Adaptec’s Easy CD Creator Deluxe
Robert A. Starrett
Shortly after Adaptec acquired the Corel CD Creator product line, the company promised a new product that would combine the best features of Creator and its Easy CD Pro software into a single application. Presumably, this meant the incorporation of Corel’s Creation Wizards and some of its graphical elements with the powerful and stable XCD engine at the heart of Adaptec’s Easy CD Pro software.
Initial expectations envisioned a fourth quarter 1996 release, but the schedule apparently dragged on and it was only this summer that the product was finally released. The Easy CD Creator package that ultimately emerged was clearly worth the wait. Beyond the familiar CD Creator Wizard and Easy CD Pro engine, which hum along as ably as ever, the Easy CD Creator package packs much more. Headlining a host of included programs are Picture CD Creator, Video CD Creator, and CD Copier. Also shipped with Easy CD Creator is MGI PhotoSuite SE, a picture editor, and Adaptec Sound, a WAV file editor. The final accoutrement in the Creator bundle is CD Catalog, an electronic catalog from CD LabelCorp for ordering CD supplies such as labels, jewel case inserts, CD mailers, storage cases, caddies, and jewel cases.
Beyond the software, Adaptec ships a complete manual, a CD label pack, and a patch cord to connect your turntable or cassette deck to your sound card. The turntable connection may seem an odd inclusion in a CD-Recordable bundle; here it’s included to support Easy CD Creator’s most attention-grabbing new feature, Spin Doctor, which allows you to create custom audio CDs from existing Red Book audio discs, or from tape or LP through the line input jack on your sound card.
Those of us who thought we’d see CD-Recordable’s Next Big Thing in Easy CD Creator’s long-anticipated release were right to believe the hype. From the ever-solid Easy CD Pro engine to the easy-as-ever CD Creator interface, from the analog-to-digital magic of CD Spin Doctor to the many benefits of the well-stocked software suite, Adaptec has assembled an intelligently integrated package that reflects well on its noble lineage and meets expectations as the best all-around value in Windows recording software today.
INSTALLATION AND CD CREATION: TRUE TO ITS NAME
CD creation is not all that’s easy about Easy CD Creator; installation is a piece of cake. All the programs in the bundle ship on an autorun CD and if autoinsert notification on your PC is switched on, the setup screen appears automatically. Otherwise, users simply click on setup to run the installation, which by default places all the programs except CD Catalog and MGI PhotoSuite on the user’s hard drive. The disc also includes a well-constructed, but overly optimistic multi-media presentation that steps quickly through the creation and recording process for each program. We all know, of course, that no CD recording program is that easy.
Clicking on the program icon brings up Easy CD Creator, but its load time seems quite long compared to either CD Creator or Easy CD Pro. The main window, besides the menu and toolbar, shows three tabs for Data CD Layout, Audio CD Layout, and Jewel Case Layout. Data CD Layout splits the window into quadrants; the upper left window shows potential source devices attached to the system, the upper right window shows the contents of the selected drive or directory on the left, and the lower right shows the disc title and directory structure of files that users drag and drop from the file-listing window or from the Windows Explorer. The lower left window shows details of the contents of the disc.
After dragging and dropping all the files you plan to record into the layout, you can proceed to test and record by clicking on the record button on the toolbar. Clicking record presents the CD Creation Setup Window, which allows you to choose a recorder, select the write speed and number of copies, and select one of three writing modes: Test, Test and Create CD, or Create CD. The next tab on the CD Creation Setup Window, Advanced, gives users the choice of leaving the session open, closing the session, closing the disc, or writing in disc-at-once mode. Easy CD Creator explains concisely and clearly the consequences of each choice. The third tab offers a disc summary showing disc type, number of tracks, data to be recorded, temporary space required, layout optimization, file system type, data mode, and logical block size.
Using the Wizard makes creating an audio CD from WAV files easy and straight-forward, although you accomplish the same task by merely dragging WAV files to the audio CD layout window. Once added to the layout window, each track is represented by a different color bar and the program displays track length, filename, and sampling rate. Clicking the record button on the toolbar at this point brings up the same CD Creation Setup window. Clicking OK begins the recording process.
The System Test function lets users test their source drives’ data transfer rates and enable hard drive caching if warranted. This function also tests CD drives for audio extraction capability and tests a recorder’s ability to record reliably at all enabled writing speeds.
GOING GOLD WITH MUSIC: SPIN DOCTOR AND LP-TO-CD CONVERSION
The supplementary recording programs included in the Easy CD Creator package–Picture CD Creator, Video CD Creator, CD: Copier, and Adaptec Sound–all work as advertised, but the newest hitmaker in the Adaptec suite is Spin Doctor, a new analog-to-digital recording tool. Although Spin Doctor does not exactly “Easily turn scratchy LPs into crystal clear CDs” as Adaptec’s Web site claims, it does allow easy real-time transfer LP and tape content to CD for preservation or for party disc mixing.
