HOME Technology 2002
The right to write
CD writers have come of age, pushing the boundaries to write almost as fast as they can read virtually making low end back-up tape redundant and turning the PC into a real time digital sound studio.

Only three years ago the four speed CD-writer was the market standard costing over $1000 to copy a 74 minute music disc in around half an hour. The latest writers (52 write x 34 rewrite x 52 read) cost around $300 and rapidly record a disk in a couple of minutes. It takes a little longer for re-writeable disks.

Blank CDs range in price from 50 cents to $3 depending on quality and quantity. While many drink coasters were created by earlier CD-Rs which left leaving noise on the media or were incompatible with some systems, the major hi-fi manufacturers have now accepted that home users are creating their own compilationsand revised their players to bring MP3 audio encoding into the mainstream.

Philips for example has made sure its entire mini-system and Discman range is CD-R, CD-RW and MP3 friendly. Many DVD players will also handle sound from all these formats.

The technology and the software that comes bundled with your CD-R drive has also improved typically protecting against ‘buffer under-runs’ that used to cause recordings to fail or create errors in the finished product.

In other words the process is now almost foolproof – even if you were to eject the CD in the middle of recording process the chances are it will remember the exact position of the laser and resume where you left off.

Judging by the statistics New Zealand’s love affair with home recording continues to escalate. Between March and May this year (2002) 2.58 million recordable CDs were imported compared to 3.83 million pre-recorded music CDs. The monthly average of recordable CD imports for the past two years has remained between 800,000 and a million although some months it jumps to around 1.5 million.

The growing efficiency of the CD writer has made life much easier for computer users who need to regularly back-up or archive their computer files or software but there’s no doubting that a good percentage of users are also using the media for music files.

Putting this powerful technology in the hands of consumers has not been without its ethical dilemmas. Ever since Napster pioneered massive sharing of music files the music industry has been trying to wipe out downloading of songs from the internet in the MP3 format. Many copycat sites have subsequently been shut down through various law suits and the recording companies are trying to create their own legitimate download sites where users pay for the latest songs.

Concurrently though there is a growing legitimate market of independent artists who offer their songs on the internet through sites such as MP3.com and New Zealand’s Amplifier.co.nz. While its technically illegal in New Zealand many people are making compilations of music they have purchased for their own listening pleasure. What better way to expand time than to record up to 14 hours of music in MP3 format on a 74 minute CD?

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