History of Compact Disc

History of Compact Disc

The Compact Disc (also known as a CD) is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage (CD-ROM), write-once audio and data storage (CD-R), rewritable media (CD-RW), Video Compact Discs (VCD), Super Video Compact Discs (SVCD), PhotoCD, PictureCD, CD-i, and Enhanced CD. Audio CDs and audio CD players have been commercially available since October 1982.

Standard CDs have a diameter of 120 millimetres (4.7 in) and can hold up to 80 minutes of uncompressed audio (700 MB of data). The Mini CD has various diameters ranging from 60 to 80 millimetres (2.4 to 3.1 in); they are sometimes used for CD singles, storing up to 24 minutes of audio or delivering device drivers.

CD-ROMs and CD-Rs remain widely used technologies in the computer industry. The CD and its extensions are successful: in 2004, worldwide sales of CD audio, CD-ROM, and CD-R reached about 30 billion discs. By 2007, 200 billion CDs had been sold worldwide. Compact Discs are increasingly being replaced or supplemented by other forms of digital distribution and storage, such as downloading and flash drives, with audio CD sales dropping nearly 50% from their peak in 2000.


The Compact Disc is a spin-off of Laserdisc technology. Sony first publicly demonstrated an optical digital audio disc in September 1976. In September 1978 they demonstrated an optical digital audio disc with a 150 minute playing time, and with specifications of 44,056 Hz sampling rate, 16-bit linear resolution, cross-interleaved error correction code, that were similar to those of the Compact Disc introduced in 1982. Technical details of Sony's digital audio disc were presented during the 62nd AES Convention, held on March 13–16, 1979, in Brussels. On March 8, 1979 Philips publicly demonstrated a prototype of an optical digital audio disc at a press conference called "Philips Introduce Compact Disc" in Eindhoven, Netherlands. On March 6, 2009, Philips received an IEEE Milestone with the following citation: "On 8 March 1979, N.V. Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken demonstrated for the international press a Compact Disc Audio Player. The demonstration showed that it is possible by using digital optical recording and playback to reproduce audio signals with superb stereo quality. This research at Philips established the technical standard for digital optical recording systems."

Sony executive Norio Ohga, who later became the CEO and chairman of Sony, was convinced of the format's commercial potential, and pushed further development despite widespread skepticism. Later in 1979, Sony and Philips Consumer Electronics (Philips) set up a joint task force of engineers to design a new digital audio disc. Led by Kees Schouhamer Immink and Toshitada Doi, the research pushed forward laser and optical disc technology that began independently by Philips and Sony in 1977 and 1975, respectively. After a year of experimentation and discussion, the taskforce produced the Red Book, the Compact Disc standard. Philips contributed the general manufacturing process, based on video Laserdisc technology. Philips also contributed eight-to-fourteen modulation (EFM), which offers both a long playing time and a high resilience against disc defects such as scratches and fingerprints, while Sony contributed the error-correction method, CIRC. The Compact Disc Story, told by a former member of the taskforce, gives background information on the many technical decisions made, including the choice of the sampling frequency, playing time, and disc diameter. The taskforce consisted of around four to eight persons, though according to Philips, the Compact Disc was thus "invented collectively by a large group of people working as a team."

The first test CD was pressed in Langenhagen near Hannover, Germany, by the Polydor Pressing Operations plant. The disc contained a recording of Richard Strauss's Eine Alpensinfonie (in English, An Alpine Symphony), played by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The first public demonstration was on the BBC television program Tomorrow's World when The Bee Gees' album Living Eyes (1981) was played. In August 1982 the real pressing was ready to begin in the new factory, not far from the place where Emil Berliner had produced his first gramophone record 93 years earlier. By now, Deutsche Grammophon, Berliner's company and the publisher of the Strauss recording, had become a part of PolyGram. The first CD to be manufactured at the new factory was The Visitors (1981) by ABBA. The first album to be released on CD was Billy Joel's 52nd Street, that reached the market alongside Sony's CD player CDP-101 on October 1, 1982 in Japan. Early the following year on March 2, 1983 CD players and discs (16 titles from CBS Records) were released in the United States and other markets. This event is often seen as the "Big Bang" of the digital audio revolution. The new audio disc was enthusiastically received, especially in the early-adopting classical music and audiophile communities and its handling quality received particular praise. As the price of players gradually came down, the CD began to gain popularity in the larger popular and rock music markets. The first artist to sell a million copies on CD was Dire Straits, with its 1985 album Brothers in Arms. The first major artist to have his entire catalogue converted to CD was David Bowie, whose 15 studio albums were made available by RCA Records in February 1985, along with four Greatest Hits albums. In 1988, 400 million CDs were manufactured by 50 pressing plants around the world.

