|Yamaha CRW3200 LightSpeed3 CD-RW Recorder|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Monday, 01 July 2002|
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CD-R and CD-RW technology continues to offer faster ways of recording and archiving media, whether it be copying MP3 files, burning copies of your favorite CDs for your personal use or backing up your computer files, just to name a few.
Yamaha’s latest offering, the CRW3200, addresses the need for speed with a CD-R, CD-RW, and CD-ROM drive that has the capability to write data at a blazing 24x. Able to rewrite at 10x and read at 40x, the CRW3200 will also support a wide 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. The CRW3200 is also the first kid on the block with CD-MRW (CD Mount Rainier Rewrite) format. This format allows much easier manipulation of your CD-RW data, eliminating the need for special applications or proprietary drivers to be able to read the disc to other drives, even with long format times.
The $185.00 CRW3200 is an external drive that measures six-and-one-half inches wide, two-and-one-quarter inches tall and ten-and-one-half inches deep. The three-and-three-tenths-pound package is fairly robust-feeling for a computer peripheral, suggesting a rigid structure unlike most products of this kind, which often suffer from flimsy plastic construction.
The front panel of the CRW3200 consists of a slot for the tray opening, a headphone jack, a volume dial, the power button, an emergency eject hole that resides below the tray, and a multifunction LED. By default, this LED is purple/white in color, then changes to a bright blue when a CD is inserted. When you read or write a CD, this blue LED blinks. The back panel of the CRW3200 is very simple, consisting of two FireWire ports, a left and right RCA analog out for connecting the CRW3200 to another component, such as a receiver or pre-amp, a power switch, and a DC-in connector.
As recording speeds have increased, the need to vary the CD rotation speeds became a necessity, as vibration and motor noise is a large source for errors and jitter. Most of the older recorders used CLV (Constant Linear Velocity) techniques. This meant that the burner’s RPM never changed throughout the recording process. With higher recording speeds, the necessity to quell these undesirable side effects required a different school of thought. There are two different approaches to remedy these issues. Yamaha uses P-CAV (Partial Constant Angular Velocity) for the CRW3200. This approach varies the speed of the drive throughout the recording process, starting out at a lower RPM, then smoothly increasing the speed, which stabilizes at 24X. Other manufacturers use Z-CLV ( Zone Constant Linear Velocity), which works in much the same way. The big difference is that this approach works in stages. Z-CLV starts writing at a pre-determined speed for a period of time, then stops, increases in speed in steps until it finally reaches 24X for the remainder of the disc. Every time a speed changes, the writing pauses and then continues once the next speed is attained. This requires Z-CLV to link the data from the gap introduced when the speed changes. One reason that Yamaha considers P-CAV to be superior is because P-CAV doesn’t stop data flow at speed changes and therefore requires no links.
The CRW3200 comes with Safe Burn, which is an overall recording protection system to make your CD burning as “error proof” as possible. Part of Safe Burns’ arsenal comes in the form of 8 MB of buffer memory, which under most conditions should prevent buffer underrun. Buffer underrun errors occur when the PC doesn't have enough resources to send an uninterrupted dataflow to the burner cache. Since the dataflow from the buffer to the write head should be continuous, this may cause the burning operation to fail. An 8 MB cache allows you to use the computer for other tasks without the fear of hindering the data flow to the burner.
Yamaha has developed a new writing mode for recording, the Audio Master Quality Recording mode. When this is used, the CRW3200 writes the pits a bit longer than it does in normal writing mode. CD players can read the Audio Master Quality Recorded discs at a linear velocity of 1.4m/s speed. This reduces the jitter that you would get from conventional recording modes. The small downside is that, because the pits are slightly larger, the recording time is reduced from 74 minutes to 63 minutes. The other slight but not insubstantial drawback is that in Audio Master Quality mode, the writing speed drops from 24x down to 4x. The upside is that the recording quality should be better. I’ll let you know what I’ve found in a moment.
I asked Yamaha for the IEEE1394 FireWire interface for the review piece. FireWire has a larger bandwidth for data transfer than USB does and, in my experience, it is more powerful. This interface required that I get a FireWire interface card, since my system didn’t have that capability. I chose the Adaptec FireConnect 4300, which retails for about $49.00. FireWire was created to handle the large amount of digital data needed for fast video transfer, but it is highly effective for an application like transferring audio as well.
The software bundle that comes with the CRW3200 includes Ahead CD mastering software called Nero, a powerful program that will handle VCD creation, CD copying, CD text and over-burning. Nero uses a drag-and-drop approach for ease of use, and does conversion of MP3 files on the fly. Nero features wizards to allow novices like myself to start burning copies in literally a matter of minutes.
Another nifty feature is NeroMIX, a program that combines CD burning with an Internet-ready media recorder and then slaps on a customizable, skinable interface. NeroMIX allows you to create data and audio CDs or on-the-fly 1:1 CD copies.
If you want to use the CRW3200 to back up computer data, InCD is a packet-writing software, which allows the user to drag and drop files onto a CD-RW disk for a large format data backup. Move over, Zip drives.
Last but not least are the venerable Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.0 and Adobe Photoshop LE 5.0. Want to create labels for your CD copies? There is not much you cannot do with this suite of power products for image creation and manipulation.
Yamaha provided a FireWire interconnect that was only long enough to set the CRW3200 on top of my computer tower. It would have been nice to have some added length to allow more location options. For the review, I used my computer, which uses a Pentium-based PIII 800 MHz processor, 128 megs of RD-RAM, a Hitachi GD-500 DVD-ROM, and a 60-gig hard drive. I give kudos to Yamaha for making the CRW3200 hookup simple and straightforward. Installing the software was also a breeze. I was up and ready to go in no time.