Please bear with me for a bit while I lay out some history with this issue and describe some testing that deals with a lot of variables.
As early as WL4, I believe, I had done quite a bit of testing of different CDRs for consistency and quality of REAL TIME playback (note that I am not talking about data retention, though that can sometimes be an issue). I had found that many CDRs playing back in real time resulted in jitter-like effects, which often included dramatic loss of soundstage width and apparent eq shifts. My original results concluded that only the MAM-A Gold CDRs were consistently sounding like files directly from the computer.
Before anyone jumps in and says I am crazy because it is all just 0s and 1s, realize that real time playback of a CD is dependent on all kinds of issues, not the least of which are reflectivity and error correction. When I brought this set of observations up to the head tech guy at MAM-A few years back, he told me that this was not the first time he had heard this and that several full time mastering engineers had told him more or less exactly the same thing.
If the 0s and 1s are still there, however, why would this matter? For one thing, how folks hear reference CDs matters a lot. For another, clients use CDRs as masters for duplicating operations (not replicating), and I am convinced that these issues matter there to some extent. For another, I was early on sometimes choosing mastering techniques that purposefully truncated and/or which made it hard for me to predict how the CD itself would sound…in other words, I could not really hear the end result out of the computer before burning a disc, meaning that the only real reference was for the disc itself.
As I got all my clocking issues worked out over the years and as I got better and better interfaces for my Wavelab computer, I eventually found that I could reliably tell what was going on and make direct comparisons with the output of the computer and a CDR (MAM-A Gold) playing and started at the same time, as long as the computer and reference CD player were being clocked by the same source. As I refined my dithering and mastering techniques a bit, I found more and more that this direct comparison was increasingly reliable, and that playing the CDR in the reference player was giving me very good info about the product I was making.
Fast forward to WL7 and DDP: It became clear to me quickly that burning a reference CDR from the DDP image was a better representation of what I was hearing out of the computer than burning from the Montage using a temp file. While subtle, this was consistent and reassuring.
With WL8, I have found this not to be true…BUT, there are a ton of variables involved. My version of WL7 was on my older, quad core XP machine with its built-in CD burner. WL 8 is on my Xeon 8 core with Win 7 at 64 bit, using its built-in CD burner…While both machines have Lynx AES16 interfaces, the newer machine has a PCIe card, and the older one has the PCI card.
With all that in mind, I did a ton of listening tests and determined that every disc I burned on the new machine from a DDP had an extra glassiness/high freq. component in real time playback as compared to the Montage (obviously with all the plug-ins…mostly UAD…and dither in place). This was absolutely consistent.
When I then copied that DDP back to the old XP machine and burned a CDR from it utilizing WL7, the glassiness/high frequency over emphasis was gone. This is also absolutely consistent. I have not A-Bed these new discs with project playback in real time on the new WL8 computer, but I will and I know the results will be clear.
(Although this will not affect the A-B test I am talking about above, other burns from DDP on the old computer are not now possible because WL7 won’t stay installed on it, as indicated in another thread I have started)
Because of the whole host of variables, I really can’t say why this is happening, but it does seem likely that there is either a difference in code between the two versions or some issue with the new burner.
I really don’t know, but would ask for all to put their thinking caps on. I have to find a a way to burn reference CDRs that are closer to what I am hearing out of the project.
I know that in years gone by I had done testing of burning at various speeds to find the most transparent settings, along with finding the best media. Maybe I will have to revisit all of that, but I don’t relish that prospect.
Thanks in advance for all thoughts on the matter.