Unreadable CDs: unscientific testing

I recently purchased a batch of "slightly used" CD's from a local record shop. They all looked good in terms of physical condition, not having any noticeable scuffs or scratches. As it turns out, one of the discs was damaged.

Appr 2:20 into the fifth song, the DVD player in my HT system ( Sony DVP-C650D ) started dropping out. There were a few momentary losses of signal and then it went back to playing normally. Since this was the first time i'd ever played this disc, i took it out and re-inspected it. As i noted upon initial inspection, the disc looked fine. Now to try and solve the problem. Enter "Stage One" of the "test".

My "non audiophile / civilian" girlfriend was also in the room and was curious as to what i was going to do. I started off by doing my "normal routine" when this happens. Normally, this occurs with DVD's that i've rented, so i tried my "old standby" of washing the disc. Using luke warm water and the "audiophile approved" formula of Palmolive Anti-Bacterial dishwashing liquid, i proceeded to wash the disc and pat it dry. This has NEVER failed me before so long as the disc was not "mangled" or severely mistreated. Like most of you, i've found that dirt, dust, fingerprints, etc... are the prime cause of disc distortion / misreading.

Back into the player it went. At this point, my girlfriend asked if i was going to "Bendini" the disc. I explained that the Bedini Ultra Clarifier worked on neutralizing static and that running it under the water should have taken care of that. As such, there was no need for me to use the Bedini. I cued up the fifth song and let it play. No signs of anything being better or worse, the disc began to skip and stutter at the same points. Cleaning the disc had gotten me nowhere except for now having "anti-bacterial" clean hands.

I decided to try something that i don't normally do and basically dislike. This would give me some idea as to the validity of claims made by both friends and customers of mine. That is, the old "marker the edges" trick. While Rodney at AA had shown that markering the edges of a disc actually increased reading errors and read times via testing that he performed, i've spoken to WAY too many "believers" to completely discount the theory. Quite a few folks have told me that they had taken unreadable discs, markered the edges and had a readable disc. Well, since i had just cleaned the disc, the marker seemed all too logical. Onto "Stage Two".

Using the marker that was supplied with my Audio Desk Systeme "Disc Cutter", i applied a layer of marker on the outer and inner edges of the disc. I re-applied another layer "just to make sure". After letting it dry for a few seconds, back into the player it went. This was now the third attempt to read track five and my girlfriend was now becoming familiar with this specific tune and sound of the recording.

At almost exactly 2 minutes into the disc, the sound dropped out. Not momentarily either. It then popped back on and popped right back out. This continued for several severe drop-outs. On some occassions, i could literally hear the laser making several passes trying to read the disc with no luck whatsoever. Needless to say, the disc was now in FAR worse shape. Not only was it dropping out FAR more frequently, it was also dropping out FAR more severely. Instead of being a momentary "glitch" i now had a disc that was "blanking" for up to several seconds at a time. While this was NOT good, it basically confirmed Rodney's findings and verified my previous thoughts on the subject.

At this point, my girlfriend asked if i was going to "cut" the disc using my Audio Desk Systeme. I replied no and then went for my supply of Auric Illuminator ( Stage Three ). For those that aren't familiar with this product, it is a "creme" based solution that is lightly applied to both sides of the disc and cleaned up. Upon initial use, the creme turns into a haze and then you have to buff the disc using supplied cloths to the point of a "glistening shine". You do the label side first and then the "data" side.

While i've had this stuff for quite some time, i had never really used it a whole bunch or done any specific "testing" with it. I figured that this would be perfect chance to see if it really worked as the manufacturer and some end users had stated. Typical comments are that AI "reduces glare, grain, etc... and increases focus". While i had thought that i had noticed some slight benefits when initially tring it, the differences were not "staggering" by any means. The manufacturer ( Audience )also recommend "markering" the edges before applying the creme, so that step was already covered via "stage two". They also state that Auric Illuminator ( AI ) is usable for both laser discs and DVD's.

After following the directions included with the AI kit, i popped the CD back into the DVD player and sat down. I hit the remote and the fifth track began to play. I instantly noticed that the sound was more "cohesive" and "cleaner". Cymbals were sharper and more defined, loosing most of their "splash" & "smear". Vocals seemed more "fluid" and i could now pick out the lyrics with less effort. Everything now sounded "less strained". My girlfriend, who had now heard the beginning of this song four times, stated that everything sounded "sharper" but "more pleasant". While my first response was "this stuff DOES work", i was REALLY wanting to see how it did on the "drop-outs". Boy, was i in for a shock.

Not only did the disc NOT drop out as severely, it did not drop out AT ALL !!!! The player kept pumping out music continuously with nary a care in the world. No drop-outs, stutters, distortion, digital ring, etc... Not only had the Auric Illuminator taken care of the initial drop-outs that i had experienced, it also overcame the "markered edges" that seemed to DRASTICALLY heighten the problem. I was REALLY impressed to say the least and so was my girlfriend. The fact that it made the disc readable was good enough for me. The fact that it also improved the sound of what was already there was simply a BONUS !!!

Needless to say, i let the disc play and just sat back and enjoyed it. For the record, my next attempt ( Stage Four )would have been to "cut" the disc on my Audio Desk Systeme to see if this would have helped. My previous experience tells me that while it might not have "solved" the problem, it probably would have helped. Even if it was just by removing the marker on the outer edge of the disc, i would have at least been back to having momentary glitches instead of extended drop-outs. I'll probably do that later, but i first want to make sure that the disc continues to play correctly before "butchering it".

