Blank DVD Media Quality Review
Not all media is good. Buying a good disc is not a simple matter of using a “name brand” disc, or paying for the most expensive disc on the shelf. With the continued production of cheaply-made Chinese and “bulk-quality” Taiwanese media, about half of all media is inferior quality. Bad discs are a complete waste of time and money.
This review/guide is meant to shed some light on who manufactures and brands good and not-so-good quality DVD media. Use this list as an assistant when selecting what media to buy and use. It shows what generally works as the best media. Individual results may vary, depending on the burner and how the media chooses to cooperate, though typically not by much.
While some cheap media may work for you, it’s a gamble that often loses. Try to use 1st class media, maybe 2nd class if the situation must budget tightly. Do yourself a big favor and just outright avoid 3rd class media, if at all possible.
What are the Best Blank DVDs?
Not everybody has the time or the need to learn about why/how media is good or bad. If you’re simply after the quick advice on what discs will almost always work the best in any DVD player or DVD burner, then get one of these:
- Mitsubishi Verbatim DVD-R, DVD+R or DVD+R DL, made in India, UAE, Singapore or Taiwan. (Do not buy the “Life Series” or “Value Series” discs.) Good Verbatim is getting harder to find in local stores.
- JVC Taiyo Yuden DVD-R or DVD+R, from an authorized dealer only. Our list to the left only includes authorized dealers.
- Sony DVD-R or DVD+R, made in Taiwan only. These are getting harder to find, as Daxon (the outsource for Sony manufacturing) went bankrupt in January 2010, but old-stock is still out there on shelves (as of January 2011). Newly manufactured Sony-branded media will be Ritek (Fuji dye), which is also made in Taiwan.
Verbatim DVD-R, Verbatim DVD+R and Verbatim DVD+R Double-Layer discs are our top suggestions for the ultimate in disc quality, as Mitsubishi-made media have been a consistent high-quality performer since 2001. JVC Taiyo Yuden media is an excellent second choice.
Gold discs ARE NOT the best discs! Gold discs have lousy reflectivity, and the dye quality found on these blanks simply does not burn well in our tests (or the tests of others). It’s a waste of money for mediocre media.
Who Really Makes the Disc?
Realize that most media is produced by a relatively small number of factories, located in several different places. These factories are mostly present in Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, China and India. There are more, but those are the largest ones. The best media generally comes from Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. The worst typically comes from China and Malaysia.
Understand that the blank disc brand means almost nothing. Apple is a great brand, but they do not make their own discs, instead outsourcing to a company like Mitsubishi Chemicals. Common companies like Memorex, Maxell and Imation all outsource to media vendors.
It is the media ID that is important, as it reveals the disc manufacturer. Unfortunately, this is not written on packaging or anywhere else. Companies want consumers to be oblivious to this sort of behind-the-scenes information.
To learn the media ID code, a blank disc must be put into a computer DVD burner drive and the ID read by a special utility. Some burning software reads the code, such as ImgBurn or Toast. Or you can download freeware media ID tools in our forum, for Windows XP, Vista, 7 and Mac OS X and Linux.
The following information is arranged in three groups. Some companies may have listings in different classes because quality is better/worse in other disc formats. The “media ID” column is an example of media codes available from that manufacturer, it is not supposed to be a complete list of all available codes, and some codes have been abbreviated for space. Again, DVD manufacturer, not brand name. Brand means nothing.
Note for charts: Manufacturers in bold are still actively producing, while the others are not (or cannot be confirmed to still be an active media producer in 2011).
~ 1st Class Blank DVD Media / “Archival Grade” Discs ~Almost flawless burns with 95-100% reliable results. These discs are suited for pretty much anything. They will usually serve as excellent archival quality media, as well as video masters.
