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Sony MZ-S1 S2 Sports Net MD MiniDisc Player
- Record MP3s or CDs at up to 32x from multiple sources (PC, CD, radio, and more)
- Plays back in ATRAC3, supports MP3, WMA, and WAV formats
- Easy one-hand joystick navigation; bright backlit LCD display
- Up to 54 hours' playback on one AA battery (in LP4 mode)
- Water-resistant design with reflective casing; includes music management software, reflective hand strap
If you crave tunes while you workout, then check out this S2 Sports Net MDM-^Y by Sony. This handheld minidisc Walkman« records CDs or MP3s from your PC at up to 32x speed. It features a durable, water-resistant design, the G-ProtectionM-^Y anti-shock system, and rich Digital Mega Bass« enhanced sound. You can get up to 54 hours of playback with 1 "AA" battery and the MDLPM-^Y feature provides 4 times as much music on 1 disc than a standard MD, giving you over 5 hours of music.
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Top Customer Reviews
I do have a few issues though. First, the unit needs some sort of strap. Whether it is a hand strap or arm or whatever, it needs something other than the wimpy wrist strap that comes with it which is meant more to catch the player if you accidentally drop it rather than keeping it in place during active use.
Second, The whole check in/out feature is annoying. If I used this player significantly more than I do I might wish I had purchased something different. I guess the whole idea is to help prevent the propgation of illegal music trading. Whatever your opinion on that subject I think anyone would agree that what Sony has done here isn't the answer, their implementation just frustrates those of us who have a large collection of digital music obtained legally. Besides, the process slows down the transfer of music to the player dramatically and thwarts any additional potential the player had, keeping the Sony Mini-Disc players from cometing on a level with the iPod. If the discs were treated like standard digital media and the player was recognized as a removeable disc drive by Windows think of all of the uses for the player. It could be a mini hard drive, carry standard files, speed up digital music transfer, etc.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Don't get too worked up about the hype of cheap minidiscs and 160 Mb worth of songs you can put in it. There are some catches that you need to be aware of:
1. You can transfer your MP3s only 3 times to a minidisc. Yes, 3 times. Why? Sony has made a licensing agreement with itself (the Sony label company) that an MP3 file can only be transfered 3 times. So, if your first transfer didn't work-- you got 2 transfers left. If your disc got broken, it doesn't matter-- only 1 transfer is left. This, ladies and gentlemen, is called the OpenMG magic. The OpenMG software is a nightmare to be told in reason number 2.
2. The OpenMG software that comes with this device is a pure frustrating-agonizing joke. Go to [...] and see how many people are complaining about this software. Sony "the software company" and Sony "the electronics company" is so incompatible with each other that you'd think one's made in Japan and the other in the U.S separated by a large body of water (literally). Technically: You have to convert MP3s to an ATrac3 file before transfering anything to a NetMD device. OpenMG's job is to convert MP3 files into Atrac3 files. Guess what? Those converts DOES NOT always work. Transfering a CD to an MP3? You still need to convert to Atrac3 files. You cannot record anything to a minidisc without converting it first-- well what if the conversions DOES NOT always work? A HAH! Strike 2!
3. Finally, I have had a NetMD MZ-NF610 for the past 2 months. The first month, everything worked fine--transfers were good, followed every single instructions on the manual, and never dropped, bumped, and hurt the device in any way. What happened in the second month you asked? These MP3-Atrac3 conversions started to go wrong. Go to any minidisc forum in the website (search for "minidisc forum" on google) and you will see that there's this huge problem of converting files. The conversion progress goes up to 8 or 9% and then it halted into nowhere. No explanation and no reason. Sony support line doesn't help because the people working there are your grandparents.
If you're thinking about buying this device as an alternate MP3 device, re-think again. The industry is on a crackdown and what makes you think that you can transfer these files freely? Buying this device is like buying a 200 dollar worth of fish net. The simple truth.
Basically I like to listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I can fit about 40 songs (5 hours) on one mini disc at a great quality level. I can't fit that many on my MP3 player. If I want to switch tunes, I simply change discs --- Takes a second or two. With the MP3 player, I have to boot up my system, hook up the player, etc, etc, etc.
I run, snowboard, mountain bike, and work out with this player. It gets sweaty, and it gets frozen, and it gets knocked around big time. What it doesn't do is skip. It's bulletproof. I think it runs about 50 hours on 1 AA battery. The sound is excellent, but as mentioned in some other reviews, the headphones could be better.
It does take a while to load up the songs from your PC to the player though. Loading songs to my MP3 player is much faster, I have to admit. But here's the thing - Blank mini discs are [very reasonable priced, and can be recorded on again and again about a million times without failing. All told I have a bunch of discs, but only 3 that I listen to with a fair amount of regularity. Those 3 discs have about 15 hours of music, and cost [very little]. Do the math, and compare that to the cost of extra memory in an MP3 player.
Bottom line is I'm really surprised that these players have not really caught on in the USA. They're big everywhere else. This new generation of players are among the first to be easily managed from a PC, so hopefully that is what was keeping them from catching on before.
I think something like NetMD would have been utterly fantastic three years ago, when USB-enabled computers were starting to gain mainstream adoption, and before hard disk and cd-r burner prices hadn't dropped low enough for more people to rip and burn their music collection. Then, I think, the ability to transfer up to five hours of music onto a single, (relatively) inexpensive minidisc would have held greater appeal.
Regardless of timing, the NetMD technology is still pretty neat. You are able to transfer digital content, either imported mp3/wma or audio CD's, directly to minidisc using one of three compression settings.
SP, the full-bore setting, allows up to 80 minutes on one disc, and is the best sounding of the three. It is "lossy" compression, like mp3, but to my damaged ears, they sound at least as good as CD's. LP2 doubles the storage time, but the increased compression makes the resulting recordings sound like... well, ALMOST as good as a 160kbps cbr mp3. Almost.
LP4 quadruples storage time, but as you might guess, the sound quality is pretty dodgy, comparable to a poorly ripped 128kbps (or lower) cbr mp3. LP4 is pretty much a lost cause as far as most rock goes, but it is surprisingly passable for hip-hop and spoken word (and probably for most electronica, but I have yet to test this).
As far as transferring existing mp3/wma content goes, I wouldn't recommend it (I know, it pretty much nulls the hype of NetMD, doesn't it?). I've tried converting a batch of 160kbps cbr mp3's to SP and LP2, using the included OpenMG Jukebox. At SP, the sound quality is comparable to the original, but the transfer to MD takes almost as long as the length of the content. Transfer in LP2 is faster, if you disregard the processor-hog conversion to ATRAC LP2 mode, but the sound quality takes a nosedive.
From what I've read, OMG Jukebox is notoriously unstable. Or so I've read. I've been able to successfully install it on two separate Windows 2000 Pro machines, and I'm feeling so lucky, I'm going to buy a lottery ticket once I'm done with this review.
That said, once you fast forward to 2002, where more people than not have gigabytes of existing mp3's on her or his hard disk, you have to wonder whether it's more convenient to rely on a solid state mp3 player to take small sections of this content without any further format-shifting, or dump them en masse to CD-R/W's for use with 3" or 5" disc-based mp3 players. If NetMD handled mp3's and wma's natively (or even managed Sony's proprietary ATRAC without the inflexible audio management software), I think this product would have much more relevance today. However, due to intellectual property concerns, I think Sony hamstrung itself with its convoluted content management system.
In the meanwhile, I've been using the Net MD Simple Burner program to transfer audio CD content directly to MD (mostly in LP2 mode, with some LP4, but for some weird reason, SP is NOT available as a transfer mode with Simple Burner!). I have started amassing a usable variety of discs packed with songs for the gym or for walks in the park, and from there on, it's straightforward MD goodness. Compact form factor, high skip resistance, durable media, high battery life. Basically all the things that most CD-R/W mp3 players aren't. And in a nice change of pace from the bumblebee black-and-yellow motif, the new S2 Sports design definitely adds some to the "cool factor".
