Disclaimer: I bought this sucker from Yahoo! Auctions a couple of years ago. It is a pretty player/recorder whose straightforward physical UI is both to die for and to die from. You can find out all about it at Minidisc.org’s dedicated Aiwa AM-F70 page.
My first MD recorder, a Sharp MD-MT15, broke forty eight hours after I purchased it from Vetlanda’s ON/OFF. (If you like Sharp, get used to it.) Promptly I replaced it with a Sony MZ-R37, which at the time I despised for not being a different, more expensive recorder.
That recorder was the AM-F70. I first saw it after Christmas, in late 1999. My mate returned from holidays with an I crisscrossed the continent over Christmas, what did you do? grin and an Aiwa AM-F70. Remember Forrest Gump taking his first look at Jenny? That was me. Wow. Backlit buttons, backlit screen, scroll-dial navigation/titling. Everything well placed, and real metal sliders. Though the AM-F70 debuted a year earlier, it looked like something from a bright future, our race didn’t deserve to see.
But nothing is perfect. The AM-F70’s scroll dial is fiddly, and its illuminated buttons tend to glow less as they age. Many units’s main screens no longer even light up. The good news is that the remote for every unit I’ve used still works. It’s a nasty remote though, clipping at strange angles, and sporting a poorly made clip. Then there’s the battery: nearly every original battery is dead as a door nail. That expensive, impossible-to-find battery is the bane to AM-F70 fans. Worse, Aiwa didn’t even pack in a screw-on battery extension. Instead, they threw in a snake-looking tether attached to a three-battery bay. Attached, the AM-F70 and snake-y battery bay are as athletic as your grandma riding a mobility scooter towing a shopping cart that’s wrapped around a tree. But if you find a working battery, or wrangle your own, the AM-F70 can kick out 10 hours from a charge. That’s as good as a modern high-end DAP, or more than double what the Sony MZ-R55 was capable.
For its day, the AM-F70 was large. It looked like the MZ-R55’s type-2 diabetic father. Yes, its battery is a bugger. Oh, and its battery door is easy to break when closing/opening the main compartment. Despite its faults, the AM-F70 is the recorder I most fantasise about. It’s just that the one in my fantasy isn’t just machined better than its contemporaries. It’s got a an easy to adapt battery, an LCD screen that lasts decades, and it sounds better.
My first listen floored me. The AM-F70’s rich lows, lush, wide midrange, and great stereo detail blew my mind. No, it’s not the best-testing MD unit out there. But gosh does it push all the right buttons between my ears. But, even back in 1999, hiss bothered me. Which is a shame. The AM-F70 spits good quality signal even under load, suffers relatively few artefacts, and is powerful to boot. It is almost as powerful as 2nd-generation Sony units were, meaning that it can drive high-ohm headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT880/300 and even 600 to respectable levels in low-noise environments. And, with high-Ω headphones, its hiss isn’t a problem.
RMAA AND REVIEW: SHARP MD-DR7 1-BIT AUVI MINIDISC RECORDER 16-BIT
RMAA and review: Sony MZ-EH1 24-bit
Minidisc VLOG - 07: Sony MZ-RH1 Review
Minidisc VLOG - 05: Sony MZ-NH3D
RMAA and review: Sony MZ-DH10P 16-bit
RMAA: Sony MZ-RH1 16-bit
RMAA: Sony MZ-NH3D 16-bit
RMAA: Sony MZ-B100 16-bit
RMAA: Panasonic SJ-MJ500 16-bit
RMAA: Kenwood DMC-S55 16-bit
RMAA: Sony MZ-E55 16-bit
RMAA: Sharp MD-DS8/9 16-bit
Source: Sony MZ-EH1 portable Hi-MD player
ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
Computer: 2012 27" iMac
Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.
NL - no load
SM2 - Earsonics SM2
ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600
16-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - all targets
16-bit VOL (Full) @+0dB - all targets
The AM-F70 could have been the best-ever recorder. The only thing that really held it back was hiss. And battery. And suiciding backlights and buttons. Despite its ergonomic problems, the remote is solid, so even if your buttons and screen go dark, you can still use the AM-F70. What you can’t dodge is that hiss.