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CD-R media quality

Posted 14 August 2001 11:27 CET by Robin van Lieshout


Copyright 2001 CD-RW.ORG


CD-R media quality

This article is based on my own experiences and people's comments at the CD-R Media Forum.

'What CD-R media to use" has always been a real FAQ around the internet. I personally had high hopes that faster writing speeds would solve the quality issues of CD-R media that influenced the industry in the early <4x speed age. Unfortunately this has not totally been the case. There still exists two kinds of CD-R media in the market: Bad and good.

What to buy?

First of all one must understand that the label on the CD-R disc represents only the distribution brand, usually not the manufacturer. For an example, BASF CD-Rs have been manufactured by various companies, including Taiyo Yuden and CMC Magnetics. However, one can dig out some more information about the CD-R disc by using a program called CD-R Indentifier. This little utility reads the so called ATIP information of the disc, including the supposed manufacturer. Also programs like Feurio or CDRDao are able to give information on the media. There are concerns about the reliability of this information, but so far it's the best and only info we can get and I have found the manufacturer information to match the quality very well.

At the CD-R Media Forum you can read many user comments about various CD-R media, so there is no point listing them all here. However it is safe to say that at least two manufacturers seem to always offer outstanding quality: Taiyo Yuden Corporation (sold under many brands) and Kodak.

There are also few very high quality manufacturers, but I haven't personally been able to verify them since not all are locally available. I can mention at least few supposed to be very high quality: Mitsui Chemicals, Mitsubishi Chemicals, RICOH and RITEK.

RITEK (www.ritek.com.tw) is an interesting issue. In the early <4x age RITEK was known for extremely low quality products. They have improved since and I have used myself thousands of 8x-16x RITEKs with 100% good results. One of the better known RITEK distributing brands in Traxdata and at least on the area where I live they seem to offer the best price/quality ratio.

Test methods

One can try to test the quality of CD-R media in many different ways:

CDCheck (http://fusion.zejn.si/)
This is a simple application that verifys data discs. Use it and watch the reported read speed: If the read speed is lower than supposed in your CD-ROM (it's better to use a CD-ROM drive in these tests, rather than more accurate & tolerant CD-R drive), it indicates that drive has performed read-retries on errors, which means that the burned disc is not perfect.

EAC (www.exactaudiocopy.de)
The EAC has a 'Test selected tracks"-feature. One can use this on audio discs and see if it shows read errors or read-retries (decreased speed). A CD-ROM with reliable audio extraction is needed for this and the secure ripping mode of EAC must be used.

Feurio! (www.feurio.de)
This outstanding audio CD buring app has a 'Test device" feature that performs various tests about the drive's ability to read audio correctly. First use a clean original CD to check that you drive gives 100% results, the use a known high quality CD-R to see that results still are at 100% and the use the media you wish test and see if there are differences.

Drive vs. media issues?

There still are some user experiences that indicate special issues with certain drives with certain media. I personally DO NOT AGREE that such drive vs. media issues exists, since I have used CD-R discs in many drives and always found that good media is good and bad is bad, no matter what drive used. Still at the CD-R Media Forum and around the net some unexplained comments about media issues indicate that some media/drive combinations just don't match. In such cases I tend to blame the drive for a poor performance rather than the supposed high quality media.

Low quality manufacturers?

At the forum you can find many reports about low quality CD-R media manufacturers. I haven't recently collected much personal experiences in these, since I (naturally) tend to buy my favourite high quality brands only. However, there is one manufacturer that I never have had good luck with in the last 3 years: CMC Magnetics (Imation, some BASF products, many others too). No matter what drive or what write speed, CD-R drive or CD-R media product, the CMC Magnetics always gives me bad results and this really has been the case for years. I would definitely stay away from their producs.


