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There are two main ways to go with a CD-ROM writer. One is a standalone audio CD recording deck, such as the Philips CDR-880, and the other is to buy a CD-R that goes inside your computer (or a CD-RW, which also makes rewritable discs, though don't count on using them for audio). There are also external units available for computers. A computer CD-R can either augment or totally replace your regular CD-ROM drive.

Standalone Audio CD Burner Pros and Cons


  • absurdly easy to use...like a tape deck, almost


Computer-based CD-R Burner Pros and Cons


  • can be even easier to use than a standalone (push one button and copy or burn a whole disc)
  • easily re-burn the same data over and over (for limited "mass" production of discs)
  • you can buy a high-speed CD-R recorder for less than any standalone unit
  • you have full control of mastering process (with the right software).
  • available software helps you lay out track sheets automatically
  • sound quality of digitally extracted CDs is not dependent on your sound card
  • uses standard CD-Rs available everywhere (usually $1 each or less)
  • you don't need a high-powered computer to burn CDs
  • while you're on the computer, you can also edit, tweak, normalize, compress, and add effects to your audio tracks with software before writing them to CD


  • you need a computer! But if you don't have one, how are you reading this? :-)
  • you can't do anything else with your computer while a CD is being burned (about 20 minutes at 4x speed)


SCSI, if possible.

I've heard of occasional problems with IDE-based CD-Rs, and if you also have IDE-based hard disks, you may have a problem since IDE controllers can't do overlapping operations the way SCSI ones can. SCSI is not nearly as complex as it used to be. In most cases, you just drop in a board and everything configures itself. I even have a SCSI card for my laptop that would be far more reliable than trying to use a (shudder) parallel port. If you have a newer computer with two bus-mastering EIDE channels, though, a good IDE-based CD-R recorder should do fine.

What Brand?

Before I bought my own unit, I did a lot of research (the same links I gave you back on this page). I had heard horror stories for years about incompatibilities, units that produced nothing but "coasters" (ruined CD-Rs are good for putting under drinks, although personally I think bad CDs (though not CD-Rs) also make great survival and camping mirrors), CD-Rs that would play on computers but not in cars or Walkm*ns or boom boxes, and so on. I found only one brand that was universally admired and "bulletproof", and that was Plextor.

For my new all-digital-all-the-time recording machine, I decided to buy a Plextor Plexwriter 4/12, which writes CD-Rs at 4x speed and reads regular CDs at 12x speed. I've been completely happy with the Plextor, and I have yet to make a coaster! It's the only CD drive I need, and it does everything from loading Windows and applications to digital extraction of audio data and writing data and audio CDs flawlessly at top speed. I lucked out and got the Plextor on a special deal (now expired, sorry) which bundled in a high-end Adaptec bus-mastering SCSI card and several great software packages for about $20 more than I was about to have paid for the bare drive. More about that software later...

People on the Mixmasters list have also recommended the Yamaha 4416S and the Ricoh MP 6200S, though one reports good luck with the IDE-based HP SureStore Plus. 

If, like most of us, you just want to burn MP3 and WAV audio and data files to CD-R and not do anything fancy, virtually any CD-R burner sold today should work fine, and they almost always come with software in the box that will let you do all of this, so just stop worrying and buy one already!
-- Dragon

Which Brand of CD-Rs Should I Use?

I don't personally have the time to test everything (heck, I just noticed I'm spending a lot more time doing Web sites than making my own music!), but I just did find a dandy page on TASCAM's site based on their own testing of different brands of CD-R media.

Reader Experiences

Dear Dragon: I bought the ACER 6206A for about $250. I thought is was just CD-R but it's CD-R/W. I got a thirty dollar rebate with that also. It's pretty cool. I'd recommend it to anyone. Everyone else talks about SCSI but you take up another slot and have to deal with compatability problems.

None here. Up running and recording like crazy. Pass on that it's much easier to put your stuff on the hard drive first and then to record to CD. It's quicker than straight from CD to CD! I have a 10 gig hard drive, $250, so I have lots of room and you can delete it once it's recorded to CD-R.

Try it man, you will most definitely be pleased!


P.S. It came with some great software. Go to ADAPTEC and get the upgrade though!

Saw your page on CD burners.. wanted to add my 2 cents.

I recently got my Memorex CRW-1622 for $170 after a $30 rebate. Pretty damn good deal, and the best part is, I got it expecting it to crap out, I mean, so many other burners are so much more expensive- anyway, no problems. I always make audio CDs from CDRs of the .wav files, works fine. Burn Disc at Once, 2x Speed. THe only problems I had was when my hard drive's TEMP directory was damaged, messing up the buffer. I've heard horror stories about peoples CDRs not working on different players, I've had mine played on dozens of players no problems so far. CDRs I've used are Sonys, Verbatims, and Fujis. Pretty much equal execpt the Fuji and Sony discs have subtle printing on the disc itself, so a label for the cd goes on real nicely. Some brands you can see through the label, and that looks really bad. I use a plunger thing (kinda like a Neato) for doing the labels for the discs.

Later, Brian
Brian Mulvey

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