Smart and Friendly's CD Rocket Mach 12

by Hugh Bennett

April 2000 | Smart and Friendly never seems to have trouble eclipsing its past glories with its new recording bundles. The CD Rocket Mach 12 is no exception to the rule, being the first 12-speed CD recorder on the market.

Propelling the Mach 12 to supersonic speeds is Sanyo Electric's new CRD-RW2 CD-R/RW drive. Following on to the company's wildly successful series of eight-speed units, this latest-generation Sanyo offers unprecedented 12X CD-R and 4X CD-RW writing speed, 32X maximum CAV read performance, a 4MB buffer, flash firmware, Disc-At-Once (DAO) writing capability, low-bandwidth Running OPC, and available ATAPI or SCSI interfaces. All this comes combined with the promise of a revolutionary integrated technology for recovering from buffer underruns as well as support for business- card and 80-minute CD-R media, making the Mach 12 indeed a force to be reckoned with.

Smart and Friendly offers the Mach 12 in three configurations: a $299 internal ATAPI, a $399 internal SCSI model, and a $499 external SCSI version. The SCSI recorders come ready to go with an Advansys ASB-3940UA PCI SCSI card for Mac and PC, but what really sets the Mach 12 a cut above, apart from its performance, is the generous amount of high-quality bundled software. This includes full versions of Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4 Deluxe for Windows and Toast 4 for MacOS (external model only), PowerQuest Drive Image, Sonic Foundry CD Architect, Sonic Foundry Sound Forge XP, Diamond Cut Audio Restoration Tools 32, CD-Quickshare, and ECI Disc Inspector Pro. One obvious deficiency, however, is that Adaptec DirectCD isn't included, so PC users will need additional software to take advantage of packet writing.

on your mach: system requirements

In comparison to 8X recorders, which take nine minutes to write a full 650MB disc (or 74-minute audio), the new twelve-speed Mach 12 transfers data at 1800KB/sec and takes roughly six minutes to do the same task. CD-RW discs are written at 4X, which translates to about 20 minutes.

As might be expected, achieving higher performance comes at the cost of greater demands being placed on the host computer. Realistic requirements for a reliable system should include at least Power Macintosh G3 or Pentium II, with an Ultra DMA or fast SCSI-2 hard drive. When copying disc-to-disc, another consideration is to make sure you are using a fast enough CD-ROM drive to keep up the 12X recording process. Over the past few years, CD-ROM drives have used Constant Angular Velocity (CAV) technology to achieve higher reading speeds but, in so doing, many can't sustain a fast enough transfer rate across an entire disc to copy successfully at 12X. For example, most 24X and 32X CD-ROM drives operate at only 8X or 10X when reading the inside portion of a disc and, as a result, would be inadequate for 12X disc-to-disc copying. And Digital Audio Extraction (DAE), necessary for copying audio discs, is usually even slower.

Aware of these speed issues, Sanyo says it will be incorporating a revolutionary new feature into the CRD-RW2 called Buffer Under RuN-Proof (BURN-Proof). Not available in time for this review, Sanyo says BURN-Proof will eliminate ruined discs due to buffer underruns by letting the recorder pick up the writing process from where it failed. Reportedly, this is done without creating any link areas, so the recorder could recover from a buffer underrun on any type of disc, including audio CDs. If BURN-Proof lives up to the hype, it will be a significantly more important advance than 12X recording.

two to tango: the media mix and match

Every time there's an increase in the writing speed of CD-R/RW recording hardware, corresponding changes must be made in the blank discs to accommodate the jump. Such was the case when 8X technology was introduced, and the same now holds true with 12X systems. Desperately working to differentiate themselves from their competitors, numerous media manufacturers have rapidly embraced 12X by upgrading their products accordingly. As of January 2000, the Mach 12 officially supports several popular brands of CD-R media for 12X recording including Kodak, Fuji, Maxell, Mitsubishi, Verbatim, Mitsui, Pioneer, Ricoh, Smart and Friendly, Taiyo Yuden, and TDK.

