As a Discmakers-affiliated studio, I try to steer clients there. I can get clients a small discount on larger orders (300 units or more). Discmakers does great work, and I have a lot of experience with their process. They also have a fairly seamless relationship with CDBaby, so I really like working with them.
Years ago, I did some projects with Oasis, and they have a similar approach.
Still, Discmakers is not the only game in town, and every project has different budget constraints.
Kunaki.com – My friends in the electronic music community use these guys, but I have not used them yet. Based in Nevada, Kunaki offers very good prices on duplication, with some impressive options for complete graphics packages at good prices. They do not offer replication, and can not process International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC) though, so I would stay clear of them if those were important options.
Kunaki’s prices are so low because they do not employ sales reps, and they only offer email support. They have a fairly sophisticated web site that processes both the audio and artwork content, which requires attention to detail (as does all CD production). I’ve seen many projects from Kunaki, and they all looked pretty nice graphically, though some didn’t play on all CD players.
Nation Wide Disc – These folks have some impressive options for short runs. Again, only duplication. Would consider them for demos and compilations. Doing a demo project with them right now, and communication has been decent. Will let you know what I really think when the project is done!
If you are looking at ultra-short runs of 10-20 CDRs here at the studio, but you want something more professional for the sleeve, there are options for that.
Guided Products – High quality cardboard sleeves. Their site says that 100 is their minimum units, but they can do lower runs if you contact them.
PS Print – High quality glossy sleeves.
With any of these sleeve options, beware what is and is not included in terms of art design. Typically you need a Photoshop file, and that needs to come from a competent designer who is used to dealing with design templates. CD design has some low tolerances for error. If you need this service, let’s talk and we can come up with a plan either in house, or with one of the designers I know.
Costs for raw paper are always going up, so anything involving paper materials for album production will be pricey. Great graphic design also comes at a cost. So don’t be surprised if your artwork becomes a significant line item in your budget. Also allow plenty of time for design discussion, proofs, etc.
CDs separate from Sleeves
Could you have sleeves printed at one place, and CDs made at another online vendor? Sure. But you are probably going to pay more in the long run. Both companies will charge you shipping. There may be different art prep fees, and just the time you will spend coordinating all the different parties is not worth it in my opinion.