CDR Burning FAQ
CDR 101. The following thread will cover burning hardware, software, burning media, burning techniques, burning etiquette, etc. In other words, this is a very comprehensive instruction on burning CDRs. The section on CDR Burning is a must read for all, not just beginners.
Buying a CDR
Which burner should I buy?
Picking out a CD burner can often be a complicated and overwhelming task. There are many to choose from and many different options. However, when it really comes down to it, most burners are pretty similar. Every burner that I have used has had the potential of burning perfect clones. However, what kind of software you use, and how your computer is configured will make the difference as to whether or not you burn perfect clones.
Internal or External?
The first decision you will need to make is whether you want an internal or an external CD burner. An internal burner is installed in an open bay in your computer (like installing a disk drive), whereas an external drive hooks into your computer through a parallel port (the same thing you use to hook up your printer most likely). The main advantage internal drives have over external drives is that they are cheaper. The advantage of an external drive is that it's fairly simple to move it from computer to computer. If you have a friend who wants to burn a large quantity of CD's from you, you can simply let him borrow the burner for a week or so.
What speed burner should I buy?
Now days most burners are listed with multiple speeds (i.e. 24 by 8 by 4). The only speed that is really important is the write speed. The read speed is basically irrelevant, because you will be using your CD-ROM, not your CD burner, to run programs and do your extracting. A 1x write speed burner will write a disc in real time, which means a 70 minute CD will take 70 minutes to write. A 2x write speed burner will take half that time, a 4x speed burner will do it in a quarter the time, and so on.
Why does it matter what software I use?
CD trading, when done correctly allows you to copy a recording without causing any generational loss at all. In other words, if I have a CD, I can make a friend a copy, and both discs will be exactly the same. However, most CD burning software packages sacrifice perfection for speed. Often you won't notice these errors because they normally take the form of tiny pops which are not always audible. The problem is that as the CD's go down the generations (i.e. you copy it for a friend, he copies it for his friend, etc.) the pops get louder and more annoying.
Why do most software packages cause errors on CDrs?
The simple answer to this is that most people do not use their CD burners to collect live music that may be umteenth generation copies. As I indicated above, often errors do not become apparent until a couple generations down the line. Therefore, if you are copying a regular store-bought CD (which I do not advocate because it's illegal), you probably won't notice any problems. Because of this most software manufactures have sacrificed perfect quality for speed. 99 percent of these errors are caused during the process of digital audio extraction (DAE). DAE is the process by which your computer reads the data from a CD and converts the music on the CD into .wav files (.aiff files if you use a Mac). This is a tough process for your computer to handle, and often a bit here or there is missed when reading from the CD. The spot where the bit is missed will often lead to those annoying pops.
What software package should I use to extract .wav's to my hard drive?
The only program which is capable of producing perfect DAE all the time is Exact Audio Copy (EAC). Unlike other software packages, Exact Audio Copy checks over CD multiple times to make sure that all of the data is extracted correctly. You can download it for free at the Official EAC website. For additional information and EAC troubleshouting, check out Dick's Unofficial EAC Page.
What software package should I use to write .wav's to CDR's?
Unlike DAE, writing .wav's to CDR's is a relatively perfected process, provided you take all the necessary precautions listed in the burning section of this FAQ. Most programs are capable of writing .wav's to CDR's without causing any errors. The most popular one is CDRWin. Another commonly used one is Adaptec Easy CD Creator. If you are using Adaptec EZCD, make sure your version is upgraded to 3.5c. You can download the free upgrade at the Adaptec Homepage.
What brand of CDR's should I buy?
Unlike tapes, where the Maxell XL-2 has been the standard for years, there is no brand of CDR which has emerged as the clear-cut favorite among CDR traders. I have used many other brands of CDR's and never had any problems, including Kodak, TDK, Memorex, Verbatim, and Sony. The CDR's you want to stay away from are Maxell, and generics (i.e. CompUSA brand). Not to say the generics are definitely a poor quality disc, it's just poor etiquette to trade this type of CDR.
What makes some CDR's better than others?
Unlike an analog tape, the actual sound quality will never vary depending on what brand of CDR you use. The main variable which makes some CDR's better than others is their compatibility with different CD players, CD-ROM drives, and burners. For example, many older CD players, as well as many newer car CD players and portable CD players, will not play Maxell discs. Because of this CD traders will often refuse Maxell CD's in trades. The same holds true for generics. Another problem with some discs is that DAE does not work well off of them. If you try to copy a show which is recorded on a sub-par brand CDR, often you will end up with a copy that has annoying pops and crackles on it.
