Dr. AIX's POSTS — 21 March 2015

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It’s a special day today…it’s the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (March 21, 1685), my favorite composer by far. There’s just something about the linear motion of his music, the counterpoint, and the fact that his music doesn’t stop until it’s over that enthralls my heart and soul. It also just happens to be my special day as well…and when I learned that Bach and I share the same birthday (a couple hundred years apart) I was thrilled…in some very small way we’re connected. I’m 62 years old today and feeling it. I haven’t managed to shake the lung thing since January and am pretty tired of the irritating cough. I went to a pulmonary specialist the other day (very entertaining guy…it turns out he treated Ringo for Bronchitis!) and he thinks maybe I’ve got more than just pneumonia. I left a couple of vials of blood and will be headed back soon to learn what’s going on at the bottom of my right lung.

My back is giving me discomfort today as well. I ran 4 miles on Friday morning with Charlie and must not have stretched enough before launching myself along the beach path. I did sign up for next years L.A. Marathon though…so I guess I’m figuring all of this old man stuff is going to clear up soon. The race will be on Valentine’s Day next February. Hopefully, the temperature will be manageable. The last two years have been too hot.

Here’s the audio question of the day: Can sending your tired CDs to a company that copies them to Gold CD-Rs elevate your enjoyment of those CDs? That’s the business proposition being pitched at CD Illumination. They claim to be able to “vivify” your CD sound. In case you don’t know the word vivify, they included the definition. It means to give life to; animate, enliven, brighten, sharpen; clarify. And it only costs $25 per CD!

Here’s their pitch:

“CD Illumination is a company dedicated to vivifying your invaluable CD collection and providing an enduring backup of your treasured music. CD Illumination duplication will greatly increase and extend your listening pleasure by maximizing fidelity…meaning:

Musicality: Lower distortion and sweeter sound
Tonality: Less boxy congested sound with improved timbre and texture
Dynamic range: Less compression and better micro-dynamics
Soundstaging: The architecture of the soundscape is more holographic
Imaging: Improved localization of voices and instruments
Clarity: Enhanced
Listener fatigue: Diminished

Irrespective of the amount spent on your equipment, CDs optimized by CD Illumination technology, will provide a greatly improved resultant sound.

The moderate cost of a CD Illumination duplication will give an improvement in sound that surpasses expensive upgrades in CD player, DAC, amp or cable.”

The website goes on to talk about jitter and other mysterious factors that negatively contribute to that “CD sound”. They believe that jitter is an inherent part of the CD disc. It’s not. Jitter can be reduced to zero by using high quality clocking and applying it at the final output by the DAC.

None of the things they list are going to change by making a copy of a CD onto a Gold CD-R. I’m know I’m stuck on the “bit is bits” debate but that anyone would pay $25 for a copy of their CD in the hopes of increasing the fidelity is chasing rainbows.

Another website and associated belief system to be avoided.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(26) Readers Comments

  1. I hear you Mark. Getting old is a bitch and I am only 55. However, it beats the alternative!

  2. 1. I’m only a few years older than you, Golden Years My Butt. LOL
    Will add you to my prayer toninght for a quick and easy healing of your lung problem.
    2.If I copy my CD’s to MFSL Gold CD-Rs can I “Vivify” them myself???
    3. Shoot, when I retired and moved to FL I sold all my CD’s and ripped them to flacs on my hard drive. Now it looks like I can never be “Vivified”.
    Now what am I to do. 🙁

    • You’re just going to have to live without the “CD Illumination technology.

  3. Mark
    This has got to be a scam.
    While there is clearly a difference in the ‘precision’ of creating the master using different CD formulations, taking an already manufactured CD with unknown relationship to the master (one thousandth copy or five thousandth copy), nothing will ‘vivify’ its sound quality. It is like the ‘restoration’ of MP3s back to their original sound quality.
    Mark
    PS – Hope you feel better.

    • But why would anyone ever pay $25 for a copy that they can do at home? Thanks.

  4. A big happy birthday from Australia and long may you prosper.

    • Thanks Warren!