I'm inclined to think that Sony munged the Minidisc yet again, this time with questionable software, but the good news is that I am still able to make use of NetMD. Drop me a line if you have any questions or war stories to share.
All you need to avoid using the Open MG software are two pieces of software. One comes supplied with the MD player, and that's the Net MD simple burner which allows you to transfer music CDs to your MD. The other piece of software is Nero Burning ROM. Simply use Nero to create a Music CD image on your harddrive somewhere, and then using the Nero Imagedrive which comes with the Nero burning ROM software, mount the Music CD image you just created. This tricks Net MD simple burner into thinking you have just put a music cd into your cd-rom drive and will then allow you to transfer all the mp3s you just burned to the music CD image.
Aside from the software that comes with the MZ-S1, everything else is great. Although slightly larger than its counterparts, I still find that the MZ-S1 fits quite easily into my pocket whenever I'm on the bus. One advantage to the S1 which most other MD players in it's price range don't have, is the Backlit LCD display. This is very useful for use in dim lighting.
If you are considering an MP3 player in the MD price range then you are probably looking at something with 128 MB of space. Under the best circumstances (1 MP3 = 3 MB) you will only be able to hold 40 MP3s or 120 minutes of music or 2 hours. With just one Mini Disc (costs approx. $1.50) you can hold over 5 hours of music. Mini Discs are very flexible. If you don't want to buy any more than the one that comes the the MZ-S1 then you can erase and rewrite to it over 1,000 times. No, I did not make a mistake: ONE THOUSAND. Mini Discs weigh nothing, and the players themselves weigh anywhere from less then a quarter of a pound to less than half a pound, and are comparable in size to any MP3 player.
In the end I didn't give the MZ-S1 five stars because the Open MG software was obnoxious. I hope Sony gets their act together someday and makes a piece of software that matches the quality and workmanship of the MZ-S1.
The salesman convinced me that of the various netMD models this would be the best to take to the gym because it is more rugged. It needs to be. It is twice the size and weight of the other netMD recorders, cost an extra [PRICE], and offers no additional features except it's extra outer shell. It needs to be more rugged too because it is too big to fit in your pocket, has no belt clip, and is too big to fit in any of the neoprene minidisc belts. I guess I could use a belt designed for a standard CD player but then what's the point of having a Mini Disc. The unit seem to be designed for joggers who wish to hold the unit in their hand while they run, using the thumb joystick on the top.
This joystick is another point of contention. The S1 is suppose to be water resistant but the joystick sits in a non-sealed well on the top. The stick itself has sharp edges that are uncomfortable to use.
The electronics are good. At my age my ears aren't good enough to tell subtle differences in sound quality, especially when I'm in a noisy gym listening to myself grunt. It is evident the LP2 mode is not as good as the original MP3 file which is not as good as the CD file.However it is still better than anything I can pick up on the radio and better than a tape. And in spite of all my complaints about this particular model I would go out again and buy another (smaller) netMD player (I returned this one)if it weren't for one very important thing...the software.
In order to get the music into the player you download it via USB using software provided by Sony called OpenMG Jukebox. On a 1 - 10 scale this software is a minus 2. Using Windows XP and the NTFS file system the software crashes everytime I try to load more than a few songs at once into the player. Worse yet, after spending over an hour on the phone with a very nice tech it became apparent Sony has not placed a priority it dealing with this very common issue. Jumping on to the Internet I discovered this poorly designed and unreliable software is affectionately called Junkbox and has been a point of contention with Sony customers for a long time.
I guess if I was willing to fiddle with the system everytime I wanted to create a disc, I could ultimately create a set of enjoyable music and once it is on the disc the system works flawlessly. However I don't think this kind of corporate attitude should be rewarded. When Sony decides to put their resources into completing the product or a third party creates a stable and much less cumbersome tool to transfer files, I may look at the netMD world again. Until then I think these products are not ready for prime time.