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CD-R Burn Quality and Laser Noise During Playback

For a long time, I thought the "noisy" playback of burned CD-Rs relative to commercially-released CDs was a "mechanical" anomaly in the copied media discs themselves, and just a fact of life.

But now I realize that "noisy" playback from burned CD-Rs is actually from the laser itself trying harder to read and track the signal, not the physical discs themselves.

I first noticed this after I burned a CD-R that played back "exceptionally noisy", and the player would then stop, and then show "ERROR" on the display, and the playback stopping altogether. I was trying to get a combination of burn software and CD/DVD-ROM drive that would make copies reliable enough to play consistently on an old CD player that wasn't quite as stable as the ones I normally use. The notion that if it plays in that player, it will play in all my players.

I've had a history of making CD-R discs (copies or compilations) that weren't overly reliable, relative to standard commercial CDs. I tried several different drives (Benq DW1650, Sony Optiarc, and various Plextors) with varying success. I also tried different burn software. The Sound Forge Pro 11 worked relatively well, but still, not reliable like a commercial CD.

As I dug into my old stash of DVD-ROM drives, I tried an old LG GGC-H20L Blu-Ray drive, which I originally mothballed because my old Windows operating systems didn't see the drive writing at speeds any slower than 24x. But didn't seem to be an issue on Windows 10. I also juggled some burn software. (The Sound Forge Trial lasted 14 days instead of the advertised 30.) It was a crapshoot.... I tried an old CD burn program called "Burrrn".... Which I previously rejected with different drives, Windows OS, and media. When I slapped the burned CD-R in the player, I noticed something strikingly different after accidentally leaving the amp off. The noise coming from the playback, using the same CD-R discs I have been using, was almost silent, at a level of roughly that from most commercial CDs. Yet I saw the display indicating it was playing. Unlike the discs I burned previously, the playback was relatively stable. I also noticed that the sound quality was more "transparent" than what I've been used to. (This could be "placebo effect".)

This is a work in progress, but for those who like making CD copies or compilation CDs, you may want to experiment with different drives and burn software. And do the "laser noise" test. (Some players may play everything with almost no noise. This will only work if you notice CD-R playback generating more noise from the player itself. If your CD-Rs play "silent" in your player, you might already have a good combination.) It may be an underlying indicator in regard to the quality and reliability of your burned CDs.

This is NOT a recommendation of the LG GGC-H20L Blu-Ray drive or "Burrrn" burn software. (It might not be a good combination for your PC. I never was impressed with "Burrrn" prior to using it here.) You might find a different combination for your particular PC that also works well.

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Topic - CD-R Burn Quality and Laser Noise During Playback - Todd Krieger 03:19:14 05/25/17 (29)


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