For a CD-R (or DVD) to be physically readable there are two basic requirements; the reflective layer needs to reflect the laser and the dye needs to block the laser in selected places. For a disc to be easy to read you want good contast. Over time the dye may fade and the material used for the reflective layer may oxidise making it less reflective.
The idea behind using gold for the reflective layer on an optical disc is that, unlike silver, it will not oxidise over time. The disadvantage of using gold is that it is less reflective than silver, so the only advantage of gold is longevity. Also the high cost encourages manufacturers to make the reflective layer very thin reducing the amount of light reflected. On a good quality CD-R the top and edges of the disc should be well enough sealed to prevent the silver layer from oxidising if the disc is stored correctly. I think that one reason that gold was used on early CD-R discs was that they didn’t have a protective lacquer on top of the reflective layer.
So I think that the overall quality of a disc is more important than the material used. The gold CD-Rs that I have seen in recent years have been made by companies not known for making good quality discs. The discs appear to be the company’s usual rubbish but with a gold reflective layer (most seem to have the same ATIP code as the regular discs). In 2006 CDFreaks reviewed some Emtec Gold CDR discs which were made by MPO, a company not known for quality (http://www.cdfreaks.com/reviews/EMTEC-CD-R-Gold-Review). The scans were not particularly good and often had C2 errors. This thread from 2007 (http://club.cdfreaks.com/f33/cd-r-ultradisc-24kt-gold-650mb-218117/) says that current Kodak Gold CD-R & Delkin Device Gold CD-Rs have a Mitsui ATIP code. Once upon a time Mitsui did make good CD-Rs but they no longer make their own discs. I think I have also seen some gold CD-Rs that were made by CMC Magnetics.
Possibly the only gold discs worth getting might be Verbatim’s UltraLife archival CD-R (& DVD-R). I have no experience of them. They are supposed to have both a silver reflective layer for readability and a gold layer as a long term backup. Verbatim’s AZO dye is also good as it contains metal particles to make it more resistant to UV than Cyanine dyes (as used by Taiyo Yuden).
If I am just making a copy for everyday use then I use something like Daxon or Ritek CD-Rs (cheap but consistently free of C2 errors with my chosen writer), after all it will sound exactly the same so long as it is error free. If I am making a master copy that needs to last then I use Taiyo Yuden or Verbatim Datalife Plus (AZO). The Verbatim DL+ are not quite as good as they used to be, but I think that the problem is mainly that most recent writers don’t do a good job on them. If it is something really important then I will make master copies on Taiyo Yuden, Verbatim DL+ and Ritek (+ a couple of copies for everyday use). This means that I can hedge my bets and have good copies on all 3 different types of dye - Cyanine, AZO and Phthalocyanine. The quality of Ritek CD-Rs varies a lot but they seem to be the best Phthalocyanine CD-Rs around at the moment (I get Maxell branded and send them back if they are a bad batch). I have had good results on Daxon CD-Rs (Imation branded) but I don’t know how well they will last.
One final thing to consider is that audio CDs have less error correction than data CDs. So for something important you might want to make an additional master copy in a well supported lossless audio format (like FLAC) on a data CD.
As for software, I find Nero useful for writing audio CDs. I particularly like being able to load a single large audio file and then insert track markers in Nero. It makes it much easier to make a gapless CD.
[Sorry it’s a very long post]