Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Figure skating music: why won't that stupid CD play at the rink?

A big discussion in rinks where Ice Girl skates is what brand of CD-R works in the worst CD players in the coldest rinks.

It turns out that CD players don’t like cold temperatures. These players skip around on some music, or worse, refuse to play music at all. I know people who bring their own warm, reliable CD players to freestyle sessions in case the rink’s CD player won’t play their music.

Others have a system based on the CDs themselves. I burn multiple copies of Ice Girl’s music on whatever CD is cheapest at Walgreen’s. I’ve noticed that the music on the Maxell CDs is the most unreliable and anecdotal evidence bears this out. A person who often plays music for the skaters told me that if a CD fails in the rink’s player, it’s usually a Maxell. I’ve burned copies of Ice Girls’ music on Memorex, which my music-playing source says works pretty well in most rinks.

The best medium, according to my source, is Imation. Those discs will play in every player, no matter how cold the rink is, my source said.

That person also provided me with some strategies for getting music to play. The source said that warming a disk inside a jacket will often fool the player into thinking it’s warm and the music will play. However, there’s a risk that the music will skip, too. I’ve even heard talk of bringing a heating pad to competitions to warm the CDs.

Is this madness? I’ve tried reading up on CD players, but the only thing I found out was that some don’t play well in the cold. I found nothing on cold temperatures and the CDs themselves. Some CDs copy more faithfully than others. I read that Imation has a better BLER (block error rate) than other brands. Newer players forgive BLER more readily than older players, too. Unfortunately, it’s right about there that the articles I read became so filled with numbers that they were more data than prose and I stopped reading.

The bottom line: I don’t care if it’s all hooey. I’m going to run those Imation discs to ground this weekend and burn a few for Ice Girl. Heck, I’ll burn incense over the disc and give it a blessing, too. I'd do the hokey-pokey if I thought it would help.
However, I am not going to bring a heating pad to a competition, I swear. But, well, my back is starting to hurt. I guess loading the heating pad into the van isn’t nuts, is it? I mean, for health reasons.

What do you think? Do folks at your rink have rituals and rites for playing discs successfully? Do you know of an unbelievably reliable CD-R brand? Share the wisdom!
Update: I found the Imation CD-Rs at Target last night: a package of 10 for $3.99. I burned Ice Girl's music and it played fine at home. The real test will be the cold rink where she skates on Wednesday mornings.


Anonymous said...

I've never heard of the cold effecting CDs, I'll have to pay more attention. But I thought I'd share my other CD experience.
I have done the announcing and played music for several competitions for our club. Here are some of the things I've noticed. In other words, things I've learned while looking like the idiot who can't use a CD player while the skater stands there in her opening pose for 30 seconds.
Some CD players can't handle CD-RWs. CD-R works fine.
Sometimes it depends on the format of the recording on the disk (MP3, etc.). My daughter has a friend who burns CDs for her in a funky format that my car can't read, but her boom box can.
And colored CDs don't always read either. Black was a nightmare! Several skaters brought black CDs about a year ago because they were so cool. In one skater's case we had to play the music off her Ipod because she just didn't have anything else that would work.
I'll admit, our CD player is old and we don't have a back-up (lesson learned). I've seen newer equipment at the store that states "MP3 compatable" on the box.
A CD doesn't seem complicated- just a piece of plastic. And a player doesn't seem that hard to figure out- choose CD, press play. Isn't it funny how technology is supposed to make our lives easier but sometimes it's so complicated to understand, we end up frustrated? But we don't want to live without it!

Ice Mom said...

I've heard that, too, about CD-RWs. Great point, Pat!

I haven't heard about black CDs causing problems, though. I will have to float that idea at the rink and see what folks say.

Thank you very much for adding to the discussion!

Ice Charades said...

When I first started skating, we had to get records made of our freestyle programs. Expensive (in its day) and not very durable.

Cassette tapes were a great for a long time, because you could have lots of spares for practice and save your professional version for the competition.

If the CD can't play for the competition, do they get to go fetch something else? (Are cassettes still used as backups?)

That would be frustrating if you couldn't compete. I'm constantly getting the CD-W, CD-R and DVD-R, etc etc mixed up.