Copyright 2001 CD-RW.ORG
stvastva
MyCE Senior Member
Posted on: 14 Aug 01 09:57
This is an excellent article. As far as I am concerned Black Cdr's are the answer to Audio Cdr. The warmth they provide reminds me of analog. I like the Black cdr copies of store bought cd's better than the original cd. It has to do with light splatter & light leakage & how Black Cdr minimizes this problem which lowers the B.E.R. & makes for a much better sounding music cd than the standard cdr. Purple has a very nice tone as well. Thanks for the excellent article!
0 Agree

the111
CD Freaks Senior Member
Posted on: 14 Aug 01 10:07
Interesting. I find that the new, silver, 'shop-bought' looking disks don't work in my Creative Labs drive. Don't know why.
0 Agree

stevieC
CD Freaks Shop Owner
Posted on: 14 Aug 01 10:28
Indeed, an interesting article. 1. Taiwan Companies offer as wel good as bad quality. - production factories have after the process good and faulty cdr's. Because they are tested automatically we get a difference in quality level. First we have A quality wich exceeds in most cases all specifications and have a reflectivity >65% and a low blur-rate. Then we can get the A- grade, wich is claimed to be A-grade (a minus grade) but due to tough competition on the market and to lower production cost has lesser quality. Last comes the B-grade wich are only suitable to put temporarily data on. 2. Also due to though competition the factories expand the specs as far as possible (eg. whereas the normal thickness of a cdr should be between 1.2mm and 1.4mm according to the coloured books, most of the cheaper factories only produce discs between 1mm and 1.2mm. This causes troubles in some older drives. Only to save in Polycarbonate costs. Also the amount of dye differs a lot. Since the process starts from the middle most cdr's have lesser quality at the outer side of the disc. 2. If you want a good cdr you have to find a supplier wich continuesly offers the same good quality cdr. In most cases the brand of the cdr is independant of a factory. - first there are brands like Platinum, Bestmedia andso who use different suppliers, depending on the actual price. So it could happen that you get under these brands one time an excellent cdr and the other time a foulty bad one. Now the problem is that the custumor can't vissually see wich manufacturor is the present supplier of your brand. To avoid this choose a brandname wich offers always the same product. - Now that royalties disputes are settled and cdr-prices are going up again we expect quality improvement since this will be the key to survive on the market.(if the anti-dumping law will be introduced) 3. Always try to choose a cdr with a protection layer, since this drastically improves the lifetime of a cdr. 4. it doesn't really matter anymore if you take cyanine or phtalocyanine or enhanced patents based upon these dyes. All organic dyes are far advanced and of good quality to produce a good cdr. The only thing patented enhanced things do like (AZO AZO) is giving extra protection towards other influences like Sunlight. 5. All new writers will have media detection capabilities in the future, thus means that media will be shortly tested on quality previous to recording and so adjusting the laser for optimal recording.... Well, shortly: All cdr's have improved in quality no matter what dye they use... Just be sure you get a steady supplier wich offers normal A-quality CDR...
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 14 Aug 01 15:45
<i>As far as I am concerned Black Cdr's are the answer to Audio Cdr. The warmth they provide reminds me of analog. I like the Black cdr copies of store bought cd's better than the original cd. It has to do with light splatter & light leakage & how Black Cdr minimizes this problem which lowers the B.E.R. & makes for a much better sounding music cd than the standard cdr. Purple has a very nice tone as well. </i><br><br> Wow! Someone here is misinformed. Talk about placebo. It is virtually impossible for the characteristics of the plastic on a CDR to change the nature of the recorded sound. You're wrong. Black CDRs do NOT sound warmer. They CANNOT. It's all in your head. That just isn't the way that digital audio works. Plastic color cannot apply an overall transform to digital audio (i.e., change its frequency response, etc.) All it can do is insert noise due to misread blocks. That's ALL you can do with a recorded CD: cause errors. You cannot make the sound be more &quot;warm&quot;. It's interesting to see how people are psychologically effected so easily. FYI, the &quot;black&quot; plastic on a &quot;black&quot; CDR is clear and invisible to a CD drive's laser. As is purple. Or red. Or anything like that. The laser has no idea what color it is and there is no such thing as &quot;splatter and light leakage&quot; issues. Even if they were, since these 'colored' plastics are invisible to 780nm light, it wouldn't stop &quot;leakage&quot; anyways. And even if it DID, that wouldn't reduce your bit error rate. AND! Even if the bit error rate was reduced, the sound wouldn't be any &quot;warmer&quot;. It's 44100hz 16bit, no matter what you do to it If you want an 'answer' to AudioCD, and you really want 'warmer' sound, try SACD or DVDA. Not black CDR's. This isn't tape we're dealing with here. You have a thing or two to learn about digital audio. And anyone who says I'm wrong doesn't know what they're talking about.
0 Agree

Dimmuxx
New on Forum
Posted on: 14 Aug 01 20:51
The reason why black cdrs sound warmer is that it's often easier for the cd-player to read from a black cd than the orginal silver cd and because of this the error-correction(that is not perfect on music cds, data cds have 100% perfect error-correction) must correct more data on the orginal cd. Cdrw drives can read cds much better than a audioplayer and therefore it has less errors when it's burnt out on a black cd when played back in a cd-player.
0 Agree

stvastva
MyCE Senior Member
Posted on: 15 Aug 01 06:25
Dimmuxx is correct. Michi_s is wrong. Black Cdr's can sound better & they do sound better. Sacd & DVD-A is way better than any Cdr, but Black Cdr's have much less B.E.R. than a standard cdr. For years audiophiles have been putting black bands around the edge of the Cd & also have been putting Green ink around the edge of Cd's to prevent light leakage. The Audioprism Stoplight is very popular amoungst audiophiles. There is even a Cd demagnetizer which is said to improve the sound. The fact is that digital is digital - BUT * not all of that digital is being read by the cd player in which the error correction takes over. I am soory that Michi_s cannot hear the difference - Forthose that know, they know. Read about the AudioPrism Stoplight here: http://www.fullswing.com/audioprism/stoplight.html
0 Agree

stvastva
MyCE Senior Member
Posted on: 15 Aug 01 06:30
Let me quote a peice from the link: <i>a significant amount of stray laser light bounced around the inside of the CD itself. This stray light eventually finds its way back to the pick-up assembly, creating jitter. Their solution was quite elegant - absorb the stray light</i>...so there!
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 15 Aug 01 23:03
&quot;The reason why black cdrs sound warmer is that it's often easier for the cd-player to read from a black cd than the orginal silver cd and because of this the error-correction(that is not perfect on music cds, data cds have 100% perfect error-correction) must correct more data on the orginal cd.&quot; I think you're a little misinformed here. Sure, data CD's have more error correction, but this is to do with the way the disc's written, no error correction is on the disc when you buy it, right? So, you can either write a CD in &quot;audio mode&quot; or &quot;data mode&quot;. Audio CD's are written in audio mode, obviously, so the extra error correction of data mode is not used. The only way you could get the extra error correction to apply would be to write on to the CD the ripped WAV files from the original disc, but then it wouldn't work in a normal CD player. Also, the stuff about CD writers - they can read CD's better than your average CD player, but copies usually read slower due to the errors put on them whilst writing, which is less accurate than pressing a CD. Pressed CD's will usually be better balanced, so have less errors when read, so reducing jitter. I don't know about all the colours and stuff, can't say i've really ever known much about that...
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 17 Aug 01 18:20
I really don't know about the technical stuff, but: 1) Silver CDRs don't play on my old Audio-CD Player :c 2) Black CDRs do play with no problem at all I have observed this with many older CD players which are not supposed to be reading CDR. They work with black CDR.
0 Agree

stvastva
MyCE Senior Member
Posted on: 21 Aug 01 08:25
Fried_Fish - in all due respect, you're wrong. Cd players do use error correction when playing Cd's. Due to B.E.R. or Bit Error Rate, a technique called the Reed-Solomon error correction system was developed in 1958. Now, every CD player on the market contains a highly efficient Reed-Solomon decoder, processing 2 million bits a second Error correction in digital audio works in a similar fashion to spelling checkers in some word processors. Some word processors fix spelling mistakes as you type. For instance, you may type the word yis...the spelling checker finds the error and changes the word to yes. It does this by looking at the y and s and after comparing yis to a data bank of words assumes it was supposed to be yes.. In 1976, Reed formulated a scheme for the digital compression of images which is now known as JPEG..........&quot;&quot;Pressed CD's will usually be better balanced, so have less errors when read, so reducing jitter. &quot;&quot; - this is exactly why black cdr's sound better - look, anyone who wants to argue the point needs to sit down with a standard mitsui or imation cdr & a PNY or Memorex Black cdr with the exact same audio on it & play both in your cd player - back to back - then tell me black cdr's are not bassier & warmer. Read all about Reed - Solomon: http://hotwired.lycos.com/synapse/fe...erman2a_1.html
0 Agree

