Well, you need to calibrate it so they perform the best and have the longest life time. If not calibrated, the laser will have to perform more and more re-reads, resulting in more wear and tear on the laser. Sure, they might work out of the box, but there's a reason you should calibrate it.
I use imgburn and it does work for me. After many failed attempts I realized that the correct write speed is important. It would be best to write as slow a possible, but modern cd-r discs don't like slow write speeds. At least 24x works for me, but I think it depends on the combination of the disc and the drive.
This house is too dangerous! There are terrible demons! Ouch!