Burning CDs in 2023

Published: Oct 22, 2023

After my grandparents’ house fire last year, we came across a bunch of old photo slides and 8mm film reels. Before we scrapped them I decided to buy some digitizing equipment and archive the content for us to preserve some of our family history. As I mentioned the project to other friends and family, I quickly realized this is a service that many folks are seeking.

I’ve since turned it into a local business providing media digitization services for customers in our local area. There are companies online who do this sort of thing, but in my experience the majority of people would rather not risk shipping off their original media. As fragile as it normally is, it would be catastrophic if something happened in shipping, so they’d prefer hiring someone local like me who’ll take extra hands-on care with their items.

So I’m currently digitizing some audio cassette tapes and film transparencies for a returning client who requested that the audio be burned onto CDs, so they can listen to the tracks on their home system.

Seems simple enough, but you may be surprised (ok, maybe not) at how tricky this task is in 2023.

As a kid in the early 2000s I can remember burning my music onto CDs with no issues. Since the world has moved away from the CD as a primary media format, less and less tech is even capable of facilitating its creation.

Luckily, I have an older Mac from 2011 around that has a built-in CD reader/burner. The only issue is formatting the audio properly so that CD players can actually play the media. Again, you’d think this was simple but I must’ve gone through an entire stack of CDs at this point trying to nail down the right configuration.

My research tells me most CD players should recognize .WAV or .MP3 format (some don’t support compressed formats like MP3, though) with a sample rate of 44100 Hz. I’m exporting the audio from Audacity and have tried every combination of these and more, yet not a single disc has played correctly on any of multiple CD players.

Maybe it’s just me, but burning audio CDs sure ain’t as simple as it used to be.

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