Copying MiniDiscs to PC

This guide covers real time audio transfer from a MiniDisc to a PC for archival.

Although a small minority of devices can export discs faster than real time, the vast majority only support real time playback. Most people will be using real time audio capture from a player into a PC (or PCM recorder)

TOSLINK and Mini-TOSLINK plugs.

Although digital output is common on decks, it is less common on portables and even less common as a PC input.

Some earlier MacBook models have a Mini-TOSLINK input. This can be used as a digital input from a MD device.

Be aware that the most common USB sound card with SPDIF input, the C-Media CM6206, does not accept inputs with a SCMS copy protection signal.

If you have a supported sound card input and MD equipment with digital output, it will connect just as an analog connection does. Optical and Coaxial digital signals can be converted with an inexpensive adapter.

Standard PC rear audio jacks

Analog audio from a MiniDisc will use either 3.5mm TRS (headphone) or 2x RCA connectors. A 3.5mm socket on portables will be labelled as 'headphone,' while some portables (such as the MZ-R50) have a separate line out as well. RCA connectors from a deck will always be line out.

Where possible, use line in and line outputs for your analog recording. Line in and outputs are designed to be connected to each other with less need for adjustments to volume or recording levels. If this isn't an option, take extra care to check the recording levels.

Desktop PCs mark line inputs as light blue (6).

Any software that can record audio can record the audio coming into the computer from the MiniDisc. For this example we will be using Audacity 3.0.2, but be aware of changes to the Audacity licensing that may affect you. Read more here.

You should not have to set the input the MD is connected to as default, but if you do, you can do this from the “Sound Control Panel” in Windows, or the “Sound” System Preference pane on MacOS.

Make sure your recording software is “armed” for recording - this is automatic in most recording software, but may be required on a more complicated DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

On a MacBook using the digital audio input, this will show as “Built-in Input” in Audacity, rather than “Built-in Microphone”

Your software should also be set to 44100Hz (44.1kHz) recording.

Web MiniDisc supports controlling the playback features of a NetMD recorder.

If you are using a NetMD recorder to backup your discs to a PC, using Web MiniDisc to start the playback is convenient and can prevent “dead air” at the beginning of your recordings.

If using an analog audio input, you may need to set the recording level (input gain) of the software before you record. It is a good idea to do a “test run” of a few minutes your recording first, to see if the audio signal clips. The waveform may appear to be clipping when zoomed out, so be sure to zoom in on the waveform to see if it is actually hitting the limits of the recording.

This does not apply to digital audio inputs.

This recording looks like it's clipping when zoomed out, but when zoomed in is fine.

Press record on the software first, then press play on the MD device. This is to avoid the MD playing before the PC starts recording.

Do not adjust any levels while the disc is playing. Also avoid very heavy PC tasks that may cause the audio recording to drop (gaming, rendering)

If your recording software shows them, waveforms will start appearing within a few seconds of pressing “play” on the equipment.

Remember that the recording is happening in real time, so will take the disc's whole length to backup.

Once the MD has played through, the software will likely keep recording silence until you press “stop”

If you have recorded a lot of additional silence before or after your recording, most software will let you select and delete it.

If something has gone wrong with the recording, feel free to start again. There is no cost to digital recording on a modern PC.

Once you are happy with your recording, export it to save it.

Many audio programs differentiate between “saving a project” and “exporting audio” - including Audacity. Make sure you choose the correct option.

Saving a MD backup as WAV or AIFF uncompressed audio is wasteful when better audio codecs exist.


FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) saves audio with absolutely no quality loss in approximately half the space as WAV. The files will still be larger than the 140MB of a standard 80 minute MD (because MD uses ATRAC compression) but if you have the storage space, this is the best way to store irreplaceable MD rips with no loss of quality.

Lossy (MP3, AAC, OGG)

Lossy audio codecs significantly reduce the storage space compared to WAV or FLAC files. You may find that a compressed audio file sounds “good enough” for preserving your particular backup. Test various encoding formats to see if you encounter any loss of quality.

Recording to a PC does not include the track markers that are included with digital recording from a deck to another deck. If you wish to divide your recording into each individual track, it is best to do so from within your audio recording / editing software.

Depending on your software, either create a second project (Audacity allows this) or split the full MD recording into each track and export only each segment (Ableton Live requires this)

This will result in one file exported per track. If you can, keep the original file and then create track files from that, and only delete the original file once you have tested each track.

Once your disc has been backed up and exported, test the file before erasing the disc.

Listen to the exported file to see if there are any recording issues (preferably the whole way through, otherwise skip to various parts to check) or open a new project in your recording software and drag in the exported file to look for blips, drop-outs, or spikes in the recording. If there are any issues, record the MD again.

Once you know the disc has been exported successfully, you are safe to erase the original disc.

  • guides/md-to-pc.txt
  • Last modified: 3 years ago
  • by specialk