Amazon “On Demand” CDRs?

Discussion in 'Marketplace Discussions' started by crookedbill, Mar 29, 2019.

  1. crookedbill

    crookedbill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I recently purchased a couple Albums on Amazon and didn’t realize I’d ordered “on demand” CDRs. I noticed something was off immediately, as the CD art looked really cheap, like it’d been printed on somebody’s home office tabletop printer. Like a bootleg. Lo and behold I checked my order and it says. . . .

    “When sold by, this product will be manufactured on demand using CD-R recordable media.'s standard return policy will apply.”

    I’m pretty disappointed by this because I was expecting original copies and I’m suspicious they’re burned off mp3, not the original master audio files.

    Does anybody know, or can anybody confirm, whether Amazon is burning theses CDs from original 16bit/44.1 (at least) master audio instead of mp3?
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
  2. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialist™

    Greater Vancouver
    I honestly don't understand the infatuation by some to by any CD related music off of Amazon when there are places like Discogs and eBay where you can be certain you're not going to be getting a CD-R instead of the actual CD release.
    tmtomh and aficionaudio like this.
  3. InStepWithTheStars

    InStepWithTheStars It's a miracle, let it alter you

    I bought the soundtrack for Killing Them Softly a few months back and it came like this. I couldn't find the disclaimer on Amazon's webpage, though, although that's probably because their webpage is awful and I didn't want to waste any amount of my life looking at it. Absolutely not worth $22; these should be $10, maximum - the cost of the MP3 album plus the dollar it costs for the materials. Just because the official copy is out of print doesn't mean your unofficial (even if authorized) copy should command a premium.

    Hate this crap. It's nice to have the soundtrack, and it is in fact lossless, but I want the genuine article, not a cheap-ass knockoff. And I want $12 back. I could have gone to 7Digital and downloaded the one track I wanted from it for less than two bucks in FLAC. Instead I paid $22 for an authorized fake because of my OCD and my love of the aluminum laser noise circle format. Boo.

    I know ordering a new print run for a niche item is expensive and not profitable, but I should think a label like Lakeshore wouldn't want their potential consumer base to get a cheap-ass clone of their product for more than they would charge for a real one, especially when they get the same $1 payout they would from an MP3 download and Amazon pockets an extra $12 on top of the rest. Shame.
  4. lightbulb

    lightbulb Not the Brightest of the Bunch

    Smogville CA USA
    Well, for me, and for many others, it’s very convenient. Of course.
    I can order a CD in 3 or 5 clicks.
  5. crookedbill

    crookedbill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Several reasons: 1. One-click purchase and free two-day Prime shipping. 2. I have a Prime credit card and accumulate a lot of points, so most of my discretionary CD purchases on Amazon are entirely free. 3. The particular CDs I wanted to buy this time are from niche honky tonk band from a Texas who self-release their own albums, none of which are available on, and are otherwise far too expensive ($25-$40) on eBay.

    All I want is CD quality audio and I’d rather buy lossless files on Bandcamp or 7Digital (where I purchase most of my music these days) but if they’re not available on those sites, on occasion I have to buy the CD on Amazon.

    So, again, anybody know if the audio sources Amazon uses to create these on-demand CDR’s are lossless masters, or mp3?
    Eric_Generic likes this.
  6. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    I was commenting on this very subject recently in relation to Smithsonian Folkways, which seems to have abandoned silvery, pressed CD's in favor of CDR's. All the time offering Vinyl. The releases come in simple black digipacs with a print of the cover stuck on the front. The booklet is, apparently, a PDF file stored on the disc. For full price, which they're asking, it really is too much. I've held off buying 10 or more titles because I know what I'll be getting.

    That said, I have some of these in my collection. Last evening I played Underground Streets by Normal Riley, in fact. The sound is fantastic, and I can assure you they're not MP3's. I guess this indicates that while they made a poor decision with CDR's, they at least took the time to ensure the music remained as good as it was going to get.