The CD was planned to be the successor of the gramophone record for playing music, rather than primarily as a data storage medium. From its origins as a musical format, CDs have grown to encompass other applications. In June 1985, the computer readable CD-ROM (read-only memory) and, in 1990, CD-Recordable were introduced, also developed by both Sony and Philips. The CD's compact format has largely replaced the audio cassette player in new automobile applications, and recordable CDs are an alternative to tape for recording music and copying music albums without defects introduced in compression used in other digital recording methods. Other newer video formats such as DVD and Blu-ray have used the same form factor as CDs, and video players can usually play audio CDs as well. With the advent of the MP3 in the 2000s, the sales of CDs has dropped in seven out of the last eight years. In 2008, large label CD sales dropped 20%, although independent and DIY music sales may be tracking better according to figures released March 30, 2009.

Physical details

A CD is made from 1.2 millimetres (0.047 in) thick, polycarbonate plastic and weighs 15–20 grams. From the center outward, components are: the center spindle hole (15 mm), the first-transition area (clamping ring), the clamping area (stacking ring), the second-transition area (mirror band), the program (data) area, and the rim. The inner program area occupies a radius from 25 to 58 mm.

A thin layer of aluminium or, more rarely, gold is applied to the surface making it reflective. The metal is protected by a film of lacquer normally spin coated directly on the reflective layer. The label is printed on the lacquer layer, usually by screen printing or offset printing.

CD data are stored as a series of tiny indentations known as "pits", encoded in a spiral track moulded into the top of the polycarbonate layer. The areas between pits are known as "lands". Each pit is approximately 100 nm deep by 500 nm wide, and varies from 850 nm to 3.5 µm in length. The distance between the tracks, the pitch, is 1.6 µm.

Scanning velocity is 1.2–1.4 m/s (constant linear velocity) – equivalent to approximately 500 rpm at the inside of the disc, and approximately 200 rpm at the outside edge. (A disc played from beginning to end slows down during playback.)

The program area is 86.05 cm² and the length of the recordable spiral is (86.05 cm2 / 1.6 µm) = 5.38 km. With a scanning speed of 1.2 m/s, the playing time is 74 minutes, or 650 MB of data on a CD-ROM. A disc with data packed slightly more densely is tolerated by most players (though some old ones fail). Using a linear velocity of 1.2 m/s and a track pitch of 1.5 µm yields a playing time of 80 minutes, or a data capacity of 700 MB. Even higher capacities on non-standard discs (up to 99 minutes) are available at least as recordables, but generally the tighter the tracks are squeezed, the worse the compatibility.

A CD is read by focusing a 780 nm wavelength (near infrared) semiconductor laser through the bottom of the polycarbonate layer. The change in height between pits and lands results in a difference in the way the light is reflected. By measuring the intensity change with a photodiode, the data can be read from the disc.

The pits and lands themselves do not directly represent the zeros and ones of binary data. Instead, non-return-to-zero, inverted encoding is used: a change from pit to land or land to pit indicates a one, while no change indicates a series of zeros. There must be at least two and no more than ten zeros between each one, which is defined by the length of the pit. This in turn is decoded by reversing the eight-to-fourteen modulation used in mastering the disc, and then reversing the Cross-Interleaved Reed-Solomon Coding, finally revealing the raw data stored on the disc.

CDs are susceptible to damage from both normal use and environmental exposure. Pits are much closer to the label side of a disc, enabling defects and contaminants on the clear side to be out of focus during playback. Consequently, CDs are more likely to suffer damage on the label side of the disk. Scratches on the clear side can be repaired by refilling them with similar refractive plastic, or by careful polishing.

Disc shapes and diameters

The digital data on a CD begins at the center of the disc and proceeds toward the edge, which allows adaptation to the different size formats available. Standard CDs are available in two sizes. By far, the most common is 120 millimetres (4.7 in) in diameter, with a 74- or 80-minute audio capacity and a 650 or 700 MB data capacity. This capacity was reportedly specified by Sony executive Norio Ohga so as to be able to contain the entirety of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on one disc. This diameter has been adopted by subsequent formats, including Super Audio CD, DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray Disc. 80 mm discs ("Mini CDs") were originally designed for CD singles and can hold up to 24 minutes of music or 210 MB of data but never became popular. Today, nearly every single is released on a 120 mm CD, called a Maxi single.

