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Discmatic ONYX Automatic CD Duplicator

Hugh Bennett

Discmatic ONYX Automatic CD Duplicator
synopsis: Competitively priced and offering a good stable of standard features, CBC (America)'s standalone, autoloading ONYX is well-suited to a range of CD duplication duties. Higher-volume users will appreciate the unit's solid design, while those who prize on-the-fly copying capability will find the optional CD-ROM drive an addition well worth the extra $300. Current shortcomings include the lack of 12X writing capability, a relatively slow and inefficient robot, and an incomplete and poorly-written manual. When it's all added up, the ONYX makes a better candidate for production environments and work at the back of the shop rather than for use in the front office.

price: $7,995, $8,295

CBC (America) Corp.
55 Mall Drive
Commack, NY 11725
800/422-6707; 631/864-9700
Fax 631/864-9710
http://www.discmatic.com

June 2000 | CBC (America), formerly Chugai Boyeki, popularly known as Discmatic, is one of the more recent entrants into the CD duplication market, and has shown promise to become an industry fixture. The latest addition to their line of disc production systems is the $7,995 ONYX Automatic CD Duplicator, which offers double the disc capacity and three times the throughput of its older AD-1050 sibling [See Hugh Bennett's review, September 1998, pp. 76-77--Ed.].

Housed in a large, cube-shaped sheet-metal case, the ONYX contains a disc transport robot in addition to four TEAC CD-R58S 8X write/24X read CD recorders, a 4GB hard disk drive, and an optional Plextor 40X max UltraPLEX CD-ROM drive. Separate 100-disc input and output spindles are accessible by lifting a clear plastic door on the left side of the unit, while a smaller spike is located behind the spindles to capture up to 12 rejected discs.

pick-and-place autoloading

Like the vast majority of autoloading duplicators currently on the market, the ONYX employs pick-and-place disc-handling technology because experience has confirmed its inherent reliability. A single disc-picking arm resides in a vertical carriage on the left side of the cube. A stepper motor and rubber timing belt move the assembly horizontally along two metal rails between the spindles at the front and the recorders located at the rear of the cube. Another stepper motor and timing belt then moves the picking arm vertically along a metal shaft so it can load and unload the recorders which are stacked in the form common to most duplicators.

One element that sets the ONYX apart from conventional designs, however, is that its picking system squeezes across on two opposing edges of a disc, thereby clamping onto it instead of using the more common mechanical center hole or vacuum lifting systems.

Reliability is critical for any robotic system, and during testing the ONYX didn't disappoint. The unit completed 2,000 disc input/output cycles without mishap and while it's impossible to determine long-term durability, the ONYX system's simple design appears to be quite dependable. A few small issues did surface, however, including the somewhat awkward placement of the spindles, the lack of an overflow sensor on the reject spike, and the fact that the autoloader isn't particularly fast. Additionally, the disc clamping system doesn't accommodate the smaller diameter (80mm) or business-card CD-R discs which are becoming popular for some applications.

standalone operation

As a completely standalone system, the ONYX obviously does not need to be connected to a computer to function. Instead, a standard R-Quest Technologies CD duplication controller acts as the brains for the ONYX. Operated through a six-button membrane keypad (up/down/yes/no/stop/go), the controller provides instructions and feedback through a four-line, 80-character backlight LCD display. Equipped with automatic format detection (so it isn't necessary for the operator to know technical information about the disc to be duplicated), the system copies most popular formats in both Disc-at-Once and Track-at-Once modes. CD-Text, CD+G/M, and UDF packet-written discs, however, are not supported.

Several copying methods are offered, but by far the simplest is batch duplication which involves placing the original CD to be copied (master disc) on the input spindle along with the number of blank CD-R discs to be written. The system then loads the master disc into the top recorder, creates an image of it on the internal hard disk drive, unloads the master, and continues to load and copy to as many blank discs as are found on the input spindle. Several masters may also be intermixed on the input spindle so multiple jobs can be set up for unattended batch copying. During initial testing, the batch duplication feature continually malfunctioned by accepting the first master disc encountered and then ignoring subsequent masters on the input spindle. Fortunately, the problem was overcome by an easily performed downloaded firmware update. The multiple master procedure thereafter worked flawlessly.

In addition to batch duplication, the ONYX can retain up to six images of full master discs on its internal 4GB hard disk drive to provide for later alternative copying. Users give each image a name (up to 14 characters) so that making copies from any of them simply involves selecting the appropriate image file and entering the number of discs to be recorded. The ONYX's image storage feature worked very well and proved to be a great timesaver. It even allows audio compilation discs to be created a track at a time from multiple audio master CDs. One minor annoyance, however, is that the hard disk must be periodically defragmented for images to be deleted and new ones added.

When equipped with the optional Plextor CD-ROM drive, the ONYX also offers direct CD-to-CD duplication. A quick way to make just a few copies, the CD-to-CD method allows on-the-fly duplication of a master disc placed in the CD-ROM drive to blank discs in up to three recorders at a time (using 8X speed). A hard disk image of the master can also be created while writing the first set of discs, but, due to performance limitations in the R-Quest controller, only discs in the first two recorders can be written to at the same time on the first pass. This fast copy process is an extremely handy feature that should be standard on all standalone autoloading systems.

To help ensure copying integrity, the ONYX offers several modes for verifying data discs, including reading back discs after writing and comparing them to the master source as well as a completely separate compare function. Since the TEAC recorders lack Running Optimum Power Control (ROPC) capabilities, read-back verification is an absolute necessity for critical applications.

the bottom line

Competitively priced and offering a good stable of standard features, CBC (America)'s standalone ONYX is well-suited to a range of CD duplication duties. Higher-volume users will appreciate the unit's solid design, while those who prize on-the-fly copying capability will find the optional CD-ROM drive an addition well worth the extra money.

For all its virtues, the ONYX does, however, have its shortcomings. These include the lack of high-speed 12X writing capability, a relatively slow and inefficient robot, and an incomplete and poorly-written manual. Additionally, the R-Quest controller's user's interface is also a little dated. When it's all added up, the ONYX makes a better candidate for production environments and work at the back of the shop rather than for use in the front office.


Companies Mentioned in This Article

R-Quest Technologies, LLC
410 Oak Hill Road, Placerville, CA 95667; 530/621-9916; Fax 530/621-3144; larry@r-quest.com; http://www.r-quest.com

TEAC America, Inc.
7733 Telegraph Road, Montebello, CA 90640; 323/726-0303; Fax 323/727-7672; http://www.teac.com


Hugh Bennett (hugh_bennett@compuserve.com), an EMedia contributing editor and columnist for THE CD WRITER, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems (http://www.forgetmenot.on.ca), a company based in London, Ontario, Canada offering CD and DVD-ROM recording, replication, and consulting services as well as CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RAM hardware, duplication systems, software, and blank media sales.

Comments? Email us at letters@onlineinc.com.


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