stvastva
MyCE Senior Member
Posted on: 21 Aug 01 08:35
Reed-Solomon Link[url=http://hotwired.lycos.com/synapse/feature/97/29/silberman2a_1.html[/url] here.
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 24 Oct 01 06:49
The problems with reviews like this is that we sometimes miss the forest for the trees...... Particularly so over the course of time (decades), as we sometimes do not recall the controversy's of time past&hellip;..Yet these past arguments, now forgotten, may make some considerations of today a mute topic. When the CD first appeared, there was considerable controversy as to whether the then &quot;new&quot; music CDs sounded harsh. in comparison to the existing LP vinyl records and to the existing tape systems...... The concern was the CD's brick-wall at 22 KHz The complaint was that the CD frequency roll-off above 20 KHz was just too severe....... That it was causing a harshness to the music...... Neither tape nor LPs had this severe roll-off, and only the CDs had it ......Those with the Golden Ears constantly noted that tapes and LPs were far smoother sounding than CDs&hellip;&hellip;.This is probably why many Audiophiles nowadays want tube equipment, as tube equipment has smoother frequency roll-offs. . I have a 1950 book by an Audio Engineer, professionally employed as such......He had tested partially-deaf persons, that is, persons who simply could not hear anything above 12,000 Hertz&hellip;&hellip; Play a sinusoidal soundwave at 15,000 hertz and they just could not hear it.. The Audio Engineer then played music with a frequency range of 20,000 Hertz to these partially-deaf persons&hellip;.. He used different degrees of roll-offs above 12,000 Hertz to see what the partially-deaf persons could detect&hellip;&hellip;..All the partially-deaf persons could detect a change to the music, whenever the frequencies above 12,000 Hertz were artificially rolled-off&hellip;&hellip;.(This is related to the fact that the mind-ear tends to create missing sounds) &hellip;&hellip;Roll-off rates like 18 dB per Octave and higher gave a very harshness sound to the music.&hellip;.. The Audio Engineer concluded that the music should never be rolled-off at more than 3dB per Octave, or at most at 6 dB per Octave&hellip;&hellip;.Yet CDs use 48 db per Octave (and higher) roll-off rates above 20,000 Hertz, basically aiming for zero volume levels at 22,000 Hertz (a need related to anti-aliasing)&hellip;&hellip;So, there seems some truth to the Golden Ears complaints that CDs sound harsh Another CD issue is the Nyquest criteria&hellip;&hellip;This criteria states that a waveform (frequency and amplitude) can be established by merely taking two samples per cycle&hellip;..(It is not exactly two samples per cycle)&hellip;..So, in essence a 20,000 Hertz sinewave (its amplitude and frequency) could be ascertained by taking to sample in each cycle, that is sampling at 40,000 samples per second. Well, this Nyquest criteria is true and not true&hellip;&hellip;The catch is that the Nyquest criteria requires sampling indefinitely, which is not reasonably possible with music.. &hellip;..Instrumentation Engineers, to get the frequency and amplitude accurately established, in a one to five minute piece of soundwave, will normally sample at five to ten (ten is standard) samples per cycle&hellip;&hellip;So, for a 20,000 hertz signal, the Instrumentation Engineer would sample at 100,000 to 200,00 samples per second&hellip; &hellip;.The ear is sound-wise far more sensitive than any piece of instrumentation, yet the CD is based on a mere sampling at the two factor. If the CD were being formulated anew today, as better technology now exists, one might see CDs with a frequency range of 20,000 Hz but with a slow roll-off to 100,000 Hz and with sampling rates of five samples per second at 20,000 Hz. These issues probably make the sound-wise comparison of black, silver, blue, green, and whatever colored-CD platters a mute subject yeme3@hotmail.com
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 15 May 02 06:45
re: black CDRs has not plextor offered a creative solution in this regard with their BLACK tray? (40x PlexWriter)
0 Agree