Please don't take this as an "all out endorsement" of Auric Illuminator" as a cure-all for ALL discs that are unreadable or have problems. I have NO idea as to its' total effectiveness or how long the "cure" will last. I intend to try playing this disc again several times within the next few days. I assume that if the disc can play correctly for the next week, it will probably work fine anytime after that. I'll keep you posted via this thread, so check back in a week or two.

In the meantime, how about posting some thoughts / ideas / experiences with what you've done to solve similiar problems and how they've worked out for you. Please be as specific as possible in terms of what you used, how long it lasted, any side effects or noticeable "bonuses", etc... I think that ALL of us have a few discs that we would like to be able to "salvage" or "resurrect" from the "digital graveyard". Sharing our experiences may allow some of us to do that. Sean

Sean, when I first started reading, I thought, why this long rigmarole on a minor problem, but I am glad I read to the end and hence apologies for my "evil thoughts". I bought a set of the Auric stuff, which was offered here at Audiogon the other day. It was at half price and thus helped to override my scepticism, which said, rather spend the lolly on good software. Well, I have a disk of Kinky Freedman, which gave me the same trouble as you described, but no more after the treatment and my lady of the house practically doubled what your lady said. So there you are.

P.S. Its the Auric people, who also do an extensive mod of the Sony 777ES SACD/CD player. I'm expecting mine back within the next 10 days or so and shall report under the appropriate thread, once the thing is run in.
Thank for the great post, Sean. Like Detlof I'm glad I read on. I actually tired the auric illuminator on a disc when people were visiting. One guest shook his head and said if you told me this I wouldn't believe but I heard it from the first note....the disc was Lyle Lovett "live In Texas" the disc became more analogue like in its presentaion, less hot, more focused and more compelling to listen to. I have a massive attack that skips. I'll have to try it on that. I only treat certain cds but it appears to work very well..cheers. Lloyd
Recently, I've been buying a lot of used CD's. I use the Auric stuff on CD's that misbehave. I almost always works. For those CD's that were used for beach frisbee, I've had success with an automotive plastic polish kit.
sean: another classic post. BRAVO! i wish i'd read it and purchased auric's potion before last thursday. it was then i rented the dvd of "wit," a beautifully written and acted movie. the last minute of the disc would not play, no matter what i tried to clean it and replay it. more of a downer than the movie. so i'm buying some now and keeping it on hand. i may even try some on cd's. ;^] -cfb
Interesting post Sean. I had the same problem with a CD but used Mapleshade's Micro Smooth to fix it. Oddly, this CD played fine in my Classe .3 ,but my CDT-1 had a problem with it. Go figure.....
Check this one out. After sharing the results that i posted here with my brother, he told me of another "budget cure" that one of his "gearhead" ( muscle car fanatic ) buddies came up with.

After trying to play a disc that kept skipping and "erroring out" in his "el cheapo" garage system, John (my brother's friend ) took the disc out and tried "cleaning" it with some automotive "rubbing compound". He basically followed the same method as what Auric recommends. Rub the stuff on, it hazes up and then rub it off until fully polished. Amazingly, the disc played and has played fine ever since. According to my brother Blake, they've done this on quite a few discs with excellent results. I would have to imagine that these discs are in HORRIBLE shape, as these "backyard mechanics" typically leave the discs lying around in the garage out of the jewel boxes, etc... I've seen tools sitting on top of them, food spills, picking up the discs with REALLY greasy hands, etc...

I guess we know what to try if all else fails... : ) Sean

PS.... You guys are right. MAN, that is a "novel". Sorry.....
Sean -- could you check out the name of that automotive "rubbing compound"?

Yeah, i can do that.

Sheesh... We might start seeing "rubbing compound" marketed as "Audiophile Approved" now... : ) Sean
Great idea! How 'bout certifying, too -- as in "Cisco, MS certified", etc?

Sean are you sure it was RUBBING compound? I would think that POLISHING compound was used which is far less abrasive. I've even heard of toothpaste being applied, dunno what brand but again it would have to contain only a fine grit abrasive.
Bob, my brother is going to check on EXACTLY what it was that they used. I thought that the exact same thing that you did, but he was almost certain that it was rubbing compound.

As to my "testing", the disc that was reading fine after the application of Auric Illuminator is now back to skipping. As such, i have to wonder if another application of AI would "temporarily" solve the problem again ??? My next test will be to "cut" the CD using my Audio Desk Systeme. What this device does is:

1) Make sure that the disc is perfectly round by trimming the edges.

2) Improves the balance of the CD at high spin speeds

3) Removes burrs, pressing flash, etc... from the edge of the disc.

4) Bevels the edge of the disc. This is "supposed to" reduce laser diffraction


5) In this specific case, it will remove the marker on the edges that was previously applied. Since applying marker increased the amount of errors and problems that were occuring, i will not re-apply it even though the makers of the Audio Desk Systeme specify to do so in the instructions.

Once this is done, i hope that it will solve the problem. Either way, it's been kind of a learning experience for me. As a point in reference, the disc continues to read in another of my transports, so it is not a total loss ( all $6.99 of it....) Sean