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MediaFORM’s CD-4600 CD2CD Pro CD-R Duplicator Review

A mid-range product designed for tasks such as small-run disc duplication and rudimentary disc verification, MediaFORM’s CD2CD Pro is a standalone tower that combines one 12X Plextor CD-ROM drive with one to six Yamaha or TEAC CD recorders and can be placed unobtrusively on a desk in an office or production environment.

MediaFORM’s CD-4600 CD2CD Pro CD-R Duplicator

Hugh Bennett
EMedia Professional, November 1997

A longtime fixture of floppy diskette duplication, MediaFORM, Inc. has transferred its amassed technological talents and know-how to the CD-R side in recent years with much success, establishing itself alongside Microboards, Alea, and Champion as a household name in houses where CD-R is spoken. And MediaFORM’s name-recognition notoriety should only grow with its latest and most visible release, the CD2CD Pro, a new standalone duplicator that instantly stands out in a well-populated and growing field.

A mid-range product designed for tasks such as small-run disc duplication and rudimentary disc verification, MediaFORM’s CD2CD Pro is a standalone tower that can be placed unobtrusively on a desk in an office or production environment. What first seems best about the product is not just how neatly it makes itself at home in such an environment but how quickly and easily it gets busy; even CD-R greenhorns can plug in the drive and be duping discs in minutes. But the CD2CD Pro makes its deepest impression with its range of functionality, consistent 4X write performance, and a logical, flexible, and inexpensive expansion path that is unsurpassed among the current crop of duplicators in the CD2CD Pro’s class.

Instead of using a proprietary architecture, the CD2CD Pro is based around a standard 75Mhz Pentium PC configured with an IDE hard drive, one or two Adaptec AHA-2940 SCSI cards, one Plextor 12PleX CD-ROM drive, and one to six TEAC CD-R50S 4X/4X or Yamaha CDR400t 4X/6X recorders. With one recorder installed, the 47-pound, 19.4″ X 18.4″ X 6.8″ box sells for $4995; the no-vacancy six-drive models sell for $8995. Users type commands on a 14-key membrane control pad that protrudes from the top of the unit’s face, with numbers 0 to 9 and designations for Start, Stop, Copy, and Compare. An easy-to-read backlit LCD display with two-line, 20-character capacity keeps the user informed of all duplication activities. With Yamaha recorders in use, start-up initialization is a bit sluggish, clocking in at roughly two and a half minutes for completing internal diagnostics.

Direct disc-to-disc copying with the CD2CD Pro is a piece of cake: users need simply to insert the duplication-designated CD in the CD-ROM drive and place blank CD-R discs in as many of the recorders as needed. The user then selects Copy on the keypad and the CD2CD Pro gets to work, automatically detecting and adjusting to the source disc’s format before broadcasting the data to the recorders. When the writing is complete, the unit then ejects the discs. If any problems arise during the writing process, such as a bad blank disc or a hardware failure, only the affected recorder stops. The CD2CD Pro then returns an alert message and signals the drive with the write failure by not ejecting its tray at the end of the process.

The nine numbered keys on the CD2CD Pro’s input panel enable several additional functions that enhance the flexibility of the duplicator. Users can summon system information, adjust configuration, and turn on or off additional functions such as an optional password for controlling access to the duplicator in unsecured environments or running data comparison after writing. The CD2CD Pro also allows users to force copying in Disc-At-Once mode.

In addition to disc-to-disc duplication, the CD2CD Pro can also load a disc onto its internal hard drive as an intermediate cache before writing. This Archive feature comes in particularly handy when copying from damaged or scratched masters which can only be read at speeds too slow to provide the 4X transfer rate required for buffer underrun-free recording. Also useful for staving off multiple-recorder write failures is a “Full Scan” feature which scans the entire master disc before writing begins to determine if it can be read quickly enough for a successful burn. Using the installed Plextor 12/20Plex CD-ROM drive, the MediaFORM duplicator can scan a full, 650MB CD in approximately four minutes.

The CD2CD Pro creates audio compilation discs with similar ease, quickly and straightforwardly extracting and recording a track at a time from one or multiple master sources. After placing the audio source disc in the CD-ROM drive and a blank CD-R disc in the CD recorder, the users then respond to a track number prompt and the duplicator writes the corresponding audio to disc. Users can then write additional tracks in the same manner, or choose to finalize the completed disc. One convenience lacking, however, is the ability to specify a number of tracks ahead of time for compiling to eliminate the need for the unit to be tended to continuously.

Another noteworthy feature of the CD2CD Pro is its compact disc-delivered upgradable firmware. Whenever MediaFORM updates the unit’s control software, the company issues an upgrade CD which, when placed in the CD-ROM drive, lets the system update itself. For those in even a greater hurry, MediaFORM also makes an image file available for downloading from the company’s Web site so customers can record their own update CD.

