Duplication vs. Replication
Companies such as Discmakers and Oasis typically offer two types of mass production services: replication and duplication.
Replicated discs (often referred to as pressed discs) are created by physically pressing your data into the surface of the disc, whereas duplicated discs (often referred to as burned discs) encode your data onto the disc by burning microscopic holes into the dye layer of a recordable CD or DVD. Replicated discs are the standard for major commercial releases.
Replicating CDs is a process in which the production master is transferred to a “glass master.” Molds are made from the glass master, and from there discs are replicated, a multi-step process involving injection molding, stamping, and lacquering.
Duplicating CDs (typically for quantities under 300) is a process in which the master is used to record or “burn” CDs in duplication towers using lasers to etch information on a recordable CD, or CD-R. Duplication is most cost effective on orders of fewer than 300 discs and can be significantly faster than replication on shorter runs.
Which one is better?
It depends on your application. Replication is most cost effective on orders of over 300 discs, and offers more packaging options.*
*from Discmakers’ site. http://www.discmakers.com/customersupport/faq.asp
I will usually recommend replication for any serious full-blown album project. Why? Because I have seen too many fellow artists go the cheap route, using duplication. They sometimes run into problems with discs not playing on some CD players. This will be endlessly debated as technology improves, but there are lots of old CD players out there that just don’t like new discs. Anecdotal experience has shown that duplicated CDs often play fine on modern devices and in computers, but may have issues in someone’s 1995 CD player.
As long as you understand this caveat, there’s nothing wrong with duplication for smaller projects, demos and compilations. People use duplication all the time and seem happy with it. Just understand the difference, and know what you are getting for the price quoted to you.