Since there are over 60 companies in the world producing CD-R discs, hardware manufacturers such as Sanyo can't hope to test everything or keep up with all of the branded and rebranded media on the market. Consequently, it's safe to experiment with different products--keeping in mind, however, that just because a disc seemingly records at 12X doesn't mean that the result can be played back in all CD/DVD-ROM drives or audio players. An important feature of the Mach 12 is its adjustable recording speed, so if 12X-compatible media isn't readily available, the unit can also record at slower 10X, 8X, 6X, 4X, 2X, and 1X speeds.

twelfth night: how the mach 12 tested

Successfully writing high-quality discs at 12X is no small accomplishment, so the Mach 12's performance was evaluated by recording ten full 650MB discs from five manufacturers (two each of Kodak, Mitsui, TDK, Mitsubishi, and Taiyo Yuden), and then analyzing them using commercial-grade Philips and Audio Development test equipment.

Limited interchange testing was also performed by carrying out timed comparisons of recorded discs against source data, using 18 IDE/ATAPI and SCSI CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives. These consisted of Plextor (40X, 32X), Lite-On (40X), Kenwood (72X, 52X), Acer (36X), Teac (32X, 24X), LG Electronics (32X, DVD 4X/32X), Matsushita (24X, DVD 2X/20X), Pioneer (24X, DVD 10X/40x, DVD 6X/32X), Toshiba (24X), Hitachi (DVD 4X/24X), and Sony (DVD 5X/32X). While some companies struggle with the challenges of 8X recording, Sanyo has taken to 12X like an old pro and impresses with solidly written discs that compared on all of the drives at their full-rated speed.

In addition to heart-pounding 12X CD-R and 4X CD-RW recording speed, the Mach 12 offers state-of-the-art Constant Angular Velocity (CAV) reading capability with an advertised data transfer rate of between 12X min (1,800KB/sec) and 32X max (4800KB/sec), as well as a 150ms random access time.

Benchmark testing with TCD Labs' latest CD Tach 98 software turned up no surprises. The Mach 12 displayed a 10-pass average data transfer rate of 2081KB/sec at the test disc's inner diameter and 4709KB/sec at the outer diameter (16KB blocks), as well as a 129ms random access time. Additionally, CD-RW read speed was confirmed at between 8X (1,200KB/sec) and 20X (3,000KB/sec), with average Digital Audio Extraction (DAE) speed at 12X (1,800KB/sec).

the bottom line

With its screaming 12X performance, a full set of features, and a complete bundle of software, if you're looking to get the latest and greatest CD-R/RW drive, the Smart and Friendly CD Rocket Mach 12 has to be it.

That said, as happened with CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives, the speed of CD-R/RW drives is being driven by the need of manufacturers to differentiate their products rather than to fill consumer need for higher-speed devices. Consequently, you will be paying a slight premium to save only a couple minutes of recording time. For the price-conscious, it may be worthwhile to also look at 8X units such as Smart and Friendly's CD Rocket RW and Plextor's PlexWriter 8/4/32, which may not be as glamorous but will work well and save you a little money in your pocket in the process.

Smart and Friendly's CD Rocket Mach 12

synopsis: With its screaming 12X performance, a full set of features, and a complete bundle of software, if you're looking to get the latest and greatest CD-R/RW drive, the Smart and Friendly CD Rocket Mach 12 has to be it. The bundle includes: Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4 Deluxe, Toast 4 (external only), PowerQuest Drive Image, Sonic Foundry CD Architect, Sonic Foundry Sound Forge XP, Diamond Cut Audio Restoration Tools 32, CD-Quickshare, and ECI Disc Inspector Pro.

price: $299-$499

Smart and Friendly, Inc.
20520 Nordhoff Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311
800/959-7001, 818/772-8001
Fax 818/772-2888

Hugh Bennett (, an EMedia Magazine contributing editor and columnist for THE CD WRITER, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems (, 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.

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