Responsive service is especially important when dealing with production equipment, and during testing of the duplicator, MediaFORM effectively handled several calls placed to their technical support department. The staff proved quite knowledgeable and prompt in dealing with several bugs encountered during the evaluation. For example, a reported mixed-mode comparison snag was addressed within a few days, when a new firmware update CD arrived via courier to correct the problem.

One key feature that sets the CD2CD Pro apart from other standalone duplication towers is expandability. Through a number of reasonably priced options such as a 100Base-T ethernet network option, users can chain up to four CD2CD Pro chasses together to fire up as many as 24 recorders simultaneously writing the same image.

A standard RS-232 serial connector on the back of the cabinet allows connection to Nistec’s pick-and-place ALW-501P Autorecorder or MediaFORM’s CD-2600 25-disc, caddy-based autoloader for handy unattended duplication. The $4,490 CD-2600 is actually a modified version of MediaFORM’s own rock-solid floppy diskette autoloading mechanism. On top of the unit is a hopper for loading 25 discs in caddies; descending from the front, a spring-loaded container accepts finished discs, and a reject area deals with problematic discs.

The $1295 Easi-DAT option also allows users to connect any audio DAT player through a standard Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format (SPDIF) or ANSI S4.40-1985 Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcasting Union (AES/EBU) digital interface port to the CD2CD Pro to convert DAT tapes to CD. Features include multiple sample rate support, selective track extraction, Start ID editing, and hard-drive CD player emulation.

If you do not have access to a CD recorder and require other disc-creation options available only through PC-based premastering or packet writing software, the CD2CD Pro can connect to a PC and operate as a fully functional external SCSI CD recorder. When attached to a computer, the unit cannot be operated in standalone mode, but the CD-ROM drive and up to three of the recorders can be accessed as individual SCSI devices. Unfortunately, the connection can prove rather clumsy, since the CD2CD Pro lacks individual-device SCSI ID selectors for each device, which is very likely to yield frustrating conflicts with existing installed hardware.

$8995 is a reasonable price to pay for six 4X recorders humming along in synchronized duplication harmony. Throw in a robust Plextor speed-reader, a healthy range of functionality, and PC connectivity options, and MediaFORM’s CD-4600 CD2CD Pro offers a tough-to-match duplicator value. The product’s ease-of-use, reliability, flexibility, and expandability make the CD2CD Pro an ideal choice for organizations with growing disc-production needs, varying CD-familiarity comfort zones, and often-in-transition enterprise computing set-ups.

Standing apart from the crowd is getting harder and harder to do in the bustling standalone CD duplicator tower market, as new and improved products of all shapes and sizes proliferate and increasingly tailor themselves to ever-better understood user needs. But even in the face of competition a good deal stiffer than earlier MediaFORM products have faced, MediaFORM’s CD2CD Pro distinguishes itself on several levels and convincingly stakes its claim as the product to beat among today’s mid-range CD-R duplication systems.

Other Companies Mentioned

Nistec Corporation
480 Minoridai, Matatsudo-shi, Chiba, 271 Japan; 0473-69-5150; Fax 0473-61-5823

Plextor Corporation
4255 Burton Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95054; 800/886-3935, 408/980-1838; Fax 408/986-1010;

TEAC America, Inc.
Data Storage Division Headquarters, 7733 Telegraph Road, Montebello, CA 90640; 213/726-0303; Fax 213/727-7672;

Yamaha Systems Technology Inc.
100 Century Center Court, San Jose, CA 95112; 800/543-7457, 408/467-2300; Fax 408/437-9741;

MediaFORM’s CD-4600 CD2CD Pro

Synopsis: A mid-range product designed for tasks such as small-run disc duplication and rudimentary disc verification, MediaFORM’s CD2CD Pro is a standalone tower that combines one 12X Plextor CD-ROM drive with one to six Yamaha or TEAC CD recorders and can be placed unobtrusively on a desk in an office or production environment. With its moderate pricing, healthy range of disc-copying functions, optional PC connectivity, learning curve-free ease-of-use, and straightforward expansion to up to 24 recorders, CD2CD Pro is the product to beat among today’s mid-size standalone duplicators.

Price: One-recorder minimum, $4995; six-recorder maximum, $8995
Options: Easi-DAT $1295, CD-2600 autoloader $4490

For more information, contact:

MediaFORM, Inc.
400 Eagleview Boulevard, Suite 104
Exton, PA 19341
800/220-1215, 610/458-9200
Fax 610/458-9554

About the Author

Hugh Bennett, editor-in-chief of Hugh’s News, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems, a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is author of The Authoritative Blu-ray Disc (BD) FAQ and The Authoritative HD DVD FAQ, available on Hugh’s News, as well as Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).

Copyright © Online Inc. / Hugh Bennett