    It still doesn't satisfy me though. They could at least print the damn booklet (often, Smithsonian booklets are full of usual information).

    As for Amazon - they seem to hide which releases are CDR's and which are not, at least on the UK site. I thought in the US you could tell by looking at the artwork displayed on the page - if they've added a blue border, it's CDR. Perhaps they changed this method now, I really don't know.

    Either way, the pricing is way off, I agree.

    As an aside, this isn't an Amazon issue exactly. If you buy the CD's direct from Smithsonian Folkways, you still only get the CDR option.
    PhantomStranger and Eric_Generic like this.
  7. crookedbill

    crookedbill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    How do you know it’s lossless? Honest question. Is there legit info about this anywhere, or a legit way to tell?

    I get that you want the genuine print, but I don’t necessarily care about that, I just want the lossless audio, but the albums I wanted in this case aren’t on Bandcamp or 7Digital (where I usually buy my music these days).
  8. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Same with Discogs.
    lightbulb likes this.
  9. InStepWithTheStars

    InStepWithTheStars It's a miracle, let it alter you

    I pull the track up in Audacity and examine the spectrogram. If it was MP3, data above 16kHz would be missing or extremely limited, and there would be a lot of clipping indicators on the waveform (as it's a fairly compressed CD). As it stands, there are none.

    I suppose it's possible that they're using a non-MP3 lossy algorithm which doesn't affect clipping or high frequencies, and if that's the case, my ears can't tell the difference and I've been fooled. AFAIK Amazon only deals in MP3, so it would seem strange to me that they would have a different lossy algorithm to convert on-demand CD-R files to when it's clearly not MP3 at all.

    But the CD WAV rip behaves like every other CD WAV rip of true lossless data and I'm inclined to believe it's fine. I am still upset about it for all the reasons I mentioned, though.

    Somewhere, though I'm not sure where, I have some '90s SCOTS EPs that were also Amazon on-demand, and I've since replaced them with legitimate copies. If I can find those discs, I can do a proper comparison.
    Eric_Generic and crookedbill like this.
  10. crookedbill

    crookedbill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks. That makes sense.
  11. InStepWithTheStars

    InStepWithTheStars It's a miracle, let it alter you

    It was my understanding that MP3 silenced all data above 16K, but experimenting with different bit rates I have discovered that is not the case. I always convert it to the lowest quality to save space on my phone (it's not like iPhone speakers and cheapo headphones for use in a noisy factory will benefit from "higher" quality); as a result, all of my previous experiments with MP3 had much different results than this, when I went for the highest quality.

    Still, based on the evidence, I am inclined to believe that the top one (CD-R rip as WAV) is truly lossless, while the bottom one (that same file converted to 320 kbps MP3) is what you would have downloaded from Amazon.

    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
  12. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Not quite. Often you have to message back and forth on Discogs to get shipping info, and of course shipping rates vary. Amazon have a flat rate, or is free if you're Prime. A little easier then - though it's not like Discogs is a burden.
  13. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Prime is not free. It's a yearly subscription. At $5 for Media Mail, that translates to 30 Discogs shipments.

    Secondly, shipping rates rarely need to be discussed. I'd say 95% of the time, they're in the shipping terms so it's no big mystery requiring clarification. ;)
    Dave likes this.
  14. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Having Prime takes shipping out of the equation - and it is in that sense that I consider it "free". No fuss, and next day delivery - I've even had it same day - is hard to beat. I don't care for all the trash they throw in there as well - movies, books, music - but others might. I've actually spoken against Prime on these forums. However, when my PC died a couple months ago, I found I needed to replace the CPU fan. With nowhere to buy locally, I was able to join Prime on a monthly basis and get the part next day.

    Discogs? Depends what you're buying. Lately I've bought box sets, and that wasn't covered in the sellers shipping notes. The shipping notes don't always list the various options either - standard, tracking, tracked and signed etc. But perhaps more significantly, they're always higher than anything Amazon will charge for used goods (which are outside of Prime).

