I'm still a bit lost, so if you don't mind, I'm going to break down your answer.
"First of all, we have to define the word "cheap". It can mean two things, something that is inexpensive, or, something that is low quality... In the early days, when there was much less understood about media quality, many people used price as a gauge to determine whether media was good or bad. They didn't have enough experience with a wide range of optical media to make judgements based on other factors. "
Being an ignorant consumer, like many I buy DVD's depending on how cheap I can get them, and it's now I'm beginning to realise and mortified that cheap DVDs can compromise the longtivity of what's on them.
"We can tell you what the best media is AND we can tell you how to get it cheap, or at least, much cheaper than you think it costs based on it's quality."
I'm still a bit nonplussed, I've used CMC Mags for example for quite some time now - both CD-R and DVD-R and I have yet to experience serious failure or even a brand of DVD's it simply doesn't like.
CMC Mags have a reputably poor brand where writers would just spit it back out with a slew of errors but I can say from experience, what little I have of it, this seems to be more a burner problem than the discs. But that's just my experience though (EDIT - Are the lasers on individial writers different, maybe manufacturers, etc? I ask this because if I had a reputably really nasty brand like Memorex, NEC writers might throw a sickie plauged with errors, but it would probably burn okay on my Phillips)
So my thesis is this. Until I get a serious problem with the media code I'm using, CMC MAG. AM3 for DVD-Rs and 97m26s66f for CD-R I will consider switching brands, but CMC Magnetics have a strangehold on so many brands, it's hard to avoid them! Even reputable brands, did you know that CMC Magnetics is the exclusive manufacturer for Phillips discs, for example?
And if the same media code is used in top-notch discs, does the same not apply for cheaper discs that also use the same code if it's manufactured in the same way?
I've had some quality experience with HP, ASDA, Datawrite Titanium, Traxdata Silver virtually any and every brand I've thrown at it it trudges along without complaint.
"...CDFreaks/MyCE is the ONLY place on the ENTIRE internet where you have a relatively high-concentration of people who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to the the consumer use of optical media. No place else even comes close."
Well, that made me reassured we don't people that give misaligned, illinformed answers. Cheers man!