I wouldn't know what to use.

Ice Mom said...

Records? Wow. I can't imagine how expensive that would be.

We use CD-R and nothing else. Most of the time CD-RW won't play in the rink CD players.

I have multiple copies of Ice Girl's music on an assortment of CD brands! I just found the Imation, so I'm hoping that will give us extra insurance!

Anonymous said...

Hubby and I were just discussing the CD problem. I've witnessed it out at competitions in Lake Placid but didn't know that it might be brand specific. He and I reasoned that since CDs are an aluminum disk and aluminum expands and contracts by large amounts with heat and cold; if the disk isn't burned well (the dimples aren't put deeply into the aluminum surface by the laser) then you could run into problems, particularly with an older player. If it was a problem with the player itself, such as condensation on the reader lens, then it would have trouble reading all disks. Also, the error correction is done by the encoding software not on the disk itself, so the only thing we can figure is that different brands are affected by the temperture differently and a basic quality of the manufacture of the disk itself. The ideal solution is to go to a thumb drive but most rinks won't be that advanced yet. It would be great if the sounds systems would be able to accept MP3s or MP4s.

Ice Charades said...

In my day, skating wasn't as exhorbitant as it is now (at least not in Minnesota, like Wisconsin, with so many rinks.)

I must say, that of the gals I skated with in ice a lot shows who came from either the east or west coast, had dads who were doctors or lawyers.

anne said...

Just stummbled here looking up rhinestones! We had our club competition this weekend and the CD playing issue was HUGE and we actually have pretty good luck usually. Our director was ready to go out and buy a new player, however, the club already has 5 so what would we need with another that won't always work! One had just returned from repair on Fri AM and by Fri PM was giving grief too. I am going to pass on your post to some people at our club.

I am enjoying your posts as I sew skating dresses...have for 17 yrs when I began skating at the ripe old age of 26:) While I have sewed many dresses for people including several syncro teams, i am continuously learning.

Oh, and I am in Rochester, MN...looks like you are Milw. area:) Hi!

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Anne. You might try keeping the player in a warm area most of the time and bring it into the rink to play music. See if that helps. I'm not really an expert, but anecdotally, that seems to work fine. It's frustrating, isn't it?

Sk8nLane said...

Ok this may be crazy, but we keep a heating pad in our storage area to keep under the CD player for girls practicing with CD's and our test sessions. Most of our girls just bring their iPods in and plug in with a patch cord - solves most of our problems.

Ice Mom said...

The iPod and patch cord is a great idea! I bet we'll see that more and more.

Anonymous said...

Hi IceMom,

I'm both a roller and ice coach who's dealt with the CD issue for years. Most of the problems in ice rinks have to do with the temperature and humidity problems with both the player and the CDs. One trick we use it to keep a couple of those gel packs (throwaways from tons of items) which remove the moisture from the CD. (I also keep a couple med sized ones in my ice skating bag and microwave them once a month to renew them.)

As for the best type of media-- I prefer the HP CDs. Never use the CDRW's. 85% of the players won't play them.

As for the iPod patch cable, the best and cheapest ones are at iTrimmings at http://www.itrimming.com/video-60gb-80gb-av-cable.html for $4 and no postage.

poor clare said...

Definitely CD-RW's don't work with a lot of CD players. Our CD player barely plays anything at all. We just got a new system that plays our music from a computer. We have an encoded tab instead now. This tab has the info for the computer to call up your programs. You can choose which one you want to play. It also puts you in a cue if someone else is already playing their music. When it is your turn, your name is announced and then the music plays.

Ice Mom said...

Wow, Clare. I'm pretty sure that's the coolest system I've ever heard of. Three of the six rinks where Ice Girl regularly skates have dumpy, cheap boom boxes plugged into the sound system. The other three have nice, expensive players. The expensive players are more unreliable than the cheapies.

Anonymous said...

I was told that if the CD player is turned off and on too often, it's actually condensation on the laser that causes the problem. Maybe still a problem more with some CDs than others.

Our rink keeps the CD player on all the time, even when rink is closed. I've never heard a CD skip on it.