Tips and tricks when recording MP3 to Minidisc

(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)

Do you have a selection of mp3 backing tracks on your computers hard disk and would like to put them on to a minidisc? Then this guide will help you do just that!

For best results, the mp3’s on your computer will always sound better if you “decode” them back to their original un-compressed wav format before recording them on to minidisc. But if you don’t have a decoding program or are not too technically minded, don’t worry. An mp3 can also be recorded directly to minidisc without having to go through the decoding process.

To record MP3’s to a MiniDisc you need a MiniDisc recorder, a writable MiniDisc, and a cable to connect your computers sound card to your MiniDisc. MiniDiscs record either digitally or using analogue recording.

Digital recording requires a digital optical port which many PCs don’t have although some MiniDisc recorders have connections for standard SPDIF data transfers.

As most of today’s computers do not have any sort of digital out port we will concentrate on “analogue recording”.

Connecting your computer to the minidisc
For this type of recording you need a standard 3.5mm to RCA (phono) stereo audio cable to connect your sound card to your MiniDisc. You should be able to get this in any type of audio shop and it is not expensive.

Connect the cable between the Line-out port at the back of your PC and the Line-In of your MiniDisc. Be particularly careful if you also see a Speaker-out port on your computer as this port sometimes sends out an amplified signal which could damage your minidisc machine if you’re not careful. If you are uncertain, do not attempt to use the Speaker-out port – use only the Line-out port.

Setting the volume levels
Click the little speaker icon at the bottom right hand corner of your PC and set your sound card to just below maximum volume (Wave and “Volume Control”). This is assuming that you have a standard Windows 9x/XP/Vista setup – the exact procedure may vary between systems.

Now do a test in order to set the levels by playing the MP3 that you want to record and set the recording volume level on your MiniDisc to just below maximum. Look at the little meter on your MD that displays the volume of the sound currently being played. If the sound is too loud then it will end up in the area marked “OVER” or something similar. If that happens, then reduce the recording volume, as it will distort and severely reduce the quality of your recording.

It is not necessary to keep the volume all that close to the max, but if it is very low then the recording will have to be boosted on your MD when you play it and that too will reduce audio quality too.

Recording the mp3
Once you have set the levels and if everything has worked out well, press the appropriate button on your MiniDisc to start recording and start playing the MP3 you want to record from the beginning.

Try not to disturb your computer by doing anything else while recording, as it will be very annoying if your player skips or you’re recording is spoiled by Windows emitting “bleeps” and “dings” halfway through the recording process!

Also avoid connecting to the internet, especially via a modem, while you’re recording, as this is a sure source for skips.

Be careful if there are some very quiet or silent parts in your songs, as the MiniDisc may pause until the next “loud” sound and not record the silent parts, or it may even treat silent parts as a space between songs – it’s not unknown for minidisc recorders to split one song into 5 or 6 individual songs!

Read the accompanying manual that came with your minidisc player/recorder if you find yourself in trouble.

And finally…
The sound card you have on your computer and the mp3 software player you use on your computer are crucial to achieving good quality recordings.

Even though all MP3 Backing Trax songs are recorded at the very highest quality, they will inevitably sound inferior if played on an inferior player or played through an inferior soundcard. I recommend that you use the highest quality soundcard and the highest quality mp3 software player available to you because there is, without doubt, a difference in the sound quality of different soundcards and MP3 software players.

For example, iTunes and Windows Media player are free mp3 players and will produce a reasonable quality of sound, but just remember you get what you pay for.

As well as this, if your soundcard is hissy or noisy, then no matter how good the mp3 playing software you use, your Minidisc recording will still sound inferior.

Fortunately the built-in soundcards and mp3 playing software in most good computers are usually good enough quality, especially if you’re only using your backing tracks for live on stage performing and not recording an album.

It’s also worth noting that desktop PC’s usually have better quality soundcards than laptops (especially budget laptops).

Good luck and happy recording!