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Topic: Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD (Read 4487 times) previous topic - next topic
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Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Hi All,

Warp is re-releasing the Gescom EP "Minidisc" on 5" compact disc, which as it's name implies was originally released only on minidisc.  According to the website:

This is a remastered cd release of the 45 track mini disc that came out in 1998, by Autechre on Russell Haswell's Or label.

It was the first of it's kind,the first ever minidisc only release, and it made use of the Minidiscs shuffle function to create random selections of tracks at the will of the machine.

Minidisc's are sadly not a popular format anymore, which is a shame because they are superior in many ways to the mp3 format, which might be why Autechre have chosen to re-release it on the next best digital thing the cd format. The sleeve shows Alan Phillips of Sony showing off the cd in a Sony Conference. Quality Indeed.

IIRC at the time of release (1998), minidiscs were quite advanced in their ability to shuffle both randomly and gaplessly.  Now with the re-release on CD, I'm curious as to the best way to achieve playback as the artists originally intended (i.e., random & gapless).

For example, if one was to just playback the CD on random, could gaplessness be achieved?  My guess is "probably not" on hardware/car cd players (slight delay for the repositioning of the laser?), but that it might be possible with software players that buffer the audio.  I'm also guessing that if one were to encode the CD to lossless (or Lame MP3) that gapless playback could be achieved (at least with foobar).  If anyone could shed a little light on the subject for an Ae fan he'd greatly appreciate it! 

Lastly, I fail to see the validity of the statement that minidiscs "are superior in many ways to the mp3 format," in 2006.  I don't use minidisc, so counterpoints are welcome.


Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #1
Pure gaplessness on random playing is useless imho, because you will have a crackle, unless there is silence.

I have the 1998 white Or md. Has been played exactly twice, just for recording it on a tape. I've never had an md player myself. It's all dead now, anyway.

Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #2
Pure gaplessness on random playing is useless imho, because you will have a crackle, unless there is silence.

I agree, if you were to play an "ordinary" album (that did not have silence between tracks) gapless, the transitions would be jarring, because the artist did not mean for the music to flow in that manner.  Though my understanding of the "minidisc" release is that all the tracks have "complementary" starts/ends, so that this wouldn't be the case.

I have the 1998 white Or md. Has been played exactly twice, just for recording it on a tape.

How did you record it (was the minidisc on straight playback or random?  I thought the whole point was that you heard a different "album" each time you played it?

I've never had an md player myself. It's all dead now, anyway.


Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #3
like you've said, the only possible way - i know - is to make a rip (lossless or lossy)

i'm not a big fan of that album myself, btw. a couple of interesting bits, but most of it doesn't do much to me. it's more a concept thing, i guess.
imo they shouldn't have re-released it...for obvious reasons (it contradicts the concept)

Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #4
Yeah, I've heard that the actual musical content of this Gescom release is rather underwhelming, I was just curious as to the implications of releasing it in a different format and whether the artist's intended manner of listening to it is possible.  I agree, it does somewhat defeat the purpose.

Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #5
Regarding sound quality: when the MiniDisc was introduced (circa 1992), sound quality was competing with Philips' DCC which used 384 kbps MPEG-1 Layer 1, and was mostly deemed slightly worse*. Encoders probably improved a bit over the years, but it still has an old codec with none of the features of MP3/AAC/Ogg or even ATRAC3+. Neither MiniDisc nor DCC were transparent*.

Philips pulled the plug on DCC in 1996, put all their money into CD-R(W) technology and made tons of money in licensing it as well as manufacturing optical units for others. Sony kept beating the dead MiniDisc horse a bit longer. I don't believe I've seen anyone use MD in the last ten years though. Due to the failure to ditch MD early, Sony missed out on most of the money made with CD-RW and DVD-RW - which is the main reason why they're so hell-bent on getting Blu-Ray right.

It's interesting that between them, Sony and Philips have an amazing portfolio of failed formats: BetaMax, Video 2000, Laserdisc, CD-I, DAT, MiniDisc, DCC, SACD.

* as I gathered from audio magazine reviews from the time - probably not ABXed

Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #6
Not wanting to get into a format war, but my MD full size decks are enjoying a comeback. I like the robustness of the medium and its low cost. To my ear they sound superior/more pleasing than APS mp3's for use in my living room. That's all that matters for me.

Hooking up a portable mp3 player to my Alpha Arcam 9 amp is plain silly. The amp and speakers show up the mp3 player.

Hooking up a pc is sillier - it's noisy, ugly and has an operating system/interface completely unsuitable for use as a sound source. Streaming mp3's from another room requires expensive hardware that puts another layer in.

On the other hand - an MD deck is compact, elegant and easy/quick to use/access.


Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #7
So why not use a fanless PC or embedded device? And why settle with mp3 when there are better quality formats?

MO 140MiB disks with atrac audio inside are not coming back. The format was a total failure here because it was too expensive from beginning to end. This is one of the few countries of the world where Betamax won the race util Sony ditched it in 1992. Sony had made many formats and ditched them afterwards for various reasons. There is a little unknown one that has survived though: The 3.5" Floppy.

Ripping and encoding this cd into any decent format can surely reproduce the intended random/gapless effect.
She is waiting in the air

Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #8
Pure gaplessness on random playing is useless imho, because you will have a crackle, unless there is silence.

Did you even read why this MD release was structured the way it was? For gapless random playback. It isn't hard to make sure that each track starts at around the same sample value so that there isn't any crackle. You can also start each segment on a beat, which will mask any crackle introduced.

Think what you like, it's a neat gimmick by a group known for innovative production. I had one DJ mix CD that was structured so I could do this kind of thing as well.

Just because it isn't interesting to you doesn't make it useless.

On another note, I remember reading somewhere that ATRAC had pre-echo problems. Anyone remember this enough to cite a source for me?


Re-release of "Minidisc" by Gescom (Autechre) on CD

Reply #9
The first version of Minidisc was released in a hurry to compete with the DCC, and not to let this second take the leadership on market (and it succeeds for that part). Unfortunately, first revision of the Atrac codec was noisy and metallic sound.

So, first professionnal reviews were not astonished by this new media and that's fair. But you can not say that codec do not improve through years... The last DSP (Type-R and Type-S) were very very good. I would say that those version are transparent. Check other tests (from what I can remember, some have been done on HA).

Of course, this format can not compete with Ogg or Lame build.
1 - because it was designed almost 20 years ago.
2 - because it is purely CBR
3 - it was designed with portability in mind. Thus algorithm is designed for low consumption (check the huge battery life of units on I agree now there are some pretty implementation of MP3 or OGG.

One of the main remaining interest you could have in MD (or even and furthermore Hi-MD) is to record live-performance. Units are small, lite, media is quite affordable and infinitely expandable. Sound quality is very decent with WAV codec.

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