In programs such as imgburn it appears that there is no option to copy a disk, one must create an image of it first then write it. When intending to copy an audio or data disk is there any difference in doing this versus using a program that actually has the option "copy audio" or "copy data"? For example is quality or any special settings lost if you copy it to your hard drive first?
If any program supports direct raw data copy from one optical drive to another, I guess you can use it. However for best results I would still recommend that you create a disc image on your hard drive first, then burn it to as many blank discs as required.
Remember, if you're trying to create disc images of Audio CDs, never use ISO even if the program erroneously displays it as an option! The ISO format is not meant for Audio CDs; you should use BIN+CUE instead.
Copying everything to an intermediate file first will prevent any problems that could be caused by the hard disk, CPU, or reading CD drive not being able to keep up with the writing drive. However this really should not be an issue with modern hardware unless you're copying discs on a heavily taxed system. This was far more of an issue in the late 90's with sub-1GHz CPUs, slower disks, and crappier operating systems (Win9x).
Reading a disc is the same to the drive and OS whether the system is doing it to write the data to the hard drive or send the data to another disc burner. So any "quality loss" would be the same no matter what you do. If you have a scratch in the source CD, data sectors may return errors when read, and audio sectors may return unreliable audio data.
The image file on disc should be a bit for bit copy of what is on the disc. For data, this can be guaranteed to be the case as optical disc sectors are checksummed. For audio, I believe it may depend on the drive whether it will return this type of information. It's possible depending on the drive to get a copy of the audio that does not match what is on the disc. However this is related to the disc condition and source CD burner and not where the destination data is going in any way.
If you are doing serious audio ripping from audio CDs or redbook audio tracks, I'd check out Exact Audio Copy - it's designed for accurate audio ripping. There's a number of linux programs designed for that as well that I invite others more knowledgeable to talk about.