How to “burn” the perfect audio CD

(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)

Obvious as it may sound, you’d be surprised how many folks burn data CD’s instead of audio CD’s when they are trying to make a music CD!

To be fair, it can be confusing, because all CD burning software allows you to burn a variety of different types of discs and you are required to pick from a menu of a dozen or more CD formats…and that’s before you even start.

If your CD writer also writes DVD’s then double the amount of options and you can begin to see where it get’s difficult for the newbie to get his/her head around it all.

The Correct Format
The good news is that there is only one format you need to concern yourself with if you want to make a music CD which is capable of being played on a normal domestic hi-fi CD player.

You MUST make sure you burn your CD as an “Audio CD“. See your CD writers help files for more details if you’re not sure what this is or how to select it.

So what happens if you make a mistake and select, say, a data CD instead?

Well, to add to the confusion, data CD’s can also play music! So, if you burn a data CD by mistake, it WILL play on your PC, but if you try to play it in a normal domestic CD player, the disc won’t be recognised.

So, remember when you’re burning a music CD, you are making an “Audio CD“, not a CD-ROM(ISO), Mixed Mode CD, CD Extra, Video CD, Super Video CD, CD-ROM (BOOT), CD-ROM (Hybrid), CD-ROM (UDF), CD-ROM (UDF/ISO) or any other weird and wonderful format that your CD writer allows you to select.

CD “skipping”
Have you ever had a CD “skip” while it’s playing or found that it just won’t play at all in some CD players but others play it just fine? This is a common problem, but it can be prevented.

While CD “skipping” can often be caused by dirty fingermarks or scratches on the surface of the disc, this isn’t always the case. Skipping is also caused by burning discs too quickly. Nowadays, modern CD writers can burn discs at up to 52x. While it may at first glance seem great that you can burn a full CD in little more than a minute, burning at high speeds causes the data to be less reliable…which causes skipping.

So, even if you’ve invested all your hard earned cash in a super-duper lightning fast CD writer, if you want the best results – and by that I mean good quality sound and no skipping – then NEVER burn an audio CD at any more than 8x (4x is even better).

It really defeats the purpose if you’ve spent days, weeks, or even months recording a great album only for listeners to switch it off after the first song because they’re tired of hearing all those glitches and blips!

CD writing software & Discs
I’m often asked what’s the best CD writing software and discs to use for making music CD’s. There’s no easy answer to this because there are hundreds of CD writing software programs out there and thousands of brands of blank CD-R’s.

However, it’s always a good idea to try using the software that was supplied with your CD writer – after all, it was written specially for the hardware so should work well with it. If you didn’t receive CD writing software bundled with your CD writer when you bought it, then Nero (http://www.nero.com) is as good as any you’ll find.

When it comes to choosing which blank CD-R discs are best, the field is wide open. Don’t assume that because you pay a lot of money for blank CD-R’s that you’ll get better results. Sometimes cheaper CD-R’s work better than expensive ones, and vice-versa. The secret is to find a brand of disc that works well with your computer – discs that work well in one computer might fail and cause burn errors in another. Look on the bright side though. You can always use your failed CD burns as drinks coasters!

Hopefully this short article will put you on the right road to burning successful music discs. If you run in to any problems, the first place you should always look is your CD writing softwares help pages – most are pretty well written and cover all the aspects and problems you’re likely to come across.

So go and “Burn Baby Burn”….!