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Ricoh’s RS-1060C: Would-be Spectacular Meets a Competitive Market

Although Ricoh’s RS-1060C does the job, it has a number of inadequacies, including a small buffer, double speed recording only, slow CD-ROM drive performance and a relatively high price.

Ricoh’s RS-1060C: Would-be Spectacular Meets a Competitive Market

Hugh Bennett
CD-ROM Professional, December 1995

[Author’s note: The babbling introduction and conclusion come courtesy of the magazine's editor.]

Do you remember that sinking feeling on Christmas morning, when the excitement about a new toy begins to yield to the realization that what was seen on TV, or in the store display, or within the pages of the Sears and Roebuck catalog has limitations not previously contemplated? There was that red-striped bike that neither flew as fast as its ad’s illustration suggested nor carried as much flashy chrome or stripping; or the harmonica with which to entertain one’s classmates that took a whole lot more practice than the show floor clerk had intimated; or the electric engine whose vaunted realistic smoke and whistle was decidedly unrealistic as it popped bright white puffs and piped shrill hisses as it circled the simple oval track around the wrapping-strewn living room.

Some buyers may feel similarly disappointed with what the RS-1060C has to offer. Not that there is anything wrong with the Ricoh RS-1060C CD recorder. The middle-ground performance and features of this CD recorder, especially when compared with some of its newest competition, may have more to say about how fast the CD recorder market—and products—are maturing, and how tough the game is getting at the head of the class.

Indeed, Ricoh Corporation’s new $2395 RS-1060C employs the company’s much-anticipated second-generation RO-1060C double speed external compact disc recording mechanism, in what, even a year ago, would have been a price/performance champ. At its time of introduction, the only RS-1060 package available consisted of the external recorder, a caddy, power cord, and user manual. A more complete RS-1060C bundle is now being shipped, composed of the external recorder, a caddy, power cord, user manual, two blank Ricoh 74-minute discs, Incat Systems CD Workshop utility software, and Ricoh’s new basic recording software called CD Print for Macintosh and Windows.

Like the Sony CDU-920S and JVC XR-W2001, the RO-1060C is a caddy-loading 5.25″ half-height form factor drive with 2X writing and reading capabilities. It writes most formats such as CD-ROM Mode 1 and 2, CD-ROM XA Forms 1 and 2, CD-DA, mixed-mode, and Video CD. It also features a 512K buffer, digital audio extraction capabilities, partial PQ subchannel encoding, and Track-At-Once (TAO) and multisession writing modes.

The RS-1060C features a business-like design with a platinum colored metal case (9.8″ W x 10.5″ D x 2.1″ H) and a localized North American power supply (100-120V, 50/60Hz). The recorder’s face has the necessary basic equipment: a status light, emergency disc ejection hole, eject button, volume wheel, and a mini audio headphone jack. The backplane holds two 50-pin single-ended SCSI connectors, a SCSI ID select wheel, left/right RCA audio out connections, and a bank of five dip switches for changing the unit’s operational mode, which can be described in today’s market as being a bit on the archaic side.

There are some hard and fast rules for CD recording. One is that to record successfully at double speed requires the host system to maintain a minimum sustained transfer rate of 307.2KB/sec for Mode 1 and 352.8KB/sec for Mode 2 and audio sectors. A realistic Macintosh system configuration for using the RS-1060C would require at least a 25MHz 68040 with 8MB RAM, System 7.1 or later, and a large, fast SCSI hard drive with no thermal recalibration problems. PC-compatible users should have available a 33MHz 486DX with 8MB RAM, MS-DOS 5.0, Windows 3.1, and a bus mastering SCSI host adapter (like an Adaptec ISA 1540/1542cf) with a similarly trouble-free SCSI hard disk.