KyRoWire
CD Freaks Member
Posted on: 31 Aug 02 06:22
Black CD's? I don't believe any of the controversy around Black CD's. There IS a reason why black cd's work better on older lasers. On a CD-R, light is refracted through the polycarbonate layer only once. WIth CD-R's, it has to refract twice, bending the light ever-so-slightly more, which causes the CD player to read the CD twice moving the lazer slightly. With PSX black cd-r's, there is a black plastic layer inserted between the polycarbonate and the surface, which causes it to refract slightly more, adjusting the path to better suit the laser calibration. I *THINK* this is the case, and also provides an explanation as to why some dye types simply won't work well in older CD-readers.
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 02 Dec 02 19:20
Let me quote a peice from the link: <i>a significant amount of stray laser light bounced around the inside of the CD itself. This stray light eventually finds its way back to the pick-up assembly, creating jitter. Their solution was quite elegant - absorb the stray light</i>...so there! Only one point there - light travels fast. It'd have to do a lot of bouncing round the player for it to make a difference.
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 20 Jan 03 01:56
Ran out of Kodak CDRs and bought a spool of TDKs (CMC Magnetics). Started getting some awful crackling noise. Did a little investigating and it turns out its just crappy media. Also, Record at 24x = bad, 1x = good. NAD tech support FAQ says: All CD players employ error correction circuitry to &quot;cover up&quot; any missing information. This circuitry works by looking at the information both before and after the defect, and filling in with &quot;probable&quot; information. Since the missing information is usually short in duration, we don't notice that we are listening to probable rather than exact information. If too much information is missing, the player will mute until it starts receiving a good data stream again. This makes a &quot;clicking&quot; or &quot;popping&quot; sound as the player quickly mutes and unmutes. Defects are far more prevalent on CD-R's than on regular CD's. Why? Because a prerecorded CD is made from a precision master and the reflective layer is stamped giving a very accurate (usually) pit shape and profile. CD-R and CD-RW also have a different (lower) reflectivity than regular CD's, requiring a different laser characteristic to properly read them. And since they are &quot;burned in&quot; using a laser to alter the surface of the substrate, the size, shape, and depth of the pits is not as precise. The quality of the blank disc also plays a major role in the quality of the final product, as does the speed at which the disc is recorded. A general recommendation cannot be given on which blank discs to use, since each CD recorder has its own requirements. Not surprisingly, the machine that recorded the CD-R will give the most accurate playback.
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 16 Mar 03 18:39
You guys are overlooking one simple concept: Who said accurate sounded best? People like tubes and LP's not because they are are precise as CD, but because the distortion they add has a very warm and mellow tone. This idea is probably the same with the black CD-R's. Black DOES absorb stray radiation (of any kind) better than other colors, but it's possible the black color is just smoothing the upper frequency response of what the CD Player is reading off it. As if the player rolls off the top end because it can't get all the data correctly. Anyways, food for thought.
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 21 Jun 08 23:17
what about Wii games
0 Agree

guest
No longer with us
Posted on: 08 Sep 08 19:32
Black CDR's could theoretically be more accurate. But I don't understand how the concept of warmth could be applied to these cases in it they are digital recordings at the same bitrate. I have never aligned the concept of clean or accurate directly with warmth in terms of digital recording. Analogue - warmth. There is no bitrate but a continuous wave. However, more prone to distortion with aspects such as pitch as it relies on media and reproduction that can literally change with the weather. Also, for similar reasons analogue could be more prone to introduced noise as it resides on substrate that will, over time, physically degrade. Eventually, the signal will degrade because the media is so affected by its surrounding. I have always understood warmth, from the context of recorded audio, as having to do with ability to reproduce subtleties and also play them back in a way that does not so easily fall off into sonic distortion in terms of the actual audible data itself (so, not referring to the ability for analogue media itself to degrade but the harshness associated with digital recordings vs. analogue recordings). So, continuous wave is better at capturing the warmth of the recording but prone to degradation in terms of its physical substrate. Digital does not produce a continuous wave. It samples a waveform into tightly knot series of pulses. Digital - less distortion but lets face it - its individual pulses of sound spaced close enough apart to be acceptable to the human ear. Clean does not equal warmth as far as I understand. For this reason, some artist - esp. in terms of classic orchestral recording and jazz - still prefer to master in analogue. That has been my working theory. I love digital. But it has its limitations as does analogue. And yet, they still make audiophile turntables at 3K USD alongside high digital players and the evolution of digital recording at higher bitrates. So, I respect the possibility that black cdr's can be more accurate in playback, but not sure how the concept of warmth applies.
0 Agree

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