The death of recordable compact discs, part 4

Pile of unplayable recordable discs, some with adhesive labels

Once upon a time there was a co-worker.

He complained bitterly about how much he hated adhesive labels applied onto CD-Rs.

My response was that he should have used decent labels. Most of my self-burnt music CDs have adhesive labels, and they play fine. He didn’t believe me.

The co-worker was wrong. My discs play just fine. This was over a decade ago.

Today he’s right. The vast majority of my self-burnt music CD-Rs have become near unplayable — whether with or without adhesive labels, although he must be given credit: the unstickered ones are less troublesome.

And here follows my most recent adventure: ripping those bastards.

Yes, I’m one of a dying breed of people that still buys original, pressed compact discs.

Like vinyl, they’re a treasure trove of information and a pillar of longevity. As for personal compilation CDs on recordable disc? Bah! Be gone. Voetsek!

Say what I will about “digital audio”, little beats the convenience of media players that support audio on what used to be on a divergent lot of carriers a mere mouse click away.

But how to get there?

Well, the main workstation ripped most discs just fine. Data recovered. Happiness.

Others? Not so much. No disc inserted. No audio tracks found.

Laptop or desktop, CD- or DVD-player, LG or Plextor, whether with Windows or Linux, Asunder or CDParanoia or Express Rip — they all failed at different places. Some ripped the first five tracks, others could only read track 6 and beyond. The brand of disc made no difference. Whether green or blue dye, there was no specific pattern. It made no sense. They were stored correctly, aren’t scratched, and there’s no visible decay. The stickers aren’t peeling off, and they’re centered. WTF?

Some discs were doomed to be lost forever until I hauled out an old IBM Thinkpad with a Toshiba drive and gave it a desperate spin in the basement. Erhmm… OK? How come this one works? Is it because it’s cold down there? Yes. Is it because the drives start making funny sounds once they run warm? Yes. Putting the discs in a freezer before ripping them doesn’t help either; it’s the drive that needs to stay cool!

So, if you still have a bunch of self-burnt audio CD-Rs floating about, here’s my advice:

  1. Throw out those whose contents you’ve outgrown. They take up space.
  2. Rip the others immediately using your favourite hardware/software. Not tomorrow. Today! Not as shitty MP3 files but lossless. Do it, right now!
  3. Having trouble reading some, or they scratch and pop? Set up an old computer with a low-speed CD-ROM in a very cold room and get ripping. Today.

That said: Support the artists! Buy their music. Then rip it for personal backups.

You’re welcome.

Photo credits: hmvhDOTnet + Unknown

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