I’ve gotten some private emails attesting to the value of this or that audiophile accessory. I’m not here to argue about how you spend your money, but I absolutely stand by my post yesterday and the fact that there is absolutely nothing you can smear on your discs, wave over them or put in physical contact with them that will make any difference in the transference of the ones and zeros from the disc to the pickup of your player. Audiophile accessories will not alter the fidelity of the player’s output one bit(excuse the pun).
It’s all about money and the misguided belief that there is some sort of alchemy that will enhance the fidelity of your collection of optical discs. Even the oracle of audiophiledom, Harry Pearson has entered the discussion with the following quote on the Mapleshade website:
“You’ll get better defined bass, particularly in the bottom two octaves. You may not have noticed the mirage-like blurring endemic to CD’s before, but you will soon after, which is why these fluids are so sonically addictive. One thing I can tell you for certain: there’s no going back to an untreated disc once you hear what [Optrix] can do!”
It sounds like he’s talking about some sort of analog signal path instead of CD tonic. I might be able to get behind the idea that clean contacts and isolated power supplies can improve the sound of a recording. But not when it comes to a digital disc playing in an optical drive. Does anyone ever tell you what the special sauce is doing to allow you to get rid of the “mirage-like blurring endemic to CDs?” Not really.
Here’s what I got from the science guy at one of these accessory companies. I’m paraphrasing because the nonsense coming out of his mouth was so ridiculous that I almost starting laughing on the phone. He said that there is inconsistent reflectivity coming back to the optical pickup when an optical disc is spinning at such high speeds. The gunk that is smoothed onto the surface of the disc helps to dull the reflectivity resulting in a more consistent flow of photons from the pickup back to the reader. The alignment of the reconstructed digital information is therefore more consistent and produces across the board improvements in low lever detail and harmonic accuracy.
Here’s a simple question. Can you tell when someone turns the lights on and off in your bedroom late at night? If you answered yes, then you understand how an optical disc player’s pickup works. If I start beating a drum at a regular pulse and give you the task to write a one or a zero depending on whether you see that the lights are on or off at each pulse…then you are acting as an optical pickup reading digital words. If you put on a set of sunglasses, do you think you could still write down the on and offs accurately? Sure. But did the lowered reflectivity make the ones and zeros on the page any different. Absolutely not.
I guess this is what is so fun about the whole hobby of being an audiophile. There must be a secret contest among the makers of these products to see who can get the most money for the most idiotic product. There are certainly a lot of contenders.
Lest you think I haven’t tried these products, I can assure you that I have. My neighbor is Ben from Shakti Systems and I’ve encountered his products and many others over the years. Not once have I used an enhancement product on my recordings of on the CDs in my collection and had the vendor or myself be able to tell any difference.
Let’s get real about fidelity and stop chasing the goal of turning lead into gold once and for all.
By the way, I know Pierre from Mapleshade. I had dinner with him and one of his employees at the CAF in 2012. He’s a very interesting guy and a very talented engineer. Pierre is one of the very best practitioners in the “black art” of analog tape recording. He’s sort of like Cookie Marenco or T. Bone Burnett in this regard. They have absolute faith in the sonic qualities of analog tape or at least they prefer the “color” of tape for their productions. I have no argument with that.
At the CAF show, I gave Pierre some of my high-resolution audio discs. All I can tell you is both Pierre and his assistant were knocked out. Their comments were very complimentary. He told me it was the first time he had heard recordings from another record label that he would consider adding to his own catalog. I was very impressed.