I recently purchased the new Sony RCD-W1 for $369 and it seems to do a very respectable job. I'm not sure I'd want to use it as my CD playback deck, but for making copies it works just fine.
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The best and most affordable unit, in the stand alone catagory, is: The HHB "Burn it". It accepts computer grade CD and is a pro-unit. It also has digital recording control and balance (all in the digital domain). They can be purchased for $450 to $550.
If you are going to do analog to digital you might want to look at the Sony CDR 33 ? It has SBM and goes for $400. It also will accept computer CDR and no SCMS.
If you want something to plug into you hostile ridden computer system, well, I wouldn't know.
These fellows are a lot smarter than I, but if you find a good deal on a Pioneer PDR-W839 you might consider it. Mine works just fine. The "consumer" grade CDR that you must use with any non "pro" unit are now easily found for less than $1. This machine has a 3 disc changer on one side so that compilations are a breeze. I cannot hear the difference in my recorded CDR vs the original. It also has a 24 bit dac for analogue to digital recording, (which will also be the domain for a copy of a copy with this machine.) Charlie
I've also been considering buying one, and everywhere I check, people keep telling me to just buy one for my computer and use it, in the words of a very good friend and serious audiophile (as well as computer geek) .."you can do it all for $125 in you're computer if you can figure it out, you're not dumb so you should be able to do this"
He has several good points as well, including the higher rate of copy, the fact that it's digital data and shouldn't be any different on copy, if it were, how would CD's hold computer data?? Also, you can use it to back up your computer, something no home stereo CDR can do, so why spend several hundred dollars on one??
My brother has both and can tell of no difference between copies from either. Are these 'special' audio CDR's truly just Sony and the 'rests way of sucking money from us?? Should we all be using the essentially free computer CDR's in our computer instead??
This said, I realize compatability CAN be a problem, my car won't play CDRW's but will easily play CDR's from my girlfriends computer, so do I really need one in the HT/stereo, or should I just buy the 16x10x40 for $129 @ CompUSA this week??
I'm curious what the rest of the folks here think of this angle?? I'm holding off for now buying one, but it seems logical and I can't pick a hole in his arguments yet..my best point is the Pioneer Elite DV-09 I own won't play either, so I'd need a transport to play them in the main system, thus equilibrating the price difference...but this could easily be run through my pre-pro (Linn AV 5103) and the DAC's there used so.....
Having owned a Pioineer and liked it, Ibought a "pro" moldel
Tascam CD-RW700 because it offers more freedom -- you're not restricted to "audio" CD-Rs and you can make digital copies to your heart's content. You can find these units in Guitar Centersand similar muisical instrument stores for
around $575. Expensive but worth it. It also has a "direct digital" mode and a timer function.
Before you run out and buy a CD-R/RW consider this... If your main goal is to create audio CD's I would buy a dedicated CD-R/RW for your audio equipment rack instead of a CD burner for your computer. It's much more convenient for a number of reasons but here's my main reason.
With my Pioneer Elite PDR-19RW CD recorder connected to my Adcom GCD-700 5-disc changer (via digital interconnect), I can program up to 20-tracks from 5 different CDs, press a couple buttons and walk away while the system automatically records and numbers each track and finalizes the burned CD. This setup offers a lot of flexibility. You can find CD recorders that have a 3-disc changer built in and get similar results. Try that with a computer based CD burner... you can't do it.
In general, I like the Pioneer units. Stay away from Philips. I had one. It broke within two months. Come to think of it, my only other Philips product is also broken. My Philips Pronto remote went belly up recently. I no longer buy anything from Philips.