JVC XM-R70 PORTABLE MINIDISC RECORDER
I had my decision to get the XM-R70, mainly because of its 6VDC LiIon battery, 110-240V charger and, you guessed it, sleek black color! I was in the market for a MZ-R55, but its crappy battery life and 3VDC meant I'd have to buy loads of batteries and a new car converter. Sorry Sony! As for the others, I never liked the shape of the Sharps, though the new 831 does change that bulky image. Make a long story short - the JVC XM-R70 was what I wanted.
The XM-R70 itself certainly isn't the smallest or lightest, but it does have a good solid "balance" to it. The controls are laid out smartly: input/output on the left side, power in the back, play controls and jog wheel on the right side. The disc ejects from the front. On the top of the unit are the display (which is NOT backlit), the volume controls, and the edit/display buttons. Overall, it's a very intelligent and quite aesthetic design. I'm not one for the R90/91. After all smaller is smaller, and palm size is just fine.
The power options of the XM-R70 were the big selling point. It came with a Lithium Ion battery (BN-R3610) that really did take only 2 hours to charge, and by my estimates will play for at least 10 hours on that charge. The battery is rated 3.6v, 700mAh, with a notch at one end. The bulky dry-cell wart attaches to the back and uses 3xAA batteries. Combined, they offer something like 38 hours of playback! It also takes a DC 6V positive tip jack, so it's compatible with my Sony 4.5/6VDC car adapter that I already had for my CD player and old MZ-E2 MD player (RIP!). The AC charger is rated 110-240v. This is top! Plug adapters are all that are necessary to make this a versatile worldwide unit. The power cord is separate from the transformer, and I bought the unit in Hong Kong, I simply replaced the mains cord to a US one. The transformer itself is a small and light, about the half the size of the MD body. The fact that I can plug this in anywhere in the world to recharge the LiIon battery is a big plus! Think about that if you travel!
The remote is okay, but I must admit that I'm not partial to remotes so this didn't factor into my buying decision that heavily. It's small and has a lot of buttons on its side. I'm more impressed with the display on the unit itself. The remote's display is backlit, and all the "play" controls are on it, thought play, rev and ffwd are all on a rather awkward knob on top. Fortunately, headphones can be plugged directly into the unit itself - standard 1/8" mini-jack. The headphones are uncomfortable and different from what I believe ships with the US version - the right bud has a longer lead than the left, so unless you plan on putting the unit in your breast pocket, you'll have to plug it into the remote. The XM-R70 also came with a short Toslink to Mini optical cable, carry bag and a three-language manual - English, Spanish and Mandarin (see below). Did I mention I got the black unit?!
All recording and editing operations are accomplished from the unit. The editing features include move, divide, join, title, erase, and erase all. Titling is unbelievably easy: the jog wheel scrolls through a list of alphanumeric characters; hit the set button and scroll left or right for the next character! The play controls offer movement within the the text being input - correct in realtime! Much quicker than ANY portable I've seen, and even with the remote on my Sony JB-MDS520 home unit. All the other functions are made easy with the jog wheel and the set and edit buttons on the top of the player. Only adjacent tracks can be joined. One downside with the XM-R70 is that after executing any edit function, the unit will go to track 1 and stop when the function is complete. Work on that JVC.
Recording is accomplished with the combined analog/optical line-in jack or with the mic (plug-in power). Levels are automatic and nonadjustable for the optical and mic inputs, however, analog line-in may be adjusted manually, even during recording! The mono, stereo and synchro switch is on the bottom of the unit. The record switch is on the front, to the right of the eject button. Sliding the rec button or pressing pause advances the track count by one. The synchro feature also works in analog mode. However, 3 sec of silence will cause the id to advance in any rec mode, though it doesn't really do that in practice. The display on the unit is really nice during record - the first line shows track id and elapsed time, while the second line counts down remaining time on disc. BTW, To enter synchro mode on the XM-R70, set the synchro switch on the back of the unit, press rec on the unit , then press play on the unit. THEN press play on the source.
Play modes (random, repeat) and Active Clear Bass (bass boost) buttons are only on the remote, while switching the time display between elapsed and remaining can only be accomplished on the base unit. The unit doesn't resume play at the same point it was stopped; it will start at the beginning of that track. Awkward, but hardly essential. The lack of an Undo function and not having a separate line-out would be the two requests for JVC's engineers (are you listening?).
And in case you think I forgot the most important part - the sound the unit produces is well balanced tonally, with great stereo separation - excellent as any unit I've heard. The Active clear bass does get a little muddy, especially with analog recordings, but I prefer it to Sony's three tier bass boost. I use my Sony MDR-08 headphones because I like them the best, and I imagine that has more to do with the sound than anything else.
Overall, the power features and intelligent design were what sold me on the XM-R70. If a remote is important to you, this may not be your model. But if versatile power options, ease of titling and excellent analog recording are priorities, you won't go wrong with the XM-R70.
UPDATE MAY 2001
I've had this MD player for almost 18 months now and I can happily report that I've only become more impressed with it; it's features, styling, record and playback quality are all first rate. The unit works better than ever. I do wish it had a line-out at times, but there you are. Top!
UPDATE AUGUST 2002
I sold the player on eBay since I have moved exclusively to mp3s! Inevitable choice...
JVC Press Release January 1999 (HTML)
Hong Kong Shopping for the XM-R70
The Minidisc Community Page for the XM-R70