|Manufacturer||Sample Media IDs||Origin||Formats||Notes|
|Pioneer||PVC001001, PVC001002, PVCW00||Japan||DVD-R, DVD-RW||PVC stopped making media in 2003 (4x era)|
|Mitsubishi Chemicals, Mitsubishi-Kagaku Media, Verbatim||MCC00RG20,MCC01RG20, MCC02RG20, MCC03RG20, MCC002, MCC003, MCC004, MCC00RW, MCC01RW, MCCA01, MKMA02, MKM001, MKM003||Singapore, Taiwan, India, United Arab Emirates (UAE), China||DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD+R DL, DVD-R DL||Production outsourced to MBI, CMC, Prodisc and FTI. Not an issue.|
|JVC Taiyo Yuden||TYG01, TYG02, TYG03, YUDEN000T02, YUDEN000T03||Japan||DVD-R, DVD+R|
|Hitachi Maxell||MXLRG01, MXLRG02, MXLRG03, MXLRG04, MAXELL001, MAXELL002, MAXELL003||Japan||DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM||Maxell stopped making media after 8x era|
|Sony (Daxon)||SONY04D1, SONY08D1, SONY16D1, SONYD21, SONYD11, SONYS11, SONYD16||Taiwan, Japan||DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW||Daxon stopped making media in early 2010|
|TDK||TDKG02, TTG01, TTG02, TTH01, TTH02, TDK501, TDK502, TDK001, TDK002, TDK003||Taiwan, Japan, Luxemburg||DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R||TDK stopped making media in 2006 (16x era)|
~ 2nd Class Blank DVD Media / “Duplication Grade” non-Archival Discs ~Mixed quality media, average 75-90% of discs tend to be good. These discs are not suggested for archival data or video masters. These are best suited for data that can be replaced easily, such as secondary backups or data/video distribution. In bulk, can often be purchased at low prices.
|Manufacturer||Sample Media IDs||Origin||Formats||Notes|
|Ritek (Fuji dye)||RITEKF1, RITEKF16||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R||Excellent, but not quite archival, uses long-life Fuji Oxonol dye|
|Prodisc Media||PRODISCS03, PRODISCS04, PRODISCF01, PRODISCF02, PRODISCR01, PRODISCR02, PRODISCR03, PRODISCR04, PRODISCG02, PRODISCW02||DVD-R, DVD+R|
|Falcon Tech (FTI)||FTIRG16, FTI016-000, TTH02 (TDK), TDK003, RICOHJPND01, KIC01RG080 (Kitano)||United Arab Emirates (UAE)||DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+R DL||Some burning quality issues due to non-FTI IDs on
|Ricoh (Ritek dye), Ricoh (Ricoh dye)||RICOHJPND00, RICOHJPNR00, RICOHJPNR01, RICOHJPNR02, RICOHJPNR03, RICOHJPNW01, RICOHJPNW11, RICOHJPNW21||Taiwan, Japan||DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD+R DL||Outsourced media ID after 4x era, mostly to Ritek|
|Daxon/Taiwan||DAXON008S, DAXON016S, DAXONAZ1, DAXONAZ2, DAXONAZ3, DAXOND42||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW||PVC stopped making media in 2003, similar to Sony media|
|Ritek (Ritek dye)||RITEKG01, RITEKG03, RITEKG04, RITEKG05, RITEKW01, RITEKW04, RITEK000, RITEKR01, RITEKR02, RITEKR03, RITEKR04, RITEKD01||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD+R DL||reflectivity and degradation concerns, DL quality tanks at layer break|
|Prodisc, Ritek, CMC, others||FUJIFILM02, FUJIFILM03||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R||outsourced media ID, discontinued after 8x generation|
|Philips (CMC Magnetics, MBI)||PHILIPSCD2, PHILIPS010, PHILIPS041, PHILIPSC08, PHILIPSC16, PHILIPSRW||Taiwan||DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD+R DL||Outsourced media ID, appears to be discontinued|
|CMC Magnetics||CMCMAGD01, CMCMAGE01, CMCMAGF01, CMCMAGM01 CMCMAGR01, CMCMAGAE1, CMCMAGAF1, CMCMAGAM3, CMC00RG20,|
CMC00RG30, CMCMAG, CMCW02, CMCW03, CMCMAGW01
|Taiwan, China||DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD+R DL||wide quality variance|
|Moser Baer||MBI, MBIPG101R03, MBIPG101R04, MBIPG101W03, MBIPG101W04, MBI01RG20, MBI03RG40||India||DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW||Poor firmware support mid-gen. Some early-gen discs similar to MCC|
|Gigastorage||GSC001, GSC002, GSC003, GSC502||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R||No longer actively producing media?|
|Sony (Daxon), Sony (Lead Data)||SONY16D1, SONYD16, SONYD21||Malaysia Daxon, Taiwan LeadData||DVD-R, DVD+R||Daxon stopped making media in 2010, inferior to Taiwan-Daxon discs, LeadData is unbranded|
|Optodisc||OPTODISCK001, OPTODISCR004, OPTODISCR008, OPTODISCR016, OPTODISCW002, OPTODISCW004||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD-RW||No longer actively producing media?|
|Infodisc Media||INFODISCA01, INFODISCA10, INFODISCR20, INFODISCR01||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW||No longer actively producing media?|
|LeadData||LEADDATA01, LEADDATA, LD01, LD, LDS03, LDA02||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R||No longer actively producing media?|
~ 3rd Class Media / Cheap, Unreliable, or Complete Junk Discs ~Quality can be very questionable, sometimes less than 50% of a spindle is usable. Some of these discs serve no other purpose aside from filling our landfills. These are discs best suited for small burns (under 2GB of data). Be prepared for failed burns. Also be prepared for various DVD-ROMs and players to not see the disc or freeze up because the player cannot read it very well (not the same as a bad burn). Many of these are known for sham marketing ("archival grade" and whatnot) and can actually cost more than better-classed media. A lot of these discs are not even made anymore, so this information is largely historical. The worldwide recession killed off most makers of the absolute worst DVD media made. A few appear to possibly be put on “stand by” of some kind (Princo, Optodisc), as the companies still operate, but no new media can be detected in North America, Europe or from our contacts in Australia and east Asia. Some still-in-business low-quality manufacturers may have simply switched to using fake IDs.
