MCC 004 / Disc translucency changes (CMC)

Recently I was reading some scans posted by Two_Degrees, found a scan of CMC-made Verbatim DVD+R where he noted the thinness of the disc. This got me interested so I bought a new spindle of CMC Verbatim DVD+R and checked the physical characteristics myself, compared to a couple of older MCC batches I had laying around, from MBI but I would guess that since its an MCC MID, a single manufacturer would not go rogue and change the physical characteristics set by Mitsubishi, although I could be wrong.

In any case I did somewhat confirm what Two_Degrees was talking about, while the disc (ZE6383 stamper, 2016 made) is not thinner itself (no violation of DVD specs), it is significantly more translucent when held up against a light source than my MBI-made discs with stampers ZE0486 and ZE4929, made in 2009 and 2016, respectively. In order to demonstrate this I took an LED flashlight, positioned the discs directly on top of the light and took a few pictures making sure not to move the light/camera or change the illumination of the room. It may not be scientific but it displays well what can be seen with a naked eye. I also compared these discs against a RITEKF1 disc from 2009. Here is the comparison picture:

As you can clearly see the CMC-made disc definitely lets more of the light come through the whole disc assembly (polycarbonate x2, dye, reflective layer, glue, frosted hub). RITEKF1 seems to be similar but still less translucent, the old 2 MCC stamper discs are much more opaque, letting less light come through and allowing to see individual LED’s in the flashlight… I also noticed another thing by the way, which is that when I directed light towards the branded side of the disc, the hub appeared very purple with the 2015-made MBI disc, and did not change color at all in the case of both the CMC disc and the older MBI one. I don’t think this is quite as important as the change in translucency though, only affects the non-recordable side.

So the conclusion must be that either MCC or CMC decided to slightly alter the translucency of the disc (probably to cheapen materials, reflective layer and dye most likely) and this may result in some changes in their burning character/quality. As to what and how severe those changes may be, I can’t really say. As is seen from the scan by Two_Degrees, these discs are not capable of burning at high speeds, but this has been true for all CMC and MBI made MCC media for a few years now, as the looser manufacturing margins affect the quality overall (flatness/poor moulding process, coating contaminants etc). You pretty much can’t go higher than 8-12x these days, of course I’m not negating that the reflectivity change affects burn quality, it does, along with other factors.

Regardless, I don’t think this is a good development. It seems to have begun at least at CMC starting from stamper ZE5xxx. I haven’t seen such stamper codes on MBI yet, it would be interesting to see if this change also affects all manufacturers using MCC technology.

It’s not to say it is all bad though, CMC has successfully pulled a similar stunt before, they make the most translucent CD-R’s on the market and at least from my testing these CD-R’s still manage to burn better than many other manufacturers, while not really having degradation problems and even my picky CD player likes them. So I’m not making any recommendations here, it’s just a fascinating development I thought to share, and maybe someone has thoughts/comments or knows more about this?

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It just happened that yesterday I opened a new 50 pack spindle (Verbatim#43550) and I noticed exactly the same thing. I was trying to read the hub serial number on the first disc and I was surprised how transparent it looked. This was made in October 2016 in Taiwan by factory “6” and had stamper ZE6360. The first disc burned at 8x was problematic, but the next at 4x were not that bad (scans already uploaded). I hope the quality does not get worse, as I have a few spindles of these.

I think it is wise not to make conclusions regarding the quality of the spindle from the results of a couple of burns. Especially with these CMC manufactured discs, I have seen very large variation in the quality of the burns, even for discs with neighboring serial numbers. Not all the discs have similar serials, sometimes you can find discs manufactured in completely different months/batches adding even more variance.

Personally compared to the MBI batches I have noticed more inconsistency. There are much more failed burns due to PIF/jitter spikes which I originally attributed as likely resulting from an impure dye coating or sputtering process, but I come to think that since I don’t see such spikes as often with the older batches (less translucent) maybe it is in fact caused by the variations or impurities in the reflectivity of the silver-metal alloy, that are more pronounced in the burns due to the lower microscopic thickness of this layer. DVD spec is a lot more sensitive to reflectivity than CD-R’s so even small changes like this (which don’t matter in CMC’s CD-R’s, as the original CD-R specs allowed for Gold’s lower reflectivity) may adversely affect readability.

