Converting mp3 to minidisc

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

If you use your iPod to play your backing tracks at gigs, you’ll know how fantastic it is.

But although the iPod is, without doubt, the most reliable playback format I have ever used in all my years of performing and it’s unlikely that you will have any problems with it failing mid-way through a gig, an iPod, just like any piece of electronic equipment, could let you down.

So, it makes sense to have some sort of backup “just in case”.

Because most singers migrated from Minidisc to iPod, they will usually have an old MiniDisc player lying around unused somewhere (ideally a little portable walkman sized MiniDisc player is best), so it’s a good idea to backup all your iPod backing tracks by recording them on to MiniDisc and keep them tucked away in your cable bag or glove compartment so you can call on them at a gig if you need them.

Now some of you reading this will probably be saying “Well, I already have all my songs on MiniDisc because I was using MiniDisc before I started using the iPod…“.

This may be true, but how many new backing tracks have you added to your repertoire since moving to the iPod?

I bet you haven’t got those songs backed up on MiniDisc!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got all the original backing tracks safely tucked away at home on your PC (probably in iTunes), and have transferred them to your iPod so are quite happy in the knowledge that you have a backup of your backing tracks?

Not so!

The backing tracks on your home PC are no use to you whatsoever when you’re half way through a gig miles away and your iPod battery gives out, or it freezes, or someone spills a drink over it, or you drop it and it stops working!

If you have no backup at the venue, onstage with you then your gig grinds to a halt – and that’s not good!

Wouldn’t it make more sense to be able to nip out to the car or delve in to your cable box and produce a little minidisc player which will get you through the rest of the gig? Yip, thought so!

OK, here’s how to do it…

Equipment
To record a backing track from your iPod to a Minidisc, you need a Minidisc recorder, a writable Minidisc, and a cable to connect your iPod to your Minidisc (a cable with 2 rca “phono” plugs at one end and a stereo 3.5mm (1/8″) minijack at the other end).

You should be able to buy this cable in any audio shop and it’s not expensive (only a couple of pounds or a few dollars).

Connect the cable between the headphone out of the iPod and the Line-In of your MiniDisc recorder. Some MiniDisc recorders have optical/digital inputs and some newer MiniDisc recorders have mp3 capability, but most don’t. So for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you are using a normal, regular MiniDisc recorder which records in in real-time (analogue recording).

Setting the volume levels
Remember that your iPod gives out a “powered” signal (albeit a low power signal which is only used to power small headphones) so make sure the volume on the iPod isn’t set too loud or you’ll get distortion.

Now do a test in order to set the levels by playing a tune in the iPod and set the recording volume level on your Minidisc until you get a good healthy input signal on your Minidisc display.

If the sound is too loud then the MiniDisc input volume display will be in the area marked “OVER” or something similar. If that happens, then either reduce the input/recording volume of the MiniDisc or the play volume of the iPod as the distortion will severely reduce the quality of your recording if you don’t.

Remember, although it’s not necessary to keep the input/record meter display of the Minidisc right up to the max, if it is too low the recording will have to be boosted on your Minidisc when you play it, and that too will reduce audio quality. Setting volume levels is the secret to getting a good quality sound recording so take your time over this step.

Recording the song
Once you’ve set the levels on the iPod and the Minidisc, press the appropriate button on your Minidisc to start recording and press play on the iPod to start the song you want to record.

Be careful if there are some silent parts in your songs, as the Minidisc may pause until it detects the next loud sound and may 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 because of spaces during the arrangement of the song.

Read the accompanying manual that came with your MiniDisc if you find yourself in trouble.

And finally…
I hope you never get let down by your equipment at a gig and never have to use this Minidisc backup.

But even if you don’t experience any problems, you should be able to perform much happier in the knowledge that if something was to break down, you have a plan B.

Good luck!