Review: Sony MDS-501 CD Player

Category: Digital

While it appears that the Mini Disc concept may not be around much longer, thought I would do a review on some of the decks I have used over the years and continue to do so.

To be candid I like the Mini Disc as a recording medium. It far outpaces any tape recorder and over the 48 years in this hobby I have used a lot of different and expensive tape decks from some of the most respected names in the business. As far as I am concerned any Sony or Denon Mini Disc deck I have owned, totally smokes the tape medium, in fact it is not a fair comparison at all.

Sonically the Mini Disc is vastly superior to any MP 3 Player or I Pod for that matter. Yes I have listen to both of those mediums. To my ears MP3 and I Pod far fall short of the sonic excellence of the Mini Disc.

Have also had CD Recorders from Sony and Philips and once again the Mini Disc outperforms this medium as well. The Mini Disc is just a better format for recording CDs, tapes and LPs to the Mini Disc format.

The editing capabilites are a marvel to use. Plus being able to add title and text to the Mini Disc. Plus one can record either in the digital format or analog format and I am not able to detect any differences between the two.

Any of these decks are easy to install in any system that will support a tape in/out in a preamp,integrated amp or receiver.

The pictures shown are Mini Disc decks I currently own and have 2 in my system. The other 2 are back ups and from time to time swap out in the system.

Blank discs are about $2.00 give or take a few cents plus or minus. Can easily be erased and recorded one again. Have an infinte shelf life and are extrememly durable. Considerably more durable than any tape format and 100 time more quiet as well. Space wise the Mini Discs take up far less space than tape or CDs.

However with all the pluses the Mini Disc offers, it would matter not if the sonics were less than other formats. They are not, in my opinion and have been in the Mini Disc medium since 1996, the Mini Disc is one of the best if not the best medium I have used for home recording.

In fact I have transferred all my tapes,a lot of CDs as well as LPs to this medium. I no longer own a reel to reel, cassette or CD Recorder as the Mini Disc far exceeds those units.

I would suspect that part of the demise of the Mini Disc is the MP3 and I Pod of which is computer downloadable to those mediums. To me they just do not have the overall sonics of the Mini Disc and that is what I am after. The audio hobby ia all sbout sonic signature and for me the MP 3 and I Pod are no where near the Mini Disc format.

Fortunately for those of us using Mini Disc, there are plenty of players around in the pre owned market and the Mini Discs themselves remain easy to acquire and Sony the inventor of Mini Disc continues to bring new decks on the market from time to time, but haven't issued a mid or high end deck in some 2 years now.

The Mini Disc format remains popular in Europe and Asia and hopefully that will keep the Mini Disc around a few years longer. For some reason the Mini Disc never really caught on here in the U.S. and that is a shame indeed.

The Sony MDS 501 was a high end deck that came out in 1995 at $1,000.00 USD. Features Below:

Sony MDS-501 Home MD Deck
Intro: 10/1995
Availability: Pre owned

in: optical, line, mic. out: optical, line, hdphn. 17 x 3 3/8 x 14 " (WHD). 11 lbs 7 oz.

Features: ATRAC-2. Pulse type A/D converter. Hybrid pulse D/A converter. 45 bit digital filter. Jog dial for AMS, editing and title inputs. 25 track programming. Shuffle play. Music scan. Date function for archival purposes. Title input for disc and track records up to 1700 characters per disc and looper title, U/L case and numbers. Record level control. Remote commander remote control RM-DM1.

Notes: The 501 will save TOC information after the power is turned off only if the recorder had actually been set to timer-recording when the unit was turned on and recording had begun. Otherwise, power can be removed to "undo" an edit (or a recording!) on this machine. // European version has a sampling rate converter, US version does not.

The Sony MDS JE 440 introduced in 2000.

Features of the MDS-JE440:

Sold for $226.00

Dimensions 17Wx4Hx11D / 8 lbs.

Availabilty: NOS and preowned.

First of 3 decks by Sony with MDLP others 640 & 940.

