Labeling CDs and DVDs, speaker wire

Week 27, 2003
Q) My husband is a musician who has begun selling his CDs over the Internet.   We
are making “promotional” quantities, maybe ten at a time and trying to produce high quality CD labels (using Avery stationery products) for these small quantities of CDs.

We achieve good results with our H-P black and white printer, but very disappointing results with our H-P color inkjet printer, which is five or more years old.   Is it possible to produce good quality color CD labels at home?   Can you recommend a type or brand of printer and media to produce them?   Finally, do you have any suggestions as to where we might get our small quantities of CDs shrink-wrapped?

-Cecily Franklin, O’Hara Township, PA

A) It is certainly possible to produce good quality labels at home.   The weak link in your system is your old printer.   Older inkjets are not optimized for producing photographic quality.     Inkjet printers have come a long way in the past five years and are now capable of professional quality photographic results.  

Among professional photographers, Canon and Epson inkjet printers are the overwhelming choice.   Both brands have their proponents; I have owned both and now use Canon exclusively, finding the photographic print quality and ease of operation to be superior.   Your results may be different, but suffice it to say if you get a six-color inkjet printer from either manufacturer you will be very pleased with the results.   Some good choices would be the Canon S820 at $129, or the Epson Stylus Photo 820 for $99.

I use Fellowes Neato Photo Quality Matte Finish CD labels with my Canon and get great results.   If you use these labels, be sure to select the “matte finish” paper setting when you make your print.

As for shrink-wrap, an online search for “shrink wrap material” will yield many sources.   You can buy it and apply it yourself with a blow drier.

Be careful selling your labeled CDs.   Some devices, such as in-dash car CD changers, generate significant heat internally and over time it can cause a stick-on label to separate from the disc.   At the least, the disc will not play properly; at the worst, it will ruin the CD changer.     Be sure to include a caution notice on those CD labels when you design them, “for tray loading players only”.

Q) I just bought a new receiver and new speakers but haven’t wired them yet.   There’s a lot of stuff out there.   It’s very confusing.   Any recommendations?

Todd Heimbaugh, State College, PA

A) There is no need to be confused by speaker wire.   There is a lot of marketing hype and pseudo-science thrown around in the attempt to sell expensive wire, and a lot of times it succeeds.   Some people even believe they hear a difference when they use it.   However, in scientifically controlled listening tests, it has been shown time and time again that listeners cannot reliably distinguish between expensive wire and ordinary 16-gauge lamp cord.   (Lamp cord is also called zip cord.)  

You can get 16-gauge lamp cord at stores like Home Depot for 25 cents per foot or less.   If each speaker run is going to be more than twenty-five feet, use 12-gauge.     As a rule of thumb, determine how many feet of wire you will need, then multiply it by 1.6 to get your final number.   So, if you think you need 40 feet, buy 64 feet.   It’s funny how that extra wire gets used up navigating the room and your furniture.

One side of the wire is ridged so you can match polarity between the speakers and receiver.

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