Novelty CDs are also available in numerous shapes and sizes, and are used chiefly for marketing. A common variant is the "business card" CD, a single with portions removed at the top and bottom making the disk resemble a business card.

Logical formats

Audio CD

The logical format of an audio CD (officially Compact Disc Digital Audio or CD-DA) is described in a document produced by the format's joint creators, Sony and Philips in 1980. The document is known colloquially as the "Red Book" after the color of its cover. The format is a two-channel 16-bit PCM encoding at a 44.1 kHz sampling rate per channel. Four-channel sound is an allowable option within the Red Book format, but has never been implemented. Monaural audio has no existing standard on a Red Book CD; mono-source material is usually presented as two identical channels on a 'stereo' track.

44.1 kHz sample rate

The selection of the sample rate was based primarily on the need to reproduce the audible frequency range of 20 Hz – 20 kHz. The Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem states that a sampling rate of more than twice the maximum frequency of the signal to be recorded is needed, resulting in a required rate of at least 40 kHz. The exact sampling rate of 44.1 kHz was inherited from a method of converting digital audio into an analog video signal for storage on U-matic video tape, which was the most affordable way to transfer data from the recording studio to the CD manufacturer at the time the CD specification was being developed. The device that converts an analog audio signal into PCM audio, which in turn is changed into an analog video signal is called a PCM adaptor. This technology could store six samples (three samples per stereo channel) in a single horizontal line. A standard NTSC video signal has 245 usable lines per field, and 59.94 fields/s, which works out to be 44,056 samples/s/stereo channel. Similarly, PAL has 294 lines and 50 fields, which gives 44,100 samples/s/stereo channel. This system could store 14-bit samples with some error correction, or 16-bit samples with almost no error correction.

There was a long debate over the use of 14-bit (Philips) or 16-bit (Sony) quantization, and 44,056 or 44,100 samples/s (Sony) or approximately 44,000 samples/s (Philips). When the Sony/Philips task force designed the Compact Disc, Philips had already developed a 14-bit D/A converter, but Sony insisted on 16-bit. In the end, 16 bits and 44.1 kilosamples per second prevailed. Philips found a way to produce 16-bit quality using its 14-bit DAC by using four times oversampling.

Storage capacity and playing time

The partners aimed at a playing time of 60 minutes with a disc diameter of 100 mm (Sony) or 115 mm (Philips). Sony vice-president Norio Ohga suggested extending the capacity to 74 minutes to accommodate Wilhelm Furtwängler's recording of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 from the 1951 Bayreuth Festival.

The additional 14-minute playing time subsequently required changing to a 120 mm disc. Kees Immink, Philips' chief engineer, however, denies this, claiming that the increase was motivated by technical considerations, and that even after the increase in size, the Furtwängler recording would not have fit on one of the earliest CDs. According to a Sunday Tribune interview, the story is slightly more involved. In 1979, Philips owned PolyGram, one of the world's largest distributors of music. PolyGram had set up a large experimental CD plant in Hannover, Germany, which could produce huge numbers of CDs having, of course, a diameter of 115 mm. Sony did not yet have such a facility. If Sony had agreed on the 115-mm disc, Philips would have had a significant competitive edge in the market. Sony decided that something had to be done. The long playing time of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony imposed by Ohga was used to push Philips to accept 120 mm, so that Philips' PolyGram lost its edge on disc fabrication.

The 74-minute playing time of a CD, which was longer than the 20 minutes per side typical of long-playing (LP) vinyl albums, was often used to the CD's advantage during the early years when CDs and LPs vied for commercial sales. CDs would often be released with one or more bonus tracks, enticing consumers to buy the CD for the extra material. However, attempts to combine double LPs onto one CD occasionally resulted in the opposite situation in which the CD would actually offer fewer tracks than the equivalent LP.

Playing times beyond 74 minutes are achieved by decreasing track pitch beyond the original red book standard. Most players can accommodate the more closely spaced data. Christian Thielemann's live Deutsche Grammophon recording of Bruckner's Fifth with the Munich Philharmonic in 2004 clocks at 82:34. The Kirov Orchestra recording of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker conducted by Valery Gergiev and released by Philips/PolyGram Records (catalogue number 462 114) on October 20, 1998, clocks at 81:14. Disc two of Gold (Deutche Grammophon/Universal Classics 477 743) by Herbert von Karajan clocks in at 81:21. The Mission of Burma compilation album Mission of Burma, released in 1988 by Rykodisc, previously held the record at 80:08.

