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Your CD-R & DVD-R Questions Answered

Last month's feature article, "Not all DVD-Rs, CD-Rs Are Created Equal," proved to be our most popular article to date. We received lots of feedback from our readers and several questions, too. We selected four of these questions we thought were representative of your responses to share with everyone.

Q: So when my local electronics store, office supply store or big box retailer offers great prices on their CD-R packs, should I assume they are B or C quality discs?

Retail outlet stores typically sell “consumer” grade discs to users who only need to record music files or occasionally download files to a DVD; whereas distributors like Polyline supply “professional” grade media to duplicators, replicators, religious organizations and other organizations. Because the livelihood of these organizations depends on quality and because they are working with thousands and thousands of discs, they have a stronger need for CDs and DVDs that work consistently, meet specifications and can run in any number of machines.

Disc manufacturers provide the highest quality grade product to the biggest and most critical customers. If they don’t, they don’t get the business. If you were a manufacturer, who would you rather lose as a customer: the consumer who buys a pack of 25 discs every six months or the company that buys thousands of discs each month? The retail and professional markets have different needs and quality criteria, and disc manufacturers select the grade of product accordingly.

As we said last month, with digital media, you either have it or you don't. You can buy discs from your retail store down the street but, if you are selling CDs and DVDs as part of your goods and services, you need professional grade media. Consumer users who are, for example, saving family photos on discs may also want to purchase professional grade CD-Rs/DVD-Rs for the same reason the professionals do.

Q: What is truly being done to ensure the compatibility of name brand media?

We think the biggest step is being taken by the major patent holders for CD-R and DVD-R technology who are cracking down on patent and licensing violators. When a patent holder extends licensing rights to a manufacturer, that manufacturer is agreeing to comply with the standard specifications of that product. Theoretically, if every media manufacturer and equipment manufacturer creates products exactly to spec, every disc will work in every machine.

The standard specifications, however, also allow for variances. These variances are supposed to allow manufacturers to make innovations and possibly even improvements to existing technology. In the case of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, manufacturers differentiate themselves with the quality and quantity of dyes that are used in their discs.

That is why Polyline only carries major brand name CD-Rs and DVD-Rs. These large companies have a tremendous amount invested in their brand name and would not risk their reputations by cutting corners or producing inferior product.

Q: I find your original article ambiguous. Name names!
Polyline is approached by a large number of suppliers who want us to carry their products. We've decided a long time ago that Polyline will only carry name brands that we know consistently provide good quality CD-Rs and DVD-Rs. So, you could say we're a little bias. There are several sites, however, that pull no punches about making quality assessments on a number of brands: – several pages have not been updated for a year or more, but we like the organization of the site and its stated policy of avoiding excessive jargon. – in the DVD Media Lists, users report reviews of media they have used – including the complete media code, the date the DVD-Rs was purchased, equipment used to burn the disc, burn speeds and what equipment they tried to play the disc on.

Q: Why can't I find discs that work with my recorder/burner anymore?

We hear this question more from people using DVD-R media than those using CD-R media. This is probably because CD-R recording speeds have pretty much been maxed out. So, unless you bought your CD-R recorder in the late 1990s, you should be able to find media that still works with your equipment. DVD-Rs, however, are continuing to double in speed regularly, which is causing some problems for people with older recording equipment.

We know that the newer 16X drives are able to record on 16X, 8X and 4X media. The reverse, however, is not always true. If you have an 8X or slower DVD-R recorder/duplicator, it's best to avoid the 16X discs. We also know that if you are using a 16X drive and an 8X disc, your recording speed should be set at 8X.

Those of you with 4X drives will remember that your equipment manufacturer provided firmware that allowed you to update your equipment to burn at 8X speeds. You'll also remember that 16X firm wear was not made available. One equipment manufacturer we talked to said that, while the new 16X speeds would be coming down the pike, they thought it would take longer to develop the media than it did. In short, many manufacturers assumed the drives would fail (through natural life expectancy) before the 16X discs were readily available and, therefore, did not make the earlier machines capable of another speed upgrade.

Thanks again for all your questions and comments about last month's article. We look forward to running more Q&A articles like this in the future.

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