From The Mastering Suite To Production CD's
After your individual studio mixes are mastered and sequenced, your album has to be transferred to either a Sony 1630 tape, CD-R or exebyte tape/image file so that a glass master can be made and the duplicating process can be started. The Sony 1630 is an expensive, and almost obsolete format, with a tendency to cause more errors than the newer formats and should be avoided. If using the CD-R method, it must be cut at 2 to 4 times the original speed in order to meet the acceptable error rate standard. Cheap SCSI (computer based) writers and some stand alone real time CD writers cut CD-Rs that almost always have an unacceptable level of errors and sometimes have to be put through a transfer medium at the plant in order to go to glass. They will not tell you they are doing this unless you ask!
Exebyte 8 millimeter DDP tape or DDP image file masters can be created and are said to be the safest medium, since they provide a way for the plant to verify that the data is correct. In addition, a reference CD-R is required so you can listen to how the final product will sound before the plant cuts a glass master.
While we are able to provide a DDP master, obviously, the 2 to 4 times CD-R method is the most practical and inexpensive method since it is the actual master and you can play it in most home CD players. Your production CDs will sound exactly the same as the CD-R, so if there is anything you are not happy with, changes can be made before manufacturing. The master CD-R can be played as many times as you like without harming the disc as long as you handle it carefully.
Incidentally, cutting a CD-R from a good computer program, such as WaveBurner or Masterlist CD, is extremely precise in regards to the song start ID's, so if you have any songs butted together or cross faded, the SCSI method is the only reliable way to go. Also, you may have noticed that major label CDs have a "count-down" between songs, i.e.," -3, -2, -1", which in this example, represents a 3 second space between tracks. Some external CD-R writers have no way to account for this space, so the 3 second space becomes part of the song's timing on the CD counter. At Silverbirch, we cut CDs from our hard drive, at 4x's, to ensure precision start times, lowest error rate and a "major label look" on the CD player's counter.
Please ignore, or at least ask for more information re the unfortunate, inaccurate and widespread rumour that cutting CDs at 1x's sound better that those cut at 4x's. It is simply not true! We know of instances where this has actually happened but it is due to equipment, methodology or media failure, not the difference in the cutting speeds. In fact, the only good reason for cutting CDs 1 to 1 is when any dsp is used during the writing process, as some of the old style mastering work stations do.