Components for Building Computers From Scratch/stand-alone CD burners


QUESTION: Where can I find a stand-alone CD burner that does not require a computer?  Is there such a thing?  I want to be able to plug in my sound recorder and burn one or more CDs to pass out at my church without having to use a computer.  The CD duplicators Iíve seen advertised on the internet only show devices that duplicate from a CD or DVD that has already been burned.  I need something that I can plug in my sound recorder directly, program the formatting and have the device detect the recording, save it and burn one or more CDs right then without a computer hookup.

ANSWER: I'm not sure if the *exact* device you're envisioning exists, however there are devices that can burn a CD from an audio input, they're known as "CD Recorders" and exist as full-size stand-alone components. For consumer-level hardware I would suggest TEAC, for professional-grade I would suggest TASCAM. These devices are not generally portable, however; they rely on AC power and are relatively large. They also will not burn the data as quickly as I'm guessing you'd like to have it happen - things occur in real-time, so if you recorded an hour of data to your recorder, it would then play it back to the CD Recorder in real-time; it would take a little over an hour per disc to accomplish that, as the Recorder both has to commit the entire signal to disc, but also finalizes the disc.

Generally these devices will not "cleanly" insert track breaks either - they will often default to committing the entire signal to "Track 01" unless you engage them more directly (manually advancing them to additional tracks).

This process would have to be repeated for every disc you'd want to make. That's where the CD duplicators come in - they will take a single disc and burn 1-8 copies at the limit of the read/write hardware (usually up to 24x), and can very quickly give you a stack of copies (if you're using a duplicator, ensure that you always copy the "original" or "master" so that all of the copies are second-generation as opposed to copying a copy and so on which can lead to degradation of the content).

Generally in house of worship systems where I have seen CD distribution take place, a professional-level CD recorder is connected to the PA system and records the performance in real-time while it happens, and that master is then duplicated on-demand for distribution to show-goers. More modern systems will replace the CD recorder with a computer equipped with DAW software and appropriate audio input/output devices, which allows the technician more flexibility over the final product (it's a lot easier to "cut" that into multiple tracks, it can generally also be recorded at higher quality than a CD recorder will manage) - that system then burns a master which is duplicated for distribution. Going the DAW route gives you more flexibility for post-processing as well - for example if you'd like to perform some editing of the recorded performance. However this adds time to the overall process.

This isn't to say that going from a portable sound recorder couldn't work - in general professional quality models can take a relatively good recording as long as they aren't seeing clipping and are well positioned (and if you're just meaning to record spoken-word content, that's very easy to accomplish) - you would likely need to distribute the CDs "a week behind" though, because of the extra time required to commit the recorder's output to CD (essentially, take the recorder home and perform the transfer during the week, and bring the discs with you next week). Depending on the sound recorder you have, it may be able to be connected to a computer for direct download of its data (this will be much faster) and the computer can commit that data to CD directly, and from there move to duplication. With a laptop computer this could be accomplished with a portable setup, as long as you aren't intending to burn more than a few copies at a time (computers can generally burn single discs fairly quickly, but burning a large number of copies of the same disc can be tedious). Regarding duplicators - even a 1:1 or 1:2 duplicator (meaning it has one read drive and one or two burners) is MUCH faster than using a desktop computer to make many copies of a disc.

Finally - as you're recording a live performance, ensure that you have appropriate permission to be recording the performance, and more importantly, distributing those recordings. Unfortunately I can't tell you who you should be specifically talking to - someone like a "music director" or "program director" or the front-of-house engineer is probably where I'd start though (if they can't specifically grant you that permission, the probably know who could).

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.


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QUESTION: Thanks so much for this detailed answer.  To clarify, I'm giving English classes at the church, recording the classes and passing out CDs to the students to use for studying at home, so permission is not needed.  After submitting this question, I have learned that laptops usually have a CD/DVD burner, and what I'm considering now is purchasing a laptop (I only have a desk top at home), and also purchasing a DVD/CD duplicator like you describe.  The laptop and the duplicator can be plugged into the electrical outlets in the classroom, and as I understand it, no server is needed if I only want to use the laptop to burn a sound recording.  Best Buy sells a lap top that has the drive (Toshiba Model C55D-A5304) and also a small one-to-one duplicator (PDE Tech DVD Master Duplicator).  I'm wondering if I buy these, how long will it take me to plug in the sound recorder into the lap top, then burn a master CD, and then duplicate about 10 CDs using the one-to-one duplicator.  If it can be done inside of 15 minutes, I'll do it.  Or do you have any other suggestions?  Thanks again.

ANSWER: Can you tell me more about the sound recorder? From there I can better understand what you're working with, and come up with some options for getting you where you want to go.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: It is an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder model WS-210S.  It plugs into the USB port of my desk top.  I have recorded with it many years, and it still works perfectly.  When I want to burn a CD on my desk top, I insert the Voice Recorder, open the files, copy them and burn them to a blank CD that I have formatted to work on any type CD player.  I need to be able to do the same thing on a lap top, but I hope to find a way to do the burning of the second and subsequent copies much faster, since I have to make 10 or more copies in a hurry.  But if there is no way to do this without spending a lot more money than I want to spend, alternatively I can copy the CDs one by one at home, and distribute them at the next class.  Thank you.

The cheapest solution would either be to burn the discs at home or add a duplicator to your home set-up; adding an entire laptop just for that task seems quite expensive although it would work in a similar manner to what you have at home (differences would be primarily the result of different operating systems).

As far as distributing 10+ copies "in a hurry" (10-15 minutes), you probably would not be able to consistently do that - with a duplicator and no distractions I would assume more around half an hour to be a reasonable amount of time to both capture the recording, encode it for CD, burn the master, and create the duplicates. If you're going to be consistently burning 10+ discs at a time, a duplicator at home wouldn't be a terrible idea.

It's also worth noting that most duplicators are fairly heavy and bulky machines, and it isn't something I'd want to lug back and forth once a week.


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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.


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