MDLP (MiniDisc Long Play recording) and monaural recording
A very nice feature that should not be overlooked. MDLP is a great feature, and LP2 sounds absolutely no different to me than a CD does, neither on my 120W speakers nor my Sony MDR-E888 earphones.
Time machine recording - 6 seconds
This is essentially a buffer memory which stores the signal as it enters the unit, and holds six seconds of sound signal. Then, even is the user is late in starting a recording, the previous six seconds of the audio program are recorded automatically. This feature is particularly valuable when recording radio programs.
Buttons on front panel and remote control:
power, eject, play, pause, stop, record, search back, search forward, rec mode, input, play mode, repeat, menu/no, yes, clear, scroll.
Buttons on front panel only:
Buttons on 3-column remote control only:
display, fader, name edit/select, numeric 1-10, >10, CD-synchro (stop, start, standby), CD player search back/forth, music synchro-recording, time machine recording, |<<, >>|, repeat A-B, recording or analog output level.
Jog dial
for track selection, text entry, menu functions. Press for enter.
Sampling rate converter and 24-bit analog to digital converter
Digital peak meters on FL display
Digital/analog recording level control
3 play modes
continue, shuffle, program
advanced editing features
name in, name copy, name erase, name all erase, track erase, move, combine, divide, A-B erase, all erase, scale factor edit, undo
Scale factor edit us used to change the overall recording level, and fade in and out at the start and end of tracks.
Sleep timer
turns off after 60 minutes when enabled.
Supplied accessories:
two 2xRCA-2xRCA audio connecting cords, one TOSlink-TOSlink optical cable, one remote control, two R6 (size-AA) batteries.

Sony MDS JE 480 introduced in 2002

Sony MDS-JE480 Entry level MD Deck
Intro: 7/2002
Availability:NOS and pre owned
Sony MDS-JE480 $198.00 IN: line, optical, OUT: line 17Wx4Hx11D, 6.5 lbs.

Has same features of the 440, but adds the following updates.

Features: ATRAC Type-S, MDLP support. Remote: RM-D10E

Specs: 1-Bit DAC, 1-Bit Sigma-Delta ADC (24 bit sampling), Frequency Response: 5-20kHz +/-0.3dB, SNR >96dB

The Denon DMD 1300 came out in 1998

Denon DMD-1300 Home MD Deck
Intro: 9/1998 MSRP $799
Availability: pre owned
in: optical, line. out: optical, line, hdphn. 17.1" x 4" x 11.22" / 8.8 lbs
Features: Sampling rate converter (always in effect, circumventing input jitter and time base problems). Sigma-Delta ADC with 64X oversampling. Divide, combine, move, erase (60ms positional accuracy), but no rehearse function. Program, repeat and random play modes.

Comments: German Stereo Magazine: First home recorder that has no Sony parts. Contains Sharp MD drive and Sharp single chip ATRAC/sample rate converter circuit equivalent to Sony's ATRAC 4. Sounds nearly as good as the Sony MDS-JA3ES but costs only about half as much.Specs: S/N 105dB (playback), Dynamic range 96dB. 16W.

These are the decks I can recommend, all though there are a great many others in the new and pre owned marke place worthy of consideration.

The ones to really go after, so I have been told are the Sony in the ES line. Which offer better build and tray loadable mini discs. I have seen and heard these and they are very good indeed and may add one soon to the collection.

This is just to good of a recording system for it to have an early demise.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
CD Recorders Sony, Philips.
Hi, there WAS a review/Shoot Out Back in 1998
with the Sony MDS-JA20ES(which I used to own).
Also were the 2 Pioneer models, Elite and
consumer, Kenwood, Sharp, and another one.
I have 2 of that issue! Did you want my extra?
let me know. I THINK it was Home Theater!
I Bought my JA20ES unit BASED on the review!
I NOW have 2 Sony MDS-JA3ES Units for recording my
Drums and Guitar. These units are a HECK of alot better
than reel to reel! AND easier to edit on!
MiniDisc is great, but it sounds in no way better than reel to reel with all the compression it uses.
When I buy a reel to reel recorder at a boot sale, I always happen to notice that the tapes are recorded extremely poorly. Any R2R recorder with a new-price above $600, should sound dynamic, with a low amount of noise and a clear, crisp sound. If it doesn't, it's either not in perfect order or the owner doesn't know how to take care of his machine.
I'm an audiophile person. As soon as anyone wants to listen to my set, i connect my old Akai GX-630D Pro to my amplifier and I play a demotape I once recorded. It's the best sound I can get out of my speakers. Better than my MDS-JE520, Better than my CDP-XB920QS and even better than my pro-ject 1Xpression.
I rest my case!