As has been the case with some other entry-level recorders, the RS-1060C is fussy to use even when wedded to a sensible host system. Perhaps Ricoh’s biggest shortcoming was in equipping the drive with a meager 512KB buffer. It became abundantly clear during tests using a Macintosh Centris 660AV with 8MB RAM, a 486DX2/66MHz PC-compatible with 8MB RAM, and an Adaptec 1542cf SCSI controller that the 512KB buffer was barely enough. A number of different software packages, including the following, were used in the testing to rule out the undue effects of buffer underrunning due to the CD recording software:

• Toast CD-ROM Pro Mac, Astarte
• CD-IT!ALL Mac, OptImage
• CD Creator Windows, Corel
• GEAR Windows, Elektroson
• Easy-CD Pro Windows, Incat Systems

When writing Mode 1 data, the 512KB cache in the Ricoh 1060C provides a slim 1.7-second safety margin; in recording Mode 2 or audio sectors, the buffer supports a mere 1.5 seconds of margin before emptying and ruining a disc. These times are not much when recording on-the-fly and compare poorly with competing drives like Sony’s CDU-920S and JVC’s XR-W2001 that offer 1MB buffers, equivalent to double the amount of protection against buffer underruns.

Compounding the problems introduced through the comparatively inadequate buffer is the inability of the RS-1060C to work at single speed, which is especially puzzling because an option to write at single speed improves the chances of successfully writing a disc since it diminishes the required transfer rate and so increases the amount of time before the buffer runs dry. By removing this opportunity for RS-1060C owners, Ricoh forces the use of more hard disk capacity to create physical image files before recording. In marginal cases—where the mix of hardware platform specifications, disc mode, and software can make CD recording very difficult—the option to record at single speed is sometimes the difference between writing a disc slowly or not writing a disc at all.

An important consideration in choosing a CD recorder is the ease with which it can be upgraded if there are any bug fixes or enhancements to the drive’s basic operating set of instructions known as its “firmware.” Like many new CD recorder devices, the RS-1060C employs a flash firmware system permitting the downloading of updates from the host computer.

Updating the 1060C is accomplished through the slightly convoluted process of starting the computer system, turning on and off the RS-1060C at the appropriate times, setting a dip switch on the recorder, and running a DOS program which downloads the new revision. Still, while Ricoh’s implementation may not be as smooth as some other new CD recorders (one of the better examples being JVC’s newest model), firmware upgrading can nonetheless be accomplished by a dealer or technically-inclined end-user and is a more convenient method than replacing chips.

Ricoh currently does not provide a Macintosh firmware downloading utility, however, which means that Mac users must go through the inconvenience of finding a correctly configured PC—386/486, Adaptec SCSI adapter with ASPI manager and MS-DOS 6.0 or higher—or send the recorder away for depot service. Robert DeMoulin, Ricoh’s Compact Disc Recordable Products Manager reports that a Macintosh version is planned, but concedes that it may not be available in the immediate future.

Ricoh’s new CD Print software is included with the RS-1060C for both Mac OS and Windows platforms. As basic software designed for quick backup, data sharing, and personal audio use, CD Print joins the growing ranks of premastering software simplified for the mass market. Among these ranks are numbered Corel Corporation’s CD Creator, Sony Electronic Publishing’s CD Constructor, and Optima Technology’s CD-R Access, to name only some.

Formats written by the Windows version of CD Print include ISO 9660, multisession, and CD-DA, while the Macintosh application adds HFS support and an operating system extension enabling the recorder to function as a standard CD-ROM drive. Rudimentary jewel box labels consisting of volume, title, size, and date information can also be printed, following the rough desktop publishing capabilities first offered in CD Creator.

CD Print operates as a file manager type of environment where volumes, directories, and files to be written to disc are selected and dragged from a source list to a destination window. Preferences and formats are selected through pulldown menus and the whole procedure of writing a disc is only a few easy steps.

The beta copies provided by Ricoh functioned reasonably well, and full release versions of the software are now available. While the interface is not particularly elegant, CD Print is functional and suitable for very basic recording chores; however, most users may prefer more established software such as Corel’s CD Creator or Astarte’s Toast CD-ROM Pro.

Since the RS-1060C supports the industry standard Track-At-Once writing mode, data or music written to CD-Recordable discs can be accessed or played back in everyday CD-ROM drives and audio CD players. Additional multisession capabilities allow flexible recording enabling data to be written to disc a number of times at different sittings. Depending upon the software controlling the recorder, multiple sessions can either appear as separate volumes (multivolume) or be linked as one continuous volume, in the so-called “Kodak style” of multisession recording

While TAO and multisession are enough for many applications, the system lacks Disc-At-Once (DAO) and packet writing, two desirable writing methods standard on competing CD recorders like Sony’s CDU-920S. If supported by the enabling software, DAO creates compact discs that are better suited for audio and as original sources for mass replication. The absence of packet-writing support may not be telling today, since the specific software schemes to implement packet writing are still very much in flux, but things can change fast. Understanding what packet writing is—an emerging system for in-house data archiving, backup, and network applications that writes small amounts of data on multiple occasions without wasting a lot of the disc’s capacity to the overhead inherent in standard multisession—helps one anticipate how fast such capabilities may become established in the market, and Ricoh’s failure to support the 1060C’s ability to provide for packet writing could prove disappointing to many.

