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Worthwhile CD-R Media? 41

Posted by Cliff
from the markets-of-volatile-quality dept.
isdnip asks: "I've noticed that when I burn a CD-R, it's basically a random chance whether or not it will play on any given CD player or CD-ROM drive. Blank CD-Rs are dirt cheap nowadays, but the costlier gold ones are not available at retail, if at all. So which ones now on the market are most likely to work? They seem more interested in bragging about maximum speed, not quality. Does a high speed rating help or hurt readability (I usually only burn at 2x or 4x)?"

"Just for example, I've had pretty good luck with Maxell 'CD-R pro' blanks, mediocre luck with 'IBM' licensed-brand media, and even worse results from Memorex, which had the dubious distinction of looking most like real gold, though really just based on an ordinary dye layer. I don't want to buy a 50-pack of junk. I haven't seen any magazine reviews, either. I'm sure Slashdot readers have had a wealth of experience which we could all stand to share."

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Worthwhile CD-R Media?

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  • Burning Speed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pheph (234655)
    There must be a difference in terms of reliability at differing speeds. When I would backup Playstation games, burning at anything over 1x would create unreliable/unplayable games, but you could take those unplayable games and copy them onto another CD at 1x and they would play just fine...
    • Re:Burning Speed (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Stoke (86808)
      this would only happen on older burners.. the new burners can burn psx at 16x and they work great.
      • Re:Burning Speed (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pheph (234655)
        Yes, I was using a very old burner (external SCSI 2x4)... Still seems interesting that some CD readers could read it and others couldn't
    • by itwerx (165526) <itwerx@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @02:54AM (#2617976) Homepage
      The unplayable CD may well still be readable due to the quality of the tracks which were written. I.e. if the writer (and subsequent reader) have a fairly narrow read path (beam) and fairly sensitive pickup, then they can read even a shoddy job of writing. (Note that higher-speed equates to a narrower and spectrally shallower track).
      As such, the drive which can't read it probably has a wider beam and/or a less sensitive pickup.
      But if you put that same disk back in a CDRW drive (like the one which wrote it) you'll find that it reads just fine. (Kind of like a floppy drive being out of alignment, only in this case the "alignment" is a matter of quality of beam reflection rather than magnetic field).
      To move on...
      Media is, as mentioned elsewhere, only made by a couple of manufacturers, BUT they also make a number of different levels of quality which are then sold and branded by anybody/everybody.
      So how do you tell? Most cd-burning software nowadays will tell you what the media is, but that doesn't help much in the store. (Er, excuse me, can I burn one of these just as a test? Yeah, I'll tape the box back up nice and neat if they suck...)
      So you have to judge by color. Unfortunately many of the top-side decals/coatings used in the branding process have a color of their own (hence light-green phthalocyanine dye often appearing blue or dark-green).
      In general, a CDRW will give MUCH better cross-drive compatibility than a simple CDR due to the higher sensitivity of the dyes and the better quality reflective surface behind.
      Which brings me to cheap CD's. Real CD's have an aluminum surface sandwiched between two plastic disks. A CDR actually needs an extra set of layers because the dye isn't reflective! It has a silver backing which is laid on top of the second layer of plastic. Now a few people will disagree and say it's on the same layer as the dye which is sometimes true, but most of the manufacturers have switched to having it be on the other side (outside) of the plastic sandwich as it makes for a much lower level of defects. But this means that you really have to have the final decal with the cutesy branding/artwork/whatever to protect the silver!
      Super cheap (blank silver) CD's will very often scratch very easily on the top surface. I've even seen a few that you could smear the silver off with a firm rub of your finger tip.
      Evil...
      Bad...
      Stay away...
      So cheap is fine s'long as they're CDRW's (or at least the darker CDR's) and they have a top decal (or 3rd layer of real plastic for the fancy-schmancy folks).
      Finally, burn slower! Cut 20% off your drive's rated speed (or the CDR's rated speed if it's slower) and you'll get much better burns. Manufacturers of drives and media alike advertise the best possible numbers they can get away with. If your drive's beam is a little under-powered and the dye on that batch of CD's is a little thin, then a reduction in speed will make for a lot fewer toasters, er, coasters.
      (I've been playing with OSX too much, I can tell!)