|Manufacturer||Sample Media IDs||Origin||Formats||Notes|
|MAM-America, MAM-Europe||MAM4XG02, MAM8XG01, fake IDs (TDK, MBI,|
|USA, Europe||DVD-R||Remnants of Mitsui Media, uses gold reflectives and hard-to-read/burn dyes|
|Must Tech||MUST001, MUST003||Taiwan||DVD-R||No longer actively producing media?|
|Samsung/BeAll||BEALLG00001, BEALLG40001, BEALL000P40, BEALL000PG0||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R||No longer made.|
|Ul Tran Technology||ONIDTECH||Taiwan||DVD-R||No longer made.|
|Princo||PRINCO, TDKG01/fake||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD-RW||No longer made.|
|InfoMedia||INFOMER20, INFOMER30, INFOMEDIAT01||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD+R DL||No longer made.|
|Optodisc Media||OPTODISCP01, OPTODISCP02, OPTODISCP04, OPTODISCR04, OPTODISCR08||Taiwan||DVD+R, DVD-RW||No longer actively producing media?|
|Daxon/Malaysia||DAXONAZ1, DAXONAZ2||Malaysia||DVD+R||Daxon stopped making media in 2010, inferior to Taiwan Daxon|
|3A Media||SHT001, POMS3A, 3AM0, POMSC001002, PLASMON1C01, PLASMON1A||Austria||DVD-R||Poor firmware support, company went bankrupt.|
|Nanya Tech||NANYACLX, NANYAA01||Taiwan||DVD-R, DVD+R||No longer made.|
|Plasmon Tech||PLASMON1C01||Europe||DVD-R||Company went bankrupt in 2009.|
|Advanced Media Ltd||AML, AML001, AML002||Taiwan||DVD-R||No longer made.|
|Jilin Qingda||LONGTEN001, LONGTEN002||China||DVD-R||Company went bankrupt.|
|Yi Jhan Tech||YIJHAN001||Taiwan||DVD-R||Company went bankrupt.|
|Anwell||AN31, AN32, AN33, AN35, ANWELL||China||DVD-R||Not really a manufacturer, see notes below chart.|
|Infosmart||INFOSMART01, ISO001, ISO002, fakes||China, Hong Kong||DVD-R, DVD+R||Infamous for fake media, appears to have disappeared.|
|Sheng Weng||fake MCC, fake TY||Taiwan||DVD-R||Only uses fake IDs.|
|SKC||SKCCOLTD||Korea||DVD-R||No longer made.|
|Vanguard Media, Interaxia AG||VANGUARD, VDSPMSAB01, VDSPSAB||Taiwan||DVD-R||No longer made.|
|Ume Disc Tech||UME001||Hong Kong||DVD-R|
|WealthFair Investments||WFKA11||China||DVD-R||No longer made.|
Grading criteria. The review list presented here is a delicate balance between the adjacent concepts of usability and potential burn quality. The ability of the disc to burn in a wide range of burners and DVD recorders determines a coaster count. However, because of disc/drive incompatibility issues that exist (refer to the Advanced DVD Burning Concepts Guide), potential quality on a perfect disc/drive combination is also considered. Finally, longevity and playability/reflectivity is taken into consideration. This results in the overall grade. This guide is admittedly harsh when it comes to the usability factor, but it need be remembered that this was written to assist the masses, so a disc with generally poorer disc/drive compatibility will rate lower. If you want specific suggestions for your make/model of drive, ask for advice in our forum.
