Tweaking CD’s

(Updated 2-25-03)

 

I am constantly amazed at the lack of CD tweaking in the high-end community. No one would dare play a record without the appropriate mat, clamp, cleaning the stylus, cleaning the record, setting the azimuth, overhang, tracking force and vertical tracking angle. Yet these same audiophiles take a new CD, stick it in a player and play it, as if that is all there is to do to get what’s on the disc. Every once in a while you read in a magazine that some reviewer greens the edges of the CD or maybe uses the Bidini Clarifier. That’s about it!!!!! It’s no wonder that lots of audiophiles think CDs can’t produce nowhere near record quality sound. The fact of the matter is that a properly tweaked CD playback system can produce very fantastic sound. CD tweaking is very overlooked because the digital information is thought by many to be very simple to decode. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Everything you do to a CD will change the sound, no matter how low of electrical jitter there is down stream. All the things I am suggesting you do are clearly audible on even low end systems (boom boxes). If you don’t hear a difference, maybe you don’t want to. The laser is an incredibly powerful light. Any splashing or messing with its beam and you have audible problems. The DVD players that I have played with are far more sensitive. Probably because of the stronger laser beam and the smaller pits. The things I suggest you try are as follows:
 
1. Lightly sand the outer and inner edge of the CD with sand paper (240 grit works fine) to remove the shine. This roughing of the edges stops a great deal of the laser reflections. This results in a more musical, natural and detailed playback.
 
2. Green or blacken the edges you just sanded and also green or blacken the top and bottom of the CD around the center hole where it is clear. Make sure you color into any centering grooves or hills. Because the laser is red everyone has assumed that you have to use a green marker to absorb the light. Black absorbs all colors and works very effectively. You want to use a marker that is opaque, doesn’t come off on your fingers and also does not peel off. Surprisingly cheap and effective is your basic black Sanford Sharpie marker. With this marker you need to go over each area several times to make it opaque. Doing this will give you even better sound.
 
3. Make 6 black or green lines on top of the CD a little less than one quarter inch wide. These lines run from the center of the CD to the edge (you are dividing the CD into six pieces of pie). You can still read the label with these lines. I got this idea from the Marigo Crossbow mat with it’s three wider lines. The spinning black lines really make a difference. You might experiment with other amounts of lines (3-8). Let me know what you think. More lines might work better or worse with the faster spinning DVD’s.
 
4. Apply the latest optical treatment to the playing side and the top of the CD. For years I used Finyl, then for 2 years I used Optrix then Auric Illuminator and now I really like Vivid by Walker Audio. If you want to treat a hybrid SACD then you must first use Mapleshade Mikrosmooth to remove a coating on the SACD that interacts badly with enhancers.
 
5. Remove static on the CD/SACD/DVD by using the Mapleshade Iconoclast. Works similarly to the Zerostat (generally used on records/LPs) but way more powerful. Puts out both positive and negative Ions to completely de-static the CD. According so some, works better than demagnetizing the CD with either the Bidini Clarifier or a bulk eraser. The Iconoclast can be used on your cables for better sound as well.
 
We do numbers one through five on every CD/SACD/DAD/DVD-A we listen to.
 
6. Damp the top of the CD with either of the press on damping goodies from Combak or Compact Dynamics (the Optrix Co.).
 
7. Try one of the latest mats. I personally never liked the Audioprism one but they have a new improved version. The only mat that I have tried and liked is the Marigo Crossbow mat. However, it made CDs and DVDs sound worse on the EVS modified Pioneer and Sony DVD players. Experiment as always.
 
8. Try the Peter Belt foils. We have not yet heard this ourselves but have heard about the Belt Phenomenon for years. Check out what Greg Weaver of Soundstage has to say about the Belt foils (April 99 and July 99 columns).
 
9. Try freezing your CDs. See Soundstages Greg Weavers info in his Dec 99 column.
 
10. Some people have said that copying a CD onto a "black" CDR sounds better.
 
11. Make copies on the best Yamaha ripper. Suppose to give burn larger pits that make them less sensitive to jitter. With first burning to hard disc and then burning the CDR with the Yamaha ripper people have said it gives improved sound.
 
So what do you get when you do most of the above inexpensive tweaks? Way more musical, natural and detailed sound, that’s all!!!
 
A very quickly done example below.
 
 
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