One day I will own a MiniDisc Player. Falling between the CD and MP3 eras, Sony’s MiniDisc is long gone from a wider consumer perspective but still enjoys frolics of greatness amongst niche fans. And now there’s a way to do the unthinkable: full data transfer back from a MiniDisc Player, thanks to a couple of people on Reddit:
After a long time of analyzing the Sony firmware, we managed to confirm it’s possible to recover ATRAC data from Minidiscs using any Sony NetMD portable! Yesterday u/Sir68k managed to find the function used to access the 40s [40 second] DRAM cache, and confirm there was ATRAC data stored there. I wrote a proof of concept program, which was able to read the whole cache, move the reading head, and stitch the ATRAC data together. Although this method is not yet viable to be implemented in any user-friendly way, it still proves that it is possible to read MDs digitally without the use of the RH1. There also aren’t any restrictions to using this method, like there are with the RH1 (it cannot read data written to disc using SonicStage).u/asivery
Yeah sorry, I went for the clickbait title (sosumi). While it’s not possible to just get your MiniDisc Player out of the loft and set this up, what u/asivery and u/Sir68k have achieved shows the functionality exists without the requirement of expensive hardware (RH1). But to make up for the honey trap headline, I’m going to give you an acronym explainer as a peace offering (because there were a lot of capital letters up there).
- ATRAC stands for Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding, a group of audio compression algorithms developed by Sony. MiniDisc was the first commercial product to use ATRAC back in 1992. Its main advantage was offering the same running time as CD in a smaller form factor and without compromising significant quality.
- DRAM stands for dynamic random-access memory, a type of RAM that stores bits of data in transistors so your computer can use it to write, rewrite, and temporarily save data in real-time while it’s on. But DRAM is faster than RAM, has a higher data density, and it’s generally cheaper. The downsides are that it’s more power hungry, gets hotter, and is still volatile compared to hard drive/solid state drive storage.
- RH1 comes from the name Sony MZ-RH1 (here’s the manual [PDF]), a MiniDisc Recorder player that is currently the only consumer-friendly way to transfer data back to a computer. As mentioned above, the new discovery would alleviate the main challenges with using an RH1 such as cost and technical restrictions