What do the % numbers mean? This list is constructed from many tests on many burners from a handful of experienced people that use a lot of media, and has been ongoing since 2001. These numbers reflect the number of discs in a spindle that will give good results. For example, out of a 100 spindle of media, 1st class discs may kick out a few bad discs (0% to 5% of the media may have playback imperfections or be outright bad burns). The 2nd class media may have anywhere from a dozen to a half-spindle of duds. And the 3rd class stuff can be pure trash, with most discs ending up in the local landfill. These are mean averages too, simple statistics math, meaning best tests and worst tests are discarded, and the middle range of tests is the basis for these numbers. You may sometimes find the rare instance where a CMC spindle will be perfect and a Taiyo Yuden spindle will be completely flawed, but those times are the exception rather than the rule (and are not part of a mean average).
Can media ever change class? Sure. But it rarely happens. It is not a quick move either, these things take much time and many tests. Sony, Ritek, CMC, Daxon and LeadData have changed grades in the past. Media cannot change quality overnight or even in a few weeks/months.
Testing procedures: Burns are subject to playability/reflectivity tests (usage tests), as well as software verification. Test equipment is under controlled hardware/software environments, and performed by knowledgeable individuals, to eliminate user variables. Burns are at least 4GB or more to test the entire length of the media.
Anwell Notes: Anwell Technologies does not make media. Anwell is a production equipment supplier that sells blank DVD media creation technology to media manufacturers. By default, an ANWELL “test code” or “test ID” is on the stamper. Anwell is often blamed for making shoddy media, but in reality, it’s the work of a lazy media manufacturer who bought Anwell production supplies. As with all other low-quality media of dubious origins, the likely offender is some small Chinese or Taiwanese company (often InfoSmart, in years past).
Fake DVD Media ID Guide
Although it does not happen very often, discs with fake IDs (or outright counterfeits) are an annoyance to media buyers worldwide. Most fake media comes from China (and former Hong Kong), as a general rule. Fake media tends to float around Europe and Asia more than it does the USA. Fake media is normally sold in street markets, on eBay and online. Major brand name media sold in stores is probably never going to be fake.
Faking more or less tapered off in 2008-2009 (at least for USA, Canada and Europe), so we’ve not seen as much in recent years as it had been in the past. Be wary of fakes, but know that they’re just not as common anymore. Fake media mostly sold well because they could undercut legitimate brands, but still turn a profit. With the worldwide recession chopping heavily into profits these past few years, fakes have been squeezed out, as the profit margins are too slim to be worthwhile, with many of the fakers disappearing. The falling dollar has kept many of them out of North America, too.
Many (most?) companies that advertise on Alibaba.com appear to be Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers that are selling their own cheaply-made low quality media, using faked Mitsubishi and Taiyo Yuden media IDs. In many cases, the companies appear to not even have their own media IDs, as their only goal is likely to make a quick profit, undercutting the real manufacturers, and having no interest in creating a quality product in good faith. Buyer beware!
