Burning downloaded music onto CD

Burning your downloads onto a CD is a great way of backing-up your download purchase and also provides another source for playing back your downloads.

Before you burn a disc check that your computer is capable of burning these discs and that your CD player is capable of playing the chosen disc type. Disc types are CD-R, CD-RW or CD-DA discs.

Make sure that the disc you burn is in a format that your domestic CD player can recognise and play. This is typically referred to as "red book".

How to burn a "red-book" CD 
A tip for those with an HDCD player   
Problems with CD-R or CD-RW  
I have burned a CD that sounds great now but how do I make it look like a professionally produced disc?

How to burn a "red-book" CD

The 'red book' here refers to the original publication by Philips and Sony over 20 years ago which precisely specified every detail of the CD system. A red book CD is a completely standard music CD. The music data is formatted, when a CD is burned by software on the computer, exactly as an audio CD. This is very different from a data CD which can also contain music but in a format not recognised or playable by a standard CD player. The red book did not anticipate the technological revolution of the personal computer or the Internet. Burning a CD is probably the simplest way to play downloaded music. It does not require a computer to be switched on, connected or anywhere near your music system. Unfortunately every media player software package tries to 'add value' while burning a CD, so you need to check the settings carefully so as not to lose any of the music data.

To burn a completely accurate red book CD which will contain precisely the same data that we uploaded to our servers, you must disable all enhancements in your media playing software. Popular enhancements are:

  • graphic equalisers
  • tone controls
  • volume levelling
  • pitch changing
  • sound effects
  • music speed adjustments
  • cross fades between tracks
  • compression
  • any other audio effects

Every one of these will result in changes to the data you burn on the CD. How to switch them all off can sometimes be tricky. Here's how to do it:

With FLAC files (converted to WMA files) in Windows Media Player:

1. After the lossless compressed file has been downloaded and converted open Windows Media Player (WMP) and select the 'burn' tab. This will show the 'Burn List' on the left and the contents of your CD-R/W drive on the right.

2. Use the 'Edit Playlist' button to choose all the tracks you want to burn on to the CD-R/W.

3. Click the red arrow button above the CD-R/W contents. This displays the properties of the CD-R/W drive.

4. Under the 'quality' tab un-check the 'Apply volume leveling to music when it is burned' option. (If you leave this option ticked, the data you burn to a CD-R/W will be scaled digitally and will not be a bit-accurate copy of our original file.) The other 'quality' button only applies when you burn a data CD rather than a 'red book' (standard audio) CD, however it's probably best to set this to maximum quality in case you ever burn audio data on to a data CD.

With ALAC files in iTunes:

1. Select "preferences" from the iTunes drop down menu.

2. Select the "advanced" tab.

3. Select "burning" and the audio CD. Select "1 sec gap".

No modifications will then be made to the audio when burned on to CDR.

If you use burning software other than WMP or iTunes you'll probably find a similar feature in it. To maintain bit-accuracy you must disable all 'enhancements' to the music data before burning an audio CD.

A tip for those with an HDCD player

Many Linn CDs use HDCD encoding. In addition to providing better sound on an HDCD equipped CD player, HDCD also provides a simple way of checking for bit-accuracy through the whole download and burning process. If anything is changed on an HDCD encoded music file, the HDCD decoder will not recognise the disc as an HDCD disc. It may play as a CD but the full benefit of the HDCD process is lost.

This peculiarity can help you check that you have burned the disc correctly. Many of the downloads we offer are HDCD encoded - look for the HDCD logo on the album page. If the download is marked as HDCD encoded and the HDCD light on your stand alone CD player does not light when you play a burned CD-R/W, the music data is no longer bit-accurate. Go back and check your burner settings or contact the supplier of the burning software that you use for full details of how to burn bit accurate discs.

Problems with CD-R or CD-RW ?

When you have successfully burned a red book CDR, it should play perfectly on your CD player. However, some older CD players were designed before CDRs were invented and may have problems playing a CDR. This is because a CDR reflects slightly less laser light than a standard CD. CDRW discs can have even lower reflectivity.

Some CDR discs are marked specifically for audio use. It's probably worth trying them if you have problems. They claim to have higher reflectivity.