Following this year's Area Dressage Qualifiers at Plumpton College, I thought it would be good to review the problems most of you know of, and unfortunately some of you experienced, during the music classes.
As was obviously the case, my sound system had difficulty playing some of your CDs. In this letter, I will try to explain what problems were encountered and how we can try to avoid them in future.
BURN "AUDIO CD" FORMAT ON WRITE-ONCE DISCS
Mass-produced CDs for music that you buy in the shops are recorded using a format known as "audio CD". This format plays on all CD players and computers. When we make our own CDs, we should endeavour to use the same format onto a write-once CD (or CD-R) to ensure compatibility with the widest range of equipment. Any CD burning program will enable you to burn your CDs using the "audio CD" format. Furthermore, all professional dressage music producers will be using this format as standard.
USE BLANK DISCS DESIGNED FOR AUDIO
The best reliability is gained by using blank CDs which are designed specifically for audio rather than data. Any good supplier will sell them. The difference between audio and data CDs is in how errors caused by scratches and dirt are handled:
Audio CDs are intended for music. The drive will try to skip over errors in such a way that the music keeps playing.
Data CDs, however, are intended for storing computer data (documents, spreadsheets, backups, etc). The drive tries to ensure 100% integrity of the data and cannot handle large errors caused by serious scratches and dirt. So if used for music, playback can fail and stop all too readily if faults on the disc are found.
LABEL DISCS PROPERLY
CDs are commonly designed with spaces on the back on which to write. If you are going to write on your discs instead of printing or using the correct adhesive labels, you must use a pen designed specifically for writing on CDs.
The back of the disc is a thin, foil layer which is where the actual data or music is stored, and is very sensitive. The wrong pen will cause permanent damage rendering the disc unusable. Normal marker pens will partially dissolve and distort the foil layer while ballpoint pens will dent and potentially rupture it.
Some players are more sensitive to this kind of defect which is why such damaged discs may play on some equipment, but not other.
STORE IN A COOL PLACE
Never leave your CDs on the dashboard of your vehicle. Direct sunlight will cause the disc to warp and become unreadable in more sensitive players. Always store out of sunlight in a cool, dry place.
DON'T ASSUME IT WILL BE FINE BECAUSE IT WORKS IN YOUR CAR
Many of the home-made CDs presented to me at shows nowadays are burned as data CDs containing data files such as MP3, WAV, or Apple formats like iTunes M4P format. There appears to be an increasing trend towards burning discs in this way rather than the preferred "audio CD" format.
If these kinds of discs play in your car, you are lucky and the player in your car is likely to be quite new. However, most normal CD players will fail, especially older equipment. Even my elaborate setup fails with those.
At an event, in case I do receive CDs with data formats like MP3, I always bring a laptop computer with CD drive. However, at this year's Area Qualifiers, sadly the drive was not performing (maybe in need of maintenance), so I had no way to reliably play some of your discs. I apologise for that. In those cases, we had to use a car to play the music.
1. Burn your discs using "audio CD" format.
2. Use CD-R (write-once) discs, preferably discs specified for audio.
3. Label your discs using either adhesive labels, direct printing, or a pen specified for labelling CDs.
4. Store discs in a cool, dry place.