Data structure

The smallest entity in a CD is called a frame, which consists of 33 bytes and contains six complete 16-bit stereo samples (two bytes x two channels x six samples = 24 bytes). The other nine bytes consist of eight CIRC error-correction bytes and one subcode byte, used for control and display. Each byte is translated into a 14-bit word using eight-to-fourteen modulation, which alternates with three-bit merging words. In total there are 33 x (14 + 3) = 561 bits. A 27-bit unique synchronization word is added, so that the number of bits in a frame totals 588 (which are decoded to only 192 bits music).

These 588-bit frames are in turn grouped into sectors. Each sector contains 98 frames, totaling 98 x 24 = 2352 bytes of music. The CD is played at a speed of 75 sectors per second, which results in 176,400 bytes per second. Divided by two channels and two bytes per sample, this results in a sample rate of 44,100 samples per second.

For CD-ROM data discs, the physical frame and sector sizes are the same. Since error concealment cannot be applied to non-audio data in case the CIRC error correction fails to recover the user data, a third layer of error correction is defined, reducing the payload to 2048 bytes per sector for the Mode-1 CD-ROM format. To increase the data-rate for Video CD, Mode-2 CD-ROM, the third layer has been omitted, increasing the payload to 2336 user-available bytes per sector, only 16 bytes (for synchronization and header data) less than available in Red-Book audio.


For the Red Book stereo audio CD, the time format is commonly measured in minutes, seconds and frames (mm:ss:ff), where one frame corresponds to one sector, or 1/75th of a second of stereo sound. In this context, the term frame is erroneously applied in editing applications and does not denote the physical frame described above. In editing and extracting, the frame is the smallest addressable time interval for an audio CD, meaning that track start and end positions can only be defined in 1/75 second steps.

Logical structure

The largest entity on a CD is called a track. A CD can contain up to 99 tracks (including a data track for mixed mode discs). Each track can in turn have up to 100 indexes, though players which handle this feature are rarely found outside of pro audio, particularly radio broadcasting. The vast majority of songs are recorded under index 1, with the pre-gap being index 0. Sometimes hidden tracks are placed at the end of the last track of the disc, often using index 2 or 3. This is also the case with some discs offering "101 sound effects", with 100 and 101 being indexed as two and three on track 99. The index, if used, is occasionally put on the track listing as a decimal part of the track number, such as 99.2 or 99.3. (Information Society's Hack was one of very few CD releases to do this, following a release with an equally obscure CD+G feature.) The track and index structure of the CD carried forward to the DVD as title and chapter, respectively.

Manufacturing tolerances

Current manufacturing processes allow an audio CD to contain up to 80 minutes (variable from one replication plant to another) without requiring the content creator to sign a waiver releasing the plant owner from responsibility if the CD produced is marginally or entirely unreadable by some playback equipment. Thus, in current practice, maximum CD playing time has crept higher by reducing minimum engineering tolerances; by and large, this has not unacceptably reduced reliability.


CD-Text is an extension of the Red Book specification for audio CD that allows for storage of additional text information (e.g., album name, song name, artist) on a standards-compliant audio CD. The information is stored either in the lead-in area of the CD, where there is roughly five kilobytes of space available, or in the subcode channels R to W on the disc, which can store about 31 megabytes.

CD + Graphics

Compact Disc + Graphics (CD+G) is a special audio Compact Disc that contains graphics data in addition to the audio data on the disc. The disc can be played on a regular audio CD player, but when played on a special CD+G player, can output a graphics signal (typically, the CD+G player is hooked up to a television set or a computer monitor); these graphics are almost exclusively used to display lyrics on a television set for karaoke performers to sing along with. The CD+G format takes advantage of the channels R through W. These six bits store the graphics information.

CD + Extended Graphics

Compact Disc + Extended Graphics (CD+EG, also known as CD+XG) is an improved variant of the Compact Disc + Graphics (CD+G) format. Like CD+G, CD+EG utilizes basic CD-ROM features to display text and video information in addition to the music being played. This extra data is stored in subcode channels R-W. Very few, if any, CD+EG discs have been published.

Super Audio CD

Super Audio CD (SACD) is a high-resolution read-only optical audio disc format that was designed to provide higher fidelity digital audio reproduction than the Red Book. Introduced in 1999, it was developed by Sony and Philips, the same companies that created the Red Book. SACD was in a format war with DVD-Audio, but neither has replaced audio CDs.

