By Alex Free - v1.0.8 - 11/8/2023
Inspired by the GBATemp thread Do modern burners/CD’s make lower quality PS1 backups?, this guide documents all findings on creating the best PSX CD-Rs.
Before continuing, if your drive has issues reading real PSX CD-ROM discs you should really try my PSX CD drive refurbishment guide first and get that working correctly.
Table Of Contents:
CD-Rs are a bit harder to read compared to CD-ROMs, since they are on average 60-70% as reflective. Some really early CD Audio players and even CD-ROM drives are known to not be able to read CD-Rs. The PSX CD-ROM drive luckily can read CD-Rs. The dev consoles have the same overall CD-ROM drive hardware and Sony officially supported using burning CD-Rs when testing in-production games with these dev consoles, see the old SCEA BBS archives from 1995.
The most reflective 80 minute discs still made appear to be the ‘Pro’/’Archival Grade’ ones, the consumer ones are not on the higher end of the standard CD-R reflectivity. Reflectivity depends on the substrate and dye materials used to manufacture the CD-R, and these are obviously of higher quality for the ‘Pro’ and ‘Archival Grade’ media since they cost more and are rated for much longer lifetimes then standard ‘consumer grade’ media. Consumer grade manufacturing tolerances have seem to have gone out the window lately.
For the CD-R, you want:
CD-RW discs are even less reflective then CD-Rs, at around 25% when compared to CD-ROMs. This is why CD-RWs can not be used on the PSX (without modification to the laser power of the CD-ROM drive, which will cause it to burn out).
Over the years, CD-Rs have increased in capacity due to consumer demand, until they have marginally invalidated the Red book physical disc standard. We have gone from:
There are higher capacities available, but they are completely breaking the Red Book Standard and have zero chance of working with the PSX so ignore them.
The PSX CD-ROM drive hardware has a seek table that was designed for 71 minute long discs. This seek table is a hardcoded optimization that is used to specify how the laser is to handle seeking to different parts of the discs. While all PSX CD-ROMs and PSX CD-R Master Discs were made this capacity, unfortunately there are no longer any CD-Rs being manufactured at this specification. Even back in 1995 on the SCEA BBS archives Sony did not recommend the then popular 74 minute CD-Rs for working with the dev console hardware. 71 minute media was what was recommended at that time because that is what the console is tuned for:
From the SCEA BBS (edited formatting):
3/29/95 2:34 PM
Why 71 minute? Why 900e?
I had 2 CD questions:
1 - Can we use the CDW950E with the CDGEN software? Why or why not?
CD-ROM Generator doesn't support CDW-950E. CDW-950E doesn't have compatibility in SCSI
protocol and doesn't have capability to create master disc.
2 - Why do we need to use 71 minute media? Some people like to use the cheaper >74 minute
media. Can you tell me why we need the 71 minute CDRs?
The 71min disc is different from 74min at the dencity. PlayStaion is tuned up for 71min and
make reliability for data read. A 74min disc makes error rate more higher
All these different capacity discs are the same 12CM size physically, so to increase capacity the spiral windings of the data are packed tighter and tighter. This means that the seek table of the PSX will most likely overshoot and have to compensate (increasing seek time, likelihood of disc read errors, etc.) in finding the sector data it really wants to read if your using a disc with a capacity of higher then 71 minutes. This problem gets exponentially worse as you increase capacity from say 74 minute to 80 minute discs. Looser spiral windings in lower capacity CD-R media also means larger pits and lands which again are easier to read.
63 minute CD-Rs are also extremely rare and expensive. They probably are better then 74 minute ones, but maybe they have the reverse issue with >71 minute media?.
The best CD-R capacity to use for the PSX is 71 minutes, specifically you want the PSX CD-R Master Disc 71PS. However they now go for over $100 per unit on eBay!
74 minute CD-Rs while somewhat rare and expensive (but not nearly as much as the lower capacities) are still much better then 80 minute media. They can be found as new old stock (and this is the capacity that archival grade media was made in, which is meant to last decades). They are the most obtainable ideal media for the money. Buying any new old stock 74 Minute media from a brand like Verbatim or Taiyo Yuden would however guarantee the quality of the media to be high.
