SPDIF/Mac/Minidisc Help

So a few things:

I recently bought a Sony MDS-B5 Minidisc player/recorder to kickstart a mini minidisc production line. I was under the impression I could use a few of its built in features to add track start points with a bit of editing in audio software (adding silent parts to signify track changes) but instead of stopping and starting with the silent parts, it records them as well, with no way of trimming the resultant tracks down for playback on consumer devices, or if short .0.025 second silences are used to trigger it, then there is no smooth transition which would be balls for ambient stuff.

So with that bust (unless anyone can read the manual page for levelsync and give me a heads up) I’m looking into the digital input options over RCA, since it transfers track information as well. Now from what I have just been reading, the older Macbook Pros have digital in/out from their headphone port? I don’t know how this works exactly, but from what I can gather - I would need a toslink to coaxial box to send over into the MDS-B5’s digital inputs. Do standard audio players like iTunes work for this kind of thing?

Anyone familiar enough with all of this to give me some pointers?

this is waaaay over my head

I want to observe and learn from whomever can answer this tho

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So I just checked the ‘About this Mac’ button and I definitely have the SPDIF connection available (whether it works or not is a different story, apparently they can get a bunch of crap stuck in them.)
I’ve just managed to hit up another search with the right keywords and I think I found an answer. I will report back, but in the meantime I could definitely use more information on the whole ‘digital audio’ thing.


it’s a cool machine
Sony MDS-B5 Minidisc
it’s got digital ins and outs
if the mac’s got a digital out, use a cable that has that digital out, to spidif RCA in on the back of the Sony MDS-B5
all digital means it won’t have to go through DA conversion again

Macbooks have had optical for ages - it’s on the same audio out port, just the cable you plug in is different. There are boxes that convert from toslink to spdif. MD’s level sync relies on silence so that would botch any continuous recording. With optical you’d be sending out a digital stream, so you need something to code those track changes in, but I haven’t heard of anything that does. Anyone?

Two things I can think of to hack around this:

  • record one whole continuous track to MD, then add the track markers manually. Maybe you could also name the tracks then? Get another unit and copy from the master MD to copy MD via digital, the track marks should transfer, or
  • record a CDR, play it back from a player that has digital out. There isn’t much info on transferring CDText so that you get track names, but at least the track markers should be accurately in the same positions. Also if CD has s/pdif out (not optical), then there’s one box fewer (toslink converter) to drop important/proprietary packets.
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This is exactly where I’m at with things, I’ll be experimenting with a Sony CD player that my Father owns with SPDIF out and also MacBook > Portable Minidisc with optical mini-toslink etc. I’m curious as to what software I’ll need to get the track start/end points out of the MacBook or whether it’s a standard part of the 958 protocol.

Sony SonicStage might be what’s needed, but my memory fails me. A quick google seems to point in that direction, but the devil’s in the details. SonicStage might just be for “Net MD” units, but I’m guessing.

I’ll see what I can work out with my various Macs, and PCs I have access to.

I think the Sony software was exclusively for the NetMD stuff which wasn’t backwards compatible with normal MD (as well as all the other semi supported lp2, lp4 variant formats) players. I might be able to jury rig this whole thing by going CD-R > Sony CD player MDS-B5. But I’ll also try the optical SPDIF route with my portable MD player and MacBook. Either way, I’m pretty sure I’m close to a solution.

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with the right combo of cd and md units it does seem that “synchro” recording is possible.

Relevant comment about cdtext only transferring in a specific “cd-sync” record mode, below the video.

I’ve used Sonicstage for Sony’s network walkmans, a gnarly piece of software, from what I recall. I doubt it would output track markers and/or text over spdif, but who knows.

I believe that my portable (MZ-R500) can do the cd-text/synchro recording, but not the MDS-B5. I’m not too worried at the moment about track titles and such, because the MDS has ps/2 keyboard inputs for easy editing of track titles. If I can get tracks recording properly with start/end points, that is a good enough start for me.

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I expect synchro re track-markers alone would be available over a much wider range of possible configurations, provided it all goes via digital.

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I picked up a toslink cable today and have had some success.

I couldn’t get the MacBook to send track start/end data, but you can definitely record over optical out to minidisc players with optical in. I did however get track start end points when hooking up the MD player to the Sony CD stereo unit. I’ll be making a disc later tonight to confirm that it all works properly. One step closer to the goal! I’m hoping to find software for the Mac that will allow me to get the sync happening properly, if anyone knows of anything.

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unless you’re transferring at N x speed with track names, then it shouldn’t really matter where your master recording is, no? if you burn to a CD and make the copies from there, it frees your computer, and then the most tedious task would be naming the tracks afterwards =)

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It is looking like the CD Master > Copies is going to be the best option. I’ve been looking at smaller options (than the gigantic sony stereo system) for optical out + cd and one idea struck me was to use a playstation 2. I’m going to borrow a friends to see if it will do what I need. The naming part shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve got a keyboard to test it out. I like that this will be a whole process that will take time and effort, something about hitting ‘bloop’ and getting 100 copies of something doesn’t seem like it would be as satisfying.

[quote=“saintcloud, post:16, topic:6144”]
I like that this will be a whole process that will take time and effort, something about hitting ‘bloop’ and getting 100 copies of something doesn’t seem like it would be as satisfying.
[/quote]Ha, sounds like we got the right man for the job!

Seriously glad you feel that way cause this kind of minutiae would drive me insane (if there was an alternative).

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I love technology that requires a bit of struggle to get all the parts talking together, everything works too easily nowadays. All seemless, glossy and inoffensive.

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OK, so, after a pile of googling I now know more about S/PDIF than I care to…

TL;DR : I think the CD player approach above is the one to use. No apparent way to do this via a Mac. Probably the same for PC.

S/PDIF (and other digital formats) include track numbers and other info in “subcode”, encoded in bits that piggy back along with the digital audio information. Same place that CD-TEXT lives.

Apps like iTunes don’t encode this (e.g. if you rip from a CD), and won’t even necessarily play it back (if you have a digital file that does in fact include it). Lots of caveats to that statement, but it’s accurate enough for this post.

It remains theoretically possibly to play a digital file via S/PDIF from a Mac (or PC) to a Minidisc recorder, and have it pick up the embedded subcode info, but:

  1. The media player would have to support subcode playback. Things like WaveLab seem to, but the devil’s in the details as ever, and these pro apps are $$$.
  2. The hardware you play back through would have to pass the subcode bits (some do, some don’t apparently).
  3. The file you play back would have to have the subcode info of course, e.g. if (maybe) it was an EXACT rip from a properly mastered CD that included the info.
  4. You can’t futz with the file volume at all (including on playback), which can (sometimes) “remove bits”.

I tried a few things (optimistically, based on some posts on other forums I read), to try and record from iMac to MD via optical S/PDIF, all of which failed:

  1. Dropping several WAV files in iTunes and playing them back as normal.
  2. Manually changing the tracks in iTunes with the next/prev buttons.
  3. As above, but with VLC.
  4. As above, but with Apple’s (now discontinued) WaveBurner.
  5. Fiddling with various track / index marker things in WaveBurner.
  6. Playing a CD (in an external drive) through iTunes, out to the MD.

No dice.

So … I think my next step is to get behind my hi-fi and see what my CD player does when I hook it up to the MD.

The adventure continues…

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Looks like we will be able to nail this down between us dude. I am borrowing a PS2 off a work mate, which is the only other way I know of that will work. If that works, a second hand one will be the cheapest and easiest way to do it. I’m really keen to get this happening. MD Renaissance!

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