Primera Bravo SE

There are many duplication services on the market, and it’s tough to find the best company to handle your CD or DVD if you’re doing limited runs. The fix is to do it all at home, but creating a stack of your own duplicates has, historically, been a colossal pain in the butt. Case in point: When I first started offering the service out of my studio for other musicians, burning wasn’t that big of a problem, but labeling the discs was time-consuming, labor-intensive, and the end product looked like crap. Definitely not what I would want to be selling at my merch booth — and systems with on-disc printing were just too expensive. Then Primera came along with their original Bravo printer/disc burner combo system. The price was decent, so I picked it up . . . and ran almost 100,000 copies through it over the next five years. Now the Bravo SE (the supposed little brother to the original unit) has been released, and I felt that I had to check one out to see if it was as much
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OVERVIEW

The Bravo SE is much more space-efficient, taking up only as much space as a small printer or scanner. It also didn’t bog down the computer when running many other simultaneous tasks, and needs only one ink cartridge instead of the original two. This makes keeping the ink in stock both easier and cheaper.

The Bravo SE is more “minimally robotic” than some other similar products; the arm has to travel only about 5" to pick up the disc and drop it off for burning/printing. This means much less wear and tear on the mechanism over time.

The Bravo SE holds 20 discs, but I found it sufficient for small runs. It’s also pretty user-friendly: It comes with everything you need (software, cabling, ink, discs, and the unit). Installing the software into your computer, then popping in the ink cartridge and discs, was enough to get the show on the road. Easy.

APPLYING THE BRAVO SE

The included SureThing software is painless for anyone with entry-level computer skills — you don’t have to be a graphics wizard to design a nice-looking disc face. Still, the instructions can be a bit vague, so always run a test disc before committing to a line to make sure everything is in order.

Besides that, the Bravo SE is quiet (thank you), runs really smoothly, and is fast. I could burn over 200 discs within eight hours, which is pretty good, by burning the audio on the disc in a standard tower burner and then using the Bravo SE as a printer.

So, to the question on everyone’s mind: “What’s the cost per CD?” Well, it depends on what you print. Ink costs are a factor, so if you’re only doing text printing instead of full-scale, full-cover graphics, you can run about 1,600 discs for less than $80 in ink (figure on doubling that for full-color printing). Including the medium itself, you’re looking at a maximum of around 37 cents per disc — not bad.

But is the machine reliable? In both ways, yes. It’s reliable enough that Primera will repair it for you if anything goes wrong (and duplicators do sometimes need service), and after the initial break-in period of 100 discs or so, every little gremlin had been hammered out (at first there were some issues with the disc dropping to the bin after the printer drawer retracted, but that cleared up quickly, on its own).

CONCLUSIONS

I like the idea of home duplication for numerous reasons — mostly because it gives me the power to produce my own product from start to finish, without paying for outside services — and the Bravo SE definitely served me well. It’s user-friendly, efficient, and priced fairly; under $1,500 to have your own small-scale duplication facility is about as DIY as you can get. The small disc capacity may keep you hovering around the unit for longer runs, but you probably have something else you need to do on your computer while you wait for things to print. The “look” of the end product is great, but the Bravo SE does accept only proprietary ink cartridges, so there’s no cutting costs there (however, at under $40 per standard color cartridge, the cost is in line with office printers).

Still, the gripes are minor, and the praises are many. If you’re looking to print your own discs from home, the Bravo SE will definitely cover the needs of most musicians.

Product type: Small, tabletop CD-R/ DVD±R burner/printer combo.
Target market: Musicians, studios, or small labels who want to bring small-scale CD/DVD duplication in-house.
Strengths: Good design. Small footprint. Quiet operation. Needs only one ink cartridge. Very reliable.
Limitations: Requires proprietary ink cartridges.
Price: $1,495 (list)
Contact:www.primera.com