80 minute CD-Rs are the only capacity still made brand new to this day. They are the cheapest and most plentiful option available, although they are also harder to read for the PSX compared to 74 minute discs. The early PS2 console models (pre DVD+R/DVD+RW compatible ones, models SCPH-10000-SCPH-39004) have a more fatal experience with 80 Minute media when it comes to some games, but luckily this has a workaround now by patching the CD image before burning it with the PSX 80 Minute Patcher.
Competition is healthy and good for a market. There were once many different competing manufactures of CD-R media, but as of 2023 one single monopoly known as CMC magnetics has bought out every good manufacturer of CD-R media. Quality of the ‘consumer grade’ media has seemed to gone down due to this, which is why investing in the ‘Pro’/’Archival Grade’ CD-R media is important. CMC Magnetics does still use the original equipment and manufacturing proccess of it’s acquired brands for the ‘Pro’/’Archival Grade’ media (which is why the ATIP info still says things like Taiyo Yuden or Verbatim).
CD-Rs have ATIP info that explains to the burner how the disc should be burned (and at what speed they can be successfully burned). Each different CD-R media type has a unique dye/substrate/manufacturing process combination and an optimal way to be burned, which even varies with burn speed. This is known as a ‘strategy’. Modern CD burners have less ‘strategies’ in their firmware because it is ‘good enough for most cases’ to use a generic strategy that mostly works for modern writers, media, and readers (and it saves on flash storage space in the CD burner firmware). Key words, ‘mostly works for modern readers’, which the PSX certainly is not. The PSX came out in 1994, before consumer grade CD-R burners were even available for under $1000.
There isn’t a best answer to what burn speed you should use with your specific CD-R burner and media. You really need to do some trial and error tests to find what works best for your burner and media combination. Almost all modern (brand new as of 2020) CD burners are incapable of writing at a speed less then 10x, and most can’t even do less then 16x. Anything above 24x probably won’t work at all. Try 1x,2x,4x,6x,8x,10x, or 16x first.
The EMF signal strength on burned discs produced by most modern burners is extremely weak (thanks Ramapcsx2 for this info!). This is a key factor in how well the CD-R will work in the PSX. The PSX requires a burned disc with a strong EMF signal. ATAPI/IDE drives pre 2005 are very likely to produce discs with a strong EMF signal.
In a general sense, stay away from CD burners that:
These are no hard rules, but rather a general idea for what you should be looking for in a burner. There will be exceptions to the above, but it’s a great place to start your journey.
|HL-DT-ST GU90n||Kamil (psxdev discord)|
|LG GP63EX70||Alex Free|
So with all of these factors in regards to the CD-R media itself, I have come up with a list of discs I can recommend to be used with the PSX as they are all use high quality (and reflective) dyes, substrates, and are meant to either last a long time and or provide professional performance and high compatibility with legacy CD-ROM drives:
The holly grail. This is the only CD-R recommended by Sony for in-house use during development of PSX games. It also was what needed to be sent to Sony as the final build in order to ship the game and create the PSX CD-ROMs for retail.
Output of cdrecord
ATIP info from disk: Indicated writing power: 4 Is not unrestricted Is not erasable ATIP start of lead in: -11849 (97:24/01) ATIP start of lead out: 319725 (71:05/00) Disk type: Long strategy type (Cyanine, AZO or similar) Manuf. index: 25 Manufacturer: Taiyo Yuden Company Limited
These are almost the same thing as the PlayStation Master Disc 71PS CD-R, but they are 74 minutes in length instead of 71. They also include a
Disc sub type in the ATIP.