On the other hand, Ricoh has provided some strong computer data-oriented capabilities, even if its value to professional audio applications is mixed. For instance, the RS-1060C writes Copy Prohibit, Emphasis, and Serial Copy Management System (SCMS) flags in the Q channel and reads (but does not record) Uniform Product Code/European Article Number (UPC/EAN) or International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) media catalog numbers. The current firmware for the 1060C also limits the unit to two index points, no offsets, and does not support the infrequently used R-W subcodes.

It must be remembered that tests of disc compatibilities based on small samples are not statistically valid, but testing of discs written by particular drives can provide some confidence. All indications are that potential purchasers of the Ricoh 1060C unit should not concern themselves unduly about the quality of the discs written with an RS-1060C.

Analysis of a number of 74-minute Verbatim (multispeed), TDK (4X), MTC/ Mitsui Toatsu (high speed), Kodak (6X), and Ricoh (2X) discs written from the RS-1060C was conducted by Enterprise Corporation International (ECI), a leading company providing technical support and testing products and services for the compact disc industry. Inspection of the discs was performed on an Audio Development CD CATS SA3 Advanced for the full range of relevant parameters like BLER (Block Error Rate), E32 uncorrectable errors, push pull, symmetry, reflectivity, I3, I11, and jitter and deviation. The testing indicated that the RS-1060C performs well on a variety of media types.

ECI also conducted a full range of logical integrity tests employing their PC-based Disc Detective 2.9.2 software. Using Sony CSD-760S (4X SCSI), Toshiba XM-5302B (4X IDE), Toshiba XM-3601B (4X SCSI), Plextor PX-43H (4X SCSI), and Sanyo CRD-254SH (4X SCSI) CD-ROM drives, each disc was tested to make sure that every sector was easily readable and contained no uncorrectable errors. Each measured skew and postgap and executed bit for bit comparisons between the original data and the final discs. As with the physical test results, ECI’s logical analysis findings suggest no significant problems with discs recorded by the RS-1060C.

But while writing readable discs is a crucial requirement for any CD recorder, many people now buying CD recorders want not only good write capabilities, but acceptable read performance as well. Why buy a recorder and separate CD-ROM drive, the thinking goes, when both can be had for the price of one?

Like many of its competitors, the RS-1060C functions as a double speed reader and works with standard PC drivers including Adaptec’s “ASPICD. SYS” (included with EZSCSI), Corel’s “CUNI_ASP.SYS” (included with CD Creator), or Macintosh extensions such as Astarte’s “CD Reader” (included with Toast CD-ROM Pro) and Ricoh’s “RicohDriver” (included with CD Print). Additionally, Ricoh’s DeMoulin expects that 1060C units manufactured post-September 1995 will be “plug-and-play compatible under Microsoft’s Windows 95” and updates would be made available for “users who bought drives in July and August to support this new function.”

While these upgrade options are a positive and timely service, the RS-1060C simply does not share the speed of some of its competitors. While it does offer a sustained transfer rate of 300KB/sec, the drive carries an average access time of 395ms (one-third stroke); worse, the system can take between 15 and 20 seconds to recognize a disc after insertion. By comparison, Sony’s recently released CDU-920S mechanism speeds along with a 300ms (one-third stroke) average access time and is ready to play or record a disc in roughly four seconds.

A popular feature supported by the RS-1060C is digital audio extraction to allow copying of audio tracks over the SCSI bus and saving them as standard .WAV, .PCM, and other audio files. Although Ricoh does not include the necessary software, the RS-1060C can play Red Book compact discs with enabling applications available from third parties and will satisfy most PC needs. When it comes to Macintosh users, there are currently no drivers available for listening to audio tracks, although if Mac CD-DA access is important, two companies to keep in mind are Optical Media International and FWB, Inc. who update regularly their CD-ROM/CD-R drivers to support new devices.

