CD Burning: What Route Should I Go?

I have no experience with CD burning and don't have a burner. I've gathered that some people feel you get best results from a dedicated outboard CD burner than from doing it on your computer. Pardon my computer illiteracy, but I have a Mac from 1998 with only CD-ROM. What would be the easiest route with the best sonic results for me to invest in a burner to make copies?

Are the sonics better from a direct burn than from storing the data on hard drive first?

My other concern would be the durability of the burner. A friend had excellent sonic results with a Philips burner, but the Philips didn't seem very durable, becoming sensitive to which blanks were used, and it finally died out after 3 years. Thanks for all opinions.
Durability's an issue, eh? Good luck with that. Most items like CD recorders are built with the cheapest parts and labor available on the planet. Same thing with 99% of all other electronics.

That being said, I think the stand alone CD recorder is the best way to go, sound wise. Most of the time good parts mean better all over performance and a stand alone would have more to it than the burner in your computer. You may want to check out Harman/Kardon or Marantz SE series.
It's only an opinion, but I am in IT and have been for 8 years, so.......

I feel a computer burner will meet all of your needs. I use a burner in my PC and have done side by side tests with factory created CDs and could not hear a difference. I really can't see logical reasons why a dedicated burner would record the 1s and 0s any differently than a computer's burner. If anything, the media you use should make the biggest difference as you are burning (literally) the media and how the media reacts to that could affect sound, so use good media.

Now, more to my expertise in computers, unless you are looking to upgrade and buy a new computer, simply buy an external burner. I'm not 100% familiar with Macs that are 6 years old, but if possible, buy a USB 2.0 card for your Mac and buy a USB 2.0 compatible External burner and you'll be set. I'd also recommend the name brand Plextor; it’s a solid brand and isn't the most expensive on the shelf.

If you can upgrade your computer, just about anything you buy these days will come with a burner.

Side note; a burner used on your computer also gives you much more functionality than a dedicated CD burner. Money well spent in my opinion.

Good luck.

I have burned CDs using a computer burner with my G4 Mac. The burner is an external EZ Quest 48X. This uses the regular CDR media. I also use a HK CDR2 (uses only CDR “music” media) connected through my Enkianthus DAC and being fed by my transport.

I’ve found that duplicating with a computer burner, at high speed, tends to degrade the sound slightly from the original. I have heard extra brightness and lack of bass focus on the duplicated disc in comparison to the original. Even at the lowest speeds the results are similar. The HK transfers (done at 1-to-1 speed) sound much closer to the original. With some CDs there is hardly any difference at all.

I have experimented with various brands of CDR and CDR “music” software and the results are the same as described above.

I hope this is of some assistance to you.
To some extent the answer depends upon exactly what you're going to burn onto the CD-R. If you're going to burn copies of a vinyl collection, then a stand alone recorder is the easiest way to go. For $400-600 at your local music chain (Sam Ash, Guitar Center, etc.) you can get an excellent sounding, simple to use stand alone recorder. The stand alone models will also do a sonically excellent job of copying CDs, but it does have some drawbacks. Making copies using a stand alone player is very time consuming in that it's done in real time.

If you use a computer with a built-in CD-R the process is much, much quicker and affords you several valuable convenience features. If you use Apple's free software, iTunes, you can rip a CD in 5 minutes onto your hard disk. Assuming your computer has an internet connection iTunes will automatically supply the artist name, album title and individual song titles as part of the ripping process. You can then also use iTunes to burn a copy of the just ripped CD. The burn speed is user variable, but I can't honestly say I hear any differences between the burn speeds, hence I use the highest possible and the burn process takes 10 minutes. You can then use a print screen utility to print a list of the songs you just burned and use it as the CD insert.

Another big feature of using a computer is that once you've ripped a number of CDs onto your computer hard drive it's now just a click and drag operation to make compilation CDs. You can make a compilation of your favorite 17th century Ukrainian folk tunes in less than 15 minutes. Making the same compilation using a stand alone recorder would as a minimum take an hour. Don't underestimate iTunes ability to quickly access songs once they've been ripped, it's an enormous convenience feature.

Computer based systems can also record vinyl to digital, and ultimately they can perform a far more thorough and better sounding conversion process than a stand alone recorder, but you would then require an expensive sound card and/or expensive outboard A/D converter plus the appropriate recording software. We're talking in excess of $1,500 plus the cost of a computer. The big advantage of such a system is that it will allow you to digitally process you music. This can result in a substantial reduction in clicks/pops and other vinyl surface noise. Also, a little EQ can do wonders to what are otherwise sonically annoying albums.

My bottom line recommendation - get a new Mac computer. When compared to a stand alone recorder it's quicker to use, is far more flexible and can be further upgraded for increased functionality. A stand alone recorder is your best bet if price is serious factor and your aim is to make casual transfers of vinyl. A basic Mac with a built-in CD-R costs as little as $799 (including monitor). A new G5 with built-in digital optical I/O is priced at $1,799 (plus monitor). Used Macs are readily available on eBay.
If you add an external CD burner to your Mac, I think you'd want one that uses the firewire protocol rather than USB. Firewire is native to Macs.

