[Dixielandjazz] MiniDisc connections

Edgerton, Paul A paul.edgerton at eds.com
Thu Jun 2 14:03:17 PDT 2005

Larry asks:

> Has anyone used a mike mixer output in the Line In jack of the

Sure, this works like a champ. A couple of caveats: if you're going to
all the trouble of using multiple microphones and a mixer, be sure to
use the manual recording level mode -- some MD recorders don't have this
at all, and on the most of the ones that do, it's not the default
recording mode.

As you have seen, automatic record level over-reacts to sudden loud
noises which are part and parcel of live recording.  If you're planning
to record with your MD, Read The Fine Manual.

All MDs use an encoding system called ATRAC which works something like
an MP3 encoder, greatly reducing the amount of data recorded.  Unless
you happen to have a Sony PC with a DataMD drive, you probably won't be
able to use the digital data directly.  That's just as well, because MDs
sample at 48kb/s versus the standard CD rate of 44.1kb/s, which means
that your software has to re-sample to make a CD.

And again, if you're going to this much trouble, you really should be
using a better tool such as a CD recorder. 

So how do you get your music from a MD to a CD?  Here's a quick & dirty
way to get the job done:

- Use a decent recording application.  I have used SoundForge
(expensive) GoldWave (cheap) and Audacity (free) as well as the
recording applet that comes with Nero (my CD-burning software).  All do
roughly the same thing.  Set it up for recoding stereo at 44.1.  If
you're going to do much editing, use the highest resolution supported by
the software (such as 32 bits) otherwise stick with 16 bits.

- Set the recording level in your sound card's control panel (or the
windows recording level control) ALL THE WAY UP.

- If possible, use the LINE OUTPUT on your MD.  If you don't *have* a
line output, you'll obviously have to use the headphone output. In that
case, start with the volume control at about 70% of its maximum level.
Plug it into your soundcard's LINE input.  If you only have a microphone
input, stop here -- you really need better equipment to do this step

- Look at the levels you get when you play the MD.  If you're getting
peaks above about 50% and never hit 0dBfs (which is usually indicated by
a red OVER or something similar) you're good to go.  If it's too hot,
try using the headphone output instead, and set the recording level
using the volume control on the MD. If the level is *really* low, you'll
either need more output from the MD (if you've used the headphone
output) or more gain in your software.  If none of that makes sense,
don't worry about it -- you can bring up the level later, at the cost
slightly higher noise.

- Record.  This will save your music to a file on your hard drive.  Some
software will save this as a wave file you can play immediately, others
will use some special format and you'll have to save it as wave when
you're through editing.

- Edit the beginning and ending of each tune if you wish.  (RTFM again)
The whys and wherefores of this step could fill many volumes.  See you
software documentation or get help from a friendly 15-year-old home
movie making expert.

- When you've done this for every song, you're ready to use your CD
mastering software, which will probably be either Nero or Roxio for
Windows or whatever your Mac came with.  Use the manual, Luke.  There is
typically an option to adjust the level of all the individual cuts
("Normalize") that might be helpful if the tunes vary widely or are way
too low, but this is a blunt instrument: don't expect much.  If you've
been at all careful about levels up to this point, don't use it.

- Make a nice label for your new CD.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Don't tell
the copyright police what you've been doing.  Remember that any copies
you make and give out are "off-site backups."

We return now to musical discussions already in progress.

-- Paul Edgerton

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