Should I write on my CDR's?
There has been a lot of dispute over this question. Writing on CDR's won't cause any immediate problems (provided you don't write on the side with the music on it), and some companies have actually begun selling CD Writing Pens. However, since CDR's haven't been around for too long, the long-term effects of writing on CDR's is rather uncertain. Some people hypothesize that the ink will over time bleed through the CD and cause damage to it. The best way to be certain your CDR's won't be damaged is to write on the clear plastic ring in the center of the CD where no data is stored.
What's the deal with CDR stick-on labels?
There are quite a few computer programs which will print out stick-on labels which attach to the top of your CDR's and give them a snazzy, professional look. Although they look cool, there are some potential problems they can cause which you may want to consider before dressing up your entire collection. I have heard of incidents from people where the labels have come off while the disc was playing and have jammed up CD players. This mostly occurs in car CD players. Another problem which arises with the labels that don't cover the entire CD is that they may cause the CD to become unbalanced which will cause it to not play in some CD players. Flawless DAE is also impacted by these labels. I would aviod using these if you ever hope to make copies of your CDs later
How should I take care of my CDR's?
The most important thing to realize if you want your CDR's to last a long time is that they are much more fragile than regular CD's. CDR's scratch very easily (much easier than regular CD's), and therefore they should always be stored in their jewel cases. Additionally, CDR's should be kept away from extreme temperatures, and especially away from sunlight. It can take less than 10 minutes of direct sunlight to fry a CDR.
How much music can I put on to a CDR?
Currently CDR's come in two lengths. 74 minute and 80 minute. If you are putting MP3's directly on a CDR, you can put much more music on them, however they will only play on your computer, not your CD player, and the audio will not be CD quality. Trading etiquette dictates you use 80 minute CDRs.
How long will my CDR's last?
One of the biggest advantages CD's have over tapes, records, and even DAT's is that they last much longer, and do not easily deteriorate. Because of this many people see CDR as a great media for archival purposes because they last so long. However, CDR's are not constructed the same way as CD's, and this has caused some speculation on the issue. Some studies say CDR's will last 100 years. Some say 500 years, and some say only 10 years. Will CDR's last until the next century? Really the only way to know is to wait 100 years. The only thing that is known for sure is that CDR's will not last long if they are not properly adequately cared for.
What's the difference between CDR and CDRW?
CDR stands for "compact disc recordable." CDRW stands for "compact disc rewritable." Data (or in our case music) can only be written onto a CDR once, which means once you've recorded onto one, you can't erase it, and you can't add to it. Unlike CDR's, the information on a CDRW can be erased and new information can be written in its place. However.......most CD players cannot read CDRW's. Some can, but for the most part CDRW's can only be read by CD-ROM drives. Because of this, you should never use CDRW's in trades. Even if they will play on your CD player, chances are they will not play in the CD player of the person you are trading with. Additionally, CDRW's are more expensive than CDR's.
What precautions should I take before burning CD's?
The most important thing to do before burning CD's is to ensure that all programs are closed. The less amount of programs running, the more likely you will successfully burn a perfect digital clone. To see what programs are currently running, hit "ctrl-alt-delete" simultaneously if you are using windows. Close as many as possible, however certain programs will be required to keep your computer running, and that varies with different models. The best thing to do is experiment. Try closing one of the programs, and if your computer still works fine, keep it closed when burning. Programs which are notorious for causing errors on CD's or bad burns are Anti-Virus programs and screensavers. To turn off your anti-virus, try click on the icon at the bottom right of your screen which stands for your anti-virus program, and then hit "close." To disable your screen saver go to "start" "settings" "control panel" "display" "screen saver." Either set your screen saver to "none" or set it so that it waits at least an hour to come on.
What kinds of files can I put onto CDR's?
The only types of files which can be burned onto a CD (assuming you want it to play in a CD player) are .wav's, or .aiff's if you're using a Mac. If you want to put other types of music files such as .shn's or .mp3's onto CDR they must be converted to .wav's first.
What is DAO?
DAO stands for Disc-at Once. When a disc is burned DAO, the .wav files are written to the blank CD all in one step without the lazer stopping. If discs are not written DAO, annoying 2-second gaps will be inserted between every track. This is why almost all CDR traders require that all discs be recorded DAO.
How do I burn discs DAO?
