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Digital wars

Digital wars — Will the Digital Compact Cassette and the MiniDisc rival the CD?

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Barely 10 years after the compact disc promised us perfect sound forever, two brand-new digital formats are headed our way on a tidal wave of hype. Why should we care about either the MiniDisc or the Digital Compact Cassette? Because you can’t record onto a CD, but you can record digitally onto MiniDiscs or Digital Compact Cassettes. While the sound quality of the new formats doesn’t match a CD, it’s much better than with old-fangled analog cassettes. Here’s a quick guide to the differences between the new digital toys:

*What is it? The DCC looks pretty much like a lo-fi analog cassette, but it has hi-fi sound. *Who Needs it? People who own lots of old cassettes and have not yet gone digital. They’ll be able to play (but not record onto) analog cassettes with DCC machines, as well as play and record digitally with DCCs. *Wowie-zowie tech feature: A display on the DCC deck can show the name of the artist, song title, lyrics, etc. *Cost: Decks for about $800; blank, 90-minute cassettes $10; prerecorded DCCs about the same as CDs.

*What is it? The MD looks like an itty-bitty version of a floppy disc for a computer. *Who Needs it? Walkman users who want to trade up to better, skip-proof sound. *Wowie-zowie tech feature: If you want to jam a new tune into the middle of something you’ve already recorded, the MD will find room for it. *Cost: Decks from $500; blank discs $14; prerecorded discs in the CD range.