Here’s the bottom line on digital discs: there is nothing you can do to the actual disc that will improve the fidelity of the audio reproduced from it. Period. This assumes, of course, that you have a CD, SACD, DVD or Blu-ray optical disc that is clean, not scratched and a player that has a reasonable quality optical drive in it. Anyone who tells you that they have experienced “dramatic” improvements in the sound of CD or other optical discs by coating them with some special sauce is peddling snake oil. And the sad part is that many of the mainstream sites and publications recommend these products.
As I’ve said before the job of a spinning optical disc is to store and deliver a stream of ones and zeros from the reflective “lands and pits” molded into a piece of polycarbonate into the optical drive of your player. If it does this successfully, then “mission accomplished”. If there are minor errors along the way, there is a system of error detection and error correction that makes sure the ones and zeros are actually the ones intended. It actually “fixes” the errors before they get to the DAC. If the disc and optical pickup are compromised in any way, the output of the player will be a digital zap or a “dropout”. Don’t leave you discs laying around to get dirty or scratched.
But I’ve run into a whole bunch of disc enhancement strategies over the years and have yet to find one that did anything other than contribute to the financial health of the company or person selling them.
A very good friend once gave me a bottle of special sauce and some special cloths to wipe on my DVDs and CDs. The reflective properties of the disc were supposedly improved and result in additional “sonic clarity” and “more definition” (especially at low levels.) I promised him I would give the system a fair shot and coat one of my samplers with the stuff and I left another copy alone. Then I put both discs in matching Oppo BDP-83 machines and routed them through two of the MIX Return busses on my digital console. Guess what? Switching between the two discs made no difference! The sound was absolutely the same. The product was a bust. However, my friend sells a lot of these setups at $75 a pop. He assured me that after I spoke to his technical partner, I would understand the science behind the product. I spoke with him and the nonsense continued.
Or maybe the guy at a CES show years ago that promised if I held my DVDs in contact with his “special wooden box”, the sonics of my discs would be much better, He even did one for free…without removing it from the packaging. I did the same test when I returned to the studio. Another snake oil salesman.
So here’s my new favorite strategy for “enhancing an A/V disc”. The CF-1 / Resonance Control Coasting disc is made out of Carbon Fiber that is placed on top of your discs. This miracle accessory has two sides. One is black and the other is teal. You can read for yourself the possible enhancements:
Figure 1 – From the PDF instructions for using the CF-1 a/v disc enhancement system.
These “must have” accessories are only $129. And what’s surprising to me is that respected audio writers and websites say glowing things about this product and others. This is where the audiophile hobby gets its bad reputation. Remember all the disc can do is pass along the ones and zeros to the optical pickup. The fidelity of the music reproduced from the digital stream is completely and utterly unaffected by any sort of mat, or solution or wooden block…or green magic marker!
Part of the appeal of digital encoding and why we use only two states (the binary counting system…there are other systems that have been tried) is precisely because there is no ambiguity with regards to the information that is being transmitted. The lights are either on or they are off. Black or white. Up or down…one or zero. The requirements for analog discs is completely different story.
We really need to get past these myths and focus our attention on quality production techniques and attention to the realities of music making, recording and forget about the esoteric fringe.
I’m not done with this rant yet. Tomorrow I’ll introduce you to Ultimate Discs, Vinyl CDs and Ultra HD…bet you can’t wait.