Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About CD-TEXT
Like so many technologies of the mid-1990s, CD-Text was an idea that was great in theory but didn’t quite catch on in practice. The idea behind CD-Text was that instead of relying on the back of the CD jewel case to reference the artist name and track titles, that information could be stored on the disc itself along with the music.
When the audio CD was first developed in the late 1980s, there was nothing in the Red Book specification about storing song data on the disc. That part came in the mid-1990s, in an extension of Red Book Standard that added the capabilities of CD-Text. This allowed information about the disc including the artist name, album title, song titles, and the album’s UPC code to be written to the disc along with the audio.
The idea was that the audio portion of a CD would play normally in a regular CD player, while CD-Text equipped players would be able to scroll the track name and artist on a display. It worked, but the format was never widely supported. Many CD player manufacturers weren’t on board with the specification, and many computer software programs for playing, ripping, and recording CD’s also lacked support for CD-Text.
Today, the CD-Text format is reserved mostly for hobbyists and for DIY musicians who record their own music on blank CD-R media. Support for the format varies wildly in the consumer electronics industry, with the majority of devices not recognizing CD-Text. Some modern devices such as car stereos do still support playback of CD-Text discs.
It’s worth pointing out that if you make a lot of audio compilation discs, a machine such as the Accutower CD/DVD disc duplicator also has support for copying CD-Text discs. This way the stored information is preserved when the disc is copied. Accutower disc duplicators are available in a variety of sizes from 1 to 15 drives and in both beige and black cases. They even offer built-in hard drives for creating those custom audio mixes from a variety of different CD sources.
It’s interesting to wonder about the world that might have been if CD-Text had caught on in a big way. How might it have changed the music and the electronics industry before the age of the MP3 player? Who knows how much more popular recording your own blank CDs might have become if CD-Text had really taken off!