The Rimage Producer 2000 Amigo CD-R duplication and printing combo comes close to giving small studios the CD manufacturing capabilities once reserved for record companies. The unit’s robotics and CD-R duplication operated flawlessly and seemed capable of handling the demands of 24/7 unattended industrial operations. Although the color thermal printing did not deliver the same consistency and quality as commercial, silk-screened labels, it is a cost-effective alternative to inkjet printers.
Product PointsApplications: Studio CD duplication
Key Features: Integrated printer/CD-R and Control Center PC; Plextor 8X CDR drive
Price: $9,995 for the basic unit; $11,495 with the Perfect Print option; $2,000 more for the Control Center PC
Contact:Rimage at 612-944-8144.
+ Rock-solid reliability in robotics/replication
+ Simple, effective software
+ Cost-effective custom printing
– Printing color is finicky
– 300 x 300 dpi falls short of silkscreen quality
The Score: Perfect for studios looking to add value to their services and income on the balance sheet.
Designing labels with the limitations of the printer in mind is essential. The finished product meets the needs of musicians who require more than one-off CD-R’s can deliver, but less than the usual 1,000-copy minimum for commercial replication.
The Rimage package arrived by truck. The three-piece setup included the integrated printer/CD-R and a Control Center PC with monitor. The core component can also be had without the added PC. Personally, I’d opt for setting up my own PC – for users less willing to delve into the intricacies of PCs (the hard drive needs three partitions to serve as a memory cache for the CD image files), the premium for the fully configured computer is worth it.
The Dell Optiplex that was included was one of the best corporate boxes I’ve seen. Basically, it is just an Intel Celeron 400 CPU with a 6 GB hard drive and 64 MB memory. The Optiplex easily opened without tools, making the installation of extra RAM simple.
The printer/CD-R came secured on a pallet. Much of the overkill in packaging is to protect the mechanism from harm. Once unpacked, the unit had a footprint slightly larger than a desktop PC. Altogether, the whole setup, including the computer Control Center, occupied a tabletop.
Attaching the various cables between the PC and printer/replicator was simple. As the PC booted up to Windows NT, it found the integrated Plextor CD-R drive nestled under the printer by the robotic arm. Aside from the particular hard drive partitioning, the Control Center was just a standard NT computer with the Rimage software suite.
The CD-R Production Server, CD-R Workstation, Label Designer and CD-R Image Server seemed daunting at first. The manual only mentioned the types of software in passing. There were no instructions as to their operation, but I quickly found the menu-driven Wizards and on-screen documentation more than adequate to figure things out. Once over my initial fear, I saw that the lack of documentation was a plus – operating the software was virtually self-explanatory.
The first step in setting it up for use is to run Production Server software. As the program loads, it goes through a setup that establishes communication and calibration with the printer, CD-R and robotics. From there, Workstation operates the system. The simple commands allow for how many copies and what labels you want printed.
The system is also networkable. Other users in an organization can send commands to the server through the workstation program. The jobs can be prioritized so they are processed not just in terms of when they were submitted but also when they’re needed. The Image Server software manages a library of stored data or “image” files of CDs. Regular jobs that need to be run on-again, off-again can be pulled up without having to take out a master CD and the system read it each time.
I tested the system by manufacturing CDs for two local musicians; Doug Bennett’s Long Time Blues and Kimberlee Torres’ Afrohead and a Cast of Millions. Long Time Blues had nine cuts and clocked-in at about 30 minutes; Afrohead was what used to be called an EP – five tracks with about 15 minutes of audio. Each came with a design for the label – Bennett’s in color, Torres’ in black and white. The two projects combined would add up to some 300 discs. At the Plextor’s 8X recording speed, it would be more than 12 hours of continuous operation.
Throughout the run the robotics and replication operated nearly flawlessly. The system erred on the conservative side by rejecting two blank discs as substandard (they worked fine when fed into another CD-R). The single-burner unit worked continually and seems up to the task of 24/7 industrial use · albeit at 50 discs at a time in this configuration.
The longest continual run consisted of 150 discs – I reloaded the feeder and removed the finished discs while it was running. Initially, I set the system to verify each disc. That crosscheck doubled the time it took to burn each disc. After I’d gotten confident in the quality, I set it to verify just one in five to make sure everything was running smoothly.
By far, the most difficult task was getting the labels right. My initial hope was that I could take just about any digital image and plant it on a CD in full color. The software for creating labels with text/images was easy. Admittedly, the bundle’s Prism thermal printer is not capable of delivering the same kind of quality seen in commercially silk-screened CDs. What the 300 x 300 dpi device does deliver, however, is a cost-effective on-demand system.
The black-and-white ribbon was good for thousands of labels at a cost of pennies per unit. The color was much pricier – the $125 ribbon only lasts through about 500 labels. The thermal printing has various trade-offs when compared to inkjets dedicated to CD printing. An inkjet is expensive to operate, requires frequent cleaning and its labels take time to dry. The thermal prints were fixed as soon as they pop out of the unit.
It didn’t take long to discover that being a print plant operator is nearly as fine an art as an audio producer. After some experimentation, I vastly improved the final product. I altered the initial image in Photoshop to suit the characteristics of the printer.
A persistent problem cropped up time and again in the actual printing – streaks on labels. The printer seemed to fall in and out of adjustment and I had to keep an eye on things to maintain quality. After talking to tech support, I came to the conclusion that the printer was best used in planting a graphic or a logo on a disc rather than doing a full wash across the whole disc.
Perhaps the best use for the thermal printing technology is in enhancing discs with some artwork already in place. The system’s Perfect Print option aligns CDs with presilkscreened images so custom images, logos and text can be added with the printer. The bottom line? You should design labels considering the limits – and possibilities of this technology.
The Rimage Producer 2000 Amigo can open and expand a recording studio’s capabilities and the unit offers a significant opportunity. My guess is that there is a tremendous small-to-mid market of musicians who want to produce limited runs of discs. Looking at the going rates for limited-run duplication services, This system will make an excellent second income source for a studio – as long as you’ve got the work to feed it.
That could make for a speedy return of investment on the equipment costs – $9,995 for the basic unit; $11,495 with the Perfect Print option (add another $2,000 for the Control Center PC). The Amigo is likely to make many friends in studios looking to expand and enhance their offerings to clients with replication services.