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Drive reliability for "bad" CDs
Authored by: VRic on Apr 01, '05 09:47:33AM

Here's my experience regarding drive reliability for "bad" CDs (from a related hint I'm submitting right now):

  • Slower drives are usually better (except portable drives).
  • When slower drives aren't available, try to find some software option to slow the rotation, there may be such options in some CD copy applications or in separate tools like one that was made for Plextor SCSI drives a few years back.
  • CD burners are usually better than CD players at the same advertised speed.
  • Tray-loading drives are better than slot-loading, and caddies are better than trays, but nobody makes caddies any more.
  • Yamaha made extremely accurate caddy-loading CD and CDR drives for longer than other makers, so theirs are probably the faster caddies available.
  • Since audio CDs don't include the data-integrity redundancy of data CDs (hence the bigger capacity in audio mode), most drives perform data correction on the fly like they were playing the tracks, which means they "guess" what they can't read easily (hence the checkbox in iTunes' prefs to force slower retry); only some high-end drives really provide bit for bit accuracy for audio extraction at 24x speed, and not faster as far as I know. Those drives usually come from Yamaha or Plextor.
  • The ultimate easily found best drive ever for out-of-specs CDs is Apple's caddy-loading 2x SCSI CD-300. It's also relatively small, very well made and can be bought for nothing on eBay (the one on top in the photo, the other is an older 1x Apple CDSC, which won't fit anywhere but under an SE-shaped Mac). I won't sell mine for anything though: it ripped commercial audio CDs that wouldn't play in my stereo and were so old they didn't even comply to physical specs (they were a bit thinner, about 2 mm smaller in diameter, had rounded edges, and seemed very unbalanced as they caused any faster drive to rattle horribly and fail). If you have an Apple CD300, keep it. You might even plug it to an USB-SCSI adapter if that still exists (I didn't try that because I found SCSI to USB stupid in the first place, but given this drive's data throughput that's probably the only sensible use of such an adapter).

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