If you're a recording studio, mastering facility, record label, professional photographer, or production facility that sells or otherwise distributes CD's and DVD's that you author yourself, you need to check out the Bravo II duplicator. It not only burns CD's and DVD's, but it also prints directly onto them, using a robotic arm to automate the whole process so that all you have to do is create the project and artwork using the included software and hit go. In short order, you'll have a stack of up to 50 finished discs ready to drop into jewel cases. Awesome! And all this for less than a CD burner cost a dozen years ago.
I gave the CD-only version of the Bravo II a spin for a few months. It took me less than half an hour to unpack the printer; read the "Quick Start" guide; install the ink cartridges, drivers, and software; plug the printer into the USB 2.0 port of my Toshiba Portege laptop; lay out simple artwork in SureThing CD Labeler; create a project with imported audio using Sonic Solutions PrimoDVD; and print my first CD. It couldn't have been easier.
Soon enough, I was using many of the advanced software features. With PrimoDVD 2.0, you can change the pre-gap between songs, make disc-to-disc image copies using the Bravo II's built-in burner as the reader (no additional drive necessary), add CD Text, and perform MP3 extraction (MP3 capability is included). PrimoDVD will author just about every CD format you need except for CD-Extra, but it can do an image copy of a CD-Extra disc that you author using another program. PrimoDVD will of course do data discs too. If you outgrow the layout capabilities of SureThing CD Labeler, you can use your favorite graphics program instead. As a quick test, I printed directly from both Illustrator and Photoshop using the included Primera printer driver.
Within Illustrator's Print Setup, I chose "Disc (116mm Image)" as the paper size and moved the baseline of the image to match the page. Within Photoshop's Page Setup, I chose a 4.7'' x 4.7'' paper size. The artwork I created in both programs printed with perfect alignment on the first try, with no off-CD bleed. To import the artwork into PrimoDVD for automated printing, all I had to do was print my Illustrator and Photoshop artwork to a file using the print driver and open the resulting PRN file into a PrimoDVD project.
Okay, what did I dislike about the Bravo II? I've got a few nitpicks, all with SureThing CD Labeler. There's no hand tool, and there's no preview when scrolling with the scrollbars. If you place an EPS file, the software uses the embedded preview instead of the hi-res PostScript data (but JPEG, GIF, and BMP files work correctly). Layering of placed images and text is limited to full-forward or full- back movement only. And the file browser uses thumbnails only-there's no other type of file listing available-and long filenames are cut off in thumbnail view. Despite these small gripes, I'd say that 90% of the users out there will be happy and impressed with SureThing's feature set. Those who need more functionality can just use their favorite graphics programs instead, as explained above.
With its 52x CD-R drive and 4800 x 1200 dpi inkjet printer, I was publishing 25 50-min (approx 500 MB) discs in just under an hour, with full-color, full-coverage artwork. (The DVD version of the Bravo II comes with an 8x DVD+/- RW Pioneer drive with dual-layer capability for fast DVD and CD burning.) I printed about 120 CD's before I had to replace the color ink cartridge. I used CDR's provided by Primera as well as Taiyo Yuden inkjet-printable CDR's that I bought from Media Supply with no problems.
Although I was thoroughly impressed with the Bravo II CD Publisher after doing this review, I'll admit that I didn't keep it. Why? Because this product is too cool, so I decided to buy the DVD version! If you do short-run disc publishing, the Bravo II is a must-have. You'll wonder how you ever lived without it. Check out Primera's website for a whole range of disc duplication and printing solutions, including the new Signature Z1 CD/DVD Printer that streets for about $100. ($2195 MSRP for CD, $2695 for DVD/CD Publisher; www.primera.com)