|Yamaha CRW3200 LightSpeed3 CD-RW Recorder|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Monday, 01 July 2002|
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Burning Down the House
When starting the process of burning a CD, the Nero software can take the data straight from the disk with a simple drag and drop format, or you can store it on your hard drive in a file Nero will create for you. I used Nero Burning ROM to start the process. Nero Burning ROM has a nice interface that will look at the drive you have your master CD in and retrieve the data off of that drive and display that information in the Nero window. If required, Nero can also get the track information from the Internet, along with other data you might want to use to create image files for the CD that you are burning. This is very cool.
I wanted to get a feel for how fast the 24x speed really is, so I chose Dream Theater’s latest CD, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (Elektra Entertainment Group), for this test. The play time is 71 minutes, 10 seconds, and weighs in at 714 megabytes of data. Using the Yamaha professional grade 24x certified CD-R blank discs supplied by Yamaha, I launched Nero, which faithfully read the CD information from my Hitachi drive. I chose to record in the order that my test CD was originally recorded, although you can create any order you want by selecting any track and putting it in your own custom hierarchy. Then I simply hit the “burn“ icon, sat back and waited. But not very long. Total burn time, excluding the time it took to create my track order, was six minutes, 48 seconds. Did it work? I popped the newly-created disc into my CD player to find out. My normally picky Audio Research CD2 player read the disc with no problem. This was a good start. How did it sound? At first listen, my immediate impression was that it sounded specifically digital. When I put the original CD in for a comparison with the copy, the differences were quite recognizable. While certainly listenable, the copy sounded a bit flat and definitely less musical, lacking the presence of the original, most notably in the midrange timbre and soundstage depth. Space around the instruments and vocals on “Blind Faith” was not as defined as the original, lacking the suspended placement in the soundstage that I’m used to hearing. In the CRW3200’s defense, the Yamaha had to record from my cheaper Hitachi drive as the source. The other aspect is that Yamaha acknowledges that high-speed recording does not necessarily equal high quality, as evidenced by the fact that the recording speed drops to 4x for the Audio Mastering Quality mode. I therefore wanted to compare the 24x recording to the Audio Mastering Quality Recording mode to see if I could discern the benefits of this technology.
I used a favorite reference CD, Shawn Mullins’ disc Soul’s Core (Sony Music Entertainment) to record “Twin Rocks, Oregon” at 24x speed, then in Audio Mastering Quality Recording mode on the same disc. The differences were subtle, with very slightly improved resolution and transient information in Audio Mastering Quality. When recorded in Audio Mastering Quality mode, the presence of Shawn Mullins’ voice also benefited somewhat, lending a bit more lifelike quality to the raspy sound of his voice. I have to admit that I had to listen really carefully, as the differences between the two recording methods were not readily discernable. Although Yamaha claims that using the Audio Master Quality Recording will improve jitter and errors over the other recording methods the CRW3200 will execute, I doubt that most people would detect the difference. Once again, I feel the problem here is that I was forced to use the DVD-ROM drive of my computer as a player for the source. You could say that it is unfair for the CRW3200 to be hamstrung by a cheap computer DVD-ROM, or even a CD-ROM, but in reality, this will be the most common situation in which the CRW3200 is likely to be used.
I next used the CRW3200 as a transport to see how the Yamaha product would handle this task. Using a pair of AudioQuest Topaz RCA interconnects, I hooked up the CRW3200 to my preamp and put in Puddle of Mudd’s Come Clean (Flawless/Geffen Records). The CRW3200 faired better as a CD player, sounding more musical than the recordings it made. The midrange frequencies that sounded compressed and flat on the copy of this track that I had made sounded much less digital, with more midrange bloom and resonance, when played through the CRW3200. It also sounded more musical, bringing back some of the immediacy of the performance.
The CRW3200 will not allow an outside digital signal to be directly hooked into it. In order to plug in a digital output from a CD player or other digital source to the CRW3200, you’ll need to have a soundcard with a S/PDIF digital input. From an audio perspective, this is a glaring omission. To go from a source through a soundcard, a motherboard and back to the recorder is not the ideal scenario. Using the Hitachi DVD-ROM drive on my system as the source for my copies explains why the CD-R’s I recorded sound the way they did.
The quick start manual supplied with the CRW3200 is just that. There is no in-depth documentation for the supplied Nero software. It took me awhile to find out how to record in Audio Mastering Quality mode, as the manual did not specify where it is in the Nero interface.
Yamaha’s CRW3200 lives up to its LightSpeed banner by offering blazing fast 24x CD-R write speeds for music or data archiving. Handling a variety of formats, such as CD-DA, CD TEXT, CD-ROM, Mixed Mode CD-ROM (CD-ROM and CD-DA), CD-ROM XA, photo CD, Video CD, CD-i, and CD EXTRA, offers great versatility.
The powerful software bundled with the CRW3200, which includes Nero, InCD, Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.0 and Adobe Photoshop LE 5.0, offers a ton of creative ways to record, print, and store your data. With CD-MRW (CD Mount Rainier Rewrite) format, future data manipulation will only improve, as this format gives the user a powerful tool for the CD-RW format. Setup and installation was straightforward and error-free, allowing me to quickly start creating my own CD’s in a matter of minutes.
The biggest issue I had with the CRW3200 is the inability to connect an external digital source, or even an analog source, directly to the back panel. To have the option to archive or copy any type of media to CD-R would be a big win for this product. The benefits of the Audio Mastering Quality Recording that the CRW3200 provide are lost, I believe, because of the convoluted signal path required for the data to transverse. For recording high quality copies of your source material I feel that CRW3200 will not live up to the audio enthusiasts’ ideal of quality. While the copies that I burned through the CRW3200 are certainly listenable and fairly accurate, a person who is looking for a more error- and jitter-free transfer may be disappointed by the results. The method of getting the data to the CRW3200 is the biggest suspect. Also, the Audio Mastering Quality Recording mode not only decreases the amount of playtime on a 74-minute CD to 63 minutes, and a 80-minute CD to 68 minutes, but it takes longer to burn as the max speed in this mode is 4x.
The CRW3200 is better suited to creating CD compilations, copying CDs and MP3 files for non-critical listening, or backing up your data, providing 700+ megabytes of cheap storage that puts another nail in the coffin of Zip drives. The Yamaha CRW3200’s ease of use, convenience, speedy burn time and powerful software suite make it a tough act to follow.