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5-24] Can I "overclock" my CD recorder?


This article is from the CD-Recordable FAQ, by Andy McFadden (fadden@fadden.com) with numerous contributions by others.

5-24] Can I "overclock" my CD recorder?


Not in the sense that you can make a slow drive work faster, but in some
cases you can make a speed-limited drive work at its full capacity.

Every drive model in a manufacturer's lineup costs additional money to
make, because the manufacturing line has to maintain a larger inventory of
parts and has to re-tool the assembly line whenever they switch production.
In the world of high-volume, low-margin products, eliminating these costs can
be a huge win. Changing hardware components also creates opportunities for
things to fail, so every new hardware design must be extensively tested.
(The above is true of many consumer electronics products, not just CD

Some manufacturers build a high-speed drive and then use firmware to limit
the drive to slower speeds. There can be technical reasons for doing this
-- it's possible the parts they're using don't work well or they haven't
finished getting the firmware working well at higher speeds -- but often
its for marketing reasons. The higher-speed drives can initially be sold
at a higher cost. If you build a 20x-capable drive, you can sell it for
more than the same drive limited to 12x performance. By selling the same
drive as the 12x unit and the 20x unit, you're cutting manufacturing costs
even if the 20x-capable parts cost slightly more.

(CPU manufacturers typically build chips for a single speed and then sort
them into speed bins based on how quickly they were able to run before
they got flaky. The expensive "turbo" versions of your favorite graphics
card are the same hardware as the base versions, but they ran at a faster
speed without crashing. You're paying a premium for the performance
boost, but it follows the laws of supply and demand: the chips that run
at the highest speeds have the lowest yields, hence they cost more.)

Computer overclockers like to push the boundaries of what their components
can do by assuming that the chip manufacturers put some tolerances into
the bin-sorting, meaning that they can run the chip faster than rated
without it becoming unstable. Or at least not *too* unstable.

With CD recorders, the speed differences might be due to hardware limitations
or might be due strictly to marketing reasons. The common experience among
"overclockers" is that the firmware change simply converts the drive from one
kind to another. It's unclear, however, if such updates introduce more
subtle problems, such as worsening the jitter present in audio recordings.

It should be pointed out that updating your drive with firmware for a
different drive is VERY DANGEROUS and could result in your drive being
unreliable or irrevocably dead. You should not attempt to "overclock"
your recorder unless you were planning to get rid of it anyway.

Remember, this change only works on drives that were deliberately
underpowered, so for many devices "overclocking" simply isn't an option.
For details on performing these modifications to a variety of drives, see:

- http://www.cdrinfo.com/Sections/Tips/oc_Hardware%20OC.asp

Some other notes can be found here:

- http://www.cdfreaks.com/news2.php3?ID=4169 (Lite-On)
- http://www.cdfreaks.com/news2.php3?ID=4181 (LG)
- http://www.cdfreaks.com/news2.php3?ID=4401 (Sony)


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