It also continues to aggressively market its Reflex line of duplication towers, with the most recent addition being the ReflexPro7 8X DVD±R Duplicator, a sturdy seven-drive workhorse that's perfect for both the small post-production house or the videographer. It's also available in two- and four-drive models.
As with all Disc Makers products these days, the Reflex is loaded with Plextor drives. In the DVD duplicators, Disc Makers uses the PX-712A DVD±R/RW. (The company also makes 52X CD-R/RW units featuring the PlexWriter 52/24/42A.) Plus, it's got an 80GB HDD, meaning that you can store disc images for 16 full DVDs in the Reflex's memory—a feature that's more than a little bit handy when it comes to frequently requested jobs.
On the Job
Whether copying disc-to-disc or from the HDD, the ReflexPro7 performed almost flawlessly. Of the 36 8X Disc Makers-supplied Taiyo Yuden and Ritek discs we burned from a disc image and the 18 we copied from another disc, we ran into no "failed to write" messages, and all the discs played back on two different set-top players. Burn times were all right on the money, too—an average of 8:29 for a 4.21GB disc, with a negligible difference in speed between the HDD and disc source. Creating that original disc image takes a bit longer than copying it (that same 4.21GB disc image took nearly ten minutes to create), but the extra minute or two at the start of a job will pay off quickly for large runs.
The ReflexPro7 performed equally well for copying CDs. The 48X Plextors cranked out multiple copies of a 612MB disc in just under a minute and a half with no failures. (To be fair, one disc wouldn't play back, but I have to blame that on the no-name media and not on the Reflex. That's what I get for trying to get by on the cheap, but even that success rate—one bum disc out of 168—points to both the reliability of today's drives and the relative reliability of even cheap media. Then again, for a client job, I wouldn't use anything but brand-name DVD or CD media.)
Speaking of trying to get away with something...I knew from reading Hugh Bennett's review of the PX-712A in the August issue of EMedia [pp. 20-21], that the drive was capable of writing at 12X to some Plextor-certified 8X DVD+R discs. I had a few such discs in-house (the Taiyo Yuden media from Disc Makers itself), so I threw caution to the wind and gave it a shot. While the speeds were impressive, to say the least—just over seven minutes for copies from a DVD image on the hard drive—it turned out not to be a risk worth taking: out of 14 discs, 5 failed (though the others played back just fine). A quick phone call to Disc Makers beforehand would have saved me the heartache; while the drives are 12X-capable, the tower's only an 8X.
All of the ReflexPro7's functions are performed with up/down arrows and enter and escape buttons next to the front-mounted LCD menu readout. To change from hard drive-to-disc copying (the factory preset), you just scroll down to menu option 8, Select Source, and pick the drive you want to use as the source drive: IDE1 thru IDE7 for each of the recorders, from top to bottom (the HDD is IDE0). Other menu options include Test, Verify, Setup (to select desired copy speed), Image (for creating a disc image on the hard drive, which you can assign to any of the drive's available disc partitions), and Compare, which does a more thorough comparison between the copy and the master than does the Verify function. (It takes longer, too; more than a half-hour per full DVD vs. eight minutes: at full speed, no verify) The unit also includes an Edit Track function for making custom audio mixes using tracks from different CDs. It works, but it's really only efficient in cases where you know exactly what you want to copy, and in what order. I don't know about you, but my mix-making sessions are a little more unpredictable than that.
Disc Makers makes it pretty easy to store multiple DVD images on the hard drive for quick call-up and on-demand duplication. With sixteen 5GB partitions labeled A-P, it's an easy scroll down to your image of choice—just be sure you write down what image is where, because you've got nothing but those letters to go on. (Also, don't be confused when the manual—and the LCD—tell you that there are 78 1GB partitions. That's a holdover from the CD-only version, and not the case with the ReflexPro7 DVD.)
The latest bell (or maybe it's a whistle) that Disc Makers has added to the Reflex is the USB 2.0 Connect package, which comes free on the Reflex1, but runs an extra $139 on the Pro4 and Pro7 models. It consists of a USB 2.0 port and cable, switch on the back of the unit, and duplication software (Padus DiscJuggler for the PC; Discribe for the Mac). With the duplicator operating in USB mode, you can copy CDs and DVDs to the source drive on the Reflex, then turn the unit on and off, flip the switch, and copy from source to the remaining drives. With 80GB of hard drive space at its disposal, though, I couldn't help but wonder why Disc Makers didn't set up the USB 2.0 Connect so that it would burn a disc image to the HDD and then let you make seven copies rather than six. Nonetheless, it's a nice feature that allows you to make your master right on the duplicator itself.
Here's the rub: If you don't remember to turn that switch from USB mode back to standalone mode, the ReflexPro7 gets confused about which is the source drive. That shouldn't be a problem in most cases, since you'll usually immediately switch from USB to source to make copies of your masters, but if you're just using the Reflex to make a single copy via USB, remember to flip that switch. After I had made a master for testing purposes, another editor attempted to make copies of a different disc—only to discover that he needed to use drive IDE2 as the source and could only make five copies. (The explanation is pretty straightforward. In USB mode, the tower uses drive IDE1 as a slave drive, so unless you power down and flip the switch, that drive is out of commission as a potential source drive.)
Both Sides Now
But that's really the only flaw we could find in the ReflexPro7—and if that's the downside, then you're looking at a pretty big upside. What's more, it's competitively priced when compared to similar towers from other vendors, especially when you factor in that 80GB HDD, something most of the ReflexPro7's competitors lack altogether.