Although the RS-1060C does the job, the CD recorder has a number of inadequacies, like small buffer, double speed recording only, relatively slow CD-ROM drive performance, and a relatively high price, which has the net effect of making this CD recorder unremarkable. In relation to other recorders now on the market, the RS-1060C is neither the only, nor the best option available.

Of course, part of this assessment is based on the list price, where $2395, in the span of less than a year, has gone from the price to beat to a price easily—and soundly—beaten. List price and street price can be widely different things, however, especially in the new, fiercely competitive market that the CD recorder domain has become, and the quality of the 1060C’s disc writing, for instance, would look much better against its newer competition if there were no difference in price. Indeed, even as the 1060C was being released into the market earlier this year, the expected street price was cited by a spokesperson for the company to be in the $1400 to $1600 range.

But even at a very competitive price, the 1060C has its limits. Considering that Ricoh has publicly discussed the availability (for the end of 1995) of its 2X write/4X read system code-named “MARS,” one could infer that the company may have only a passing commitment to the RO-1060C. Based on components from Philips Key Modules, the new MARS drive could abruptly spell the end of further updates to the 1060C’s firmware and restrict future technical support possibilities. Upgrading model lines more and more quickly is another mark of the new CD recorder field, like lower and lower prices.

If you are set on buying a CD recorder system that incorporates the Ricoh RO-1060C, you might hunt for the better price, or look to the better value offered by some 1060C OEM customers, such as Micronet Technology with its CD Master Plus. The Ricoh 1060C and its OEM offspring are good CD recorders by any reasonable standard, but one would be wise also to investigate some of the double speed alternatives based on the Sony CDU-920S mechanism like Sony’s Spressa 920/9211, Smart and Friendly’s CD-R1002, Optical Media International’s OMR100, and others.

After all, when the package is unwrapped and the tissue paper is torn away, that store-brand double runner sled, while nice, just doesn’t carry the same thrill as a brand new Flexible Flyer.

[Author’s Note: I wish to thank the following companies for providing the various products and services used during my review of Ricoh Corporation’s RS-1060C and Micronet’s Master CD Plus: Verbatim Corporation, Revelation Products Corporation, Astarte GmbH, OptImage Interactive Services Company, L.P., Enterprise Corporation International, TDK Electronics Corporation, MTC America, Inc./Mitsui Toatsu Chemicals, Inc., Elektroson U.S.A, Incat Systems Software USA, Inc., Corel Corporation, and Eastman Kodak Company.]

The Other Face of 1060C

One of Ricoh’s largest OEM customers for their CD recording mechanisms is Micronet Technology, Inc. of Irvine, California. Micronet Technology is a well-established developer of magnetic and optical storage systems for Macintosh and PC-compatibles, and the company offers the Ricoh RO-1060C mechanism in their double speed, $1695 Master CD Plus package in both Windows and Mac OS configurations.

The Master CD Plus recorder comes attractively packaged in a sturdy platinum colored metal case (9.8″ W x 10.5″ D x 2.1″ H) with a universal autoswitching power supply and a backplane housing standard amenities like two 50-pin SCSI connectors, a SCSI ID selector switch, and left/right RCA audio output jacks. A noisy fan detracts, however, from an otherwise refined design.

Intended as an integrated plug-and-play solution, the Master CD Plus bundle includes everything needed to get started with a minimum of fuss: a caddy, power cord, SCSI cable and active terminator, and one blank 74-minute CD-R disc (OEM MTC/Mitsui Toatsu). Macintosh configurations include Astarte’s powerful Toast CD-ROM Pro for creating ISO 9660, HFS, video CD, CD-i, hybrid, CD Plus, XA, CD-DA, mixed-mode, generic, and multisession discs. PC bundles come with Corel Corporation’s entry-level easy-to-use CD Creator for Windows software for generating ISO 9660, CD-DA, and mixed-mode discs. PC users need only add their own bus mastering ISA, EISA, PCI, Microchannel, or VESA SCSI controller card. Micronet also provides a two-year warranty and telephone technical support.

