This article is from the CD-Recordable FAQ, by Andy McFadden (firstname.lastname@example.org) with numerous contributions by others.
There is no "best" media for all recorders. You can't tell how well a disc
will work just by looking at it; the only way to know is to put it in
*your* recorder, write a disc, then put it in *your* reader and try it.
Statements to the effect that "dark green" is better than "light green" are
absurd. Some discs are more translucent than others, but that doesn't
matter: they only have to reflect light in the 780nm wavelength, not the
entire visible spectrum. See (7-19).
It's probably a good idea to start by selecting media that is certified
for your recorder's desired write speed. See section (3-31) for some
other remarks about recording speed.
Speed considerations are more important for CD-RW than CD-R. Many drives
refuse to record at speeds higher than the disc is rated for. On top of
that, there are "ultra speed +" blanks (for 32x recording), "ultra speed"
blanks (for 8x-24x), "high speed" blanks (for 4x-10x) and "standard" blanks
(for 1x-4x). The faster blanks are labeled with a "High Speed CD-RW" or
"Ultra Speed CD-RW" logo, and will not work in older drives.
The Orange Book standard was written based on the original "green" cyanine
discs from Taiyo Yuden. Cyanine dye is more forgiving of marginal read/write
power variations than "gold" phthalocyanine dye, making them easier to
read on some drives. On the other hand, phthalocyanine is less sensitive
to sunlight and UV radiation, suggesting that they would last longer under
Manufacturers of phthalocyanine-based media claim it has a longer lifespan
and will work better in higher speed recording than cyanine discs.
for some notes on low-level differences between media types.
There is no advantage to using expensive "audio CD-Rs" or "music blanks".
There is no difference in quality between consumer audio blanks and standard
blanks from a given manufacturer. If you have a consumer audio CD recorder,
you simply have no other choice. There is no way to "convert" a standard
blank into a consumer audio blank. See section (5-12) for notes on how
you can trick certain recorders into accepting standard blanks.
Trying samples of blanks is strongly recommended before you make a major
purchase. Remember to try them in your reader as well as your writer; they
may not be so useful if you can't read them in your normal CD-ROM drive.
Maxell's CD-R media earned a miserable reputation on Usenet. In April
'97 Maxell announced reformulated media that seemed to work better than
the previous ones. It appears they may no longer make their own media.
Some good technical information is available from http://www.mscience.com/.
In particular, "Are green CD-R discs better than gold or blue ones?" at
BLER measurements for a variety of recorders and media is in a big table
See also "Is There a CD-R Media Problem?" by Katherine Cochrane, originally
published in the Feb '96 issue of CD-ROM Professional.