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DDP – Not Just For CD Manufacturing

July 29, 2019

If you are still putting out music on CD, you’re probably familiar with DDP (Disc Description Protocol). This is currently the most accurate pre-mastering standard for CD (and DVD) manufacturing that is used by CD replication plants around the world. It is essentially a bit-perfect software package that specifies your project’s audio and metadata that is used by CD pressing plants to manufacture CDs, after verifying that your project’s data is 100% correct.

Prior to using DDPs, most Mastering engineers provided clients with CD-R discs to send to CD Pressing plants to be the source for CD manufacturing, and if you were doing things the right way, you would first make sure to run C1/C2/CU checks on the discs to make sure they didn’t have too many errors on them. Having a certain number of errors would mean the discs could be rejected by the pressing plant (or worse-case scenario, you might end up with manufactured CDs with errors on them that translate to clips or skips on some CD players). Unlike CD-R, DDP images are bit-perfect and I don’t miss the days when I would discover that almost an entire spindle of blank Taiyo Yuden or MAM-A CD-Rs were useless because they failed the data checks after burning the projects on these discs.

Nowadays, most people skip CDs and go straight for digital distribution so why care about DDP? Well, here’s a few reasons to consider it:

It’s a great way to archive your project, complete with royalties information

A lot of people don’t realize that ISRC codes were first used on CDs. These days, when an album is released to the public, Digital Distribution aggregators assign ISRC codes to each track so that sales and streams can be tracked. Ideally, once this happens, a record label will then give the ISRC codes to their mastering engineer so that this data also gets added to the CDs that they will manufacture for sale. If you are interested in making sure that every time one of your CD tracks is played on a platform that tracks royalties, you should probably make sure this data is also added to your CDs (surprisingly, many artists these days get CDs made without ISRC codes embedded, even though they got their start on this format). A DDP image, complete with your project’s track sequence and all metadata including ISRC codes for each of your tracks can be uploaded to whatever file storage system you use on the cloud for archival purposes. In short, if CDs are part of your project’s distribution plans, sort out your digital distribution first, then get a DDP made that will include your tracks’ ISRC codes.

DDP software is flexible

There are a few apps that allow you to create DDPs, but a very popular one that is used by many Mastering engineers is HOFA. This one allows you to create a standalone DDP player for your clients that they can use to play the CD sequence on any Mac or PC, extract the audio files directly from it and even burn a CD-R complete with CD-TEXT information. There are other apps out there that allow you to play DDPs on a computer, as well as mobile devices, making it easy for artists and record labels to be able to check their project before their CDs are pressed.

Work with any Mastering Engineer and CD Pressing Plant around the world

Being able to deliver a bit-perfect software package as the source for CD manufacturing has made it possible for clients to be able to work with any Mastering Engineer in the world that is capable of creating a DDP, as well as any CD pressing plant that can work with a DDP image to manufacture CDs (I doubt there are any still in business that can’t) without having to set foot in a post office. This allows artists and independent record labels to shop around for both services worldwide.

You might decide to do a CD run after all

Some artists are finding out that a growing number of consumers want a tangible product. Many of them grew up in homes without Vinyl Records, CDs and Cassettes. The idea of buying something and having a physical representation of that purchase is probably something that’s ingrained in human nature. CDs still make sense because they don’t take up too much space in comparison to vinyl records (hey, maybe that’s why they call them “Compact Discs”) and a growing number of young fans of music are (re)discovering that CDs sound better than streaming versions of the same release, especially over streaming services that narrow the bandwidth of their streams to something lower than say, 256 kbps.

Some DDP software packages even allow you to export a vinyl pre-master, complete with track names to make it easier for vinyl pressing plants to produce vinyl records. DDP is a digital option that was initially used for CD and DVD manufacturing, but additions by various developers have made it flexible enough to be the pre-master source for other types of media as well.

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