Titles in the SACD format can be issued as hybrid discs; these discs contain the SACD audio stream as well as a standard audio CD layer which is playable in standard CD players, thus making them backward compatible.


CD-MIDI is a format used to store music-performance data which upon playback is performed by electronic instruments that synthesize the audio. Hence, unlike Red Book, these recordings are not audio.


For the first few years of its existence, the Compact Disc was a medium used purely for audio. However, in 1985 the Yellow Book CD-ROM standard was established by Sony and Philips, which defined a non-volatile optical data computer data storage medium using the same physical format as audio Compact Discs, readable by a computer with a CD-ROM drive.

Video CD (VCD)

Video CD (VCD, View CD, and Compact Disc digital video) is a standard digital format for storing video media on a CD. VCDs are playable in dedicated VCD players, most modern DVD-Video players, personal computers, and some video game consoles.

The VCD standard was created in 1993 by Sony, Philips, Matsushita, and JVC and is referred to as the White Book standard.

Overall picture quality is intended to be comparable to VHS video. Poorly compressed VCD video can sometimes be lower quality than VHS video, but VCD exhibits block artifacts rather than analog noise, and does not deteriorate further with each use, which may be preferable.

352x240 (or SIF) resolution was chosen because it is half the vertical, and half the horizontal resolution of NTSC video. 352x288 is similarly one quarter PAL/SECAM resolution. This approximates the (overall) resolution of an analog VHS tape, which, although it has double the number of (vertical) scan lines, has a much lower horizontal resolution.

Super Video CD

Super Video CD (Super Video Compact Disc or SVCD) is a format used for storing video media on standard Compact Discs. SVCD was intended as a successor to VCD and an alternative to DVD-Video, and falls somewhere between both in terms of technical capability and picture quality.

SVCD has two-thirds the resolution of DVD, and over 2.7 times the resolution of VCD. One CD-R disc can hold up to 60 minutes of standard quality SVCD-format video. While no specific limit on SVCD video length is mandated by the specification, one must lower the video bit rate, and therefore quality, in order to accommodate very long videos. It is usually difficult to fit much more than 100 minutes of video onto one SVCD without incurring significant quality loss, and many hardware players are unable to play video with an instantaneous bit rate lower than 300 to 600 kilobits per second.

Photo CD

Photo CD is a system designed by Kodak for digitizing and storing photos on a CD. Launched in 1992, the discs were designed to hold nearly 100 high quality images, scanned prints and slides using special proprietary encoding. Photo CD discs are defined in the Beige Book and conform to the CD-ROM XA and CD-i Bridge specifications as well. They are intended to play on CD-i players, Photo CD players and any computer with the suitable software irrespective of the operating system. The images can also be printed out on photographic paper with a special Kodak machine. This format is not to be confused with Kodak Picture CD, which is a consumer product in CD-ROM format.


The Philips "Green Book" specifies the standard for interactive multimedia Compact Discs designed for CD-i players (1993). This format is unusual because it hides the initial tracks which contains the software and data files used by CD-i players by omitting the tracks from the disc's TOC (table of contents). This causes audio CD players to skip the CD-i data tracks. This is different from the CD-i Ready format, which puts CD-i software and data into the pregap of track 1. CDi was the leading format of its time but was supplanted by the politics of competition. Philips Interactive Media lead the way in producing breakthrough titles, including the first interactive coloring book, Sesame Street Disc and children's programs, Groliers and Comptoms encyclopedias and many more pathbreaking programs.

Enhanced CD

Enhanced CD, also known as CD Extra and CD Plus, is a certification mark of the Recording Industry Association of America for various technologies that combine audio and computer data for use in both Compact Disc and CD-ROM players.

The primary data formats for Enhanced Compact Disc's are mixed mode (Yellow Book/Red Book), CD-i, hidden track, and multisession (Blue Book).


VinylDisc is the hybrid of a standard Audio CD and the vinyl record. The vinyl layer on the disc's label side can hold approximately three minutes of music.


Replicated CDs are mass-produced initially using a hydraulic press. Small granules of heated raw polycarbonate plastic are fed into the press. A screw forces the liquefied plastic into the mold cavity. The mold closes with a metal stamper in contact with the disc surface. The plastic is allowed to cool and harden. Once opened, the disc substrate is removed from the mold by a robotic arm, and a 15 mm diameter center hole (called a stacking ring) is created. The time it takes to "stamp" one CD, is usually 2 to 3 seconds.

