From the archives – 1998

I’ve just submitted my review column for this Monday’s The Canberra Times (the Panasonic PT-AE4000E full HD projector, if you’re interested). As I glanced through the folder containing these reviews, my eye fell on one I did back in late 1998 on what proved to be a short-lived technology: the consumer CD recorder. Check out the prices towards the bottom, not just of the unit but of the blank discs.

Philips CDR 765 Rewriteable CD writer/player

For the first dozen years of its existence, the compact disc had just a single function: to distribute pre-recorded audio. But over the past couple of years, CD recorders have been appearing. These allow direct digital copies of music onto an audio CD-R, resulting in an identical sound to the originals. To do such high quality copying another CD player with a digital output was required.

Now Philips has released a twin deck CD recorder. The CDR 765 allows the direct digital dubbing of CDs onto audio CD-Rs within one unit, and at double speed, no less.

The right hand player is pretty much a standard CD player, while the left hand one not only plays CDs, but records CD-Rs. It will only record onto audio CD-Rs. These are identical to data CD-Rs (available for less than half the price) except for some identifying code pre-recorded onto them. Audio CD recorders will not record onto the cheaper CD-Rs. The rationale is that higher prices are charged for audio CD-Rs to allow royalties to be distributed amongst artists. However it appears that this does not happen in Australia, so recording a CD (even onto cassette, even for personal use) is a breach of the Copyright Act. The unit incorporates the Serial Copy Management System, which allows an original CD to be digitally copied, but the copy cannot in turn be digitally copied.

Aside from the legal issues, the Philips CDR 765 works very well. I examined the digital data from a couple of tracks after a double speed dub and found that the copy was absolutely perfect. You can also record digitally from an external source, or analogue. In the latter case, a level control provides nine decibels of adjustment. This may be insufficient for low level phono outputs.

Dubbing CDs digitally automatically handles track markings. The CDR 765 also works with audio rewritable CDs. This new format does not necessarily play back properly on standard CD players, but does have the advantage of allowing you to re-write over a CD. In view of the cost of each CD-RW — around $40, compared with $8 for an audio CD-R — perhaps the only real use for such a disc is to get a recording from an analogue source right, and then dub it over onto a cheaper disc.

The Philips CDR 765 costs $1,395.

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