Also, you should get better results copying the CD to the hard drive rather than duping straight from a CD reader to the CD burner.
you shouldn't see any quality differencr b/t a computer burner and a stand alone.

a problem w/ stand alone is that you need to use "audio" cdrs. these have a tiny bit of information on them that stand alone burners need to see in order to burn to the disc. audio cdrs are more expensive because they're taxed. this was the RIAAs attempt to get money for blank cdrs because they figure you will be copying commercially released cds (as oppesed to buying them) on stand alone burners. buying a PC burner will get around this.

pc burners are very reliable, at least from my experience. i have an HP cd writer, its about 4 years old, and it has burned about 3-4K+ cdrs and keeps on going. it was expensive back then, but they all were back then. it is still equivalent to todays burners save for the speed, but you dont want to burn audio at over 8X anyhow!

i have found that disc to disc copying introduces all kinds of artifacts. the only way to go is to transfer to hard drive first using EAC (exact audio copy) and burn from there. you will never have a problem... i havn't yet!

also, use quality cdrs. mitsui are usually considered the best, but they are pricey. Taiyo Yuden are fairly priced and are outstanding in quality. all the other cdrs people always recommend (such as TDK, sony, maxell) have all been made by different manufacturers of varying quality. they switch their supplier all the time. you can't expect any one manufacturer if you buy these brands anymore.

there is a wealth of information on the internet about cdrs, burners, audio extraction, and burning. here's a good place to get your feet wet. check out as many live music trading sites as you can... include that in your searches. we have a tendency to be very anal about quality and have found the best ways to produce perfect clones :)

good luck!
Thanks, guys. I have a G3 Mac and it doesn't have Firewire. Considering the cost involved in putting in Firewire card and getting an external burner, I guess it makes the most sense to just buy another computer, such as the Emac for $799 (though I'm not crazy about the all-in-one monitor thing). There is some divergence in opinion here about sonics, but most of you seem to think putting on the hard drive & then burning gives best results.

I had considered buying a Windows computer, as you get so much more software and processing power for less money than Mac, but with the vulnerability of Windows, I almost think one is better off with Apple, as it is pretty much immune to the viruses and hacking that plague Bill Gates' ill-conceived creations.

Where can you get Mitsui's at a fair price, rather than paying through the nose for them at the few audio dealers or high-priced boutiques that carry them?
To give you good advice about your options with your current Mac we'd need to know which model it is, or at least a couple of things about it. Does it have SCSI or USB as its input port, or ports? And is it a model that will accept a PCI card, so that you could add USB or Firewire?

1998 was the first year for the iMac and, if that is what you have, you can get an external USB CD burner, as was suggested above, along with software like Roxio's Toast, and you're in business. The big advantage of using both the internal CD player and an external burner along with Toast is that it's a one step operation, drag the image of the audio CD onto Toast, rearrange the order of the tracks by dragging if you want, and burn directly from the original to the copy in one step, rather than copying to the hard drive and then to the burner.

If you have a different desktop Mac, not an iMac, that instead of USB has a SCSI port, it's possible to buy a SCSI external burner but they might be hard to find and would be more expensive than a USB burner. A better alternative for one of those machines would probably be to buy a combination USB/Firewire PCI card and get an external USB or Firewire drive, as described above.

I haven't found it to be true that an external drive requires 'audio' grade blank CD's. I've got a bulletproof SCSI external burner built by APS that will write perfect CD's on absolutely any brand or grade of media, even the no-name stuff from an office supply warehouse.
Here's my two cents.

1. Get a new computer with a built-in cd burner.

2. Get the Freeware (yes it's free) EXACT audio copy on the internet.

There are major high-end audio manufacturers who use this method over anything else for compilation demos at CES and in-house for their own use, even above stand-alone ''professionnal'' audio burners.

This freeware is a bit complicated, but when you have learned all of it's parameters and possibilities, you can tailor the sound and actually remove some of cd's inherent faults with this incredible software. And best of all, it's free.
I get my Mitsui's for excellent prices at American Digital Services. Their number is 1-888-872-3287. Have fun!

You should be able to burn CDs with your computer, but I think you'll need to buy an external burner, a firewire PCI card and Toast in order to do it. What OS are you running?

I've had sketchy experiences with the compatibility of some add on PCI firewire, USB, video, SCSI cards in different models of Macs over the past seven years. Compatibilty can be hit or miss, and it'll be tougher with an older machine.

For burning CDs and DVDs I have had success with Macs of varying vintages.

