When the merger of CD-Recording application pioneer NewTech Infosystems and global software magnate Brøderbund went down in late 2001, NTI COO David Yao said the alliance would position the companies to take on Roxio for CD-recording pre-eminence. Ten months later, with the release of CD-Maker 6 Platinum, a full-step upgrade to NTI's flagship recording product, Roxio still sells more software and boasts more bundling deals than NTI, but CD-Maker is well-equipped to make its presence—and Brøderbund's— felt in the CD-R software market. The first thing you see when you open the product is an invitation to the Brøderbund Web site, and Brøderbund's logo is all over the new CD-Maker.
Step by Step
But more importantly, what the new CD-Maker offers is an attractive, easy-to-navigate new GUI that makes for an appealing introduction to the program's diverse feature set. This new "EasySteps" GUI welcomes you to the program with a screen-filling disc showing your initial options, reading clockwise from top: Data, Video, Copy, Advanced, and Audio. Click on any of these and a submenu will immediately pop up, offering choices within each, such as Data CD and Data DVD under Data (this version offers compatibility with the latest DVD-R/RW, DVD +R/RW, and DVD-RAM recorders); VideoCD, Slideshow VCD, Super VCD, and Slideshow Super VCD; CD Extra, Custom CD, and Mixed-Mode under Advanced; and Audio CD, Live Audio CD, MP3 CD, and WMA CD under Audio.
Do You Copy?
Copy CD takes you directly to a new screen where you choose source and destination recorders, then click "EasySteps" 2 to move on to the speed selection step. In this window, you can also select "Advanced" options such as Track-at-Once or Disc-at-Once or "Smart Decision," which leaves CD-Maker to choose the best option for your particular project. The program's smarts come in handy at the next step, too, if you choose too fast a speed for your configuration to handle.
Testing CD-Maker 6 with an approaching-obsolescence 1.5gHz Dell Pentium IV with 256MB RAM, running Windows ME, and sporting two state-of-the-art 48X CD recorders (an external Lite-ON-based EZQuest Boa and an internal Plextor), I tried to copy at the recorders' Max read/write speed, 48X, and after a quick pretest, was informed that 24X would be a smarter choice.
Clicking on other submenu options in the Audio CD or Data CD pop-ups will take you to the now familiar tri-window Explorer interface in which you drag and drop the files you want to record into the disc-building window at the bottom of the screen. Nothing new or surprising here—just a familiar, very effective approach that worked perfectly in testing.
When selecting tracks for an audio CD, CD-Maker allows you the nice option of cutting over to the bundled Wave Editor tool to trim the selected track at the user's whim. By clicking on the "P" disc icon at the top of the screen, you can customize disc properties, and add CD-Text information as you choose. To return to the main GUI with the screen-size disc at any time, click on the house icon ("Back") atop the screen.
Zeal of the Convert
Other notable features of CD-Maker 6 include an AVI-to-MPEG (1) conversion tool, a good feature to offer in a tool that positions itself as useful for VideoCD creation. Click on AVI-to-MPEG in the Tools pull-down and CD-Maker will transport you to a new dual-window screen where you can preview and convert any AVI file you have stored on your hard drive. I converted a relatively small 308MB file in about a minute, and ended up with a nice MPEG-1 file I could easily drag and drop into the project window.
You have four conversion options, too: Video CD NTSC, Video CD PAL, Super VCD NTSC, and Super VCD PAL, appropriate to CD-Maker as an internationally marketed product, combating not just Roxio's Easy CD Creator in its hold on the North American market, but also Roxio's leading European tool, WinOnCD (also approaching a version 6 update) and other internationally popular tools such as Ahead's Nero Burning ROM and the increasingly widely bundled B's Gold.
Whether or not CD-Maker 6 will succeed in challenging Easy CD Creator as the leading CD-Recording suite is anybody's guess. The CD-R software market isn't the most dynamic in the world, especially the off-the-shelf market, which is about as effectively reported as, say, country music sales before SoundScan and Wal-Mart. Most of the effective reportage goes on in the hardware and bundling market, and what we're talking about here is a software suite that far outstrips anything you'd get bundled with a CD recorder, regardless of the name brand.
Compared to other full retail packages from Roxio, ahead, and Stomp, CD-Maker 6 stacks up quite well. Its facility with VideoCD certainly gives it a leg up in that department, and its new EasyStep approach should be quite well-received. With Brøderbund's marketing muscle behind it, and a fine Mac-based stablemate in DragonBurn, NTI may just be the contender to knock out the champ. But the real question remains: if it does, will anyone know?