This method produces the clear plastic blank part of the disc. After a metallic reflecting layer (usually aluminum, but sometimes gold or other metal) is applied to the clear blank substrate, the disc goes under a UV light for curing and it is ready to go to press. To prepare to press a CD, a glass master is made, using a high-powered laser on a device similar to a CD writer. The glass master is a positive image of the desired CD surface (with the desired microscopic pits and lands). After testing, it is used to make a die by pressing it against a metal disc.

The die is a negative image of the glass master: typically, several are made, depending on the number of pressing mills that are to make the CD. The die then goes into a press and the physical image is transferred to the blank CD, leaving a final positive image on the disc. A small amount of lacquer is applied as a ring around the center of the disc, and rapid spinning spreads it evenly over the surface. Edge protection lacquer is applied before the disc is finished. The disc can then be printed and packed.

Manufactured CDs that are sold in stores are sealed via a process called "polywrapping" or shrink wrapping.

Recordable CD

Recordable Compact Discs, CD-Rs, are injection molded with a "blank" data spiral. A photosensitive dye is then applied, after which the discs are metalized and lacquer-coated. The write laser of the CD recorder changes the color of the dye to allow the read laser of a standard CD player to see the data, just as it would with a standard stamped disc. The resulting discs can be read by most CD-ROM drives and played in most audio CD players.

CD-R recordings are designed to be permanent. Over time the dye's physical characteristics may change, however, causing read errors and data loss until the reading device cannot recover with error correction methods. The design life is from 20 to 100 years, depending on the quality of the discs, the quality of the writing drive, and storage conditions. However, testing has demonstrated such degradation of some discs in as little as 18 months under normal storage conditions. This failure is known as CD rot. CD-Rs follow the Orange Book standard.

Recordable audio CD

The recordable audio CD is designed to be used in a consumer audio CD recorder. These consumer audio CD recorders use SCMS (Serial Copy Management System), an early form of digital rights management (DRM), to conform to the AHRA (Audio Home Recording Act). The Recordable Audio CD is typically somewhat more expensive than CD-R due to (a) lower volume and (b) a 3% AHRA royalty used to compensate the music industry for the making of a copy.

High-capacity recordable CD

A higher density recording format that can hold:

• 98.5 minutes of audio on a 12 cm disc (compared to about 80 minutes for Red Book audio).
• 30 minutes of audio on an 8 cm disc (compared to about 24 minutes for Red Book audio).

ReWritable CD

CD-RW is a re-recordable medium that uses a metallic alloy instead of a dye. The write laser in this case is used to heat and alter the properties (amorphous vs. crystalline) of the alloy, and hence change its reflectivity. A CD-RW does not have as great a difference in reflectivity as a pressed CD or a CD-R, and so many earlier CD audio players cannot read CD-RW discs, although most later CD audio players and stand-alone DVD players can. CD-RWs follow the Orange Book standard.

High-speed ReWritable CD

Due to technical limitations, the original ReWritable CD could be written no faster than 4x speed. High Speed ReWritable CD has a different design that permits writing at speeds ranging from 4x to 12x.

Original CD-RW drives can only write to original ReWritable CDs. High Speed CD-RW drives can typically write to both original ReWritable CD discs and High Speed ReWritable CD discs. Both types of CD-RW discs can be read in most CD drives.

Higher speed CD-RW discs, Ultra Speed (16x to 24x write speed) and Ultra Speed+ (32x write speed), are now available.

ReWritable Audio CD

The ReWritable Audio CD is designed to be used in a consumer audio CD recorder, which won't (without modification) accept standard CD-RW discs. These consumer audio CD recorders use the Serial Copy Management System (SCMS), an early form of digital rights management (DRM), to conform to the United States' Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA). The ReWritable Audio CD is typically somewhat more expensive than CD-RW due to (a) lower volume and (b) a 3% AHRA royalty used to compensate the music industry for the making of a copy.

Copy protection

The Red Book audio specification, except for a simple 'anti-copy' bit in the subcode, does not include any copy protection mechanism. Starting in early 2002, attempts were made by record companies to market "copy-protected" non-standard Compact Discs, which cannot be ripped, or copied, to hard drives or easily converted to MP3s. One major drawback to these copy-protected discs is that most will not play on either computer CD-ROM drives, or some standalone CD players that use CD-ROM mechanisms. Philips has stated that such discs are not permitted to bear the trademarked Compact Disc Digital Audio logo because they violate the Red Book specifications. Numerous copy-protection systems have been countered by readily available, often free, software.

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