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Charles Lawson wrote:

> MAM-A discs that are *not already damaged at the factory* still perform
> well in my Plextor drives with the limited testing tools at my disposal. 
> They also *seem* to be holding up well over time, in general.  (I take old
> ones out and check them from time to time.)   However, my recent
> experience with new discs indicates that extra care be utilized with these
> media since the number of manufacturing defects is on the rise.
> 
> Apparently in the global marketplace we now all inhabit, no manufacturer
> is going to stick with the same old successful procedures for long.  It
> appears that short-term profit is taking precedence over long-term
> reputation.  (Has anyone else out there ever read Alvin Toffler's _Future
> Shock_?  What a prescient book...)

I do not want to belabor this, but you do inspire a few more remarks - 
which I hope will not be read as critical.

I suggest that one not assume quality because of a brand name or the 
vendor's claims. They are reasonable bases for performing one's own 
tests, but no more. Testing without dedicated hardware is quite limited, 
but for my purposes sufficient. If I were involved in archiving 
quantities of audio material, I would seek more thorough evaluation; 
with my limited knowledge, I know no better place to turn than Media 
Sciences.

Ascribing changes in processes and products to greed may be unfair. The 
marketplace drives the choices and the pressure for lower prices is 
dictated by users who equate "best" with "lowest cost". That is the same 
market which demands ever higher speeds though quality falls off rapidly 
above 16x for CD-R.

It is clear from what I see in response to my site and from discussions 
in the groups that few users have any interest in testing. If the 
software says the disc was written, they assume that means it is well 
written; if it "verifies" the write, they assume that means that the 
data are recorded correctly. Therefore, something sinister is happening 
because the discs do not read well in other players or files cannot be 
recovered. They are also woefully unaware of compromises forced by the 
market.

Permit me a couple of current, related examples.

One favorite operation of amateur recordists is to write CD-DA from 
compressed files such as MP3s "on the fly". They are blissfully unaware 
that the software publisher has had to compromise the decompressor so 
that a reasonable CPU can decompress at thirty-two times real time. In 
addition, when writing at such speeds, the output may skip. They will 
not decompress separately at reasonable speed or write the disc near its 
optimum - that's inconvenient and slow. So they look for simplistic, 
no-cost solutions that are impossible on their face.

It is generally acknowledged that the best program for extracting WAV 
from CD-DA is Exact Audio Copy. One aspect of its operation is that it 
reads each sector twice, accepting the result only if the two rips are 
identical. As a result, it is "slow" compared with other rippers. With a 
low-quality drive, it may be slower still, delivering only a third or 
less of the supposed capability. The customers for this 'cardware' are 
either interested in quality and willing to spend the time; or 
frustrated by its plodding pace and critical of its design. They are 
unwilling to spend a bit of extra time to get quality results. They 
surely are not prepared to spend extra money to put their results on 
tested, quality media.

Incidentally, Exact Audio Copy does copy CD-DA discs, but only by 
extracting as well as possible to the hard drive and writing from there. 
That again frustrates the speed demons, who turn to quicker programs 
with demonstrably poorer results on the fly to save time - other costs 
be damned.

Mike
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