How to determine type of compact disc / CD

When adding my CDs I usually select ‘CD’ (the very top option) as the medium format, unless I see the ‘Enhanced CD’ logo present or the disc has data tracks/executables.

Today, I identified a CD in my collection as this Gucci Mane release. Its medium format is CD-R. How do I know or how can I confirm this CD is indeed a CD-R? I figured CD-R was reserved for CDs that aren’t manufactured and distributed commercially (like blank CDs, burned and distributed by the artist).

When looking at Release Formats, the sub-types of ‘Compact Disc’ (Copy Control CD, Data CD, etc.) are indented, which to me implies there is always an accurate sub-type. You could argue ‘Vinyl’ type is always lacking data, when the specific size should be able to be known, right? Looking at Cassette though, the only sub-type is Microcassette, which doesn’t seem to be a sub-type at all. Perhaps inconsistency on this page (kudos to the creator) is why it isn’t part of the official documentation. Could ‘Compact Disc’ be the most specific format for a release or is there always a more specific (accurate) sub-type?

Extending my first question— Would I know if I came across a Copy Control CD? A Data CD? A DTS CD? Is it obvious like Enhanced CD or more subtle?


That’s also my understanding.

Yes, it can. There is no specific subtype for audio CD, just selecting CD on MB implies audio CD. I think I have seen a ticket requesting to add Audio CD as a subtype recently, though.

Copy Control CD: These always violate the CD standard in some way and hence cannot have the “compact disc digital audio” logo, and often there is a note on the packaging about some copy protection. Hence if you have a release that has the “compact disc digital audio” logo on it somewhere it is not a copy control CD. The opposite is not necessarily true. Especially on newer CDs this is not always present. I would only select this type if the logo is missing and the CD or packaging mentions some copy protection.

Data CD: There are no audio tracks, it is a data CD with a filesystem which you can read with a computer. If you enter this in your CD player it won’t be able to play it, if you put it into your computer it will show you the files on the disc.

DTS CD: A CD player not supporting DTS CD cannot playback the data. You might hear only noise.


Colour. A real CD made on a production line is silver. A CD-R is funky green \ blue \ coloured surface due to the different chemicals required for home burning.

Not really with CD. Most CDs are just CDs. @outsidecontext covered the rest.


The colour, as @IvanDobsky says.

And also the surface.
When you slide your finger on it, it’s very much less smooth.
CD-R surface is very rough, it does not have that smooth protective varnish, that factory pressed CD have.

But some big second hand CD shops (like BOOK·OFF) usually resurface scratched CD.
By remove a thin layer of varnish, it eliminates scratches (they also slightly crop book the 3 page sides, 1 demi millimeter, to make it like new).

Then they do a new polish, but the surface have become more rough (it’s more fragile and subject to scratches now) and the CD is little bit thinner than before.

But the difference between CD-R and CD is still very obvious (when you’re used to it)

There also used to be softwares to give you indications on CD-R in drive, so they give no info if it’s not a CD-R.

There are some official CD-R, like some small artist self produced, but also the On Demand CD.


often, I’ve noticed a darker/lighter band on the inside on recordable CDs, faintly seen below. not 100% sure if this always applies, or if this is exclusive to CD-R or CD-RWs…

(edit, below is a CD-RW)

I think an issue is that we’ve grouped mediums and formats together. for example, you could burn a Data CD-R quite easily, a Vinyl could have mono or stereo sound, etc. and that’s not even mentioning DVD±Rs.


That’s the burnt part of the CD.
The inner circle is the start of any CD and the outer circle is the end.
You can see how much data was written to the CD-R.


I think @UltimateRiff is pointing at the very inner dark ring. Don’t see it so dark on a real CD.

You are right that the burnt part is much more visible on a CD-R. They are burnt from inside outwards, different to vinyl which plays from outside to in.


I’ve received several CD-Rs when ordering official releases from Amazon in the past. They are official, and Amazon has permission to burn & sell upon order from their “plant”. This is one of those releases. If you look at the barcode (the print is too small in the image, but I recognize it from my other releases I’ve purchased from them) you’ll see the “manufactured by " kydc” or something similar. kydc Label | Releases | Discogs


The format isn’t related to distribution amounts etc - if a label wants to burn an album to massive amounts of CD-Rs then that’s up to them! Can’t imagine it’s common though.

The Discogs image looks like a CD-R. You’re adding great scans - if you’re interested in things like this then add CD scans, including the bottom :heart_eyes:

You can see in UltimateRiff’s pic that there is a very generic matrix stamp on that CD-R. Yours might be similar. A factory pressed CD usually has pressing/stamping info in the matrix.


a good example of that, that I’ve recently added:

(here’s the release, if anyone’s curious)


I hope you knew they were CD-R before ordering.
Because CD-R lifespan is very short.


They advertised them that way. They would actually say CD-Rip on the site if you paid attention. They were typically a few dollars cheaper than the ones in the store if I remember. It’s been a long time.


Wow, thanks, that helps a ton. I actually am a tad embarrassed I didn’t see the difference before. :laughing:
The Gucci Mane release is definitely a CD-R, it is blue colored compared to a silver commercial release and the area that is used is visible, Edit #86397688 - Add cover art.


It’s unbelievable that Amazon does that but I guess money talks. WOW!!! :money_mouth_face:

Yeah they did this a bit over the years - did it for some video releases too called “On Demand” or something like that.

