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Best Burning Practices For Audio

CD-RHawksM17 December 2009

In order to get the best results for burning audio on blank CD-R media, it’s important to have some basic information about the CD burning process. The three factors that will determine the overall quality of your burn are the type of burning hardware, the type of CD you’re burning, and the speed you choose to burn it at.

The type of burning hardware will mostly affect the consistency of the burn. A laser is a laser, and because of the digital nature of CD’s, there is no such thing as a physical error on a CD itself – the data is either a 1 or a 0, a bump or a flat surface, a translucent area or a darkened one. However, the process by which those digital bumps are burned into the surface is truly analog, so if the hardware or laser assembly is inconsistent or faulty, the result will be a bad or unusable burn.

The biggest difference the type of CD you’re burning onto will make is how long the data will last. Typically, inexpensive CD-R’s will have data loss much faster than more expensive ones. Since CD-R burning technology is relatively new, there isn’t going to be data to tell if these discs hold up for 50 years or not. The common consensus is that commercially produced CD’s will stay usable the longest (with some specific dyes and chemicals being considered “archival”), and that more expensive CD’s with high quality materials will last longer than more cheaply made ones. This is one case where you get what you pay for! Taiyo Yuden has the best reputation for audio quality, with companies like Verbatim, Mitsui, Sony close behind. When choosing CD’s for your audio burn, be sure to look up the most recent buyer reviews.

The speed you chose to burn your audio CD-R at can potentially have a major impact on the quality of the eventual product as well. The slower the speed, the sharper the edges will be on the dyed vs. non-dyed segments of the audio, and the more accurate the burn will be. The write laser of your burner is simply on or off, but at high speeds like 24x or 48x, jagged or blurry edges on the CD surface can cause jitter or potentially even skipping. Recognize also, that burning wav files is different than burning mp3’s. Much of the data is already gone from the mp3 files, so the addition of a quick burn to an already lossy-encoded audio file may lead to audio artifacts. Musicians and producers will often suggest burning as slow as at 2x or 4x speeds.

For your best audio quality, burn uncompressed audio files with well-maintained CD-R burner, with high quality CD-R’s at a low speed. Your ears will appreciate it!

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