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What is the Best CD-R?

I transfer old reel-to-reel audio tapes for clients to digital. Finding the “best” CD-R medium has been difficult. It needs to last 100 years and have a low bit error rate. Who make the best? First, any CD-R will last longer if stored correctly. In general, if you are comfortable, the disk will e also. Avoid high temps, humidity and light. Recommended Storage conditions are as follows : Temperature Range: 5C to 30C Absolute Humidity: 1 to 20 grams/cubic meter Relative Humidity: 8% to 50% *dew should be avoided For archiving: Discs should be stored vertically in a protective case. (A standard jewel case is adequate. In jewel cases, the disc is suspended by the center hole and isolates the written area [read side] from contacting any surface, It also offers some protection against rapid temperature changes). The most likely cause of damage to R discs from direct sunlight is by heat buildup in the disc affecting the dye. Much of the ultraviolet range of sunlight can be filtered (or absorbed) by glass—e.g., the glass of a window. However, the lower light frequency (infrared) range will pass through a window and generate heat in the disc. Numerous CD vendors have noted that the thin protective lacquer coating can deteriorate from contact with certain solvents in markers. To eliminate the risk, water-based markers are recommended for CD labeling. As a solvent, alcohol is generally less damaging than xylene and toluene, which are common in aromatic solvent-based markers. According to anecdotal reports, alcohol-based markers can be used to label CDs without causing performance problems. However, there are no explicit lab test results to show what effect solvents in markers have on different CDs or DVDs, particularly over the long term. There are 16 factories around the world that make CD-Rs. Only one is still in operation in Japan. Great price and great performance don’t go together. The cheaper disks should not be used for archive. How are the disks made? The first step in producing a CD-R disc is to create the polycarbonate plastic substrate using an injection molding process. The dye layer is applied using spin coating and the reflective layer by means of cold planar magnetron sputtering. The lacquer overcoat is then applied by another spin coating procedure followed by ultraviolet curing. Additional durability or printable layers are typically applied using screen printing methods. With over 1,000 brands and models of CD-Rs, it’s impossible to fine the best one. The rating would probably change on a daily basis. That’s the problem with all the reviews I have seen. Writing to a disk does not mean it will last for a long time. I’d suggest that a review written a few years ago is worthless since the manufacturer could have changed the formulation. Having someone saying they got the disks on sale and they burned successfully is not a review and certainly means nothing as far as longevity. Gold Disk The longest projected life is 300 years from MAM-A, a subsidiary of Computer Support Italcard (CSI) of Milan Italy from their plant in Colorado Springs, CO. The MAM GOLD discs uses Mitsui Chemical’s patented dye and has a characteristic gold color. The recording layer of a CD-R disc is composed of one of cyanine, phthalocyanine or azo dye. Some even use a gold layer. Information is written to a CD-R disc by means of a laser to heat and alter the dye sufficient to create a pattern of marks and thereby mimic the pits of a molded CD. So how do you determine if the disk was recorded properly. One way is to use the verification routine that comes with the burning software. It will compare the just-written disk to the original file. You could then play the disk on another player to make sure the disk is compatible with more than one player. The manufacturers claim 75 years (cyanine dye, used in “green” discs), 100 years (phthalocyanine dye, used in “gold” discs), or even 200 years (“advanced” phthalocyanine dye, used in “platinum” discs) once the disc has been written. The shelf life of an unrecorded disc has been estimated at between 5 and 10 years. There is no standard agreed-upon way to test discs for lifetime viability. Accelerated aging tests have been done, but they may not provide a meaningful analogue to real-world aging. Brands most often recommended: Matsui, Kodak, Taiyo Yuden, and TDK. Sometimes Pioneer and Ricoh. It appears that HP, Philips, Sony, Yamaha, and Fuji use these manufacturers for most of their disks. (Kodak no longer manufactures media.) Brands that are often trashed: Maxell, Verbatim, Memorex, Ritek, Hotan, Princo, Gigastorage, Lead Data, Fornet, CMC Magnetics. Many “no-name” bulk CD-Rs are one of these brands. Sometimes company names change. For example, in June 2003 Mitsui Advanced Media was purchased from Mitsui Chemicals by Computer Support Italcard (CSI) of Italy to form MAM-A, Inc. Thanks to http://www.osta.org/osta/index.htm http://www.cdrfaq.org/faq07.html#S7-4-1 http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub121/sec4.html

12 Comments

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  • Scott

    That’s a great post. It’s little things like that info that can be helpful.

  • Pete

    I’m a big fan of Taiyo Yuden media, though I can tell you that nothing lasts for very long. I can guarantee myself that unless I made a master copy and a backup copy, I’m taking a severe risk with my archival data. I gave up on backing up to CD & DVD last year when the cost of a hard drive (per gig) dropped to about the same as that of a good DVD. I now backup to a HD, then put it into the vault.

  • http://skylightvideoproductions.com chris

    Thanks for an informative article. I’d like to see a similar article with the most current info on DVD-R media.

    I advise clients not to rely on DVDs for archive, but always welcome whatever current research so that I can back up what I say.

    Currently, my method is to always have a backup on a 2nd DVD and a backup of the master on tape. For specific projects I also maintain a backup on hard drive.

  • Asim Bijarani

    Is the Verbatim really not good?
    I prefer it often to store my very important data.

  • jayne legaspi

    What do you think of GREEN-TUNE cdr?

  • http://www.videopark.com C. Park Seward

    Sorry, I haven’t tested them. New products will always appear and it’s a constant battle to keep up with them all.

  • WIllie Boy

    for the last few years I have used Varbatim CDR and have had no problems to date (2009) with any of them.

    I have also used the famous Japan made TY CDR’s with multiple bad burns, but for the most part no major issues.

    I have cdr’s from 9 years ago that have discolored to a nasty cigarette yellow and I don’t smoke AND they are never exposed to light or extreme conditions. BUT they still work…

    Archiving to a hard drive is not so smart since they are not stable enough to store data on nor do they last much longer than a year. I have also had read errors tranferring data from drive to drive…

    Find a cdr you are comfortable with and burn
    As time goes by and your practices change when you do go back to those discs you can make an informed decision based off their looks..
    do they look the same as they did years ago?
    or are there holes through the discs and discoloration

    probably a good sign that the cdr needs to be replaced

    and Voila!
    you can now re-transfer the disc to a new disc

  • !hype 2010

    I have found the best CD for the money is APOGEE GOLD – TDK seem to last the longest when it comes to consumer brands. If you record on these two brands you should be fine. I like Philips CD-Rs too, not sure how long they’ll last – but APOGEE and TDK have lasted 12 years and counting.

  • John

    The best CD-Rs for longevity use phthalocyanine dye and gold metal layer. MAM is the main manufacturer.

    http://www.digital-scrapbooking-storage.com

  • CLYDE CROW JR

    how can you say that maxell is trash cd-rs when they are made by Taiyo Yuden in japan. sony cd-rs isnt made in japan or by taiyo yuden they are made in usa.

  • helder

    memorex is a failure,then you should try kodak, i never seen anything like that,even nero cannot accept his readings, only ashampoo burner,that is how bad they are.tdk are ok but the problem is when they are made in japan they are ok,but some labels to cut prices will produce their cdr in other fareast countries like china, then the quality will downgrade quite a lot,its like having two wifes but with diferent boobs,hahahahha.taiyo yuden are the best and belong to jvc,so jvc cdr have the same manufactor but i never tried their quality,i will soon

  • Luis

    Use taiyo Yuden they are the best. Second best is Verbatim but make sure is the Data Life Plus with Azo not the value line

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