How to Record a CD-R for Mass Production - dummies

By Jeff Strong

You will want to know if you plan to mass produce your home recordings in advance. If you intend to send your CD-R to a duplication or replication company to have it mass produced, keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Check for physical defects to the CD-R before you try to record to it. Scratches, fingerprints, smudges, and other imperfections on the mirror side (bottom) of the CD-R can cause errors in the data. Be sure to use a clean and unblemished CD-R for recording your master.

  • Always write your master CD by using the Disc at Once mode. This allows the CD to be read as a Red Book audio CD. Your other option when recording a CD is to use Track at Once. Track at Once records one song (track) at a time and produces more errors than Disc at Once, which records the entire CD at one time.

    Because of the errors present on CDs that are recorded using Track at Once, a mass producer’s equipment can’t read — and therefore summarily rejects — CDs that people produce with this method. (In fact, many older CD players for homes and cars can’t read these CDs either.) So, be sure that you use Disc at Once whenever you make a CD of your mastered music.

  • If you can, use an error-detection software program to check for errors in your recorded CD. If you don’t have access to an error-detection program, check the back of the CD for any blemishes (just as you did before recording onto it).

  • Listen carefully to your entire CD after it’s been recorded. Compare it with your original file and make sure that the CD is perfect. Also, spend time reevaluating the order of the songs. Make sure that they flow well together.

  • Use a felt-tip marker to label your finished CD master. Don’t use a ballpoint pen or an adhesive label. A ballpoint pen can damage the surface of the CD. Adhesive labels can slow the rotational speed of the CD and cause errors in the duplication or replication process. They’ve also been known to come off inside a duplication machine, clogging the works (and irritating the duplication technician).

  • Label the CD master with the name of your album and all your contact info. Use a felt-tip marker, of course, and write on the top (non-mirror side) of the disc. Your contact information should include your name (or your band’s name), your phone number, and the date the master was made.

  • Make three CD-Rs of your mastered music. Keep one copy safe in your studio and send two to the duplication or replication company. This ensures that if one of the two CDs that you send for mass production has an error, you don’t waste time sending the company a replacement because they’ll already have a second copy.

  • Prepare a PQ subcode log. PQ subcodes are additional information written on the CD that provides time code information, such as track numbers and start and stop times of each track.

    If your CD recorder software doesn’t support PQ subcodes, make a list of the start and stop time of each track on a separate piece of paper — as well as the track number and length of each track — and send it along with your CD masters. If your software program can generate a PQ subcode log, print it and send it with your CD master.

If you’re recording a CD for a major record label or if you want to make your music available as digital downloads, you need to supply ISRC codes with your CD.

ISRC stands for International Standard Recording Code, and it contains information about the CD, such as the owner of the song, country of origin, year of release, and serial number. You enter ISRC codes into a dialog box on most CD-recording programs, and the information is placed on the disc.

Check here to find out more about ISRC codes. You can register yourself as a record label and be able to create your own ISRC codes on this site. Registering takes time, so be sure to do this before you’re on a deadline. If you don’t want to go through the steps to set yourself up as a label to generate your own codes, many of the larger CD replicators.