Users create audio CDs with Spin Doctor through four steps. Three of them–Select Music Source, Select Options, and Select Destination–are represented in windows that appear when the program starts. The fourth, Begin Recording, is activated with a button Select Music Source shows all attached CD-ROM drives and CD recorders and five other potential sources, including LP, Tape, CD Player, and Other Input. Any non-CD-ROM drive input is received through the line-in jack on your sound card and converted to WAV files that are stored on your hard drive. Extracting and recording digitally from CD-ROM drives or recorders is easy and fast, since the digital source requires no filtering.
Filtering options available for recording from analog sources include Clean Audio, Detect Silences, and Balance Loudness. Clean Audio reduces audible clicks, pops, and hisses in the source and is particularly useful when recording from LP. An adjustable Detect Silences function detects “banding” on records and tapes and separates entire album sides into individual tracks before recording to disc. The Balance Loudness function balances the volume of disparate sources that may have been recorded at different levels. A fourth option, Verify Before Write, gives you the opportunity to listen to the recorded tracks before committing them to disc.
The cleaning function works well, considering the machinations it must have to go through to differentiate a hiss, pop, or scratch from voice or music. Cleaning capability was tested on an 33 RPM album with scratches that were loud enough to be bothersome when listening to the record, but not bad enough to make the record skip on the turntable. After the album was recorded to the hard drive, the tracks were split and cleaned by Spin Doctor. The results, once recorded to the CD, sounded quite good, considering the nature of the scratches. On single, spaced thinner scratches, the program did particularly well, removing them completely for the untrained ear.
EASY CD CREATOR DELUXE: BEST OF BOTH WORLDS AND BRAVE NEW ONES
One aspect of Easy CD Creator that may temper some users’ enthusiasm is that it comes in two versions: the Standard Edition that Adaptec is bundling with CD recorders and the Deluxe edition, reviewed here, which is available only as an independent product or an upgrade option–at the same $99 price. Easy CD Creator Deluxe features a well-written and instructive 212-page manual with an excellent index and glossary, while Standard Edition users receive a considerably thinner version. The bundled version also comes with a dramatically reduced software suite, incorporating only the Easy CD Creator and CD Copier programs along with MGI PhotoSuite and CD Catalog. If you get this version, upgrade. The additional programs are well worth the cost.
Overall, Easy CD Creator Deluxe is as stable and as full-featured a software suite as any user could want for CD recording. The program is easy to use, whether whizzing through the Wizards or just dragging and dropping files for recording. Recorder support is excellent, and includes such rare birds as the Taiyo Yuden BW 50 and older recorders like the Sony CDW 900E and the Philips 521/522 and Kodak 225. Between Easy CD Creator itself and the various role players in its surrounding software suite-CD Copier, PCD Creator, VCD Creator, and Spin Doctor-users can easily accomplish almost any recording task, even making Bootable CDs if they desire. Since user needs and expectations for CD recording software differ, Easy CD Creator can’t be unequivocally anointed the “best” CD recording software available, but at a $99 suggested retail price, it is certainly the best value in Windows recording software available today.
RELATED ARTICLE: Adaptec’s Easy CD Creator Deluxe
Synopsis: Easy CD Creator, the long awaited “combination” Of CD Creator and Easy CD Pno, stands out not just with its features and recorder support, but also because of its top-notch suite Of application-specific software programs, including CD copier, Video CD Creator, Picture CD Creator, and Spin Doctor. Audiophiles might purchase the program for Spin Doctor alone. This software suite can produce almost any type Of CD, including Video CD, bootable CD, and CD Extra. The easy-to-use interface, excellent manual, online help and Wizards combine to make CD creation easy for the beginner, while the program retains the advanced features that users have come to expect from Adaptec recording software.
Price: $99 (purchase or upgrade)
System Requirements: PC running Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0, supported CD recorder: optional: sound card (16-bit or better) and analog source (LP, cassette, 8-track, or CD)
For more information, contact: Adaptec, Inc. 691 South Milpitas Boulevard. Milpitas, CA 95035; 800/934-2766, 800/442-7274, 408/957-4546; Fax 408/957-6666 http://www.adaptec.com; CIRCLE NUMBER 450
Robert A. Starrett is a contributing editor for EMedia Professional, co-columnist for the CD-R Writer, and an independent consultant based in Denver, Colorado. He is the co author of CD-ROM Professional’s CD-Recordable Handbook.
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