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CD-R Quality
  • Introduction
  • CD-R Quality vs CD-R Compatibility
  • CD-R Quality Factors
  • CD-R Test Method
  • CD-R Quality Results
  • CD-R Quality Overview
  • Conclusion
  • Related Links
  • Introduction
    Low CD-R media prices, unknown CD-R vendors, conflicting claims by these vendors, then there are the green / gold / blue dye's and gold / silver metallizations. All this information is very confusing to the CD-R buyer. Users just want quality CD-R's for a low price but usually this does not mix...

    There are a lot of these low budget CD-R's on sale everywhere but no-one can really tell what the quality of these CD-R's is and will be the impact of ageing is on the CD-R's. Some people think that CD-Recordable media will last as long as any normal CD but this is not true!

    In early 1999 a few computer magazines in Europe featured a very interesting article on the quality of CD-R's. In this article a total of 170 CD-R's (17 brands, 10 per brand) were subjected to a test and the results varied a lot.

    Some CD-R manufacturers claim that they have quality CD-R media just by testing the compatibility with all kind of CD-Writers. Let's be clear: Compatibility does not equal Quality!

    This article will give you some insight on the real quality for those low budget CD-R's which are sold everywhere now.

    The article was also featured in the Belgium Computer Magazine Issue 89 - February 1999 (Word 6.0 document / French language).

    CD-R Quality vs CD-R Compatibility
    Most people think that when they have burned up a spindle and did not get any coaster that the quality of these CD-R's was very good. In fact this is NOT true as this only tells you that the used CD-R's are compatible with your CD-Writer.

    Over the years most CD-Writer manufacturers have learned how to make their hardware compatibility with all kinds of CD-R's (even the low budget media!) so it is not strange that less coasters occure.

    So keep in mind that nobody can claim that a certain CD-R is of good quality just by successfully burning a number of CD-R's!

    CD-R Quality Factors
    The quality of CD-R's is directly related with the time the CD-R's will last without losing the information on them. The second important issue is that the CD-R can be used on any kind of CD-Reader without any problems.

    One of the solutions to test the quality is to write a few CD-Rs, then wait about 25-50 years and check if the CD-R's still hold the correct data. This is ofcouse a bit extreme.

    A better solution is to use the CATS CD-R/CD-RW Analyzer which is made by Audio Development. This company is market-leader in supplying reliable automated test systems for all CD & DVD media. The CATS Analyzer is a complete hardware & software test solution which is build around the Philips CDM4 Optical Drive. This drive is specially designed to retrieve very accurate information from a CD.

    CD-R Test Method
    The idea is to speed-up the ageing process of a CD-R from about 25-50 years to only a few days. The answer for this is to use a Climate-Chamber, which artificially ages CD-R's by exposing them to extreme temperatures and humidity.

    Before the CD-R's go into the Climate-Chamber a number of them are written to, then they are subjected to the CATS CD-R Analyzer to measure the current quality. After they are "aged" for a number of days the same measurements are conducted again to check for differences.

    When the differences are minor then the quality of the CD-R is good, when there are big differences then this means the Data on the written CD-R's is not useable anymore which results in a low quality CD-R.

    During the actual test a total of 136 CD-R's (8 per brand) were burned and then the CATS CD-R Analyzer was used to measure the Before results.

    Then all 170 CD-R's were put in a Climate-Chamber which artificially "aged" the CD-R's (this test method is called the Cyclic Damp Heat Test). The CD-R's where left in this Climate-Chamber for 1 week, where they were exposed to extreme temperatures and humidity.

    After this week the 34 CD-R's (2 per brand), which where not burned yet, were burned on a Plextor CD-Writer at single speed & quad speed.

    After this all 170 CD-R's were subjected again to the CATS CD-R Analyzer to get the After results.

