How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

Short answer - not very!

Some important questions have been raised recently on https://thesession.org/recordings/2551/ concerning the longevity, or otherwise, of CD recordings, specifically “home-grown” CD recordings which may be available commercially. It’s useful to have these things aired in the Discussions forum.

The home-grown CD is usually burned by the process we use on home computers – a dye structure within the CD is modified by a laser beam to give the recording. A commercial CD from a reputable source (as most are) will be pressed, in an analogous manner to the pressing of vinyl LPs, so as to give billions of ultra-microscopic indentations in the surface of the CD which can then be read by a laser beam. The pressed CD is inherently more reliable than the dye-based article.

The thing to do with a "home-grown" CD, if its one you want to keep, is to back it up immediately to a computer hard disk. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to keep an external hard drive specifically for archiving audio and video, and nothing else. If that’s all you’re going to use it for, you’ll be switching it on comparatively rarely, and the rest of the time you can safely keep it in a cupboard. A hard drive that is looked after like that and is little-used can be expected to last a very long time, much longer than a home-grown CD.

If you have acquired a home-grown CD that has a stuck-on label - perhaps any label - then that is Baaaad News! The chemicals in the label will attack the dyes in the home-grown CD and it will fail within a couple of years, or less. I know, I had it happen to me some years ago.

Another point about home-grown CDs: There is no guarantee that the CD recording will have been verified (i.e. compared digitally with the original) after it has been burned. (In fact, if I were a betting man I’d take bets that such verifications are rare events!) If it hasn’t been verified then there is an excellent chance that a track may have bit-level errors that will cause drop-outs or even a complete failure of the track.

Moral: if you burn your own CDs or DVDs, always instruct the program that does the burning to do a verification – it will take a few minutes longer, but it’s worth it. Make sure the contents of the CD/DVD are backed up on your computer. Store your home-grown CDs and DVDs in a cool, dark, dry place, and periodically check them for digital integrity. If a CD starts to deteriorate (as it surely will in time) then of course you’ll have a backup available on a hard drive, won’t you? 🙂

On the occasions when someone gives me a home-grown CD I check it out first with software. I use the free-licence “CDCheck” program for this. This saves the CD onto my computer during the check , and if there are any bit-level errors, will try to mend them on the hard drive as the CD is being saved.

Oh, and don’t use re-writable CDs for stuff you want to keep – use the best quality single-write CDs you can lay your hands on (they’re usually made by well-known and established manufacturers.) I’d avoid the cheap anonymous stuff sold in non-specialist stores. Buy from someone who has a reputation to lose.

Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

That’s scary sh1t about the stick-on labels Trev - thanks for the heads up.

I have to say I’m disappointed with CDs in general, not just homemade ones. When they first came out we were told they were virtually indestructible, and that even if the surface was slightly scratched, the laser would account for it and it’d still play fine. I’ve found that not to be the case. The slightest bit of fingerprint on the surface makes a CD skip, and any scratches, even if they’re small, can cause a CD just to stop dead and refuse to play. I think Trevor’s advice about storage on a hard drive is worth following even with your shop-bought CD collection. Many of my friends don’t even listen to CDs anymore. They just put their whole collection on to an ipod and put the CDs away in a box in a cupboard. That’s great because they can then lend them to me so I can copy them 😉

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I agree cd/dvds are crap in general especially for young kids they don t last.we need something stronger.

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Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

Yeah, CDs dated really quickly. I remember when vinyl was going out of fashion and everyone started buying CDs. I can sense the same attitude developing towards CDs now that you can store your whole CD collection in a little black thing the size of a nail file, or simply buy yourself the right to download a recording off the net. It’s ridiculous how big and unwieldy CDs are, and how chunky their boxes are. Really not much better than tapes and videos. I hope their demise comes soon.

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I agree Dow, but what frustrates me is downloading the tracks from an album and not being able to get the sleeve info. It’s not like I listen to my CD’s with the sleeve in my hand every time, but occasionally it’s nice to read the background info and credits eg who guested on the album and where the tunes came from.
Maybe if you downloaded more than 75% of an album they could give you an electronic copy of the sleeve.
Interesting idea that a portable hard-drive backup might last longer than a CD collection. I thought that 5yrs for a hard drive was doing well. But i guess if you keep backing up your music to an external hard drive, then you should be safe as long as the main hard drive and the external hard drive don’t decide to pack it in on the same day!!

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But Dow, i hope your taking the p(ss, I’m a big fan of the "CD/Vinyl as object" thing. There’s a certain psychological weight to a CD, you feel like it ‘contains’ something, that the album is an entity in itself. And the sleevenotes factor is HUGE. AND It’s amazing how much the aesthetics of the CD art effects how you perceive the music within. Downloading music is so cold, and the compression quality is SO cr@p… Acoustic music suffers more than most from the over-downsizing of music files.

Bring back wax cylinders i say!!

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I agree about acoustic music suffering. I just don’t think the future of music storage is on CD. I think you’ll be able to buy a tiny little chip in a package or something. And all the sleeve notes will be contained in a file in the chip. And there’ll be "extras" like you get on DVDs, like "the making of"! (Ever wondered how they manage to keep all the footage for the stuff they put on DVDs of films these days?). You’ll even be able to have a virtual experience by putting on a headset, and walking into a virtual recording session with the band, or a virtual live concert where you’re in the front row, or a virtual session where you walk in the pub and listen to the music and you can order food and beer off the menu and stuff. The future is NOT a stupid silver disc the size of a dinner plate that refuses to play if you dare to touch the surface of it.

Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

You need to get a bigger sized dinner plate 🙂

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"Acoustic music suffers more than most from the over-downsizing of music files."
I agree, but I think acoustic music loses so much more going from acoustic and live to studio and recorded than it does going from CD-quality to mp3 quality.

Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

Depends on the chip… Chips have a finitie lifetime. Even something like EPROM, or Flash Memory (limited no of read/write cycles) is subjected to silicon migration and can be damaged relatively easily.
My approach would be: Buy the CD , back it up on some sort of HDD used for archiving (not the one which sits in your PC powered on all day). In addition the music can go onto your MP3 player, into the CD player etc. However under most circumstances ‘use’ means eventual failure.

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Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

In the future, these tiny chips will be indestructable and will be made from special material from outer space which does not deteriorate for millions of years.

Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

um, kjay, i think we just said the same thing (I just left out the first step.)

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oh wait, no we didn’t. I’m an eejit.

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BUT, while in a purist sense i can see your point, i think the benefits of having the music in a disseminatable form far outways the perceived loss of acoustic "purity", especially in a country at the ar$e end of now-where like australia, with the music so spread out.

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Just a quick note on this subject, I’ve started to use these small micro sd flash cards for music storage and backup now.

I bought a small pen drive card reader for about £4 on ebay (Memory Card Reader Pen Drive USB 2.0 SD MMC T-Flash) and also a couple of flash cards. One is a 2Gb Sandisk (£14) and the other is a Kingston 1Gb (£8) that I put in my mobile phone.

They’re very small and very reliable and the storage capacity is fantastic. In the size of a matchbox you can literally get thousands of tunes, songs albums and also video clips if you want.

I take some of the best videos off youtube using the Zamzar website for conversion and then a small programme called "Youtube Downloader" to convert them if I want them on the phone or ipod etc.

This setup works great and I can carry the flash card reader and cards with me and record from others when I need to.

Hope this is interesting for people here.

Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

Bring back vinyl. Give me an LP with snaps, crackles and pops any day over a CD that stutters and splutters and spouts gibberish at you. And the great thing about vinyl is, when it becomes unplayable, you can cover your floors and walls with it.

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Cassette tapes seem to last quite well if they’re looked after. I’ve a number, both commercial and home-grown, dating back to the early 70s, and they’re all in fine condition. I’m in the process of backing them up onto a HDD, which also gives me the opportunity to reduce background noise and declick those that were backups of old scratchy LPs. A tip about reducing background noise (mainly tape hiss) - don’t try to remove more than 30%, otherwise you’re going to modify the actual recording. What I do is to remove the noise and then digitally subtract the cleaned-up version from the original so that I get a sound file consisting entirely of the noise. I listen to bits of that to see if there’s any recognisable music in it; if there is, then I’ll do the exercise again with a lower noise extraction level. I do the same with declicking.
I use CoolEdit 2000 for doing all the above, because this is a product that gives the user complete control over all the parameters, unlike some of the simpler automatic declickers and noise reducers. I believe CoolEdit 2000 has now been updated by an Adobe product
Spoon’s made an excellent point about LPs. Even if they are scratched, they are still playable, and last for at least a lifetime. As I’ve mentioned above, one can now digitally remove clicks, pops and other noise very effectively from LPs and tapes. The trick is not to overdo it, because then you upset the tonal balance of the original.
Professional digital tape backup can give you backup tapes that should last indefinitely, but it is an option too expensive for the average home user.

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SirNose - you’re quite right, I would certainly have died due to tune deficiency if it weren’t for cds (he says while listening to, um, you guessed it…)

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Don’t forget that memory cards, including USB memory sticks, don’t have an infinite read-write cycle, but this isn’t much of an issue for music backups to listen to. Hardware items like on/off switches and other controls will likely wear out long before the memory chip does.

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Trevor, my experience has been the inverse of yours, sort of. I’ve yet to have a home-brewed CD-R deteriorate, but I have brazillions of old cassette tapes and most of them show serious degradation. The problem I *have* had with CD-R’s is that *some* players won’t play *some* CD’s. They either refuse to even try, or they get half way through and start sputtering and finally choke and die.

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Tape ~ YES! ~ the worst to degrade is the Ferric oxide cr*p (rust), it is babysh*t brown (‘milk chocolate’ brown if that puts you off, which it was intended to do.). I avoided and avoid it. The chrome oxide, we might call that bittersweet chocolate, very dark, has lasted well, but as is true of plastics in general, temerature changes and weather can affect it to, but it has a much longer life expectancy than the ferric. For those that remember tape, I sometimes compare home burned and pressed with those two media, ferric and chrome, realizing it isn’t exactly the same thing…

Hound dog ~ "Soundsoap 2" has as an integral feature that process you mentioned ~ to hear the background noise, and you can perform that editing feature on the fly… There is the bog standard version and the pro version, the latter being more attention than the average person would want to bother with.

http://www.bias-inc.com/products/soundSoap2/

"CoolEdit" is now Adobe and called "Adobe Audition 2.0":

http://www.adobe.com/products/audition/

But it ain’t cheap… Other products in that range, audio editors, include Steinberg’s "Wavelab" and Sony’s "Sound Forge", for which there are lighter and less expensive versions…

Re: How reliable are home-grown CD recordings?

CDCHeck ~ as recommended by Lazyhound
http://www.kvipu.com/CDCheck/

You know they’re not going to release anything to us peasants until they can insure it has built-in obsolescence…

There are specialist and more expensive media, CD & DVD, and techniques, that are used for digital archiving… For personal burning off your PC or Mac, some CD & DVD media is better suited to audio than others, and only a few pence in the difference usually.