      Enjoy!
  • Hey, it looks like you forgot the tag in the comment there, and it's screwing up the page display everywhere.

    thanks
  • Dan's Data Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Monday November 26, 2001 @06:33PM (#2616101) Homepage
    Dan's data has an article which explains CDR quality very nicely [dansdata.com]

    At first, it focuses mostly on strangely colored and oddly shaped cdrs, but at the bottom it has some VERY useful information, including a little utility called cdrid [www.gum.de], which identifies WHO REALLY makes the cdr disk. It turns out many differently branded disks are actually made by the same company.

    The article also points out that cdrs with a darker dye in them work better. I tend to agree from experience. Typically, I buy Sony CDRS from staples... they're pretty cheap and work good. I also found that the sony ones work fine in most car cd players, while cheap ones don't work at all.

    (By the way.... a Plextor 24x burner is only about $150 now... i find that burning cds at lower speeds doesn't improve compatibility, execpt for with cheap disks; but my burner only works up to 8x, so i dont know how faster ones fare). But beware: make sure your drive supports BuRN proof or something similar. There is nothing more aggrivating then having to burn a cd twice because of a buffer underrun.
  • Bulk CDRs (Score:1, Interesting)

    by i_am_nitrogen (524475)
    This probably goes without saying, but don't use those bulk CDs you can get for $10 for 100 discs. Usually, they have no protective layer over the aluminum (allowing you to scratch or rub off the reflective coating, and also making it easier for bacteria to damage the disc -- I've had both happen to semi-critical backups made on cheap CDs. I've learned my lesson.), and the bottom 10-15 discs are often useless because the metal flakes off one disc and permanently deposits onto the disc above it. Personally I've had the best success with my Samsung 8x drive using Circuit City labelled discs. Different drive brands probably work best with different media, but I'd say that it's probably safe to buy the 50 packs from major stores for most CD players. Heck, even my cheap bulk CDs are readable in every CD player I've tried them in.

    ... I may be wrong, but wasn't the move from gold to silver/aluminum supposed to be a step up in quality, since gold is less reflective?

    FYI, I think my bulk CDs report that they are made by CMC/CMG magnetics.

  • http://www.mousetrap.net/~mouse/cdrw/cheap.html [mousetrap.net]

    Doesn't look very thorough though
  • I have found that buying brand name CD-Rs works best. This is especially an issue with Sony CD players which will only read the high-quality discs and spit out the rest.

    I have never had any kind of read-compatibility problems with discs from Kodak, Sony, Maxell, and Imation playing in different CD-ROMS, car and stereo cd-players. I have had problems with KAO and noname discs.

    Another note: Most CD-Rs are made in Asia. I have heard very good things about 'Vivastore' discs which are made in Switzerland but have not been able to get my hands on any.

  • by rjsjr (105611) on Monday November 26, 2001 @10:43PM (#2617252) Homepage
    Among the etree [etree.org] membership (a group devoted to trading freely taped music like Radiohead, Phish, and the Dead - these people really know CD-R archiving), Mitsui and Kodak Gold are the most well respected CD-Rs. Taiyo Yuden, non-Ritek TDK Certified Plus, Sony, imation, and some others are also considered pretty good choices. The vast majority of CD-Rs are made by Ritek in Taiwan and its considered bad form to give someone one in a trade. For more information, try Andy McFadden's CD-R FAQ [cdrfaq.org] (very comprehensive) or the etree CD-R FAQ [etree.org] (mentions a few brands).

    You typically can't find good quality CD-Rs at the major computer stores and you definitely won't get good prices on them. They don't have the lowest prices out there, but I've been pretty happy ordering 100 lots of 80 min Mitsui unbranded silvers from american digital [american-digital.com] and haven't burned a coaster or had a CD-R go bad yet. Hunt around and I'm sure you can find some better deals online.

    ... rjs

    • Yea, talking to any involved member of etree will let you gain some knowledge. We all kind of feed off of each other. ;-) Brand names can be very misleading. TDK's used to be very good, but it seems like TDK has begun to outsource a lot of its cds. Kodak is always good, Mitsui is always good (Mitsui is Taiyo Yuden as far as I remember), and I've never had problems with Ricoh. The point is somewhat moot however, because etree'ers tend to once record the audio onto discs, and then backup the SHN files (lossless audio files) to another set of discs. Always have a last resort!