  5. Keep ’em coming. ‘Audiophile’ used to mean someone who was interested in the technology of reproducing sound. Now it seems to relate more to conspicuous consumption. It’s really sad that something as wonderful as music, and the laudable goal of reproducing it as realistically as possible, have been overtaken by hucksters preying on the gullible.

    I do believe there are differences between playback systems- some, like between transducers, fairly obvious. Im even prepared to concede that there are differences, albeit much more subtle, between certain electronic components. But if you have 1000 audio dollars burning a hole in your pocket, spending it on room treatment will have far greater effect than the “night and day” people claim for their boutique power cord. Same witha $25 CD-R dupe. Dupes for dupes? Think I’ll go buy some trusses to keep my speaker cables off the floor. Sigh…

  6. Hi Dr. AIX. Here’s a story of 96/24 vs 44.1/16. I have a small group of musicians who play country flavored gospel music. We play for shut-ins in their homes weekly. I often record the sessions to aid the musicians in improving their skills. I use a small handhold Tascam DR-08. I usually record with CD sampling rates. Last week I used the 96/24 setting for the recording. I was worried it would consume battery life. (I used to use a Zoom H4, which ate batteries.) The batteries held up well.

    The recording? WOW! The improvement was stunning. I use a desktop computer, the new Audioquest Firefly, and Stax SR 707 (former top of the line) headphones for reviewing & editing the recordings. I know these people well and their voices were amazingly realistic and the room ambiance was “dead on.”

    I burned CDs from the hi-rez files and they were glassy and harsh by comparison. Of course, there may be variations in software that converts the hi-rez files to CD quality, but they were definitely lower in quality. Often there are noises in the homes and I use noise reduction software to remove it. I use WavePad. I used it to remove the sound of a ventilating device and was surprised to find the room ambiance and crystal clarity was removed along with the noise. The CD version of the noise reduced file was very nearly identical to the noise reduced, hi-rez file. On most equipment they would sound identical. This proved to me the value of unaltered, well recorded file in accurately capturing the “sound of music.”

    Best Wishes Always

    • Thanks Bill…I’m a believer that 96 kHz/24-bits is the way to go. Sounds like your experiment worked.

  7. This is certainly something I’d never lay out money for, but it is tangentially related to something I’ve often wondered about – my understanding is that a commercial CD has the data recorded in a metal layer, with varying length pits having a depth that is one quarter of the wavelength of the laser reading them. When the laser, focused on the metal surface, hits a pit, the light being reflected is suddenly traveling a quarter wavelength further down, and then another quarter wavelength further back, and is now out of phase with the incoming light, cancelling out a reflection. This rapid turning on and off of the reflection generates pulses of light that are read as bits of data. If I (or this service) were to burn a copy of a commercial CD onto CR-R, I suspect that our equipment is somehow writing a visible dark spot onto a substrate layer.
    My question is: does a CD player have an easier time reading the ripped ‘pits’ that are probably simply absorbing light, rather than throwing it out of phase? Would there be less error correction happening, more thorough cancellation, or cleaner reading of the beginning and end of each ‘pit’, or anything else that might make a CD player have to do less work to get at the bits of data? I’ve heard some folks claim that, counter-intuitively, a ripped CD copy can sound better than the original – do you have an opinion on whether this is possible, due to a physical difference in the nature of the way the bits are stored?

    • John, I’m going to defer to some of my readers that have the science down better than I do. But my understanding of optical disc reading is based on the reflections from the mirrored surface in between the pits and the diffusion of the laser when passing over the pits. The long and short “reflected” vs. “diffused” light is used by the pickup to derive the data. I haven’t heard that the wavelength of the laser is involved other than to isolate the area of the disc being read.

      • With a “pressed” CD, the pits are 1/4 wavelength deep. The laser spot is somewhat larger than the width of the pit, so the “spot” overlaps the sides of the pit. When there is no pit, the complete spot is reflected in phase and the output of the photodetector is maximum. When a pit is present, some of the light is reflected by the pit and, being 180 degrees out of phase with the light reflected from around the pit, partially cancels it.
        With a burnt CD (CD-R) , the recording layer is a heat sensitive dye. “Pits” are represented by areas where the laser has changed the dye. (Some dyes turn transparent when heated. Some physically deform to create a “bump”.)
        With a CD-RW, the heat-sensitive layer is a phase-changing metal alloy. Heat it to about 200 deg C, it turns “shiny”. Heat it to about 5-600 deg C, it turns “dull”. A pit is usually represented by a “dull” spot.

