Overburning: 100 Minutes of Music per CD
The ads suggest that CD burners are getting faster and faster. The current pack of CD burners, which can turn out CDs at 32x, will soon be eclipsed by a new breed of even more powerful models that have recording speeds of 40x or even 48x. In our latest tests (The Outer Limit: CD-Rs with 80, 90 and 99 Minutes and Serious Burn: Copying CDs In Just 3 Minutes), we showed that it's possible to copy a normal CD ROM in about three minutes using 24x burners. If we extrapolate this speed for a 32x burner, we should be able to create a copy in two and a half minutes.
Overburning: 100 Minutes of Music per CD, Continued
But is that all there is - speed and burn time? Do people buy
CD burners based on their ability to churn out data CDs, or do they want to
create backup copies by the truckload? Most of the test reviews on CD burners
have focused on factors such as error correction, data transfer rate and
recording speed. But the question remains: how well can these devices overburn
music CDs, how well can they pack 90 minutes and more onto one CD? The flip side
of this question is equally important: which playback devices are actually
capable of handling these oversized CDs? We aren't just talking about audio CDs
here. After all, you can also burn data CDs with over 890 MB of data. This
question is of particular interest to MPEG-4 enthusiasts (XFlask 4.3a and Divx
5.0 Pro) who are often stuck with an enormous amount of data after converting a
DVD to MPEG-2 format. In this case, it can be a big help to be able to burn a
two-hour movie in MPEG-4 format onto a single CD ROM that offers a capacity of
almost 900 MB.
In this article, we tackle the issue of overburning. It turns out that this is not as trivial a problem as the majority of manufacturers proclaim. A list of overburn features on a package is by no means a guarantee that everything will work out in practice. But first, the good news -- CDR-99 blanks can hold more than 100 minutes of music or up to 900 MB of data!
CDR-99: The Lowdown on Oversized CD Blanks
The CD-R21, CD-R74 and CD-R80 formats are based on the CD standard, which was established some time ago. The latest formats, CD-R90 and CD-R99, have been around for about two years. According to its specifications, the CD-R99 can hold up to 99 minutes of music, or a data volume of about 870 MB - this is an increase of 34 percent from the standard CD-R74s. This feat was accomplished by drawing the tracks closer together and by utilizing portions of the lead-out area for data. Some manufacturers who have CD burners on the market today claim that they can handle oversized CDs. Such is the case with the Asus CRW-3212A, which we test in this article. Our practical test shows whether or not users actually have access to this feature.
The following requirements must be met in order to create audio CDs that hold more than 100 minutes of music, or data CDs that hold almost 900 MB of data:
Setting our Sights on 32x: Asus
Setting our Sights on 32x: Asus CRW-3212A, Continued
This Asus drive, which has been on store shelves since the beginning of the year, is physically capable of writing to CD-R media at 32x and to CD-RW blanks at 12x speeds. Here, it achieves rotation speeds that exceed 6000 rpm. By comparison, a burner running at a write speed of 1x barely makes it up to 200 rpm. Along with the burner, the manufacturer includes a CD for 32x as well as a CD-RW for 12x. Asus calls the technology it uses to prevent buffer underruns "Flextralink," even though it's basically the same technology as always. Also, the 2 MB of integrated cache memory help to ensure that the flow of data remains constant. Overall, the Asus drive manages to overburn only CD-R80 and CD-R90s to our complete satisfaction. When CD-R99s were used instead, several problems became evident during the test. For one, the burner can only write to CDs at speeds of 4x and higher. The inevitable errors made on the most outlying tracks then forced the CD to discontinue the write process. If this situation is to be remedied, users need to have an option that lets them reduce the writing speed manually to 2x, or even 1x. A closer look at the writing features of this burner revealed that, although the burner does in fact work at 32x speeds, the drive constantly accesses its "Burn Proof" function. Our testers needed about six minutes to copy a data CD with 700 MB of data after having activated the "on-the-fly" option. Not only that, but it took forever for the drive to recognize the data of the special, as yet blank, 32x CD. The bottom line is that the 32x drive does not offer any advantages over the 24x model.
Burn Test: Nero 18.104.22.168 and Golden
In this section, we provide you with a step-by-step guide on
how to create an oversized CD-R99 with 100 minutes of music using Nero Burning
ROM 22.214.171.124. Don't forget, though, that all the requirements we mentioned
earlier need to be met.
Burn Test: Nero 126.96.36.199 and Golden Hawk 4.0A, Continued
Burn Test: Nero 188.8.131.52 and Golden
Hawk 4.0A, Continued
Field Test - High-End CD Players and Car Stereos
We tested our self-made audio CDs in several high-tech car stereo systems and in a high-end CD player in a home stereo.
Field Test - High-End CD Players and
Car Stereos, Continued
Problems With Write Speeds: 1x and 2x a Rarity
We came across a peculiar problem during our test. Although some CD burners, such as the Asus CRW-3212A, are mechanically capable of writing to CD-R99 blanks, any burning plans that you may have for them are doomed to utter failure due to their higher write speeds.
Basically, it is essential that your burner write to CDs at the lowest speed possible, particularly when it comes to burning in the sensitive external regions of the CD. However, the current batch of burners, including the Asus CRW-3212A, bottom out at a write speed of 4x. Having discovered this, we worked with two older LG burners (LG GCW 8160B and LG CGRW-8084) that also permit writing to CDs at 2x.
Mini-CD/RW - 21 Minutes of Music of
185 MB Data
Conclusion: CDs With 100 Minutes of Music Can Be Used Anywhere
Our special test on overburning music and data CDs shows that over 100 minutes of music, or some 900 MB, will fit on an R99 CD. If music has been burned as an audio CD, it can be played back in virtually any CD player. We played back several test CDs, all of which held more then 90 minutes of music, and we tested them in several car stereos as well as in home CD players. The result? Practically all of the devices were able to play back the CDs. Problems only occurred once the player reached the external regions on the disc. This is a tough nut that car stereos find particularly hard to crack. We encountered the least number of problems with CD drives on PC systems. They had no difficulties playing back 100 minutes of music perfectly. Playing back oversized CDs is child's play for some of the high-end home stereo systems, too.
The minimum requirements for writing to or overburning oversized CDs (CD-R90 and CD-R99) are a suitable CD burner and burning software. However, there is a drawback with today's selection of CD burners that have maximum speeds of 24x, 32x or 40x: their lowest write speeds are generally only 4x. We call this a drawback because one of the main causes of errors during overburning to the outermost regions on a CD is that the write speed is far too high.
We recommend LG Electronics' current batch of CD drives (GCE-4120B, GCE-8160B and GCE-8240B), which produce excellent overburning results at 4x write speed. Ideally, users will have the option to manually select write speeds of 2x, or even 1x, someday. The Asus CRW-3212A we tested has considerably more difficulties burning oversized CD blanks - once the playback time exceeds 90 minutes, problems start cropping up. That said, though, the drive is suitable for copying data and music CDs. It supports any and every feature imaginable, from CD text and disc-at-once to track-at-once and read/ write sub-channel data. The CD-R99 discs have the last word in the world of compact discs - last year's plans to manufacture blanks in CD-R120 format (120 minutes of music or 1080 MB of data) have fizzled out completely.
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