Media Magnet #4: Burn Fast, Die Young

A few months ago, I was shooting my mouth off in this very column about the splendor of the coming wave of CD recorders. I still think CD burners that can write an entire disc in less than 6 minutes and/or are hot-pluggable are indeed the cat's meow. The problem is their arrival and proper implementation has been slower than a jock in a UC Berkeley philosophy class.

Speed... Sort Of

Lately I've had the chance to play with the APS Technologies' ( www.apstech.com ) 12x4x32 CD-rewritable drive I boasted about in January. The $400 drive is based on a Sanyo ( www.sanyo.com ) mechanism, but does not yet include Sanyo's BURN (Buffer Under-Run) Proof technology, which is still month away.

Because Adaptec's ( www.adaptec.com ) Toast and Toast Deluxe CD burning software don't recognize this drive -- or any 12x CD-RW for that matter -- the APS drive ships with a special version of the burning software, Toast 4.0.1.1. (If that seems like a lot of points, it is.)

This new version includes a driver specifically created for the Sanyo 12x4x32 drive, and it appears that each manufacturer of new CD recorders has been working with Adaptec to find temporary individual solutions to make their drives compatible. Using Toast 4.0.1.1 with the APS drive, I have been able to burn full data CDs in just less than 6 minutes. With audio, however, it gets a little trickier.

Toast 4.0.1.1 will let you burn audio CDs at 12x speed with this drive, but not in Disc-at-Once (DAO) mode, a mode that lets you create audio CDs with no audible gaps between tracks. Even when I manually set the pause between audio tracks to 0 seconds, I could still hear tiny gaps.

Though Disc-at-Once mode was introduced with Toast 4 Deluxe (see the

4.0 mice
Review ), when I used the special APS driver with that new version, I wasn't able to burn CDs at any rate higher than 8x.

Adaptec has told me they won't offer full support for 12x burners within the current Toast Deluxe software until sometime this spring, an update that should also add support for FireWire-based drives.

FireWire in Sheep's Clothing

Speaking of FireWire, some manufacturers of FireWire-based CD-RW drives have figured out temporary fixes so that their drives can use Toast. A special software driver, known as a shim, tricks your Mac into thinking that the drive is actually connected by a different sort of technology -- in this case SCSI. Adaptec, however, doesn't certify or support any of these work-arounds, so it's definitely a use-at-your-own-risk proposition.

CharisMac Engineering's ( www.charismac.com ) CD-writing program, Discribe, has been shipping for a while with Sony's Spressa FireWire drive, but the Spressa has had problems on iMac DVs and G4s.

The really impressive programs for burning audio CDs, though, don't support any fast drives yet. Adaptec's Jam (see the

3.5 mice
Review ), which is my tool of choice for audio CD creation, hasn't been updated in a year and a half -- but Adaptec told me they will release an updated version this summer. Emagic's ( www.emagic.de ) WaveBurner (see the
4.0 mice
Review ) also doesn't work with 12x drives, and there's no word on when the company will produce an appropriate update.

As appealing as 12x CD burning is, the bottom line is that it's not a good time to buying a fast CD-RW. The introduction of blistering drives has truly outpaced the software needed to use them, so anything you buy right now will be all style with little function -- or about as useless as steak knives at a vegetarian restaurant.

Macworld Associate Editor JONATHAN SEFF ( jseff@macworld.com ) has never caught up with his audio CD-burning To Do list. He writes about storage and multimedia topics monthly in his Media Magnet column on Macworld.com.

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