        The quality of the recording on a “burnt” disc depends on a lot of variables, so it’s very difficult to predict whether a burnt copy of a pressed disc will perform better, as in lower error rate, lower jitter etc, than the pressed disc.

    • http://www.pcguide.com/ref/cd/cdrMedia-c.html

      Yes, works like you describe. Pits are made by areas that are less reflective and scatter light. Do remember ones are read during any transitions. Pit to land or land to pit, it becomes a one. So as long as the difference passes a threshold level the one will be read rather than a zero.

      Having done the tests, the correct bits are typically read without errors occuring. Or at least no uncorrectable errors. Like someone else said. Why bother with a CD-R copy when you can rip it to disc and eliminate those variable in the first place?

      • Thanks Dennis…

  8. Well, you might do better with your own copies.

    http://www.mediasupply.com/mamsilverplusgold.html

    This one has a silver reflective layer, with a gold layer on top of that with “DIAMOND GUARD” bottom layer. Only a $105 each. Makes $25 sound better.

    I need to get to work on my improved version. It will have platinum, silver and gold with a sapphire nano-layer. Eventually, when the R&D have been done I could introduce the ultimate super disc. Titanium top layer, with a platinum smoothing surface to which we adhere the silver layer to be protected by a generous gold layer and sapphaire bottom coat.

    Where does it end?

    • OMG…this is amazing.

  9. Hi Mark

    I read your email blog every day and I am in total agreement with you. Although I have no recording engineering background, I do have a degree in physics am I am a serious amateur music lover. I feel it is/should be an offense to make these misleading marketing statements concerning a recordings high definition, etc.

    I do believe that some (most?) people who do fall for the marketing, actually do get more pleasure from their recordings, even if they can’t physically really ‘hear’ an improvement. Similar to the placebo effect, they can get more enjoyment. This, to me, is a little similar to belief in God. I’m an atheist, but I am a little jealous of those who get comfort from believing in a higher being.

    So, if it were ‘harmless’ I would say live and let live. BUT – people are making money from the gullibility of others and I believe that there should be some protection (from themselves?).

    So, keep up the good work. But I do believe that you have your work cut out.

    Best regards

    Stuart

    • Thanks Stuart. It’s particularly frustrating for me because I’ve invested so much hard work and resources trying to elevate the sound of recordings without the hocus pocus.

  10. I duplicate my CD’s for $0.20 each and they sound just as vivid as the original. $25/disc is more than double the original cost. Another P. T. Barnum separating suckers from their money.

  11. Vivify: to change or alter the data on your precious CD such that the resulting audio is somehow improved.

    or the more likely.

    Vivify: to create a perception bias by means of a monetary exchange for services involving the word “gold” thereby implanting the suggestion that the resulting clone will be somehow improved.

    To be fair, there’s a rather remote opportunity to do a slightly improved error correction during the read cycle of the original CD, but it’s very remote as the error correction/concealment system is fairly integral to the CD data structure. But those kind of results would be highly variable both between CDs and within a single CD as errors are randomly distributed, not constant. And, of course, the shiny new gold copy will have new errors on it that again must be corrected or concealed.

    Sounds like the only improvement would be to the service provider’s bank account.

  12. It’s said “there’s a sucker born every minute”. But why does it seem so many of them are attracted to audio as a hobby?

    • I don’t know? I guess being passionate about music brings with it a certain abandon when it comes to rationality.

  13. Why you would bother trying to improve your CD’s is beyond me.

    The biggest upgrade I experienced was ripping my CD’s to Wave files and playing back via my computer based system.

    This upgrade was so great it made my $10k CD playback components redundant and are now gone. And this from a $1200 i3 laptop. Since this further upgrades in software, cables and DAC have increased this gulf still further.

    The only disc’s I listen to are Blue ray and SACD these days.

  14. I salute you!
    Hope you and your family enjoyed your birthday.
    Do take care of yourself – and don’t mess with your health.

    • Thanks…I had a very pleasant birthday with the family. And phone calls from the two out of town kids.

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