      -Etree'ng since 1999
  • I find the 'black' cdrs that memorex makes are quite good, although they are really a very dark red.
  • The local Office Depot sells 100 packs of their branded (hence well-laminated) 80-min CDRs for around $29.89. I just picked up two 100 packs the other day. I've had zero coasters with them, and no problems using them in various players (my Pine D'Music SM-200C, ancient 2x SCSI CDROM drives, various standard CD boomboxes, etc).

    I've had the same luck with Fuji branded disks (also Taiyo Yuden, I believe). Zero coasters, and no problems on playback in the above devices. Best Buy sometimes has these on sale for around $20 for a 50 pack.

    The only disks I've ever really had issues with playback are some old Imation blue (dark blue) disks. Very few devices can read them--pretty much just CDRW drives. As far as quality, I bought some CompUSA unbranded disks once, 100 for around $19.99 and they are crap. They read fine, but are basically unlaminated, and more than half the ones I've used so far (150+) have been scrapped, and that is NOT in an abusive environment.

  • Three places to look (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hobart (32767) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @02:33AM (#2617920) Homepage Journal
    • CD Media World [cdmediaworld.com] has extensive reviews and information on CD media sources, burner reviews, etc.
    • CD-Recordable.com [cd-recordable.com], if you're in the US, is (so they claim) the only US Manufacturer of CD media. Their site makes it look like they put real effort into their product, I've ordered a few batches for work and personal use (~100) and not had coaster problems. (Disclaimer: I haven't really had coaster problems with other brands either)
    • CD-RW's may play better in some finicky CD players than plain CD-R's. I have not verified this myself, nor seen more than rumors on the subject. Anyone have any experience?
  • i have a cheap ide hp cd12 model i recently purchased for around $100 from bestbuy. i also bought a spindle of 50 cheap 700mb Memorex white cdr's for $17. out of the 50, not one coastered. that's burning at 12x(~5-8min per cd).

    if you have to burn at 2x or 4x, you probably are burning from a REAL slow drive. in all fairness, i am burning from a scsi drive, to an ide drive, and the cdr is the only ide device in the computer.
  • Quality of hardware (Score:3, Informative)

    by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @03:19AM (#2618032) Journal
    The issue of CD-R compatibility has a great deal to do with the quality of the burner.

    Three years ago, I picked up an 8x Plextor burner, and decided to run some tests in order to determine what kind of (then expensive) blanks I should be using.

    I ordered 2 each of ~12 different makes of CD-R blank -- as many as I could find at one place at one time -- and tried them all. As burning at 8x was the latest-and-greatest thing at the time, none of the discs were "rated" for the speed except for a special, higher-dollar one from Kodak.

    After burning identical audio tracks at 8x to half of the discs, I listened to them with a well-calibrated ear on a good mid-fi stereo.

    They all worked fine. No ticking, no artificial harshness, nadda. The twelve of them sounded exactly the same.

    This was frustrating, because I still had no idea what brand to buy - so I downgraded the CD player from a Carver TL-3300 to a friend's borrowed (and quite abused and tired) Playstation.

    Some variations finally showed. Surprisingly, the 8x-rated Kodak disc worked least well - slow seek times, and strange behavior. I don't remember the rest of it that battery, unfortunately.

    The next test involved ripping the CDs with cdparanoia, and timing how long it took for a good rip, on a 32x Plextor reader. All discs ripped without reported error, which was good - the Kodak was slowest of the bunch, and TDK the fastest.

    Interestingly, the burner came packaged with a TDK blank as a gimme.

    But what makes this interesting is that some of the discs were not rated for speeds anywhere near 8x - IIRC, the Maxell blanks said 2x on the package. They all passed. Even the Kodak, though strange in some way, was acceptable (and guaranteed to be readable for 100 years or somesuch).

    Since then, I've not done anything as exhaustive. But I have had 74-minute Verbatim discs fail to read -at all- in any Playstation, while the box of 50 80-minute Verbatims (with, appearently, the same dark blue dye formulation) work well with everything.

    At the studio, I use the cheapest, no-name unbranded shiney CDs I can get, with an identical Plextor burner. I've never had any customers say anything to me about an unreadable burn, and I never burn at 4x, 2x, or 1x - why waste the time?

    Meanwhile, my sister has a 4x Phillips CD-RW, which always produces skip-prone CDs, that occasioally tick and pop - no matter what media is used.

