generations of copying from copies for these artifacts to rear their ugly heads anyway. If you dub from the original, you should not have much in the way of audible problems. Secondly, audio compression is not necessarily a bad thing. If used properly, compression can be beneficial, as well as unnoticeable. I use compression / limiting / leveling as a tool for several things (An article for another time.)

 I would have to say that the best advantage over CD and other formats is the overall size of the MD media, and how durable the media is. A MD holds up to 74 min. of audio in stereo on 1 blank (even more when employing special tricks found on the Internet).

Also, unlike CDs, MDs won't scratch, won't skip, and are infinitely erasable.

When CDs came out, (remember that?) we were told that they were indestructible. Well, as any DJ knows, that is an outright lie. Pressed CDs scratch, bend, and break, just like vinyl. They are very prone to skipping from even the tiniest dust particle. Some older CDs have problems with the paint on the artwork sticking to storage devices, etc.

CD-Rs are even more fragile. Even with the greatest of care, they scratch very easily, and just aren't compatible with all machines.

With MD, you get the best of all worlds -

  • Digital quality sound close to that of CD, CD-R, and DAT; Compactness of DAT;

  • Compatibility with ALL machines, unlike CD-R and DAT (excluding MD 4 and 8 track recorders); Infinite re-recording on discs like no other media;
  • Infinite re-editing possibilities unlike any other medium;
  • Optical reading / recording (no tape wear like DAT, cassette, and DCC);
  • Protective outer shell for long life; and more!

I thought that MD could have been the best medium for Mobile DJs, but for those of us who insisted on keeping the instant start features and beat-blending abilities, MD was not an option. Now, we have DJ-friendly MDs from Sony and Denon - Our world has changed! I now think that MD is the ultimate medium for Mobile DJs (excluding, of course, lengthy discussions about the RIAA, legalities, and such...;once again an article for another time).

To borrow a phrase from Denon's own advertisement, Let's get ready to "REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR WORLD!"

Steven M. Fernino
Music In Motion
Member of C. P. D. A.

To read a review on the new Denon DN-2300R MD unit, please review back to Tim's review in the December/ January issue of DJzone!



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