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Joe Caithness Mastering’s “Guide to Digital Audio for Musicians” Part 1.5 : The Two Types of CD production

“What the hell is the difference between CD replication and CD duplication?”

This is a question asked by almost every client who comes to me to master for a short run of CDs.

The rule of thumb is that if you’re making small amounts (usually up to 100 or 200) of CDs on a “make your own CD” type website it will be duplication.

Duplication involves copying 1 to 1 a CDr master of your album. This is basically the same as burning a CD in your computer CD/DVD drive over and over on a large scale.

This is a lower quality product for three main reasons.

  1. The CD you are producing is a copy of a CDr. As most people will know CDrs aren’t the most durable format ever and need to be burned from a CD drive/software in the first place. This introduces scope for errors which will then be duplicated along with the audio.
  2. CDr is a lower quality product as far as age and durability is concerned. Because these CDs have been effectively printed onto the layer on the top of the readable side is a lot less durable than a commercial CD. You may have even seen this peel off if a CDr is left in a car for example.
  3. As each individual CDr is burned from scratch in a new distinct drive, sequential CDrs are less likely to be consistent. For example if there is a problem with a drive within the stack of 5 used to make the CDr each time this drive is used you are potentially creating a dud product.

I have used this format for releases myself, and many people choose to still as it is a very cheap way to give punters at live shows a product to purchase. But be aware that you are rolling the dice to some degree just by using CDrs.

The standard for a commercial released CD Audio disc you will find a shop is a replicated CD.

These products which we are all aware of also include the risks of age and damage, but to a much smaller degree. Replicated CDs are manufactured in a similar way to vinyl, as in they are physically pressed as a virgin product using a glass master. When ordering a CD from a production company you will often this glass mastering as a cost as it is a bespoke production master made for your CD.

Replicated CDs are incredibly cheap now so my personal suggestion is unless you are making a handful for a show or tour consider making a replicated CD run and giving away any additional copies to fans or promo if you have any left over after the initial sale has died down. This means if someone pulls out your release to listen to or rip to their computer in ten years time it is a lot more likely to work as the day the master was made and therefore reconnect you to your listeners.

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