    CD-R Quality Results
    Both Before and After tests were compared and here are the results of the test:
    Brand Factory Quality Misc
    Imation Taiyo Yuden Good  
    Kodak Kodak Good  
    Philips Gold Kodak Good  
    TraxData Gold Kodak Good  
    Philips Silver Taiyo Yuden Good  
    Ricoh Premium Ricoh Good  
    Sony Taiyo Yuden Good  
    TDK TDK Good  
    NoName Mitsubishi Mitsubishi Medium  
    Ricoh Standard Ricoh Medium  
    That's Taiyo Yuden Medium  
    Arita Ritek Bad  
    Philips IQ Silver Ritek Bad Problems writing the "aged" CD-R's
    TraxData Silver Ritek Bad  
    NoName Ritek Ritek Bad  
    FujiFilm Ritek Bad Problems writing the "aged" CD-R's
    NoName Fornet Fornet Bad  

    Good Quality Results:

    • Do not have any problems with the aging process.
    • Don't have errors.
    • Can write at all speeds it is supposed to be able to handle.

    Medium Quality Results:

    • Don't have major problems with the aging process.
    • Still have errors which can't be corrected.

    Bad Quality Results:

    • Totally can't handle the aging process.
    • Too many errors which can't be corrected.
    • Are not suited to record AUDIO data.
    • Have problems writing at speeds higher than 1x.

    The article also encountered a very bad TraxData Silver batch (which came in softcase), which was very sensitive to UV light. While testing the CD-R's a lot of errors were encountered exactly where there was no print on the label (so you could "read" the Traxdata logo in the errors!) It seemed that the ink was hardened with UV light thus causing the errors.
    This faulty batch was replaced by TraxData for a "better" one before the above results.

    CD-R Quality Overview
    The most common factories of quality CD-R's are:
    CD Manufacturer CD Brand
    Mitsui Chemicals HP, Mitsui, Philips & Sony
    Taiyo Yuden Company Limited Taiyo Yuden, 3M, Sony, Philips, Boeder & Imation
    TDK Corporation 3M, Pioneer, TDK & Yamaha
    Kodak Japan Limited BASF & Kodak
    Pioneer Video Corporation Pioneer
    Ricoh Company KAO & Ricoh

    Factories of medium quality CD-R's are:

    CD Manufacturer CD Brand
    Mitsubishi Chemicals Corporation Sony, Traxdata & Verbatim
    Hitachi Maxell, Ltd. KingTech & Maxell
    Fuji Photo Film Co, Ltd. FujiFilm


    Factories of low quality (=cheaper) CD-R's:
    CD Manufacturer CD Brand
    Princo Corporation BTC, Princo & KingTech
    Gigastorage Corporation Gigastorage
    Lead Data Inc. Lead Data, Lenco & Targa
    Fornet International Pte Ltd. Fornet & Magnex
    Ritek Co. Arita, BASF, Dysan, FujiFilm, Hi-Space, Intenso, JTEC, Memorex, MegaData, , MMore, Onkyo, Philips, Pony, Ricoh, Rimax, Samsung, Targa, TDK, Traxdata, Waitec & War
    CMC Magnetics Corporation BASF, CMC & Imation
    About 95% of the current blank NoName CD-R's are made in these low quality CD factories.

    Factories for which not enough info is available to come to a conclusion:

    CD Manufacturer CD Brand
    CDA Dateträger Albrechts GmbH CDA & FNAC
    Postech Corp. Laser
    Xcitek Inc. BestMedia
    Multi Media Masters & Machinary Polaroid
    Prodisc Technology Inc. ProDisc
    The conclusion is very simple:  Quality & Low Prices just don't mix!

    There are a lot of low-budget CD-R's of which the quality is very bad. For some applications, like games, the quality doesn't matter much as this is not critical data. For vital data, like backups, it is very important to choose a CD brand which will keep your data intact for a long time.

    The biggest low-budget CD-R vendor here in Europe CD-R's is Ritek. Especially the ones made for Arita are well known everywhere.
    Ritek prides itself on the quality of their CD-R's but it seems that the CD-R's made in the their factories are not as good as they say!

    Keep in mind that CD-R vendors sometimes change from one CD factory to another and then sometimes keep the same CD layout and type. This can be very confusing. More on this issue can be read in the CD Factories article.

    Also don't confuse CD-R Compatibility for CD-R Quality as they are two totally different things!

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