    At least, that's my experience.

    As I've said, I use Discogs on occasion. The main issue for me is pricing. A lot of people on there think they should be getting top-dollar. I'd buy more on Discogs, but honestly I don't find it difficult to find better pricing on Amazon or Ebay.
    I don't expect ridiculous bargains, but at the same time - used is used, and prices drive every transaction. I know postage is not down to them, but I have many items in my Wantlist where the price almost doubles due to shipping. Then you factor in currency conversion... It's just not as straight-forward as either Amazon or Ebay, imo.

    I'd characterize this way: There's an old chair. At a Yard Sale it costs $5. At the local secondhand market, it costs $10. At the local secondhand goods store, it's $15. At the local antiques store, it's $500.

    Discog sellers are a savvy bunch, I get the impression they do their research. They then most often opt to be antique dealers.

    crookedbill likes this.
  15. crookedbill

    crookedbill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    A Prime subscription has a lot more added value than just quick, easy shipping: On-demand video streaming (movies, shows etc.), on-demand music streaming, Wholefoods discounts, and paired with a Prime credit card - a points system that makes a significant portion of my Amazon purchases entirely free.

    Overall, including that subscription fee, it translates to significant cost savings and convenience on a variety things.
  16. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    I'm a Prime subscriber, guys. I know all this. Merely responding to the insinuation Prime was essentially free, which it isn't.
  17. crookedbill

    crookedbill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Alright, so I spent an hour on the phone with Amazon customer service this morning, trying to get some answers. The first four people I spoke with (I kept getting transferred) literally had no clue what I was talking about, but one helpful person finally sent me an interesting link leading to the back-end portal where content providers apparently must upload the source material for the "on-demand" reproduction.

    The requirement for audio is as follows: "All audio files must be uncompressed AIFF (44.1 KHz, 16- bit, 2-channel stereo files required), flac, and wav files."

    So, encouragingly, it seems Amazon requires that content providers upload uncompressed files, but that's not to say Amazon doesn't compress the audio that ends up on the "on-demand" CDRs they sell to customers. Digging around deeper, I found another link and sent an inquiry to their "on-demand" division (apparently so secret, most Amazon costumer service agents don't know it exists) about what quality of audio actually ends up on the CDRs. Still waiting on that, but will post the answer here when I (hopefully) get it.
    PhantomStranger, stem and zongo like this.
  18. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Surely Amazon has contracted out the production of these. Actually, come to think of it, I've bought some CDR discs that have come shrink wrapped. Do you really think these are burned on demand, or do they burn a small stock?
  19. crookedbill

    crookedbill Forum Resident Thread Starter

    On-demand, one by one. A CDR with artwork and a generic jewel case can be burned, printed, packed, and shrink-wrapped in minutes. Much cheaper than stocking and storing a bunch of discs that might never get sold.
  20. Delta17

    Delta17 Well-Known Member

    Are these sanctioned or straight up bootlegs?

    Please pardon my ignorance. I do not shop on amazon.
  21. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Sanctioned. Looks to be a cost-effective thing. So really, I'd expect a break on pricing, which it seems isn't forthcoming in some cases. If it's cheaper to have them on-demand, then as a consumer I'd expect a saving.... alas.....
  22. Delta17

    Delta17 Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I couldn't understand complaints about quality, if bootlegs. Hadda ask.
  23. thetman

    thetman Forum Resident

    wow I never knew this. I buy a lot of cds from Amazon. Is there any indication on the item page that lets you know you are buying one of these "on demand" cds? Will have to go check my inventory now.
  24. thetman

    thetman Forum Resident

  25. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Baja Virginia
    Presumably there's nothing stopping the supplier from taking MP3s and expanding them into WAV files, and then uploading those. I'm sure that's happened more than once.

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