YouTube MiniDisc - All About... The Sony MZ-N1 (late 2001)

The Sony MZ-N1 was Sony's first portable NetMD recorder launched in December of 2001

I love this player and for some reason, I ended up with nine (gave one away to a family member) and now have eight of them in blue and silver.

I love how it looks with the large 3-line display and the jog dial on the right side. It looks good in silver, but looks quite stunning in blue!

It required a dock to utilize NetMD functionality (the dock at the mini-USB connector) which is somewhat unfortunate since the original docks don't always come with these models. Luckily, one of the MiniDisc innovators, Gerry Li (AKA MDGadgetry on Instagram) has developed two separate docking solutions for the MZ-N1 which bring it into the modern era with a USB-C connector.

Each model connects via the 3v power jack on the bottom of the MZ-N1 and has a small switch to enable NetMD connectivity. One includes a rechargeable battery while the other is smaller and just for charging/NetMD.


The front panel includes the aforementioned display, and End Search button, Record slider, and Group/Cancel button. Lastly, the "jog lever" next to the display was designed to control Play/Pause/Stop and Fwd/Rev. Unfortunately, the jog lever is quite "squishy" and imprecise. 

Luckily the jog dial replicates much of the functionality. By default, while playing music, scrolling the jog dial up and down lets you scroll through tracks and pushing inwards selects the track. If you need to access menus, simply push the jog dial inwards until you see the menu options on the display (if you're playing music, you'll likely see "Edit" first). From here, scroll up or down to get into the menu options you're interested in. I'll have this in the video and I'll list them out at the bottom of the page. You can also check out the user manual.

On the jog dial side you'll find the headphones/remote jack, Mic, and Line In (Optical). 

On the other side, you'll find two small Volume +/- buttons, a Track Mark button, and the battery door for gumstick batteries.

Remote control

The very basic RM-MC11EL shipped with the MZ-N1 internationally and it's not worth talking about. In Japan, the MZ-N1 shipped with one of my favorite Sony remotes: the RM-MC12ELK. This large-screen (easy on the eyes), backlit remote supports kanji which is nice since the on-body display on the MZ-N1 doesn't (though it does support katakana and hiragana).

I like how the "collar" slides out to separate the volume and track controls and I LOVE that there are no fiddly jog levers on the remote! All the controls are on one row on the top with just the Hold function slider on the bottom of the display.


The dock is easy to use and positions the MZ-N1 at an ideal angle if it was next to your PC for NetMD duties. A slight push down as you angle it in is all you need. To remove it, simply push down slightly while angling it outwards. The mini-USB cable can stay connected at the rear of the dock.


I don't want to go all audiophile because music is way too subjective, but specs-wise, the MZ-N1 has plenty of power (5 mW + 5 mW @ 16 ohm) for your IEMs or headphones and sounds pretty clean. This model doesn't have Sony's Digital Amp nor the HD Digital Amp, but hiss and noise are minimal. Though there's no "Mega Bass", there are two customizable Sound modes where you can adjust the treble or bass to your liking. 


These models are notorious for write head failures which can manifest as skips or dropouts while recording or even "blanking" discs. This seems to be due to a very thin flex cable that was used for the record head which eventually breaks or cracks causing a loss of electrical conductivity. There are ways to fix it but they do require some fine soldering since it is a very thin cable that has to move along a track. You won't see this issue on the following unit, the Sony MZ-N10.

Should you buy a Sony MZ-N1?

I'm obviously a bit biased since I like the model overall. If you're in the same boat and you like the aesthetics and the fact that it's Sony's first NetMD portable, it's a nice choice even if it becomes a player-only. All things being equal, if you find a deal on a newer version like the MZ-N910 or others, they may be safer, more reliable choices.

Having said that, of my eight MZ-N1s, six are confirmed to record. I have hopes for the other ones but I will have to get back to them at a later time.

At least there are functional replacements for the dock so you don't have to worry about not getting a dock with your MZ-N1. I only have three docks but I didn't "need" them, I just wanted them for completion.

I love how this review from 2001 is still out on there!

Menu reference

Once you're in the menu by pushing in on the jog dial, you can scroll through the options. Here they are:

-Set (Group)
-Name Bank
-Bank Erase
-Erase (disc)


Play Mode
--1 Track
--1 Repeat
-Shuffle Repeat
-PGM Repeat

Rec Mode

-Off or On
--Choose "Timer 1" etc.
--Set time 

Audio Out
-Line Out

-Sound Off
-Sound 1
-Sound 2


Sync Rec
-Off or On

Mic Sens
-Sens High
-Sens Low

-LP Stamp
-Clock Set