With CD burners all the rage these days, it is easy to overlook a fundamental component of any high-performance computer system: a fast CD-ROM drive. Everything – from loading operating systems and applications to extracting digital audio – is more fun and less time-consuming with a high performance drive.
Product PointsApplications: Project studios; recording studios
Key Features: Three eight channel I/O banks in TOSlink S/PDIF; coaxial S/PDIF and AES/EBU formats
Price: $995 with PCI-324 card; $695 without
Contact:Mark of the Unicorn at 617-576-2760.
+ Standalone or computer use
+ Interfaces with other MOTU I/Os
– Not 96 kHz-ready.
The Score: If you already own a MOTU hardware setup, the 308 provides features unavailable any other way. I use mine every day.
Plextor makes great CD-R, CD-RW and CD-ROM drives and the UltraPlex 40max Ultra SCSI, CD-ROM drive is no exception. The specs include: 24X digital audio extraction capability with bit-by-bit accuracy; optimized buffer for low CPU overhead; 20 Mbps burst transfer rate; 85ms random read; flash firmware; and compatibility with all major operating systems. Plextor also includes a useful set of utilities for extracting digital audio and previewing files.
I did a little of everything with the UltraPlex. It was time for a fresh installation of my operating system, so I slicked the system down and started fresh. Windows 98 and NT took a lot less time than usual to install. Then I installed my audio programs and DirectX plug-ins, along with my office suite. The progress bar zipped across the screen.
Where the UltraPlex really shines, however, is in its audio extraction capabilities and integrated software. I’ve had some trouble extracting audio from older CDs using my Yamaha burner. The result is a nasty click-click-click sound. Even after the latest firmware upgrade my Yamaha just can’t handle some discs.
The UltraPlex read these troublemakers and everything else I tried, including slightly scratched CD-R media. The performance was consistently in the 27x range for extraction. I extracted 74 minutes of audio in less than three minutes. UltraPlex also makes creating MP3s from audio CDs a breeze. I’m quickly filling up my 10 GB of allocated jukebox storage.
I’ve seen prices on the UltraPlex as low as $90 from online retailers. If you are not running SCSI in your system you’ll need a SCSI controller. So, if you’re one of the folks with the latest 8X or 12X burner installed in your system alongside an aging 8X CD-ROM drive, consider bringing your CD-ROM drive up to speed. It can improve not only your digital audio capabilities but also your computing experience as a whole.
Contact Plextor at 800-886-3935.