Generally speaking, the Master CD Plus performs well with Toast and CD Creator, though one software oversight that detracts from the overall polish of the package is the lack of a Macintosh system extension for playing normal audio compact discs. PC users are provided with Corel’s drivers, but Toast’s CD reader only allows using the unit as a basic CD-ROM drive.

A more significant, inconvenient, and potentially costly omission is the lack of any way for the end-user, reseller, or distributor to update the recorder’s firmware. Unlike Ricoh, Micronet chose not to include the microswitch necessary for accessing the RO-1060C’s flash ROM. Master CD Plus owners, therefore, must return the entire unit directly to Micronet in the event of any updates, including those necessary for operating as a CD-ROM drive under Windows 95.

Firmware limitation aside, Micronet has assembled an attractive, polished, and reasonably priced bundle in the Master CD Plus. In many cases, this might be enough to endorse buying a recording system, but the fact remains that there are equally slick recorder packages on the market with more features for similar or less money. The Ricoh RO-1060C mechanism may do the job, but some of the competition does it better. — Hugh Bennett

Software Supporting the Ricoh RS-1060C

DOS Win3.x Win95 WinNT Mac OS/2 Sun OS Solaris HP SGI RS-6000 DEC DEC Alpha
Astarte X
CeQuadrat X X X X
Cirrus Technology X
Corel Corporation X X X X
Dataware X X X X X
Digidesign X
Elektroson X X X X X X X X X X X X
Incat Systems X X X X
Moniker X X
Optical Media International X X X X
OptImage X X
Sony Electronic Publishing X

Product in Brief

Product: RS-1060C
Price: $2395
For More Information Contact: Ricoh Corporation, Peripheral Products
Division, 3001 Orchard Parkway, San
Jose, CA 95134; 800/955-3453;
408/432-8800; Fax 408/432-9266

Companies and Products Mentioned in this Article

Astarte GmbH
Weberstraße 1
76133 Karlsruhe, Germany
49-(0)721-98 55 40
Fax +49-(0)721-85 38 62

CeQuadrat USA
5 Thomas Melon Circle, Suite 105
San Francisco, CA 94134
800/201-1120; 415/715-5610
Fax 415/715-5610

Cirrus Technology, Inc.
5301 Buckeystown Pike, 4th Floor
Frederick, MD 21701
Fax 301/698-1909

Corel Corporation
1600 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON, Canada K1Z 8R7
800/394-3729; 613/728-3733
Fax 613/761-9176

Dataware Technologies, Inc.
222 Third Street, Suite 3300
Cambridge, MA 02142
Fax 617/621-0307

Digidesign Inc.
1360 Willow Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Fax 415/327-0777

Eastman Kodak Company
343 State Street
Rochester, NY 14650

Elektroson USA
10 Presidential, Suite 125
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Fax 610/617-0856

Enterprise Corporation International
1200 Valley West Drive, Suite 120
West Des Moines, IA 50266
Fax 515/223-7749

FWB Inc.
1555 Adams Drive
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Fax 415/833-4653

5660 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Suite 210
Englewood, CO 80111
Fax 303/689-0055

Incat Systems Software USA, Inc.
1684 Dell Avenue
Campbell, CA 95008
800/77-INCAT; 408/379-2400

Micronet Technology, Inc.
80 Technology
Irvine, CA 92718
Fax 714/453-6101

MTC America, Inc./
Mitsui Toatsu Chemicals, Inc.
2500 Westchester Avenue, Suite 110
Purchase, NY 10577
800/MTC-CDRS; 914/253-0777
Fax 914/253-0790

Moniker, Inc.
108 Whispering Pines Drive, Suite 110
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
Fax 408/439-0713

Optical Media International
180 Knowles Drive
Los Gatos, CA 95030
800/347-2664; 408/376-3511
Fax 408/376-3519

OptImage Interactive Services Company
1501 50th Street, Suite 100
West Des Moines, IA 50266-5961
800/CDI-5484; 515/225-7000
Fax 515/225-0252

Sony Electronic Publishing Company
Software Services
One Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 130
Monterey, CA 93940
Fax 408/372-7145

TDK Electronics Corporation
12 Harbor Park Drive
Port Washington, NY 11050

Verbatim Corporation
1200 W.T. Harris Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28262
800/759-3475; 704/547-6500
Fax 704/547-6609

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