About six years ago, I started a holiday tradition with my friends. Instead of exchanging Christmas cards or store-bought gifts, a handful of us swap and mix CDs (OK, they started out as mix tapes) of our favorite tunes from the preceding year. Each year a few more music fanatics join in the festivities, meaning that we all get to hear tunes we missed or find out which songs were so great that they made everybody's mix. If Hilary Rosen doesn't think that's fair use, then I'll send her a copy of my pal Alexander's 2001 mix, which rocks so hard it just might change her mind.
Each year it gets a little easier to make the mixes, too. CDs replaced tapes, 24X replaced 4X, then 40X replaced that. If I could only give everyone on my list the Alera CD Copy Cruiser 48, then they'd wonder, like I do, if it could possibly get simpler than this. With an almost-state-of-the-art 48X write speed, it's a one-to-one workhorse capable of spitting out nearly 20 full 700MB discs an hour, limited more by the operator's manual dexterity than by its own specs. The product literature recommends a 16X speed limit on the copying of audio or video CDs, but I was able to dupe plenty of music discs at full tilt, all of which played back just fine. (It's slower making CD-RW copies, of course, but even those burned at 16X.) Just pop the master in the ROM drive, select Copy Disc from the LED display, choose your speed, and let 'er rip.
Though it's as good a one-to-one duplicator as a music fiend or techno geek could hope for, the real jewel in the Copy Cruiser 48's crown lies in its Edit Track track-at-once function. Here, the numbers boggle the mind. I completed a 20-track, 75:17 mix disc in 20 minutes, 34 seconds, including the time it took me to figure out exactly which Warren Zevon song I wanted to provide the crucial musical transition in the middle of the mix (yes, I identify with the John Cusack character in High Fidelity). By plugging in the headphones and using the arrow keys on the top of the unit, I was able to sample to each of Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School's tunes before I settled on "Bill Lee." Just select the track number you want, click "OK," and the Alera starts copying the track (or tracks) you've selected. Then it ejects the disc from the ROM drive and waits for you to insert the next one. (The Copy Cruiser's manual warns about copying audio at speeds faster than 4X. While the majority of our test discs turned out fine at 48X, some produced tracks of digital noise. Copying no faster than 24X seemed to take care of the problem.)
The LED only displays the copy's total running time as it's copying, but when you come close to capacity, it won't accept any track that will exceed the available space. When you're done, just select Close Disc, and the Alera finishes off the session. So easy that even the technophobes on my annual music exchange list would warm up to the Copy Cruiser 48 in no time at all.