2004-08-27~2004-09-10  Hans-Jürgen Reggel
(Deutsche Version Hier)

My second MD player was the SONY MZ-E55. I bought it mainly because of its small size, but during the years of use I did not notice any serious drawbacks. I was perfectly happy with that device. After skipping the MD LP and Net MD era, I decided that Hi-MD might be the right occasion for an upgrade.

Good To Know...

Disappointment is often directly caused by wrong or too high expectations. There are just too many details that are worth mentioning in order to adjust the expectations. Some of the information available from official sources is insufficient, misleading or simply wrong.

The dimensions are given as 81.7×76.1×14.8mm³. The manual already states "excluding projecting parts and controls". Well, I would not consider the large bulge holding the display as a projecting part. The recorder has a thickness from 15.3mm to 18.0mm and I would therefore state the "outer dimensions" as 85.1×77.0×18.0mm³. However, I was able to locate the spots where the official measurements were taken by doing a "reverse search" with a caliper set to the respective opening and looking for the magic spot where it fits.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not nit-picking. I had the MZ-E55 MD player and according to the "official" measurements, this new Hi-MD recorder was supposed to be even slightly smaller than the old MD player. That looked like a good trade, but after I unpacked the MZ-NH1, I knew there's something seriously wrong.
Battery Charging Stand
The gizmo that looks like a beautiful docking station only serves as a battery charging stand and for running the recorder on AC outlet power. If you are on a longer trip, you have to lug around that bulky thing in addition to the AC adapter to be able to recharge the battery. There is no way to use the AC adapter without the battery charging stand, but you have to remove the recorder from the stand for changing the MD. This will be inconvenient for longer recording sessions, and might have negative impact on the lifespan of the rechargeable.
The strange thing about this docking station lookalike is: If you look closer at the battery charging stand, you can see an outline to the right of the DC power connector. That is the spot where the connector for the USB cable was supposed to sit, and the small PCB inside the charging stand has the soldering pads for the connector located right there.
Battery and Battery Charging
The battery is a removable 3.7V 370mAh Lithium-Polymer cell (LIP-4WM). This means that you cannot use the batteries from your previous SONY models, which were prismatic NiMH cells with 1.2V and 1200~1450mAh. As mentioned above, there is no way to recharge the battery outside the recorder. A small but usually worthless bonus is the displayed estimated charging time.
USB Connection
For USB Operation, the recorder has to be removed from the battery charging stand, because the same docking port is used. For the connection you have to use the included custom cable, which has two really bulky and heavy ferrite cores attached. That makes a total weight of 98g for the USB cable, almost the weight of the recorder including battery and disc. If you grab the cable right in the middle and whirl it around, you have the perfect weapon for self-defense. You could crack ones skull with it if you use the proper technique.
The recorder is powered by the USB host power while connected, but the battery cannot be charged using the USB connection. This means that even Notebook users have to lug around the AC adapter and the battery charging stand if they want to use the recorder disconnected from the Notebook.
USB Data Transfer
I already knew that the USB transfer would only be USB 1.1, and that this will only allow transfer rates of a little below 1MB/s. But I did not expect transfer rates that low: Read about 720kB/s and write about 490kB/s.
Built-In LCD
The built-in LCD has no backlight and it is very hard to read if you don't have good surrounding light. The opening is too narrow and the LCD is too deep inside.
The 5-way controller is very small and due to the protective rim against accidental control very hard to handle. But one axis of the controller only sets the volume, so a rocker switch would have been the better solution.
The Size/Control Dilemma
The built-in LCD and controller will force you into using the remote and therefore are just a waste of space and money. But it looks like they have to be there so that the recorder is not useless without the remote.

To be continued...
These are just the first and most important things that came to my mind. I will continue this list step by step and finally add the few things I actually like.

Suggestions for Improvements

Built-In LCD
Built-In Controls
Docking Station
Battery Charging
USB Cable

Additional Specifications

These specifications could be of interest, but might not be available elsewhere.

Outer Dimensions: 85.1×77.0×18.0mm³
Total Weight: 118g (including battery and disc)
Specifications: 3.7V, 370mAh, Li-Ion (most likely Lithium-Polymer)
Dimensions: 23.0×63.0×3.6mm³
Weight: 9g
Wired Remote Control
Main Body Dimensions: 27×68×26mm³ (excluding cable outlet, including clip)
Weight: 27g (including cable)
Cable length: 0.83m (excluding plug)
Plug: 3.5mm Stereo with additional 4-pin connector
Headphone Socket: 3.5mm Stereo
AC Adapter (Europe)
Main Body: 52×72×29mm³ (excluding euro plug and cable outlet)
Total Weight: 124g (including cable with two snap-on ferrites, 20g each)
AC Specifications: 100-240V~, 50/60Hz, 7W
DC Specifications: DC 6V, 800mA
Cable length: 1.57m (excluding plug, with ferrites attached)
Plug: 4.0mm/1.7mm, center positive
Battery Charging Stand
Outer Dimensions: 49×97×36mm³
Weight: 35g
USB Cable
Length: 1.12m (excluding plugs, with ferrites attached)
Total weight: 99g (including two snap-on ferrites, 28g each)
10-pin docking plug to USB-A plug
Pin Assignment: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 (NC) - not connected
3 (red) - USB pin 1 = Vbus
5 (white) - USB pin 2 = D-
6 (green) - USB pin 3 = D+
10 (black) - USB pin 4 = GND (also connected to plug shield and with 100nF connected to the cable's shield)
Storage Capacity
MD 60 minutes formatted to Hi-MD: 219.3MB total, 218.5MB free
MD 74 minutes formatted to Hi-MD: 270.1MB total, 269.3MB free
MD 80 minutes formatted to Hi-MD: 291.6MB total, 290.8MB free
Hi-MD 1GB: 964.7MB total, 963.9MB free
A formatted Hi-MD contains one zero sized file "HI-MD.IND" in the root directory and one folder "HMDHIFI" containing 8 files. These files and the folder take up 832kB (26 clusters) on an empty Hi-MD and will grow when MD audio is added.
Superfloppy FAT16 (no MBR, no partition table)
2048 bytes per sector, 16 sectors per cluster (32kB cluster size), 2 FAT copies, 512 root directory entries
MD 60 minutes formatted to Hi-MD: 112311 sectors, 7 sectors per FAT, 7018 clusters available
MD 74 minutes formatted to Hi-MD: 138363 sectors, 9 sectors per FAT, 8646 clusters available
MD 80 minutes formatted to Hi-MD: 149373 sectors, 10 sectors per fat, 9334 clusters available
Hi-MD 1GB: 494023 sectors, 31 sectors per FAT, 30872 clusters available

Hans-Jürgen Reggel  ·  ·  2004-08-27~2004-09-10