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Chip's CD Media Resource Center:

Image from Disctronics


Here are links to various resources relating to CD media. All of the sources cited in these pages are listed here. Most of these are on-line resources that may be fully accessed via the internet.


Lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) have been compiled by various people. Though not tutorials, these are good places to start browsing for the answers to particular questions.

Andy McFadden's CD-Recordable FAQ
A widely-mirrored resource (though the mirrors are often out of date). This link takes you the very latest version. An excellent FAQ, that continues to be updated regularly. Contains a vast amount of information (some of it incomplete or possibly wrong) and many, many references.
AKL Technlogy CD-Recordable FAQ
An outstanding but little-known resource, written authoritatively by AKL Technology, a manufacturer of CD duplicators. I highly recommend this page for its expert insights into the media differences and practical tips for successful duplication. It contains many hard-core details that are ignored, neglected, described incorrectly or glossed over in other sources.
The CDDA FAQ by S.Addison
Not as complete or up-to-date as the CD-R FAQ, it nevertheless is a good overview. This is where I learned about some uses for the R-W subcode channels.


The references in this section are good sources for the science, technology and engineering behind CD media.

University of Washington EE 498 Class Notes by Professor Kelin Kuhn
Professor Kuhn has prepared a variety of useful notes, some of which are the most detailed I have found on the net. It was here, for example, that I learned that "pits" are really "bumps" because they are read from underneath. They are mostly from 1996 and 97. Check out:
A clickable image of a CD player with fairly detailed explanations.
Audio Compact Disc -- An Introduction
Audio Compact Disk - Writing and Reading the data
CD/ROM -- An extension of the CD audio standard
Michael C. Goodwin's notes on "Digital Audio CD and other Selected Digital Technologies"
Mr. Goodwin has provided a useful summary and commentary on Pohlmann's Principles of Digital Audio (PDA - see below). The notes on error correcting codes (PDA chapter 5) and Optical Disk Storage (PDA chapter 8) are particularly relevant. I'll have to get my own copy of PDA some time...
"How Stuff Works" article on How Do Compact Discs Work?
If you haven't ever visited the How Stuff Works website, you need to go there right away. The CD article is exceptionally readable, but the best parts are the very cool animations on page 2.
"Mastering CD-Rs" by Richard Whitworth, Tape Disc Business November 1996.
This has been my only source for some details of the so-called ATIP information (i.e. the information recorded in the pregroove). The same article appears word for word (but harder to read and with at least one new typo) in Optical Disc Systems, July-August 2000. But at least there's a picture of the author.
Recording to CD by Lionel Dumond.
A very nice article in the September 2000 issue of webzine Digital ProSound. Mr. Dumond goes to great lengths to clearly and simply describe how data is encoded on an audio CD.
Disctronics' CD Technology Web Pages
CD manufacturer Disctronics has put up one of the best on-line references for CD technology. Very concise, yet surprisingly complete, I found it a valuable general reference.

Industry Standards

One can go crazy reading secondary sources, articles derived from secondary sources, and restatements of articles, etc. that either fail to explain certain points, disagree with each other, or simply don't make sense (e.g. the famous "0.03mm" pregroove wobble). Whenever possible I try to consult the applicable standards documents. Standards don't tell the whole story, but they at least the part of the story which they do tell is reliable.

Unfortunately, the basic CD standards documents are proprietary (the color books) and are not readily available. But some of these now have corresponding public standards (e.g. ECMA-130), some of which can be freely accessed via the internet. The biggest problem is the lack of a public standard for the Orange Book, which defines CD-R and CD-RW.

