Burning Choices Page 3

Fire When Ready When it comes to ease of use, stand-alone recorders win hands down over computer burners. With its two trays, 21 buttons, and four rocker switches, the Harman Kardon CDR 30 looks and operates like the dual-transport cassette decks we all know and love. Place it near your receiver or amplifier, connect the record inputs and outputs between them, or use a coaxial or optical digital input directly from a CD player or a MiniDisc (MD) or digital audio tape (DAT) recorder, and you're burning.

Copying CDs is a piece of cake. Simply put the source CD in one tray, the blank CD-R or CD-RW in the other tray, press three buttons, and you'll have a perfect copy in about the time it takes to walk the dog. A big multicolor fluorescent display tells you everything you need to know. My only complaint is that the deck defaults to real-time recording, so you have to specifically select 2x or 4x speed.

The VeloCD comes with a big, clear fold-out installation folder, but you still have to pop the hood on your PC and install the drive in an available bay, connect power-supply and data cables, close the case, and load the supplied software. If you don't have a second CD-ROM drive installed in the PC, you'll need to use the newly installed VeloCD to load the software - so you'd better hope you hooked it up correctly. It took me about 10 minutes to load the software on my PC .

I installed the VeloCD drive and software without a hitch, and the drive worked flawlessly - something I can't say of earlier-generation drives. I was able to start burning CDs shortly after a glance at the software manual - but I already had sound files on my hard drive to copy. As with any other add-on CD burner, if you're manipulating audio on the computer for the first time, it could take as long as several days to gather enough files and master the learning curve before making a recording. And if your CD-R/RW drive and the supplied software conflicts in any way with what's already in your PC, you could be in for a burning pain.

The Need for Speed Speed can be deceiving. With the Harman Kardon, you can burn just about any blank CD at 4x if you're dubbing an entire disc straight through. However, the deck steps down to 2x if you program it to copy selected tracks in a certain order. And you'll be slowed down to real time if you want to create CDs from external sources, since you can't speed them up.