CD Recorders Getting Cheaper, More Plentiful

CD audio recorders are becoming affordable and more available. Philips' CDR880 (reviewed by Wes Phillips in the current issue of Stereophile) will be in dealers' showrooms soon at a suggested retail price of $649. Pioneer will also have an inexpensive recorder on the market---the PD-R555RW, which will reportedly sell for $599. These two---and others that will no doubt follow---are welcome relief from the four-figure machines that have dominated the recordable audio CD niche.

Recording enthusiasts on a budget shouldn't overlook offerings from the computer industry, where CD "burners," as personal-computer CD-recording devices are called, have been popular and affordable for a long time. There are dozens of models of PC CD-R units available, some priced as low as $300, like the Memorex CRW-1622 and the Acer CD-RW 6206A. Hewlett-Packard has recently announced two new internal CD-R drives, the SureStore 8100i and 8110i CD-R and CD-RW CD Writer(s), which retail at about $400. H-P has also announced a price reduction on its 7200-series drives.

Entry level for disc-to-disc copying is now about $300, assuming you already have a CD-ROM drive in your computer. Basic software to run the recorders is bundled with them; more extensive software, like Adaptec's Easy CD Creator, runs about $100 extra. The software has a feature called CD Spin Doctor, which purportedly will eliminate many annoying pops and scratches from old records.

CDs hold a hefty amount of data---650 megabytes per disc. CD-R blank discs sold for audio use are priced at $6-$10 each due to fees tacked on by the music industry for revenue supposedly lost to pirates, home recordists, and other scalawags intent on bypassing the retail system. (Transferring your own legally purchased CDs onto any other medium for your own use is a legal activity, by the way.) Data-grade CD-R discs are functionally identical to audio-grade discs, except that they lack a flag in the header identifying them as audio discs, and can be found at prices below $1 each at discount outlets and by mail order. Some folks have reported buying them in bulk for as little as 50 cents each.

Consumer-grade audio recorders, like the Philips CDR880, are designed to work only with flagged discs, and adhere to the Serial Copy Management System, which prevents the production of multiple copies. PC CD-R drives are capable of copying ad infinitum, and at much lower cost.

Recordings made on CD-R discs are permanent and non-erasable. CD-Rewriteable (CD-RW) is an expensive ($25/disc) alternative medium that can be erased and used repeatedly. The reflectivity of rewriteable discs is not as high as that of factory pressings or CD-Rs, however, and playing these discs might be problematic with some older CD players and personal portables. Most newer machines---and even cheap portables---should play them without a hitch.