Afreey's 56X comes close to topping our list for CD-ROM drives. Unfortunately, weaknesses accompany its strengths. We learned this when crowning the Kenwood 72X our current Leaderboard champ. The Kenwood's weaknesses lie with reading CD-RWs, as well as accurate DAE with scratched discs. Now the Afreey stands poised to overtake the Kenwood. Let's examine the positives and negatives.
In most cases, the drive offers excellent performance. WinMark scores (remember, these are heavily reliant on quick access times) actually top the Kenwood. Most other benchmarks show the Afreey trailing slightly. Audio extraction, while significantly slower than the Kenwood, is much faster than most other CD-ROMs, and the quality is better than the Kenwood offers. Also, the Afreey has no problems reading CD-Rs and -RWs, whereas the Kenwood has been known to struggle with CD-Rs, and flat-out cannot not read CD-RWs.
On the other hand, the drive is quite loud in most situations. Despite Afreey's excellent efforts at sound dampening, there's only so much they can do to lower 12,000 RPM noise levels. The Kenwood with its low spindle speed offers nearly silent operation in all situations. Also, though the Afreey can read CD-RWs, 8X CLV speeds are quite slow for today's drives. Finally, the disc copy test indicates that the Afreey, when faced with random reads, often does not spin up to full speed thus compromising a bit of performance.
Depending on the application, either drive could be considered top dog. Those who need reliable DAE quality and good CD-RW readability should seriously consider the Afreey. Those who don't need CD-RW readability, and crave the absolute best pressed CD performance along with unsurpassed DAE speeds (with unscratched audio CDs) and near-silent operation should lean toward the Kenwood.
Note: Recently, Kenwood 72X drives have become extremely hard to find. Consider the Afreey if Kenwood's units are scarce.