Yeah, I’ve gotten a few of these from Amazon too. I think it’s just an expansion of Amazon’s “Print On Demand” book business into a “Print On Demand” CD business.

Oh hey,

Yeah, you can read the ATIP Absolute Time in Pregroove - Wikipedia with any CD-R compatible drive. Writable media must have this info, or else the laser can’t track the groove of a “blank” disc, or set the writing power of the laser.

On Linux, and Solaris or where ever you’ve installed Schily’s CDR tools, you can read this info with just “cdrecord -atip”. OS X you can use “drutil atip” (or Finder and Disk Utility will also say something about it, I think). There’s probably something in Windows, but I haven’t done the research.

Also, sometimes there’s a human readable message written around the clamping ring (hub), but also sometimes there’s just an arbitrary barcode there.

If it’s bright silver colored and made before the mid-90’s, it’s a regular CD, and not a CDR. If it’s made after the mid-90’s and has “IFPI 1234” or something in tiny tiny print, stamped into the plastic, or etched with a laser around the central hub ring, then it’s a CD stamped in pressing plant (who are participating in the whole IFPI thing for tracking bootlegs/counterfeit/pirate pressings).

CDs manufactured in the 2000’s seem to be made on the same manufacturing lines making DVDs and Blue-Ray discs… so they write all kinds of stuff in the matrix (central hub) area now. Generally stuff you won’t see on a CDR, like “Manufactured by Universal Records” or “EMI Swindon” or whatever… no more obscure barcodes and cryptic “A+12” codes.

And yeah… the color of CDRs is different, and when you hold them up to the light, the amount and color of the light transmission through the media is different. The only confusing case is CDs using gold rather than aluminum (or actual silver (which can tarnish to a brown color, but mostly around the edge of the CD)) um, so gold… when CDRs use gold, they’ll be slightly greenish, or almost transparent.

The top and the bottom surfaces of a CDR will frequently be different colors. An ordinary CD will be the same color on both sides. (You know, ignoring the opaque printing on top.)

The unwritten (un-engraved) outer portion of a CD will scatter/reflect light differently from the inner written/engraved portion of the disk. It’s easy to see the difference when looking at the reflection of a point light source at an angle off the bottom surface of the disc. A CDR will have a continuous spiral from the inner edge to the outer edge of the bottom surface, so there will be no matte or glossy ring around the outer edge of the bottom surface.


I just remembered the other confusing case if you’re going by color and don’t recognize the hue of any of the azo dyes used by CDRs… Some CD manufacturers make CDs and CDRs using colored polycarbonate plastic which is transparent to infrared. Sony Playstation CDs used a “Black” (really IR color) plastic. Memorex used to sell a “Cool Colors” branded line of CDRs in a couple of bright fruity primary colors. I have some recent (circa 2015) CDs manufactured with brightly colored polycarbonate plastic. (DAT Records releases are like this.) The biggest clue is the clamping ring area around the central spindle hole will be colored, rather than colorless plastic… It’s not really possible to visually distinguish between a CD and a CDR if the polycarbonate is dyed like this, so just check if the disc has an ATIP by reading it in a CDR drive.


I distinguish by touch. :wink:

These were not CD-R, though.
But it does not diminish your great explanations. :slight_smile:
IR colour as infrared?

Well, technically, the polycarbonate used for a Red Book CD is only required to be transparent to light between 770nm and 790nm (389.34THz to 379.48THz), so it’s perfectly ok to be opaque in any other frequency bands. Although early VLD and prototype CD players used the orange 632.8nm line of a He-Ne laser, every production model CD player ever sold has used a 785nm semiconductor diode laser (typically AlGaAs). The polycarbonate itself doesn’t reflect the near-IR light… but there is a shinny aluminum surface sputter coated on the top surface of the CD, which reflects light transmitted though the polycarbonate, back out through the polycarbonate on the bottom of the CD…

So, yeah, it’s near infrared colored… the (arbitrary) boundary between red and infrared is defined to be 700nm, because it’s a nice round number, but the sensitivity of the human eye does not have a low-cut filter on it. You can see near infrared light if it’s very very bright. (It just looks very very red is how I see it, imagine the deepest darkest reddest red – it looks like that. (I’ve stared at the sun through some Wratten 87 filters.)) If you look at one of these “Black” CDs (or CDRs) in bright sunlight, you should be able to see a deep red color.

(Also, while trying to lookup the Memorex Cool Colors brand stuff, I see that Ritek currently still sells “Black” CDRs for your CD burning amusement. Really, all of this stuff is made in the same factories, and they just pour different things into the plastic mixer.)


I find this to be a significant issue with some of the Bluegrass labels for older OOP (out of print) releases.

New CD’s bought that turned out to be CD-R’s:
Rural Rhythm Records (8)
Pinecastle Records and its Webco subsidary (4)
Rounder (1)
Virginia’s “The Crooked Road: A Treasury of American Music” series (4)

These came from the following large distributors/retailers and none of the order pages suggested they were CD-R or “on demand” and they were full priced.

County Sales (Floyd, Virginia)
Import CDs (California)

I have stopped buying anything new that is over 10 years old from “Rural Rhythm”, I look on eBay for used now.

I understand the cost to “press”, but CD-R’s will degrade and die over the years. Storage environment is very important due to the organic dye layer. Heat and sunlight are the worst, but humidity can play a factor.

A brand new CD-R is of much less (if any) collector value than a used CD.