|TYG02, TYG03||Sheng Wang, other small Chinese and Taiwanese factories||2009-2010||Readily available in Asia in 2010, not really found in North America or Europe.|
|TYG02||Infosmart, Optodisc, MAM-America, MAM-Europe||2005-2010||The fakes are rumored to be for "improved 8x media detection" but low quality media is low quality, regardless of the media ID. These were found worldwide from 2005-2007, but largely disappeared in North America. Asian fakes are still readily found in 2010.|
|MCC03RG20, MCC02RG20, MCC003, MCC004||Sheng Wang, other small Chinese and Taiwanese factories||2008-2010||Readily available in Asia in 2010, not really found in North America or Europe.|
|MCC02RG20, MCC003||Infosmart||2005-2007||Mostly seen in Europe until 2007, not so much in USA.|
|TTG02, TTH01, TTH02||MAM-America, MAM-Europe||2005||These are apparently "legal" fakes made by Mitsui, with permission by TDK to use the code. However the media is quite poor, not true TDK media.|
|MXLRG01||Infosmart||2002-2003||One of the first anonymous" fake discs.|
|Pioneer brand DVD-R||LeadData, Ritek||2003||Pioneer's PVC quit manufacturing blanks in 2003 (PVC media codes). LeadData and Ritek tried to sell their PioData and Pio branded blanks by loosely using the "Pioneer" brand name in marketing documentation, but that was misleading.|
|TDKG02||Princo||2001-2002||They wanted to "improve 2x writing" on the 1x write strategy media, as well as insure drives would see the media (not all firmware at the time had PRINCO as a valid media code). Princo admitted to this faking, never tried to hide it, though some resellers tried to pawn off the media as legitimate TDK.|
|SONY||Unknown||2003||"SONY" is not a valid media ID used by Sony discs. Suspected to be LeadData media.|
|RITEKG03, RITEKG04||Ritek||2004||This was supposedly faked in 2004. However, it is the opinion of this author that it was just a lame cover story by Ritek for providing subpar quality media, as even the "authentic" media performed poorly at the time.|
Blank DVD Branding Data
Although this will change on an annual basis, the following brands are known to use the following media makers for their outsourced discs. Some companies prefer dollars over quality, so be careful. Also be especially careful of "house brands" or no-names. If you end up with an unfavorable media ID, do not burn a test, just take it back for a refund and take your business elsewhere. Some stores have horrible return policies too, so beware.
|Brand||Manufacturers: (16x era)||Manufacturers: Historical (1x-8x)|
|Americal||Ritek, Princo, LeadData|
|Bulkpaq||fake MCC, Infosmart, CMC, Princo|
|CompUSA||N/A||Princo, UME Disc, AML, Optodisc, Daxon|
|Datawrite||fake MCC, Ritek, CMC, Princo, Prodisc, Anwell|
|Emtec||FTI||Ricoh, fake Taiyo Yuden, Interaxia AG, MJC|
|Esbuy||Ritek, LeadData, fakes|
|Fuji||Ritek||Prodisc, Fujifilm, Mitsubishi(-RW), Daxon, Taiyo Yuden, Ricoh, Ritek|
|Fuji (DVD+R DL)||Ritek, Ricoh, CMC|
|GQ, Great Quality||LeadData||Sony, Princo, Ritek, LeadData, Ume Disc, Infodisc|
|HP||CMC||CMC, Ricoh, Mitsubishi, Fujifilm|
|Hyundai||fake Maxell, Infosmart|
|Imation||Ritek, CMC||Optodisc, CMC, Mitsubishi, Ritek, Ritek, Fujifilm, Ricoh, Moser Baer|
|JVC||Taiyo Yuden||Wealthfair Investments|
|KHypermedia||N/A||CMC, dake MCC, TDK|
|Matrix||Longten, Yi Jhan Tech, Must|
|Maxell||Ritek, CMC||Maxell, Ritek, CMC, Prodisc, Ricoh, Taiyo Yuden|
|Memorex||CMC, MBI||CMC, Ritek, Moser Baer, Mitsubishi, Prodisc, Ricoh, Infodisc, Moser Baer|
|Mirror||Anwell, Onidtech, Princo|
|Nexxtech||UME Disc, Adv Media Ltd, Mitsubishi, CMC|
|Optical Quantum||Philips, MBI|
|Philips||CMC||CMC, Philips, Mitsubishi|
|Playo||Ume Disc, Advanced Media Ltd|
|Princo||Princo, fake TDK|
|Ridata, Ritek||Ritek||Ritek, Ricoh|
|Rivision||MCC, Ritek, Ricoh, Optodisc, CMC, TDK, Prodisc|
|Sony||Sony||Taiyo Yuden, Sony, Ricoh, Mitsubishi|
|TDK||Ritek, MBI, CMC||TDK, CMC, Moser Baer, Philips, Taiyo Yuden, Ritek, Ricoh, Maxell|
|Tesco||UME Disc, Advanced Media Ltd|
|Verbatim||Mitsubishi||Mitsubishi, Taiyo Yuden (Europe), CMC, Ricoh, Ritek|
|Verbatim Value Series Verbatim Life Series||CMC||Ritek, CMC|
|WinData||fakes, Ume Disc|
If you can add to this branding list, feel free to post some information in our forum. As time allows, we track down media for our own testing purposes, or request it from the manufacturer. For unusual brands and media IDs, ask in the forum. In most cases, unknown media IDs or unknown brands are of dubious quality. Some unknown brands are overstock from other media manufacturers. This is often the mark of very cheap media. Buyer beware.