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ceramic= minimal brake dust. Great for ease of cleaning, less noise, and smoothest.
Semi-metallic= Medium brake dust. Highest resistance to heat. Noisy when warmed up.
Organic= Greatest brake dust. Medium resistance to heat, often noisy.
Almost all performance brake pads are semi-metallic, EBC, Hawk, etc. etc..
If this is for a car that's going to be seeing heavy braking such as track use etc., go with a performance aftermarket pad like listed about. NOT DURALASTS! Pads like that will have brake fad the second time down the track!
If this is a casual commuter car, but you want a decent pad, go with something like a Wagner (O'reilly auto parts, Bumper to Bumper) or (NAPA GOLD?) I beleive that's their highest pad, which is also well suited for an "average" car.
Duralast pads are pieces of crap. Every time I went down the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino/Devore or came down from Lake Arrowhead or Big Bear, I almost **** my pants. The moment those pads start to heat up, their fade is ridiculous.
__________________ R.I.P: 2000 Trans Am, M6, stock except for a flowmaster exhaust(came with the car).
There are 3 common friction material categories: Semi-mets, Low-mets, and NAO's (Non asbestos organics). Ceramic is really just a Marketing term. They are essentially NAO's. Low-mets are very common in Europe and will give you high output but are the dustiest. The 2010 Camaro SS and 2009 GXP have low-mets for example.
The majority of all new vehicles now use NAO's because of their low dust/noise properties. However, because they do not contain any steel (or very little) they are typically not used for high performance or heavy duty applications.
Semi-mets are not used as much by OEM's because NAO's can now offer similar stopping power with the added benefit of low noise/dust. However, some aftermarket companies may offer a semi-met option to replace a "ceramic" for the customer that is looking for better stopping power (i.e. towing). Semi-met pads have good fade resistance and output but tend to be noisier.
What I mentioned above generally applies to OEM friction materials. With aftermarket materials it is sometimes a crap shoot but you get the idea.
My advice would be to stick with the same type of material that was OEM and buy from a reputable company. If you want something different, each company will have an online catalog that will tell you what they recommend for your specific application.