This differs depending on which software package you are using to write the .wav's to blank CD's. If you are using CDRWin it will automatically burn discs DAO, so no additional setup is necessary. If you are using Adaptec Easy CD Creator, (this might be outdated instruction) cancel the wizard, and drag the tracks down that you want to burn. Then click the button on the toolbar with the red circle on it. Click on the "advanced" tab. Click on the circle that says "disc-at-once" next to it, then click "ok."
Why is disk-to-disk burning bad?
Most software packages have the option of disk-to-disk recording. This means you can put your source CD in your CD-ROM drive, a blank in your burner, and your computer copies it in one step. While this is a convenient way to copy CD's, it is not recommended. Reading a source CD and writing to a blank CD are both (in simple terms) complicated processes which are not easy for a computer to perform. By doing them both at once, which is the case with disk-to-disk recording, you are basically asking your computer to do more at once than it is capable. Burning disk-to-disk will greatly increase the likelihood of errors on the CD's you burn. In addition, it will highly increase the amount of burns which will go bad. When a burn goes bad, it usually stops in the middle of burning, and then you are stuck with a CD, which either won't play or will only play the first few tracks. The best way to copy a CD is to first extract .wav files onto your hard drive, and then write the .wav's to the blank CD.
How do I extract .wav files from CD's?
The process of extracting .wav files from CD's is referred to as "ripping," "digital audio extraction (DAE)", or just "extraction." Many programs can do this, but the one that is preferred by most CD traders, and which I highly recommend using is Exact Audio Copy. To extract put your source CD in your CD-ROM drive, and open EAC. Highlight the tracks you want to extract, and then go to the "action" tab, and then select "copy selected tracks." Note, this is not copying the music to a blank CDR, but rather, copying the music to your hard drive in .wav form. Make sure you pay attention to where on your hard drive your .wav files are being stored so that you can access them when you want to burn them onto a blank CDR.
Why does everybody use Exact Audio Copy (EAC)?
EAC is the only CD ripper which re-checks each sample over and over again to correct any errors that were caused during extraction. Additionally, after every extraction, EAC provides a status report which indicates the extraction quality for every track. If it does not come out to 100%, refer to the question below. Because errors are inevitable during the process extraction, the only way to prevent them is to always use EAC, and make sure that your status reports always report 100% track quality for every track. You can download EAC for free from the official EAC website.
What should I do if my EAC track reports are not indicating 100% track quality?
The "track quality" reports are actually misleading. If you get a track quality of less than 100% it means that EAC had to reread part of the track in order to make a perfect extraction. As long as no "suspicious positions" show up, it's nothing to be worried about.
Can I use my computer while CD's are burning?
The answer to this technically is yes, but like disk-to-disk burning I strongly recommend that you don't do it. Burning a CD is a complicated process that takes up most of your computer's resources. By running other programs while burning (or extracting .wav's from) a CD, you will encounter most of the same problems associated with disk-at-once recording including bad burns and errors on discs. The best thing to do is close out of all programs while burning.
Does it matter what speed CDR's are recorded at?
As technology has progressed CD burners have gotten faster and faster. Burning at faster speeds will not cause errors or sub-par quality CD's provided that you are not recording disk-to-disk and that the blank CDR's you are using are compatible with your burning speed. This is normally listed on the box the CDR's come in their jewel case inserts. Most CDR's are compatible with up to 24x burning, but it's always a good idea to check first. I burn everything at 52x and I almost always have no trouble.
How can I test to make sure I am burning perfect clones?
If you click on the "sound" tab of EAC there is a command called "compare wavs." This command will compare 2 .wav's bit by bit and report any spots where the 2 files are different. The best way to test your system is to take a CD, copy it, and then extract the same .wav (i.e. track 2) off both discs. Then use "compare wavs" to make sure they are identical. If there are no discrepancies reported, you are burning perfect clones. If there are spots where the .wav's are different, errors are popping up on the CD's you're burning. I would suggest reading through this section of the FAQ. You might be missing a small detail that is causing your CD's to come out imperfect.
Can I copy tapes onto CDR's?
The short answer to this is yes. However, you cannot improve the quality of a recording by simply copying it onto CD. It will still suffer from the same limitations as an analog tape (i.e. tape his). You can convert a tape to .wav form, bounce up the levels, and then copy it to CD, but this is something which you can easily do with 2 tape decks. If you do copy tapes to CD, it's best you only use them for your own private listening. They should not be circulated.
Turns out not where but who you are with that really matters.
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