Difference between DVD+R and DVD-R?

So, I’m on the verge of getting a new toy: a Sony DVDirect external DVD recorder. It will record to both DVD+R and DVD-R discs (among others), but I don’t know what the difference is between them. I know there are no guarantees with stuff like this, but is one more likely than the other to work in my existing DVD player after it’s been burned?

I think you’ll find a more factual answer in General Questions. I’ll spin this over there for ya’.

Differences? Not a lot. The + and - discs are the result of a format war between two competing camps of manufacturers, and their performace as far as the average user goes is very similar.

Both camps released R (record-once) and RW (eraseable) discs, resulting in four different disc types.

(There is also a fifth type of recordable disc, - RAM, but it is much less common, and is not nearly as widely supported. Some camcorders and standalone drives do use them, though; if you have such a unit, it’s a good idea to make sure that any other recorders you may buy support them as well.)

There is also now a double-layer (DL) version of the R discs. These have two data layers and can store up to 8.5 billion bytes on the disc, as opposed to 4.7 billion bytes on a regular (single-layer) disc.

+R DL discs have been out for a while, but -R DL discs are still very new. You need a DL-compatible drive to record to them, but any drive that can handle the corresponding single-layer disc (+ or -) will read them; many movie discs are double-layer already, and the capability to handle two data layers was built into DVD players from the beginning.

Most newer drives and players should be able to handle + and - discs equally, but it’s always a good idea to check. Older drives and players tended to belong to one camp or the other, and handled + discs or - discs, but not both.

More information:

Wikipedia on DVD formats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_Formats

VideoHelp.com offers a database of DVD drives, recorders, and players, so you can check to see what formats your unit supports:

Here’s VideoHelp on the Sony VRD-VC20, the unit you link to: http://www.videohelp.com/dvdwriters.php?DVDnameid=1162&Search=Search&list=2#comments
It handles all single-layer + and - discs, but will only record +R DL. not -R DL.

I can’t believe I didn’t know this, thanks.

This isn’t necessarily true. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting +R DL discs to work in DVD players and single layer drives that have no problems with regular DVD+R media - sometimes it doesn’t work at all, sometimes it works but just barely (long access times, funny noises from the drive). As far as I can tell, the warning “ONLY FOR USE IN DVD+R DL COMPATIBLE HARDWARE” on those discs means exactly what it says.

As far as the difference between + and -, the only thing I’ve noticed in practice is -RW discs take a lot longer to format than +RW.

I stand corrected.

And here I thought that at least one thing about recordable DVDs was not going to be unnecessarily complicated…

-R’s are more compatible, especially with older players. They were designed that way from the start. +R’s have more “features” and are designed to be more flexible, but in that I don’t use them myself I don’t have anything good to say about them. As a -R user myself, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a much wider availability of +R’s on the shelves at CompUSA and Staples et al.

When it comes to a computer-based player, there should be no difference; I’m referring to standalone players.

They really screwed the pooch with DVD write formats, didn’t they? I’m reluctant to buy a writer because of all these formats, and I’m sure many others are too. I wonder how much revenue they lost because they couldn’t agree on one format.


In practice though, what we seem to be moving toward is that all writers will write all formats (mine already does) and all players will play all formats - this solves the problem of 'which format should I use, but also makes the variety of formats more or less pointless in the first place.

In practice, I’ve had far more more incompatibility problems with certain brands of media (or rather the formulation of dye they happened to use for that batch) than I’ve had with formats.

I figured they were the same so I bought +R discs because they were cheaper and my burner didn’t care. Everything I burn works fine on the burner. Yet the +R don’t work at all in my Panasonic player (and kind of kill it), and they don’t work on my brother’s computer’s older DVD drive. OTOH, they did work fine in my Dad’s Sony player.

This was all rather depressing. I have to buy some -R’s to see if they work better. For any given particular situation, it seems like one or the other will work out better.

Both +R and -R are so widely supported now that you should be fine with whichever writer you buy. Most DVD burners for computers can burn +R(W) and -R(W), and some standalone DVD recorders can burn both formats too (and even DVD-RAM).

Some older DVD players couldn’t read +R and some couldn’t read -R; many more couldn’t read +RW or -RW. Most players made in the past few years can read all of them, though. The only one I’ve ever used that couldn’t read +R was a Panasonic A110 from 1998. VideoHelp.com has a comprehensive list in case you’re not sure which format will work in your DVD player.

this is likely to be the dye problem I mentioned above - I bought a spindle of cheap blank DVD-Rs and they’re fine for data, fine for video on the computer, fine in some players, but they make my domestic player do a variety of horrible things - in some cases including an awful grinding sound that is probably the machine attempting to move some mechanical component beyond its proper limit. :eek:

Awesome, thanks so much everyone! Especially Sunspace, for that wonderfully comprehensive-yet-comprehendable overview. :slight_smile:

I’ll go look up my standalone DVD player (which is 3-4 years old and very cheap) and find out what it can read, and then will be sure to burn to that format. Friends and family may not be able to view the discs I burn, but oh well. :wink: Hopefully the DVD drive in my laptop will also be able to read whatever my standalone can, but that’s not as important because I hope to replace the laptop next year.

SkipMagic: Thanks for the move! I considered starting out in GQ, but for some reason I had the idea that this discussion might wind up going in a “Mac vs. PC” direction. It hasn’t (yet, anyway!), so moving it from IMHO was the right thing to do.

Agree with most of the comments. I have an expensive Sony at work that records in all formats and I have a cheap one at home that only records in +R and they all seem to work fine, as long as your DVD player is fairly new (last 2-3 years or so).

You didn’t ask, but thought I would mention I also record a lot of American TV shows for a friend in Germany. His television has both PAL and NTSC, and DVD’s I make at home on my cheap +R machine work fine and dandy over there on his standard German DVD player. I guess that means home DVD burners are zone free? Whatever. It works. I am also able to play DVD’s he burns in Germany on my DVD player. It is only the Hollywood produced DVD’s that seem to be difficult.

Thanks, Misnomer. :slight_smile:

Actually, it’s the recordable home DVDs that are zone free. Home DVD burners still have to include a zone for use when reading DVD-Video titles, although it can be changed a small number of times.

It is impossible to burn a DVD on a home recorder that will have a readable zone lock, even if you have to software to author such a DVD. If for some peculiar reason you wanted to do this, you’d have to make the disc image, put it on a DLT tape, and send to to a professional disc replicator, then have them stamp up a disc. I think that you’d also have to include the CSS encryption on your content–ISTR that DVD players don’t have to pay attention to a region code if the disc content is not encrypted. But I could be wrong about that.

The zones are completely optional for any disc producer, even the movie studios.

I just ordered the burner.* The “new toy” geek in me is very, very happy right now – but will be even happier in 1-2 weeks! :smiley:

*and a few DVD+R and DVD-R discs; I’ll buy more of whatever works best

Well, let us know how it works for you! And how the movie discs (DVD-Video, SVCD or VCD) you make play in your other players! :slight_smile:

Wow, a request for a follow-up? From little ol’ me? Why, sir, you make me blush… :wink:

Seriously, though: I plan to start an MPSIMS thread about the recorder once it arrives and I’ve had some time to play with it. I’m hoping that the 2-week delivery timeframe is a “worst case” kind of thing . . . I won’t hold my breath, but I’d be one happy chicky if it arrived next week! :slight_smile: