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A new generation of CD recorders is here: the 4 x and 6 x recorders that seemed so fast six months ago have given way to 8 x devices that can burn a recordable CD in less than nine minutes. The first 8 x recorders to hit the Mac market, Smart and Friendly's CD Rocket and APS Technologies' APS CD-R 8 x 20, both deliver on the promise of faster writing speeds at prices comparable to what you recently would have paid for a 4 x recorder. However, given the shortage of high-speed recordable media and some minor reliability problems with the new drives, you may be better off sticking with a slower mechanismat least for now.
The APS drive features a more compact enclosure and a neat automatic-termination feature, but it doesn't ship with a SCSI cable. The Smart and Friendly drive costs an extra $200, consumes more desk space, and requires manual termination but includes a SCSI cable and a terminator. Otherwise the drives are identical: they use the same 8 x 20 mechanism from Sanyo and include the same CD-recording software, Adaptec Toast 3.5.
The Sanyo mechanism writes recordable CDs at up to 8 x and reads all common CD formats at up to 20 x . But to write a CD at 8 x , you need media certified for the higher speedand at the moment only a handful of vendors are offering 8 x -certified discs (see "Media Limited for 8 x CD-Rs," News, April 1999). You can buy certified discs directly from drive vendorsat $20 per ten-packbut finding them at a local outlet may be a challenge.
A 20 x mechanism for reading CDs sounds impressive, but you need a fast SCSI connection to take advantage of that speed. On a Power Mac 7300 with a standard SCSI port, the drives were slower than the internal 8 x CD-ROM drive. The drives also mysteriously failed every 15th disc or so; error messages indicated problems with the SCSI connection or the servo-tracking mechanism. And although the recorders feature a 2MB buffer, you'll still need a reasonably fast hard disk to feed them a continuous data stream.
The Toast software is easy to use and lets you write discs in a wide range of CD formats. A companion program, Toast Audio Extractor, lets you copy tracks from an audio CD to your hard drive. However, Toast automatically inserts a 2ms pause between audio tracks. If you're recording an album on which the music doesn't pause, this causes what sounds like a skip between songs.
Both drives sell for under $700a far cry from the CD Rocket's original $1,090 price tag when the drive was released last year for the PC. But that's still about $200 to $400 more than what you'd pay for a 4 x drive. If writing a CD in 9 minutes rather than 18 makes a big difference to youand you're willing to put up with a temporarily limited media supplythen consider the more reasonably priced APS drive.
RATING: PROS: Fast CD writer; automatic termination. CONS: Limited media availability; minor reliability problems; no SCSI cable in box. COMPANY: APS Technologies (816/483-1600, http://www.apstech.com ). LIST PRICE: $490.
RATING: PROS: Fast CD writer. CONS: Limited media availability; minor reliability problems; larger footprint than competing model. COMPANY: Smart and Friendly (818/772-8001, http://www.smartandfriendly.com ). LIST PRICE: $699.
May 1999 page: 53