    To conclude the sermon, I'd like to point out that Plextor makes the most expensive burners available to consumers, and that by most (if not all) accounts, they're worth every cent. For a more lengthy and detailed analysis, on more modern hardware, see: http://www.digit-life.com/articles/cdrwtestidep12/ index.html

    Further, so long as I'm ranting, the color of the
    dye means absolutely nothing, except to visually compare two or more CDs. Even if CD players used some binary reflective/nonreflective technique to read a disc, which they do not, they use infrared light to do their business. Which is to say that unless you're wearing IR goggles, you have no idea what the dye looks like to a CD player.

    All that happens (or, rather, needs to happen) when a CD is burned is that it makes a longer path for the light of the reading laser wherever a pit should be, by putting a hole in the dye layer below the reflective metal (which, FYI, was 24k gold on the Kodak disc, and silver (not aluminum) on the TDK).

    You might've noticed that mass-produced, stamped /injection-molded CDs have no visible contrast (or IR contrast, for that matter), and all of -those- work justfine.

    -
    • Pretty much everything works on the "original" burner, like my Acer. The problems are when I try to play them elsewhere. A couple of weeks ago I burned a data disk for a friend. The "IBM" disk didn't play on either a Dell or a Mac. Retry: A Maxell Pro worked on the Dell. But I've had various random results, hence my Original Post.

      A good burner can probably read almost anything, but it's harder to get good interchangeability.

      BTW I've learned a lot from the replies to this Ask Slashdot. Very helpful! Thanks y'all.
      • Perhaps I failed to emphasize the part about only one type of 74-minute Verbatim disc ever having compatibility trouble.

        I use these discs everywhere. I hand them out to customers. I sell them. People like my the products I make on CD-R, no matter what equipment they're using.

        Additionally, the link provided (http://www.digit-life.com/articles/cdrwtestidep12 /index.html) is a comparison of an AOpen (read: Acer) and Plextor burner. The AOpen produced CDs with consistantly higher block error rates, and (somehow!) managed to write discs slower at 20x, than the Plextor at 16x.

        I, henceforth, would like to iterate again my point about the quality of hardware.

        -
  • I have a Yamaha CDRW8424 SCSI CD-Burner [itgujarat.com] and I always use Sony CDs. All other brands (including Traxdata CDs which are quite expensive !) randomly crash...For me, Sony CDs are more than 99% efficient.

    I often burn CDs using my x8 Yamaha burner [yamaha-it.de] at home, but I also tested Sony CDs with a friend's x24 Plextor burner [plextor.be], and it worked really fine burning 50+ CDs in a row without any problem.
  • Be careful of leaving cdr's in the sunlight. The dyes are light sensitive and easily damaged in the sunlight. Might be a consideration for some of you. Kodak makes some cdr's which have a protective coating.

    I have a 2x burner, so speed isn't an issue, but I buy the cheapest cdr's I can find and haven't had any big problems.
  • I have a HP 9100i and a 100 pack of Memorexes.
    I'm half way through (its an 8x burner) and haven't burnt a bad one yet.
  • by Detritus (11846)
    It isn't a scientific test, but I've had excellent results with the Kodak Ultima (Gold and Silver) CD-Rs. I've gone through hundreds of them without any problems.
  • Personally I've never noticed much difference between bulk packs on spindles and the more expensive name brands. I've got (ahem) back-ups, vcd and audio disks on all sorts of different types, colours, sizes and supposed 'max speed' disks and I've never had any problems restoring my (ahem) back-ups on any machines, nor listening to the audio on a range of cd players, including my portable Technics and my Sony midi and the VCD play fine on my Wharfedale and on my PC.

    My friend did comment that an audio cd I did for him sounded 'colder' than the original disk, to which i snorted at and informed him that that was impossible as it was a bit-for-bit copy, but I read somewhere that different quality cdr can indeed sound different, but as I'm no audiophile (regularly listen to mp3 through headphones without wincing) it doesn't bother me.
  • For audio at least, the Memorex cdrs that come in the 30packs with the slimline cases have worked great for me. I work at a college radio station that has CD players that are VERY picky with burned cds (So picky that most people avoid using them at all costs (they're Denon C630s)), and I've NEVER had one of these Memorex cds skip or stop on me. I usually burn at 4x on a Matsushita (Panasonic) 4x4x32 cd burner. Using these cd players, I definately do see a difference in playback performance between cd brands (Imation does particularly bad (though I can't remember any other brands that suck for those players at the moment)).

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