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Jeff's Last Jam

Jeff Partyka

February 2000 | In the July 1998 issue of this magazine, I gave version 2.1 of Adaptec's Jam CD recording software for the Macintosh a glowing review. I've been using it on a regular basis since; its impressive audio capabilities distinguish it from Toast for audio geeks like me. Jam allows cross-fading, recording-level adjustments, and loads of other audio-centric features that have enabled me to tweak the discs I make pretty much to my heart's content.

I actually should say that I was using Jam on a regular basis, until just recently. The long saga began when Adaptec upgraded Jam to version 2.5 later in 1998. I first saw a demo of the new version at Adaptec's booth during Online Inc.'s DVD PRO conference that fall. I was impressed by and excited about its new features, including a sound-level meter and the software's ability to find the optimum recording level automatically for each individual track without worry of distortion.

I was still covering the news beat for EMedia at that time, and Adaptec graciously sent me the 2.5 upgrade soon after the conference. I installed it right away, but soon noticed some anomalies. The first was that the automatic recording-level feature was not foolproof. Jam would tell me a track's optimum recording level was, say, 3.7, and then I'd burn the disc and hear digital distortion (a most unpleasant artifact) on the track, which obviously had burned too "hot" (loudly). That was no biggie; I just learned to bring the recording level down myself from Jam's suggested one (if it told me 3.7, I'd usually pull it down to 2.5 or so).

check speed

A bigger problem was its refusal to write my discs at 2X the maximum speed I had at my fingertips at that time (I was using a trusty Philips OMNIwriter CD-RW drive). I noticed that when I tried to do a "check speed" test for an individual track just before burning to make sure my system was up to snuff, the software would run the test at 1X, even if I'd set my recording speed at 2X. If I tried to burn at 2X, I'd get a coaster.

Again--and after discussing the matter via email with Adaptec's tech support folks, who suggested this very solution--I developed a workaround: I simply kept Jam 2.1 installed on my system and, after using all the cool features in 2.5 to compile my disc, I'd revert to 2.1 to record at 2X. A slight inconvenience, but it seemed like a small price to pay for stability, and I got used to it.

Then, just a few months ago, at long last, I decided to upgrade my Macintosh operating system from 8.1 to 8.6. I was pleased with the general performance of OS 8.6 in every area except one. I suddenly couldn't record at 2X at all anymore, not even with Jam 2.1. Suspecting the two-plus-year-old OMNIwriter's firmware was out of date--and realizing it was time to get my hands on a higher-speed writer--I acquired a Yamaha CRW6416SX CD-RW drive, which promised super-fast audio extraction and a maximum 6X recording speed.

My heart sank when I hooked the drive up to my Mac and found that Jam wouldn't "see" it. True, if I'd done all the investigating I should have before choosing that model, I would have known that Adaptec offers a plug-in for Yamaha's CRW4416 drives, but not the CRW6416 models. Not wishing to give up my new drive for the 4X model, I simply threw up my hands and bid Jam an unhappy farewell. Toast 3.5.7 came with the drive, and luckily works great with it, so I'm making do with that until Adaptec decides to provide us with a newly updated version of Jam.

the great unknown

I did write to Adaptec's sales team to ask if, as the owner of a Yamaha CRW6416SX, I could expect Jam support for my drive any time soon. "I am not sure when the drive will be supported or if it will be," came the reply. "It is possible that if this is a newer drive that it has not been tested yet [sic]."

The second part of that statement is fairly reasonable, although in this light the compatibility of Adaptec's own Toast 3.5.7 (not even the latest version) with the drive is a head-scratcher. It is the first remark that concerns me as an end-user.

Jam has not had nearly as many updates as Toast has, which leads me to believe it is a lower-priority product for the company. Will I and the other audio-centric CD-R users who happen to use currently unsupported drives have to wait months or a year or more before Adaptec decides to release a version of Jam that will support our CD recorders? (I know I'm not alone. I subscribe to Adaptec's own CD-R mailing list, and at least one other fella out there who owns the exact same drive as I do has written in to complain. And let's not forget the many others who've decided to suffer in silence.)

I don't mean to lash out at Adaptec, or even to retract the high praise I lavished on Jam back in July '98. It's still a fine product. The fact that the company has released a few plug-ins for Jam shows that at least it's making an effort not to forget us audio-oriented Mac users. And really this isn't a life-and-death situation; after all, it's only CD-R software we're talking about here.

All I'm saying is that it's a shame when, in the year 2000, an end-user has to retire a fine piece of software just because of a hardware incompatibility. If I ever need to, I can still plug in the good ol' OMNIwriter and use Jam at 1X speed. But I doubt I will. And, when you've used and enjoyed a software title as much as I have Jam, that's almost like saying goodbye to a close friend.

Jeff Partyka (jeffjp@yahoo.com), a former associate editor of EMedia, is working toward the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification, and is currently a Producer/Editor at TelekomNet.com Inc. in Boston. He is also an enthusiastic amateur singer/songwriter and recording artist.

Comments? Email us at letters@onlineinc.com.

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