Feature Article
What's the deal with these "new" CD Recorders

May 1, 1998
By Scott Lewis

This month I would like to talk about the recent release of Music CD Recorders. I haven't spent a lot of time concerned with this "new" technology. Basically, these are home CD players/recorders. Much in the same way cassette decks have worked for years. They allow you to record from another CD player, cassettes, and even that great vinyl album collection.

These CD Recorders use CD-R blanks, and allow you to record your own music CDs. Some players have a digital input signal that is compatible with the digital output on some higher end CD players. The recorders also have standard analog (RCA jacks) input if you don't have a CD player with digital output.

This is the kind of technology that was lacking for years. I starting buying CDs a little over 12 years ago. I always wanted to record my own collection of songs. I used to do this with albums and cassettes. I never bought pre-recorded cassettes. Instead I just bought albums and blank cassettes. I would record my favorite songs onto cassettes for playing in my car.

This has never been an option with CDs. Until Now. But at what cost. These new breed of recorders cost over $700 at present. That is a healthy premium. But that is not the real problem. I can understand the recorders costing a lot. After all they are new technology, and they have not gotten serious market acceptance yet. It always costs more to be in the bleeding edge.

The real problem is the cost of the CD-R blanks. If you follow the computer industry, you are aware that CD-Rs have been around for a while. In the last couple of year they have gotten down right affordable. You can get blanks for less than $2 each with minimal shopping around.

However, the CD Recorders do not accept standard CD-R blanks. They take a special blanks made for the recorders. These blanks cost about $7 to $9. Ouch! What is different about these special blanks. Nothing! At least nothing that matters. The only difference is that the blanks for home CD recorders have a special flag on them that the recorder looks for. No flag, no record.

They say that this is to discourage people from making illegal copies of music. Fair enough. I can understand that the music industry want to protect its rights. However, they further claim that the price for these blanks is high because the customer is paying extra for the privilege to copy his music. That;s right, they want you to pay more for the right to copy something you already own.

Here's the real problem with that... you already are paying extra for the right to copy your CDs. You did that when you bought them. CDs cost about $5 more than the same title on cassette. Yet cassettes cost more to manufacture than CDs. This is a huge rip off.

Another thing these home CD recorders are trying to put past you is that you need them. Not true. Most people that have decent CD collections also have computers. Certainly almost all computers owners have CD players. Why not use your computer to make copies of your music collection.

This is actually fairly inexpensive. To get the most out of making music CDs on your computer you need a CD-R drive with a SCSI controller. (If you don't know what that means then you don't have it.) If you don't already have a SCSI controller then get one with the CD-R you decide to get. You can then use you SCSI CD-R to read the tracks off of your music CDs, and then record them onto a blank. A real blank. The ones that cost less that $2.

I have done this myself. While I had access to a CD-R I "burned" a music CD. I took one song from each of 15 CDs and copied them onto one CD-R. It was my own collection of songs that I love to listen to in my car. That CD was the only CD that went into the CD player in my car.

Don't buy into the hype that you need one of these "new" CD Recorders. The price is too high, and you already paid it. Get a CD-R drive for your computer instead.