Output of cdrecord
ATIP info from disk: Indicated writing power: 4 Is not unrestricted Is not erasable Disk sub type: Medium Type A, high Beta category (A+) (3) ATIP start of lead in: -11849 (97:24/01) ATIP start of lead out: 336075 (74:43/00) Disk type: Long strategy type (Cyanine, AZO or similar) Manuf. index: 25 Manufacturer: Taiyo Yuden Company Limited
Output of cdrecord
ATIP info from disk: Indicated writing power: 5 Disk Is not unrestricted Disk Is not erasable ATIP start of lead in: -11080 (97:34/20) ATIP start of lead out: 335100 (74:30/00) Disk type: Long strategy type (Cyanine, AZO or similar) Manuf. index: 11 Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation
The bottom right of the back cover for these discs has the copyright date of 1997 or 1999:
Notice the super deep blue AZO dye. This is the original formulation, it was changed at some point to a lighter blue to increase the burn speed support from 8x to higher. These discs will fail to burn at any higher speed then 8x.
These are something like the grandchild of the ‘That’s CD-R!’ by Taiyo Yuden from the 90s, which was the basis for the PS1 Master Disc 71PS. They work really well and are cheaper then any of the Verbatim discs. Probably the best 80 minute discs you can buy brand new.
Output of cdrecord
ATIP info from disk: Indicated writing power: 4 Disk Is not unrestricted Disk Is not erasable Disk sub type: Medium Type A, high Beta category (A+) (3) ATIP start of lead in: -11849 (97:24/01) ATIP start of lead out: 359847 (79:59/72) Disk type: Long strategy type (Cyanine, AZO or similar) Manuf. index: 25 Manufacturer: Taiyo Yuden Company Limited
These have the newer Super AZO dye formulation that allows for burning at higher then 8x speed. Not quite as good as the Verbatim DataLifePlus 74 Minute Discs, or as good as the [CMC Pro 80 Minute Discs].(#cmc-pro-powered-by-taiyo-yuden-technology-80-minute)
Output of cdrecord
ATIP info from disk: Indicated writing power: 4 Disk Is not unrestricted Disk Is not erasable Disk sub type: Medium Type A, high Beta category (A+) (3) ATIP start of lead in: -11077 (97:34/23) ATIP start of lead out: 359848 (79:59/73) Disk type: Long strategy type (Cyanine, AZO or similar) Manuf. index: 11 Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation
The gold reflective layer makes these very reflective. They work about as well as the Verbatim DataLifePlus 80 Minute Discs.
Output of cdrecord
ATIP info from disk: Indicated writing power: 5 Disk Is not unrestricted Disk Is not erasable Disk sub type: Medium Type B, low Beta category (B-) (4) ATIP start of lead in: -12520 (97:15/05) ATIP start of lead out: 359849 (79:59/74) Disk type: Short strategy type (Phthalocyanine or similar) Manuf. index: 26 Manufacturer: TDK Corporation
These discs should not be used with the PSX as they are extremely cheap, not high quality, and are known to not have good results!
The ‘music’ branding is just a tax (that just make these more expensive), all pictures are the same horrible quality media:
Output of cdrecord
ATIP info from disk: Indicated writing power: 4 Disk Is unrestricted Disk Is not erasable Disk sub type: Medium Type A, low Beta category (A-) (2) ATIP start of lead in: -12508 (97:15/17) ATIP start of lead out: 359845 (79:59/70) Disk type: Short strategy type (Phthalocyanine or similar) Manuf. index: 22 Manufacturer: Ritek Co.
These are what have ruined Verbatim’s repution in consumer grade media. The ATIP info confirms that they are made by the CMC Magnetics manufacturing proccess, and not the original Verbatim consumer grade one. Don’t get scammed! I call these ‘fake Verbatims’ and they are only marginally better then the Maxell 80 Minute CD-Rs.
Note: I don’t have any of these at the moment to show the ATIP info.
Here are just a few tips of taking care of CD-Rs:
Keep Them Clean. Wiping with a clean high thread count microfiber cloth from the inner ring to the outer edge of the disc in all directions is the proper way to clean CDs.
Keep Them Out Of The Elements. CD-Rs should be kept sealed in a Jewel case and not left loose (where they will collect dust). They should also be kept out of direct sunlight (in a dark closet or something is best).
Don’t put any sticky labels on them! I’m not sure about writing on discs with a sharpie, so I just invested in a label maker and just put the label on the jewel case for the CD-R and call it a day.