Saturday, February 21, 2009

CD's: Retail or Recordable...
...which will last longer before the music eventually disappears?

Up-front, my eyes glaze over when I try to tackle something too complex. So I'll try to boil it all down here. On a site that I subscribe to, a sort-of 'tekkie' website, the debate was raging hot and heavy; which CD's last longer, retail or homemade? ('Homemade' meaning, here, a Blank CD that you record at home. A 'Recordable' CD is what I would call a home-made CD, by the way.) I would have to give the nod here to retail copies, since the music is actually stamped into the disc, and then covered with clear plastic. Since it's costly, prohibitive and yes, complicated to have a Pro-CD system at home, the CD scientists found another, more expedient way of recording CD's.

What they did, basically, was to invent a CD recorder for home use that would burn little opaque tidbit-blocks into your CD. The opaque spots on a Homemade CD, then, would correspond to the 'low points' stamped on Retail CD's. On a retail CD, the 'high points' of the stamp are responsible for the music you hear, with the little depressions being unreadable, and unique to the music on that CD. On Homemade CD's, the opaque spots are unreadable; the laser sees only the 'clear' portions in the CD 'groove'. Different ways of doing the same thing. Just keep your homemade CD's out of bright sunlight which may or may not be able to 'bleach out' the opaque portions, and your homemade CD should last a good long while.

Both Retail and Homemade CD's are coated with clear plastic, which prevents any kind of oxidation which, over time, would interfere with sound reproduction. Of course, all of this technology is still fairly new; there really isn't a 'timetable' of Actual Proven General Trends of CD sound vaporizing off the disc. And by the time that we do find out, the CD will probably be long dead as a music format anyhow. Confused yet? I wouldn't blame ya if ya were. I still kinda am myself...But Homemade CD's can (I said, "Can") last 10-15-maybe 20-years, from what I've read. CD's have only been available since the mid-80's, so the technology is still new enough, that nobody really knows how long CD's can last..

This isn't what they meant when they said you should invest in CD's...

Recordable CD's for home use have a capacity of 80 minutes, but you can't actually record that much onto a CD. My stand-alone burner (not hooked up to a computer) takes one minute and 10 seconds to 'finalize' the disc. (An example of how 'tekkie' I am: 'Finalize', to me, means the 'Final thing the CD Recorder does' before the CD is done'; I have no idea of what actually happens, although something happens...right?) Anyway, when I began recording on my stand-alone unit, I noticed that if I went past 79 minutes and a few seconds, the machine would stop automatically, with the words 'disc full' popping up on the L-E-D screen.

I haven't tried all the different CD brands, but I've used enough of them to be able to warn you to Stay Away from MEMOREX discs; it's a bummer to record for circa-80 minutes and then have a disc not be readable, and that's happened to me more with Memorex than any other brand. The most reliable brand I've found is FUJIFILM; most of the time, that brand works really well. I've also had good luck with MAXELL discs, and fair-to-middlin' luck with SONY discs. With a burn time of somewhere around 80 minutes, I can get Most of Two LP albums on one disc; if the albums are short (say, 15-17 minutes on a side), I can record up to two and a half albums on that disc. One British Group, the Dave Clark Five, recorded a whole bunch of songs that weren't even two minutes long; I crammed 32 of their tracks onto one Recordable CD. With an eye to the future, I've been recording LP's onto CD. It's amazing how heavy a box of LPs is. Maybe one of these days I'll downsize my vinyl. I said 'Maybe'. If I do that, I'll keep 'the good stuff' (well, my idea of 'good stuff'', anyway).

So here I am, thinking I'm such a hotshot, using all of this newfangled CD recording technology; I'm hep, I'm with it, right? Well, no...I mean, mp3's and the like are out there, but I have a sneaking suspicion the CD is about as current as I will ever get. Case in point: I have a Panasonic CD player which has some sort of 'import jack' for mp3, and I cannot visualize using that anytime in the Near Future. Maybe I should just wait until there is a means to record my entire record collection on something the size of a Postage Stamp....


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