At a Glance
Note: This review addresses v188.8.131.524 of the software.
I regularly review massive CD/DVD/media suites, so there's a part of me that's a tad surprised when I run across a free program such as CDBurnerXP that will meet the majority of your disc burning needs. CDBurnerXP looks a lot like an old-school version of CD Creator, with the familiar explorer trees and if you're creating and audio CD--track list. That's a compliment--I liked CD Creator and was sorry when it was buried and largely forgotten in Roxio EZ suites.
Like Creator, CDBurnerXP doesn't try to wow you with interface tricks like animations and such, instead opting for clean looks and super-efficient workflow. There are no wizards (thankfully, from my point of view), though there is a dialog that pops up when you first boot the program that asks what type of job you want to accomplish: burn data to CD/DVD, burn and audio CD, copy a disc, erase a rewritable disc, or burn image. I was a bit surprised that you couldn't create an ISO image, but the lack of video disc creation is no surprise, since it requires lots of complicated transcoding.
CDBurnerXP performed flawlessly in my tests, burning data discs and audio CDs with nary a hiccup. It also imported a nice variety of audio files, not only the usual MP3 and 16-bit .wav, but .ogg and 24/32-bit, odd-frequency wave files as well. There's a handy player for auditioning the imported files and the program will also read Replay Gain (a proposed standard for audio normalization, i.e., maintaining consistent volumes) information.
I don't like to complain about free software that works well, but I recently decided to minimize the software footprint on my system and keep it that way. CDBurnerXP requires you to install Microsoft's .NET Framework 2.0, so for now I'm sticking with the leaner InfraRecorder Portable, which I'll be reviewing next month. My aversion to .NET puts me strictly in the minority here; chances a lot of you have .NET installed anyway. In that case, CDBurnerXP is a great utility.
--Jon L. Jacobi