Dr. AIX's POSTS — 04 June 2015

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CD Illumination sent a duplicated CD-R of my Roberto Prosseda CD production after processing it to “improve” the sound. Here’s a couple of links that might be worth reading in preparation for today’s post. You can read the original article “Copy Me Stupid“, a follow up piece titled “Illuminating CDs: A New Thread“, and yesterday’s post at “My ‘Illuminated CD‘ Is Back“.

I’ve been back and forth with Mark Goldstein, the proprietor of the company about my findings and expressed my opinion that all of his claims of improvements do not exist. I responded to his last few questions today. Here’s his original email:

“Hi Mark,

Ok that may be true but I would guess that the vast majority of people playing CDs haven’t even heard of reclocking and still play their music through cheap to very expensive systems. Ask any man in the street who still plays CDs.

I think the last question we were exploring was whether or not my CD copy was better than an off the shelf original, and I suggested that your reclocking made them sound no different. How did the two sound in your car? Was there a difference? If there was then we still have something to talk about.

Will my Copy sound better on the majority of sound systems?

Regards,

Mark”

And my response:

“Mark,

Your point is well taken…the vast majority of casual music listeners are playing CDs in boom boxes, cheap CD players, and automobiles. But these aren’t your customers and I wouldn’t expect them people to invest in your services because they’re not motivated. Your site makes it clear that ‘vivified’ CDs are an inexpensive step to improved fidelity for audiophiles. It really doesn’t seem to apply to everyman.

You ask if your copied discs will ‘sound better’ on the majority of sound systems? The same bits from a CD vs. a CD-R sound identical. So the answer is no…the world of audio will not benefit from copying bits to a new piece of media.

I sat in the car in the driveway here at the studio for almost an hour and even dragged my fellow engineer Matt into my ACURA to audition the discs. It was much more difficult to do the comparison because we had to access the two discs in the multidisc player and that took time. However, neither one of us perceived any difference between them. No, not even a hint of increased soundstage, imaging or anything else. And by the way replicated discs will outlast duplicated discs AND are more compatible with players.

Your customers are probably not upgrading their CD transports when they get your duplicated disc back. If they play the CD-R in the same player as they used when playing the replicated disc, there will be no change. Jitter is not a factor on a disc…it is a factor of the DAC in which it is played. None of the things you list on your site are factors as long as reasonable care is taken to play the discs…that means no fingerprints, no warped discs etc.

I did the tests…I spent over 6 hours evaluating your claims as represented by your processed disc. I was unable to verify any of your claims. I do think that you believe in your process. But you’ve convinced yourself of something that was not verifiable by my equipment and me. Perhaps others have been more successful.

The information on your site is hocus pocus IMHO. Even the diagram that tries to show a graphical explanation of jitter is incorrect. My report will be fair and I have been careful to applaud you and your openness in this whole affair. If you can make money doing this, my hat is off to you. You’re not the first one to pitch an audio tweak that is not verifiable.

Regards,

Mark”

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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.

(7) Readers Comments

  1. Kudos to you for taking the time to research this guy’s product. He may sincerely believe he is offering something of value…

  2. Mark Waldrep……..Dragon (ie: mythical beast) Slayer?

  3. Full disclosure first. There was a time when I’d have indulged in this sort of snake oil, purely because early CD reproduction equipment was so rough sounding and edgy. At that time there was motivation to try something, anything, that might improve the sonics. Today, of course, it’s a completely different issue and even quite inexpensive DACs are capable of quite superb sound quality.

    Therefore I think this sort of smoke and mirror stuff has had its day. I even sense that there’s a lot more scepticism surrounding cables these days. We’ve happily reached a point where these things simply matter a lot less. I’m quite happy to run my system through inexpensive Radio Shack interconnects and Home Depot speaker cable and it sounds absolutely phenomenal. Indeed, when I’ve tried a friend’s fancy Audioquest cable collection it all sounds measurably worse to my ears, probably because the cables are being over engineered when, in fact, simplicity of cable structure that’s unobtrusive to the signal is the way to go.

    The process with tweaks always seems to follow the same pattern. At first you notice a change in the sound, however small, and that may seem like an improvement, until further careful listening reveals you were better off without the system complications.

    This is such a great time to be into digital audio. My CD collection just keeps sounding better and better with each passing generation of DAC technology and, even better, I’m no longer spending money on silly peripheral upgrades that, as often as not, seem to actually detract from the music rather than enhancing it.

    All that being said, if you find some salvation in cables and pointing your CDs to magnetic North every morning then good luck to you. Hifi is all about opinions.

    • Chris, Are you sure you installed those Audioquest cables the right way? They have directional errows so the music can flow with the alignment of the molecular structure of the wire. 🙂

  4. Mark, my hat is off to you. You went to all that work to give an honest and complete test to a product you already knew was snake oil an still report in a very gentlemanly and PC way. I could never be so nice. Lol

  5. Mark, did you ever get a response on why the file sizes were different?

    • Yes, I did. Mark Goldstein told me, “One of the manipulations I do is to increase the length of the pits and lands in the burning process. However previously this only took up more space on the CD not more time.” I don’t remember being given an option for doing this process when I’ve burned CD-Rs…maybe I missed it. But the music between the original and the processed copy are identical in length but the file is actually longer…very curious. He might be doing an analog transfer but then the bits wouldn’t cancel each other.  

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