However unlike CD-R’s, in DVD’s the reflector has better protection (assuming good bonding agent and process) against damage (peeling off or degrading due to environmental factors (heat, humidity) - although the bonding is more affected) due to the sandwiched assembly of the polycarbonates. Therefore I don’t see this as being problematic for the longevity of the discs, so long as the initial burn quality is not affected.

With the proven stability of the Mitsubishi Azo-metal chelate dye, the most important factor determining the longevity of these discs is the quality of the recording, ie. jitter, because if the pits are badly formed straight after recording, they are only going to get harder to read (faster) as the disc begins degrading. Low jitter values are more important than the overall error rates, and when it comes to manufacturing quality the main determining factor is the groove geometry stemming from the stamper used. MBI is infamous for using old and worn-out stampers to minimize cost resulting in bad geometry of the disc, which usually manifests by high jitter values throughout and especially toward the outer end of the disc. Another important factor is the bonding process and quality, which from my experience is another strike for MBI compared to CMC. The only thing MBI-made MCC discs have going for them against CMC is that their surface is (in my opinion) less soft, so more difficult to scratch and of course the translucency (and the possible reflectivity) change discussed here, which won’t matter if the recording quality is higher regardless of this fact.

In any case I cannot say I am impressed with the quality of either CMC or MBI manufactured MCC media in 2017. While my deduction is that CMC comes out slightly on top, this quality is still rather dreadful compared to the discs I used for my backups until last year (MBI MCC 004, large stock bought in 2009 just before the quality went down), although unfortunately that stock is nearly gone. I think that after I’m done with my current backup project, I am going to give Ritek/Traxdata a chance, see what they can offer in 2017, of which I’ve heard good things and I personally trust their 16x media. The only other competitive choices are FTI/Falcon, which on top of some other concerns uses TDK’s dye which I don’t trust for longevity and MCC SL DVD-R’s made by them are hard to find. CMC Pro seems to have large batch variation and suffers from the same problems as MCC media, also TY’s MID’s have always had lower bonding quality and were softer (easier to scratch) than MCC media.

So I guess we are stuck with using this media for now. There is an old principle, which applies well to this situation. “Good thing it can’t get any worse!” “Sure it can!” said the Jewish optimist. If you want to know how worse, you can take a quick glance at the Moser Baer India (in-house MID) test topics :-­)

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I am unable to find FTI/FALCON media locally, but as I mentioned in other posts I still can find JVC/TY media. I can also find XLAYER/INTENSO/MEDIARANGE media that I never tried and I don’t really trust. And SONY/MAXELL media that I did not try recently, but I am sure they are not what they used to be.

I can also still find Japan-made JVC/TY media, I’ve been planning on stocking up some more of their CD-R’s. But as for their DVD’s they never impressed me with anything but quality scans, the actual assembly of the disc was worse than MCC (at least back ~10 years ago). And the recent batches of Japan-made DVD±R’s were very inconsistent, thus I decided not to hoard this media, rather save money and go with MCC 004 and hope for the best.

FalconMedia is relatively easy to find online, Mediline 50pk spindles go for $17. Like other professional media, they aren’t generally found in physical stores. MCC DVD-R (SL) made by FTI is very difficult to find, at one point I was acquiring media directly from Verbatim and even they didn’t have it in stock.

I don’t have any of the first mentioned 3 brands available where I live (some local brands?) but from what I’ve gathered Mediarange DVD±R seems to be using MBI MID’s and Intenso is Umedisc (a cheap chinese company). I don’t think you are missing out on anything good…

As for Maxell/Sony they are now selling MBI media (MBIPG101-R05 / MBI 01RG40). Sony quit producing their in-house MID’s in 2010 as far as I remember and they originally replaced their DVD-R with RITEKF1 but last time I checked DVD-R is now Made in India as well. Maxell used to sell B-grade Riteks for a long time but more recently they began replacing everything with the aforementioned MBI codes, and sometimes they throw CMC into the mix. I can still find old stock of Maxell DVD-R’s that are RITEKF1 but DVD+R is MBI at my local store now too. Both were good brands at one point, sad to see them go in this direction.

To my eyes JVC/TY media look better made than Verbatim media, but I have only seen That’s Colour and JVC Premium Grade that I bought recently. It’s probably not a good idea to stock more of these until I test them.

Actually the above 3 brands are based in Germany. From what I could find XLAYER and MEDIARANGE sell some Falcon media, but these seem to be more expensive and not easy to find (where I live anyway).