What are the Other Options?

On 2024-04-21, as part of structuring my new web site, I split this info off from the Minidisc Project/Info Hub page.

Minidisc is great, but there's lots of other options for audio which may better align with your interests, needs, aesthetic preferences, or even just budget.

MiniDisc best viewed primarily as a vintage technology hobby. With rare exceptions, the newest hardware was built 20-30 years ago. As such, it will need maintenance, and you could run into problems, for which the only support is unpaid volunteers, and to which the only solution might be doing your own repairs, or buying another unit.

Additionally, due to perceived scarcity, minidisc hardware may be expensive where you live.

And so: If you're looking for a vintage audio format, or a physical audio format, or just an alternative to streaming on your phone, there may be better or easier options. These aren't every major option, but, they're the ones I recommend most.

Compact Cassette

First up is the good old compact cassette. In the US, compact cassettes were much more common than minidisc, there was a significantly larger ecosystem surrounding them, which even extends globally. The mechanisms are still being made, including but not limited to:

Modern compact cassette tape hardware uses what's commonly known as "The Tanashin Mechanism" -- this mechanism is fine. It's been in production for probaby nearly 40 years at this point, because it's basically the cheap mechanism almost all low end cassette hardware was using in the 1990s. So, yes, better cassette hardware exists, but if you're out for better sound quality anyway, cassette may not be your best option.

Please don't "at me" about the quality of this mechanism, if you're using something better from the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s, I'm happy for you but this guide isn't really for you.

Compact Cassette is best considered if you're either looking for vibes, nostalgia, you have an existing library of tapes, or don't mind the quality disadvantages.

There is of course used/vintage cassette going back to the 1960s but I don't really know anything about it.

Compact Disc

If you're looking for digital, convenience, or higher quality, you may consider CD hardware. New CD players are available at a variety of price points, for a variety of purposes, and, you can burn your own CDs. In addition, CD players from the 1990s through to the 2000s and 2010s are often very affordable secondhand.

Used CDs are very cheap and often still play great even if they look rough, CD-RWs and CD burners are all still under active production, and there are a few midrange and higher end options depending on what in particular you're looking for.

As a bonus, most new music is still shipped on CD and you can still rip CDs to files like MP3s or FLACs in

For example, but not limited to:

Modern Recorders

If what you're after is recording, consider hitting up any modern pro audio vendor. If "good enough" is good enough, I use a Sony ICD-UX570, which has a decent microphone input, some flexibility, useful automated recording modes, as well as can record in 16/44.1 CD quality.

If you need to record at higher resolution, consider either the Sony PCM- series (the current models, the PCM-A10/D10, as a bonus, can play FLAC files) or, if you have audio software and don't want to deal with managing levels during recording and also have DAW software, Zoom makes a variety of 32-bit float recorders.

There are also "vintage" (I suppose, even though this makes me feel old) digital recorders, some of which have digital i/o. Primarily on this list are the Sony PCM-D1, D50, and the ~2022-discontinued D100, but, they may be of interest depending on what you need to record.

File Players

If you're looking to get away from your smartphone or a streaming service, and want to build or already have a collection of files or CDs (which you can rip into files) your best bet may be a modern digital audio player. Most of these are based on Android, which provides the added benefit of being able to also run streaming services on them if you want.

Vintage iPods also kind of fall under this category. To the best of my knowledge, with their stock firmware, all vintage iPods will sync fine to the newest versions of iTunes on Windows, Apple's new iPod/iPhone/iPad management software on Windows, as well as now via the Finder on modern Macs.

iPods, in general, play MP3, AAC, and WAV/AIFF files. Some of them may also play ALAC files. Rockbox may be available for any given iPod (or some other models), but I have never used or tried this software, myself. This is a bit off-scope, but iPods also play videos, handbrake and/or the management software will have options to transcode most modern video formats into something your iPod, iPod Touch, old iPhone, or old iPad can play.


This is really a whole different realm but it merits mentioning that as with CD and cassette, vinyl hardware never fully left production and the format is having a revival. You can't in general record your own records, but there's a large library of vintage media as well as modern releases.

DCC, DAT, any other tape format really

These sure do exist, but I don't use themthem. Most of these other vintage tape formats have more significant repair needs than minidisc, hardware for these stopped being built in 1996 and 2005 respectively. In addition, these formats have worse or no computer integration other than digital interfaces for real-time dubbing.

Many old tapes suffer from sticky shed syndrome, which will make engaging with formats like DCC or DAT more difficult.