Toast 5 Titanium’s release is just around the corner, according to Roxio. The major upgrade for the popular Macintosh CD-R/CD-RW mastering program is already in manufacturing and is due on retailers’ shelves by the end of March. The new software will sport major new features and enhancements, including improved compatibility with Apple’s enormously popular iTunes software.
Apple’s iTunes supports third-party CD-RW drives, like those commonly bundled with Toast. And, unfortunately, iTunes breaks compatibility with Toast. Apple’s Disc Burner software also presents an issue — Disc Burner enables users to master CDs using desktop icons.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs says that Disc Burner works the way CD burning software ought to, but Roxio product manager Victor Nemechek told MacCentral that his company has some compelling reasons for users to use Toast instead.
“We think Toast can do a lot more than what iTunes and Disc Burner are capable of, and we’d like to see them continue using Toast,” said Nemechek.
Nemechek says that Roxio has done some benchmarks that show Toast has the performance edge over iTunes when it comes to burning audio CDs.
“In our test it took 19 minutes, 7 seconds to burn a set of audio files to disc using iTunes. Toast took only 9 minutes, 17 seconds to burn the same audio files,” said Nemechek.
Nemechek explained that unlike iTunes and Disc Burner, Toast does not “pre-master” CD content by writing it temporarily to the hard disk drive. Instead, the info is streamed directly to the CD. This results in faster burns and less temporarily wasted hard drive space.
Although iTunes’ disc burning function can’t be used in conjunction with Toast 4.x’s own system extensions, Nemechek said that they can co-exist.
“If you have both iTunes and Toast operating simultaneously, you can just drag your music list from iTunes and drop it onto Toast,” said Nemechek. Toast users can then master the CD with the imported audio list from iTunes, yielding the same result as they would have burning directly within iTunes itself.
Nemechek said the situation would improve when Toast 5 Titanium is available. The new version of Toast — which carries a suggested retail price of US$99 — is compatible with iTunes. Users running Mac OS 9.1 and iTunes 1.1 can install Toast 5 Titanium, keep its system extensions active, and expect iTunes to continue to be able to burn to CD-R.
“For the initial release of Toast 5 Titanium, it doesn’t work perfectly, but it does work,” cautioned Nemechek. He explained that users running with Toast 5’s extensions in place won’t be prompted by iTunes to insert a blank CD, nor will they be advised when the burn is done, but it functions.
“We’re planning to release Toast 5.0.1 in April,” said Nemechek, “and that update will correct these problems.”
Unfortunately, coexistence with Apple’s Disc Burner software presents a bigger problem. Nemechek said that users will have to decide between using Toast and using Disc Burner. Nemechek proceeded to check off a long list of improvements and changes to Toast 5 Titanium that he hopes will entice users to buy it instead of using Apple’s free alternative.
The new version of Toast sports an easier to use interface. Toast 5 Titanium also features MPEG-1 encoding through support of the VideoCD standard. A supplied plug-in enables iMovie users to export their creations directly to CD using VideoCD, which can then be played back on many DVD players and CD-ROM drives.
“It’ll also do a bit for bit, or raw mode, copy of any CD,” said Nemechek, enabling users to produce backups of CDs that older versions of Toast may previous have balked at. Nemechek cited PlayStation CD-ROMs and karaoke CDs as two examples of discs that can be duplicated using Toast 5 Titanium’s raw mode copying feature.
Toast 5 Titanium also sports what Nemechek called “super robust” background burning, not dependent on the caching characteristics of so-called “burn-proof” CD-RW drives. Background burning makes it possible for users to check e-mail, surf the Web, and perform other tasks while Toast burns CDs in the background, uninterrupted.
“In fact, we had a hard time in the lab getting Toast 5’s background burning to fail,” said Nemechek proudly.
Toast 5 Titanium also supports multiple CD recorders on the same Mac; users can burn the same or different data to different mechanisms, hooked up through any of the different interfaces that Toast supports: USB, FireWire, SCSI, ATAPI. Nemechek said that Roxio has had up to six separate burners hooked up to a Macintosh simultaneously, with no ill effects.
Look for Toast 5 Titanium to hit stores by the end of the month with a street price of around $80. Users of Toast 4 Deluxe can upgrade to Toast 5 Titanium for the reduced price of $59 (and users who purchased Toast 4 Deluxe after January 9 are entitled to a lower cost upgrade); users of the “standard” OEM version of Toast 4 included with CD-R drives must buy the full retail package.