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.
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
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 Good
Ricoh Standard Ricoh Medium
Arita Ritek Bad
Philips IQ Silve
r Ritek Bad
Problems writing the "aged" CD-R's
r Ritek Bad
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.