Back in late March, I wrote about a gentleman…also named Mark…that operates a website that offers to “vivify” your CDs by duplicating them on CD-Rs. The process claims to provide “improvements in sound that surpass expensive upgrades”. I called foul. You can read my initial post by clicking here. Mark offered to vivify one of my recordings free of charge and I took him up on it. Mark wrote:
“Here is a challenge to you: send me a CD in WAV with music that you know well as a reference (compilation is OK) and I will do the process free of charge. If your ears and equipment are good, I know you will hear the improvement first hand. If you do a compilation perhaps some of your friends would like to contribute a track or two.
Mark – CD Illumination”
The CD Illumination disc arrived yesterday in a padded bag. I’ve spent most of my morning evaluating the disc and would like to use today’s post to share what I found.
QUESTION 1 – Is the digital information on the discs the same?
The first thing I did was capture the audio from the original replicated CD and the processed CD-R. I made the transfers in real time using my Pro Tools DAW through an MBox 2 Pro I/O box. This is not a high-end converter but I thought it would be useful to digitally capture (via S/P DIF) the CD data in real time.
I also transferred the files from both discs in my Mac Laptop to the local hard disc. Curiously, the size of the files wasn’t identical. Take a look:
Figure 1 – Notice that the file sizes of the same track are not the same.
The next step was to synchronize the files and reverse or “invert” the polarity of one of the files. It’s easy to synch up the ripped files because the data…at least at the head of the files…is identical. The processed file was 87040 samples or about 2 seconds longer. I will ask Mark the reason for the additional length.
Figure 2 – The processed file…the one in green…is slightly longer.
Figure 3 – The two file synchronized with one inverted.
I folded each of the files to mono and just as I imagined they cancelled each other perfectly. The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. The data in each of the files is identical except for the added length associated with the processed file. I actually got my iPhone 6 out and was thinking about making a video but decided doing a handheld video (I’ll get some video posts going soon…I promise.). Instead, I took some screen grabs showing the polarity inversion. See the figures below:
Figure 4 – The EDIT and MIX screens of Pro Tools showing the processed file being soloed or played alone. [Click to enlarge]
I’ve drawn a red circle around the SOLO button. Soloing mutes all other channels. Without another signal to cancel against, the AUX 1 bus output shows the processed files in the metering.
Figure 5 – This screen capture shows both signals being output to the AUX 1 bus. [Click to enlarge]
The original Chopin “Scherzo” and the processed or “vivified” files cancel each other perfectly. You can see that because the AUX 1 bus meter shows no output. I went further and captured the output of the AUX 1 bus and looked at the resultant file…no signal present. CD Illumination did not “remaster” or alter the files as he promised.
The next question is whether the processed disc exhibits “greatly improved resultant sound”. I’ll talk about that tomorrow. And yes, I do have a terrific playback system and good ears.