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The CD Writer

Nothing Was Delivered

Bob Starrett

I try my best to keep current on all things CD-R, but sometimes itís difficult. While FireWire recorders are taking the world by storm, I have yet to touch one. Never mind that I was promised a review unit more than a year ago. Or was that a year and a half?

Iíve got the latest software, and it just keeps getting better and better. More features pop up with each new release from each software company. And besides the old standbys like Easy CD Creator, NTI CD Maker 2000, Prassi Primo CD, Gear Pro, Nero Burning ROM, HotBurn, CDRWin, and HyCD Publisher, there are new or recent players that warrant a look. Programs like Feurio have more features than youíll ever need. Stompís Click n Burn and Veritasí MyCD promise to make recording easier and easier for the masses.

There are lots of new utilities available, too. CloneCD is one. Copy protection? Bring it on! And lest you think I am touting piracy, remember that the law gives you the right to make backup copies of your computer software to CD.

Another nice one is CDIMAG, an interesting little program that lets you manipulate images made by the various other recording programs. On a side note, itís sort of ironic, from a standards point of view, that different recording programs make different images from the same source material. So much for ISO 9660.

So, I have had the chance to look at all this software and am aware of whatís out there. The same cannot be said of CD recorders. I have reviewed recorders for many years and have used and seen just about every recorder ever manufactured, until recently. Why is that? Well, there are a couple reasons, I am sure.

First, PR people and internal contacts at companies come and go. Those who you counted on to send you the latest and greatest for review have moved on, and the current press person may or may not know you or may or may not know your needs.

In addition, not all new drives are available on announcement, and sometimes announcements come far in advance of the actual availability of engineering samples or production drives. At least things are better than they were a few years ago, when some companies (not CD-R companies, but something with Blue in it) would make product announcements just to see what the interest was, intending to produce the product only if there was sufficient response to their feelers.

Used to be that TEAC would send each new recorder as it became available. You didnít have to ask for it; it would just show up for an EMedia review. Yamaha used to be good at getting current models to us, and Plextor still is. So now Yamaha has a 16X recorder. Does Bob see it? No. Where does it go? To PC Magazine, no doubt. Yamahaís professional computing products division no longer makes recorders. Its CD-R business is all operated out of L.A. now, with all the other walk-of-fame technologies. CD recording is hot. I donít have to tell you that. So now all the latest goes to the big pubs and rightly so, as far as marketing and PR are concerned.

But is that doing a disservice to the readers of EMedia who already have a good grounding in the technology? Does it do a disservice to the readers of the mainstream mags themselves? I donít know. But next time you see timing results from one of the big magazines who still spells compact disc with a k, and notice that one 12X CD-R drive was considerably slower at recording at 12X than another 12X drive, take a minute to stop and think about whatís going on. Manufacturers, what do you do when your drive is downgraded because it only records 12X at 8X?

As a general rule, EMedia does not do a lot of drive reviews anymore, unless there is something really innovative in a new piece of hardware. (BURN-Proof is a recent example.) By and large, a 12X drive is a 12X drive. Or is it? Are these things really commodities now and not edgy technology? There was a time, of course, when you could fault recorders mightily for various things, like 512KB buffers and inability to record Disc-at-Once, as was the case with some Sony recorders a few years ago.

Alas, a drive is just a drive today. You plug it in and it records CDs. For the most part, you donít need to worry too much about it. It is in software where the flexibility and excitement is today, where you can record a music disc from the simplest of MP3 software players or burn every conceivable format and more with some of the top-of-the-line professional recording packages. So I guess that the engineering samples and first-off-the-line new models of recorder go to the popular computer press so they can put them through their paces and occasionally print charts that show the same drive, under another brand name, beating the competition significantly in recording speed because they set the software parameters differently for each test.

But I wonít moan too much because there are things to come, innovations like double-density recording and other magic that EMedia, as a cutting-edge technology magazine, will still get first, to poke at, to prod, to test, and to review so those on the leading edge of recording technology can stay there. And perhaps even get it right the second time around. Weíll keep you informed.

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