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Q. How can I get my CD-R backups to be more reliable?

I have been recording via the analogue inputs on my Marantz CDR630 CD recorder and have found, to my horror, that months of tracks have gone to waste! When played on my Marantz, the tracks sounded great but when I finalised the CDs and played them back on a normal CD player, they sounded grainy or like a crackly old vinyl record. Even when I played them back on the original CD‑R it didn't sound too good. Why would the CD degrade after finalisation? Do I need some sort of DAT or hard‑disk machine to record onto before CD‑R? Any help will be appreciated.

Ian Hubball

Editor Paul White replies: Unreliable CD‑R playback is a pretty common problem. Many consumer CD players still feel unhappy about playing CD‑Rs — CD‑R reflectivity is lower compared to professionally manufactured CDs and the less sensitive optics of many consumer CD players can struggle to cope. Occasionally you'll find that you either get crackles and noise (such as you are experiencing), or that the disc won't be accepted at all. To ensure success on the majority of consumer audio playback machines (sadly, there's no way to guarantee compatibility with them all), use good‑quality branded CD‑R blanks and not the cheap, unbranded discs you pick up at computer fairs or computer shops. The error rate from cheap discs can be enormous compared with that from high‑quality blanks, yet the cost difference is only pence per disc.

Another reason to stay away from cheap media is that some can degrade very rapidly after recording, while quality media should have a life of many years providing you protect the discs from strong light, heat and scratches. This might be an explanation for why your discs originally sounded OK on the Marantz, but now sound rough. The error correction is probably being overwhelmed by errors and can't reconstruct the original signal accurately.

I often experience the difference in media when using an old CD burner which is probably past its prime. These days it rejects all unbranded discs as unsuitable media and refuses to record on them at all, even though it always works perfectly with branded media from the major suppliers.

Unless there's a hardware fault on your CDR630 machine, I think that switching to good‑quality media will fix most of your problems. If not, call the guys at Marantz UK (+44 (0)1753 686080) and ask them to check it over for you. I use a CDR630 for some of my own recording and it's always been very reliable.