Bootleggers, you're out of luck

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The Independent Online
Frustrated by realms of tape spewing out of a crackly, aesthetically offensive home-recorded cassette tape? Sound purists will be relieved to hear that these techno-dinosaurs are shortly to be displaced by compact- disc recorders or CD-Rs and blank CDs.

From December, Pioneer's CD recorder will be on sale for pounds 1,300 and 60- minute blank CDs for pounds 15. Not cheap, but competition promises to drive the price of CD-Rs down fairly rapidly. Kenwood, Yamaha and Sony are said to be interested, and Marantz is due to launch its model next year with a long-term target price of pounds 499.

The quality of sound is as good as an original CD, says Simon Bennett of Pioneer. "It'll sound just the same as if it had been recorded on a commercial machine." Better, in fact, says Rahiel Nasir, editor of What Hi-fi? - "The sound is fantastic. A CD-R copies the original faithfully."

While CD-Rs have been available to professionals for some time, they have been kept out of consumers' hands because of record industry fears about bootleggers. But potential pirates, eager to copy Blur hundreds of times over, will be thwarted.

The Serial Copy Management System(SCMS) transmits an electronic marker on a blank disc copying from a CD, thus preventing subsequent copies being made of a recorded disc, although it doesn't stop pirates making many copies from a single original. In other words, you can clone a CD but you can't make a clone of a clone. Furthermore, every CD-R will have an identification number that transfers to every recording it makes - so large numbers of CDs made from the same machine can be traced back to the owner by police through dealers records.

The price of blank CDs is also set to decrease. Seventy-four-minute commercial blank discs currently cost pounds 6 and it is therefore predicted that 60-minute consumer blank CDs (74-minute blank CDs will not be available to the public) should come down to pounds 5, though when is not certain. "The price has been set at pounds 15 and it's a bit of guesswork when it'll come down because of some pressure by the record industry," says Simon Bennett.

If you do manage to get your hands on a 74-minute blank CD, the recorder will spit it out. Blanks lasting over 60 minutes are simply not kosher, so you can't record lengthier albums. Wagner fans scouting around for a black market Ring recording will be wasting their time.