I have a 1996 Powermac 8500 with processor and video accelerator cards, an internal Firewire/USB PCI card, and an external burner and Toast and it runs fine. I use a Dual 1.25GHz with a built-in SuperDrive at work which runs great. And I do all my iMovie and iDVD projects on a suped-up Apple Cube with an external LaCie SuperDrive which allows me to burn my Tivo content onto custom made DVDs.

It can be done with an older machine, but I think your idea of getting a $799 eMac is a much better solution. It comes with a built-in combo drive that will allow you to burn CD-Rs and view DVDs, so the only thing you might have to buy is a copy of Toast. Another thing you may have to worry about is getting used to using the new OS 10.3 Panther operating system.

Have fun!
I agree with Sonicbeauty...Exact Audio Copy is a great FREE program that copies quickly to the hard drive and makes high quality copies:

Does anyone know of a free or inexpensive program that will allow you to burn a CD at 1x speed? The programs that I can find all burn at 2x or higher speed. I've found the lower the burn speed the better quality the CD copy.
I just bought an external NEC DVD/CD burner off FleaBay and I'm quite pleased with the product. It handles virtually every type of media available (CD/CD-R/DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW) and comes with both USB and Firewire interfaces and cables. All you need to add is a card to your Mac and you're good to go.

Here's a link to the same type of unit I bought - for only $119!!

As for software, EAC is quite good, but a bit of a pain to use. If you're looking for something a little easier to use and with much more capability, take a look at Feurio, it ROCKS!

And, for those folks bashing Windows-based PCs - get a clue, fellas. The reason that Windows PCs get attacked more often by viruses is because Windows is present on approx. 95% of the desktops in the world. What hacker is gonna waste his time making a Mac-only virus for a measly 5% hit rate? EVERY OS is vulnerable to attack, Windows is just the biggest target.

cascade media (in oregon, on the net) sells the mitsuis for cheap...
I use a La Cie FireWire external CD burner with my PowerBook G4. I previously used a similar SCSI device with a 500 series PowerBook. I use Adaptec / Roxio Toast software. I can confirm that CD copies made at higher speeds sound thin and flat. I always copy music at single speed on high quality blank CDs. The results are very close indeed to the original if not identical.

Your G3 can use an external SCSI burner and you may be able to find one second hand. This would be the cheaper route to take.

If you decide to sell your G3, though, please let me know...
i wasn't specific enough before, but a stand alone burner (dual drive type) is the kind that does not hook up to a pc. those need "audio" cdrs. an external burner that hooks to a pc will, as sfar stated, burn on any disc.

i also agree with Rlwainwright 100% about windows. you're severely limited with what you can use a mac with/for these days. not buying a PC because it can be infected w/ viruses is like not buying a car because you might get into an accident. i would rather be able to drive a car to any store and risk an accident than only be able to walk to a few.

just my .02
My friend who burns a lot of disks uses the exactaudiocopy
software and thinks the Plextor Premium drive is the best
for reducing read/write errors:
Gentlemen and possibly ladies, I hope I am not the only one who would like it if we all agreed not to bash the "other" computer platform. I use them both... oops, I forgot the Unix / Linux people ! Anyway, I can make good copies using Mac OS and using Windows. The platform choice does not affect the quality of the copy, as far as I know.
I used to have a phillips stand-alone CDR and was it ever a pain in the ass!! It would freeze up and once that happened I'd have to start all over again! This would happen 25-35% of the time. I finally bit the bullet and bought a Pioneer Elite CDR. Built like a Cadillac, this machine has never failed me, not once. If you're going for a stand-alone CDR spend the bucks for a "high-end" unit or you'll regret it!
I don't feel severly limited with what I can do on a Mac, but then again you just don't see PCs in my profession, so I really wouldn't know what I'm missing out on.

The defensive PCs guys posting here are right about the virus issue though. Those "evildoers" want the biggest hit possible so it makes no sense writing them for Macs. And Macs aren't immune to them by any stretch. I can remember that pesky "restart virus" from seven or eight years ago.

Burning CDs or DVDs can be accomplished with either platform, just choose the one you're more comfortable using. The only reason I recommend Macs is that these days they come with iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto and iTunes, all the software needed to rip and burn music, and edit movies and photos.

Kevziek, if you'd like to stay with the Mac OS a new machine might be the best choice. It's difficult and sometimes downright impossible to get support or repairs for older equipment. Yeah, us dedicated Mac guys have plenty of gripes about Apple and some of the third party developers especially in the world of graphic design.

In the summer of 2001 when the Apple Cubes were discontinued, I bought one on Ebay and have been having a great time editing video from my Tivo and burning DVDs of the movies I Frankenstein together.

I dumped a 1.2GHz card into it and bought a slightly larger custom enclosure for it which allows it to run faster and cooler. Hey, I can even run Maya Complete on the little square guy!

Stay Mac and remain cool!
A new Mac with iTunes is a very effective rip/burn/playback combo. It's very powerful, easy to use and a complete, integrated package (including the optional iPod). And yes, iTunes has error correction during the ripping process.