The CD-R is the musician's currency for demos and small-run releases. However, creating and applying good-looking labels significantly slows the process of mass-producing CD-Rs. Primera has come up with a relatively low-cost solution with the Bravo Disc Publisher (Mac/Win, $1,995), a turnkey system that will duplicate and print up to 25 CD-Rs at a time. In addition, the Windows version offers a Kiosk Mode, which allows you to duplicate 50 discs at a time, and Primera sells an optional 50-disc catch bin ($49.95) for the finished discs.
Automatic for the People
Slightly larger than a desktop printer, the Bravo Disc Publisher prints one disc while burning another, and you can determine whether the printing happens before or after burning. You can also tell the duplicator to verify each disc before burning it (although the verification process adds extra time to duplication). Discs that fail the verification process are dropped down a chute that leads from the center of the unit. I chose to burn my discs first to weed out bad media before spending the ink. The Bravo Disc Publisher also lets you do burn-only and print-only runs.
The Bravo Disc Publisher has a 52× CDR duplicator, which can burn a 700 MB disc in about three minutes. The four-color ink-jet printer offers 2,400 dpi resolution, and the printing process takes only a couple of minutes, depending on the print mode and image you use. A robotic arm moves the media from start to finish, and while the printing and burning takes place, your computer shows you the status of each process.
Primera also offers the Bravo DVD Publisher ($2,495), which handles CD-R and DVD±R media (DVD-R only on the Mac). However, the maximum speed of the CD burner on that unit is 16×, and the DVD burn speed is 4×.
Plug and Play
The Bravo Disc Publisher comes with everything you need to get up and running quickly. Windows users get Sonic PrimoDVD 2.0 for burning and SureThing CD Labeler for printing. On the Mac side, Charismac Engineering Discribe 5.1 is the burning application and Magic Mouse Discus Labeler is the graphics program. The burning programs let you create audio and data discs.
For the most part, the bundled programs offer only basic functionality. Fortunately, Discribe lets you set the amount of time between tracks on audio CDs. You can use third-party burning and graphics software with the Bravo Disc Publisher, but when you do, you forfeit the use of the robotic arm.
The Bravo Disc Publisher requires discs with an ink-jet printable surface, and eight blanks are included for testing purposes (I needed only two to calibrate the review unit). Primera sells printable blank CD-Rs in quantities of 50 and 500, but compatible third-party discs are also available. With the purchase of an adapter kit ($199), the Bravo Disc Publisher can also process three-inch, rectangular, and hockey-rink business-card CD-Rs.
The minimum system requirements for Windows users are a Pentium III/450 MHz and Windows 2000 or XP. Mac users need a G4/700 MHz computer and OS X 10.2. Both systems require 258 MB of RAM, a minimum of 2 GB of hard-disk space, and FireWire and USB ports. I tested the Bravo Disc Publisher using a Mac PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz.
The First One's a Snap
It was easy getting the Bravo Disc Publisher up and running. The manual is thorough, showing you how to install the drivers, design and print a label, and burn a disc. Templates are also provided. The calibration routines are explained well and are easy to perform. When I called Primera's tech support to get a few questions answered, the service was excellent. Fax and e-mail technical support are also available.
Once everything was sorted out, the Bravo Disc Publisher ran without a hitch. My first run — a set of four 73-minute CDs with a four-color label — finished in 18 minutes (less than 5 minutes per disc). And through all subsequent runs, things have gone smoothly: I haven't had a CD-R rejected during the verification process, and the finished discs played on compatible players.
I was also very pleased with the printing quality, which is a major improvement over adhesive labels. My only qualm is that the blank discs occasionally have blemishes, which stand out if you are printing a stark design.
With the Bravo Disc Publisher, Primera has brought high-quality CD-R duplicating and printing into the realm of the personal studio. Although it excels at producing large runs of CD-Rs, it's great for customizing individual discs for demo purposes. Once you use it, you'll wonder how you got along without it.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 5
Primera Technology, Inc.; tel. (800) 797-2772 or (763) 475-6676; Web www.primera.com