Philips CD Standards Page
This is the main source at Philips for choosing and ordering the "color book" standards documents. Since these are proprietary documents, getting them will require your signature on a confidentiality agreement, plus some money. Some of them (e.g. Orange Book) may not be made available to you at all. Nevertheless, the web site is a good reference for learning what is covered in the various standards and what is the latest edition.
ECMA - The European Computer Manufacturers Association
ECMA has contributed significantly to the CD standardization process. ECMA standards 119 and 130 document the CD-ROM physical and logical structure, as well as the basic volume and file structures. ECMA-167 and 168 document the extended volume and file structures that can be used with CD-R and CD-RW. All ECMA standards are available in PDF form for download at no charge.
International Standards Organization (ISO)
"The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from some 130 countries, one from each country." They are the primary organization for, uh, international standards (gee, I guess they were well-named). The have an on-line catalog, and everything costs real money.
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
"The International Electrotechnical Commission is the international standards and conformity assessment body for all fields of electrotechnology." Most of the ISO standards that are relevant to CD technology are done jointly with IEC.
The Orange Forum
"The Orange Forum was established with the objective of promoting the dissemination of CD-R/RW drives, CD-R/RW discs and related hardware and software products based on standards laid down in the Orange Book. The organization is composed of 57 manufacturing companies."

The Orange Forum web site provides some basic tutorial material, but its most memorable features are the many cute cartoons.
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Principles of Digital Audio by Ken C. Pohlmann
Also known as "PDA". I do not actually own a copy (yet), but PDA appears to be the standard reference for CD lore (as well as much else), and was cited as the primary source by several of the most detailed descriptions of CD-DA encoding which I found on line. In fact, it is the only book (other than standards documents) cited with any regularity among on-line CD references. PDA is now in its 3rd edition, released 1995. Ken Pohlmann is the director of the Music Engineering Technology programs at the University of Miami, Coral Gables FL.
CD Handbook by Ken C. Pohlmann
"The other" Pohlmann book, The CD Handbook is also cited from time to time. As compared to PDA, it apparently includes much less about digital audio and much more about data CDs (CD-ROM, CD-R, etc.). The 2nd edition was released in 1992, so it would be getting a bit long in the tooth. I have not actually seen a copy, but it would appear to be a valuable reference.
The CD-Info Company's CD Bibliography
The folks have provided the nicest print bibliography I've seen on line. Besides ISBNs for all the books, it also includes useful comments for most of them. This page also includes other useful links.

Other Resources

EMTEC CD-R and CD-RW Background and Facts
EMTEC DataStoreMedia has put together a very concise blurb full of useful information.
Bernie Adams' CD-Rs and how they pertain to Evidentiary Use (Adams Magnetic Products)
Mr. Adams has written an excellent report on CD-R longevity that not only draws on the Kodak experiments but also includes experiments of his own. His review of CD and CD-R technology is also quite good. Regrettably some of his graphs are hard to read.
Philips CD-ROM General Information
This page includes a nice overview of digital audio in general and the Compact Disc in particular. Parts of it seem to be written for non-technical folks, but other parts get very detailed. This is where I finally learned the reasoning behind a "1-bit DAC". There are some nifty animations. Be sure to follow the link to the second page, it's easy to miss.
CD Media World
CD Media World is one of the best of the web sites that offer generous dolops of CD information. Especially noteworthy is the list of CD Utilities. This page tells about a variety of useful utilities for reading "secret" info about a given CD or CD-R. In particular, check out CDR Identifier. Another valuable contribution of CD Media World is their concise but relatively complete discussion of CD-R Dyes.
The CD-Info Company Another web site offering a variety of general CD information. The most useful part to me was their article on Media Longevity, mostly because of the references that it included.
Art Munson article on CD-R Dyes at
A brief but useful blurb. Includes pronunciations.
A discussion of CD Media in Hardware-One's "Geek Forum".
This is a rambling, informal chat among, apparently, non-native English speakers describing the pros and cons of various CD-Rs, and referring to a variety of sources. I got several of my best reference links from this discussion. Note general acceptance of what appear to be two common fallacies: (1) pthalocyanine is always better than cyanine and (2) the CD-R pregroove information is authoritative.
Roxio article, " Do Discs Degrade?" by Bob Starrett
"Roxio" is part of Adaptec, or affiliated with them in some way. This article, dated November 16, 2000, is a very short "whiff" of the issue. Bob includes some very useful links, but the article itself is not very scientific. A much better (and much lengthier) reference is the one by Bernie Adams cited near the top of this list.


There are three newsgroups that relate directly to CD-ROMs and their ilk:

Last Updated Saturday April 16, 2005 13:56:15 PDT