I’ve noticed that CDs burned from computers don’t last nearly as long as “factory” CDs. They seem to be prone to hanging, “picket fencing,” difficulty searching and other anomalies. I’ve had some given to me by friends that would start acting up the second time I played it!
While I have lucked out and never had much problem with PC burned CD's, the simple fact is that NO such media (CD, DVD, BD) should really be classified as "archival" and expected to be good for the long run. When I first got into DVD recording off TV/Cable (recorded on two different dedicated set-top DVD recorders) I found out the hard way about this. In 6 months to a year I lost the contents of over 100 DVD's! :hissyfit:
So, what’s the deal with this? Is it that some CD players aren’t as robust as others with their playback? E.g., car players vs. home players?
The problem can be almost anywhere in the record/playback chain. The recorder, player, or disc may be at fault (any one, or even all three). The reason commercial discs are more reliable than recorded discs is because the commercial ones are stamped and not burned. The basic reflection layer is made from metallic aluminum in which holes are literally made to form the "pits" to give reduced reflectance (which I believe are binary zero's in the data stream). On a burned disc this layer is really a chemical dye that becomes darker when it is exposed to the burning laser. Rather than there being a literal hole in the layer the laser just makes a spot darker than it's surrounding. As the disc ages (or is exposed to heat/light) the surrounding area can darken enough so that the player can no longer tell what part is supposed to be a hole and problems start. And then of course there can be a problem with tracking from the get-go.
CD's have less of a problem than DVD's because their "holes" are much larger than a DVD "hole". The same applies to BD discs.
If you really want the low-down on this there are people that specialize in studying data quality and retention, just search for them with your favorite search engine.
Or maybe, does it have anything to do with the actual burn process? I wonder if burning at a slower speed would make a difference – say, at 8x vs. 24x.
Yes, slowing the burn speed down can help a lot, but it won't make a bad disc a good one and will only help produce a decent disc; it won't help the dye layer not darken. The one thing I do remember is that CMC was always considered a bad brand for CD's and DVD's. This may have changed, but I wouldn't bet on it. Also the brand that is on the disc may not be the company that made it! There are CD/DVD identification programs available that will give you this info.