What is the Difference Between 48X and 52X CD-Rs?

Q: I noticed that some of your newer CD-R brands (like Falcon Pro) have write speeds of 48X, but other CD-R brands have write speeds of 52X. When is Falcon Pro coming up with a 52X speed disc?
A: The short answer is that 48X and 52X, in terms of media, are really the same thing. But, for the specifics, I turned to Fred Perez, National Sales Director, for Falcon Technologies International, makers of Falcon Pro media. Perez told me that the maximum speed of Recordable CDs, according to the Orange Book specifications, is 48X. "Originally, we decided to stick with this specification and only market our Falcon Pro as 48X certified," he said.

The recorder manufacturers are the ones that started marketing their recorders at 52X, this pushed media manufacturers to then market their media as 52X certified.

"The reality," he said, "is you cannot achieve 52X record speeds. The maximum burn speed that I've ever been able to achieve is 47.2X with a full CD. The write speed starts off around 16X to 20X and climbs to about 47X for a full 700Mb CD, and then drops a little during the finalization of the disc."

That's why review sites, like CDFreaks, talk about how long it takes to burn a full disc at 40X or 48X speeds. The combination of the media quality and burn speed influence the overall time to complete the burn. It would be great to have a burner recorder at 48X speed for any size CD because then we could easily figure out the time it will take. Unfortunately, that is not the case, the amount of information on the disc coupled with recorder and media brand contribute to the overall burn time.

"Oh, and guess what?" continued Perez. "Most folks are now purchasing combo DVD/CD recorders and these recorders are only certified to burn CDs at 48X or slower. The dedicated CD-R only recorders are going away - everybody is now using these combo DVD/CD recorders so this whole 52X vs. 48X is becoming less important."

Having said that, Falcon is aligning its marketing materials with those of its competitors. Since Falcon actually certifies and tests its media on 52X recorders, their product packaging will soon say their CD-Rs are 52X compatible.

"I don't want your customers to think our media is inferior or not compatible with 52X recorders," said Perez, "because it is absolutely compatible. I'm guessing that I will not have any 48X labeled media in my stock within the next 3 months."

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