I just opened my fortune cookie that came with my meal tonight. It said: "Others appreciate your expressive qualities." It seems my fortune cookie is wrong. You guys don't appreciate my expressive qualities while I'm trying only to find my way through the audiophile wasteland to have a reasonable cost music reproduction system that I can enjoy in my little home.
I'm not a salesman. I have never been employed in the audio business. I'm not a practicing electronic engineer anymore, so I rarely do measurements. I do have a Master's Degree in Electronic Engineering, so I am in a position to better understand many complex audio and electronic issues than are most people. I know for sure that there is still a lot about audio engineering that most "engineers" and technicians don't understand or appreciate well, including myself. It's not a black and white science. There are lots of gray areas, and trade-offs in design. Measurements can be useful, but can also be a trap where you think only what you know how to measure, and can measure, is important. We need to have open minds, apply broad engineering and physics principles, use common sense, and search for the truth, or at least what pleases us. You may think you are using common sense by presuming that a disc conditioner can't possibly produce any benefit for digital data, but this conclusion you are drawing is based upon a flawed or deficient understanding of CD audio system design and implementation. As I said before, in most cases the digital audio data being read from the disc is not being altered by UltraBit Platinum conditioning. Bits changing as a common cause for benefit isn't sensible since the benefits to the sound are essentially continuous and consistent.
Those of you who say "treatment" of the disk can't have any impact at all are sadly mistaken. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the optical system can and does have significant impact on sound quality in most systems, and I well understand a variety of mechanisms of physics and electronics that can cause many different deleterious effects. As someone once said to me about audio reproduction, about the only thing that doesn't matter is the brand of batteries in your remote control. I hope to see active audio engineers further take to task the problems of poor digital audio reproduction that still commonly exist today. I believe UltraBit Platinum is a good tool to help expose some of those problems, so in that regard I am rooting for its success in the marketplace. This is a fifth generation CD cleaner and conditioner product for Digital Systems & Solutions, not including the hundreds of experimental trials. Not only does this formula provide better results, it is also easier to use than prior versions. There are many other CD conditioner products and other CD tweaks on the market. All these designers aren't nuts, and its not all in their heads. When you can use an ultra-expensive, ultra-high-end CD player (I'm not), or a low cost DVD player, and in both cases find a big improvement by using UltraBit Platinum conditioned CDs, there is something seriously wrong with conventional digital audio engineering theory, practice, or implementation.
Reduction in clocking jitter is probably providing part of the benefits from UltraBit Platinum conditioning. The original CD Audio design has a MAJOR flaw in that they made the DAC the slave to the CD-Drive, when they should have made the DAC the master, and the CD-Drive the slave. The correct way to design it would have been to feed a master high precision, highly stable clock directly to the DAC, and vary the speed of the CD drive to maintain data in the buffer feeding the DAC. Instead CD players were designed such that the DAC had to synchronize to the derived clock provided by an asynchronous CD drive, often using phase-lock loops to provide the DAC with its clock. This mistake and problem was, and still may be today, a major source of bad digital sound. A lot of fancy engineering has been done to reduce the problem, but I believe it often still exists with jitter spectrum feeding back down into many parts of the audio spectrum. I wish it had been designed right in the first place.
In a conventionally stamped commercial CD, the laser being used to read the data is refracted, reflected, and dispersed all over the place inside the CD and inside the drive enclosure, as the bumps that represent the data pass over the laser. Some of the errant laser light bouncing around gets back into the optical sensors and causes noise and transients. This noise and transients get fed into the amplifiers that are part of the detection and servo tracking circuitry. These are not digital signals at
this point -- they are analog signals. Filters separate the desired signal from most of the noise. The signal is still affected by the noise though, as is the EMI/RFI environment inside the player, plus the ground, and the power supply are all affected. Also, unless the designer has produced a design where the drive is the slave to the DAC (and a bunch of other extreme isolation techniques), to some degree the clock signal feeding the DAC will still be affected with jitter that accumulates and feeds down into the audio spectrum. I am eager to find out what factors are dominant in providing the UltraBit Platinum benefits. Is it jitter mostly? Is it EMI/RFI mostly? Is it power supply degradation? Is it ground degradation? Is it AC power line degradation? Is it reduction of effects from static electricity buildup on a spinning disc? Is it some other physics property that I don't understand? Is it some flaw in the digital signal processing? It's a mystery to me, but there are lots of possibilities, and I believe that the benefits of UBP come from a bunch of different mechanisms of interaction.
I do understand well the power of the human mind to be fooled, and how expectations, presumptions, and prejudices can affect our perceptions. I don't think I've been fooled by UltraBit Platinum. I hope I can enlighten a few people as to its possibilities. I would really like to see the audio community as a whole make some leaps of progress so this hobby isn't so damn hard. We should be able to just focus on the music and the performance, and forget about our equipment and tweaks. That's my goal, but the audio world still seems to be far from making that goal achievable.
If you believe digital audio is infallible, then you are probably unaware of how often major commercial digital and analog audio products, both equipment and recordings, get something so fundamental as absolute-polarity wrong. (Equipment may be the dominant cause of problems - some audio engineers even believe that audio polarity is inaudible and therefore unimportant.) For those people who can hear audio polarity, with well recorded musical performances, and good speakers, getting the absolute-polarity right is critical to achieving a high quality of reproduction. This is a problem area of digital audio that I was unaware of till a few years ago. I just thought they got it right, and that if I hooked up my equipment as per instructions, I'd be fine. Nope, I wasn't fine. Correct absolute-polarity can make a huge difference. The designer of UltraBit Platinum made me aware of this. Playing with one polarity and then the reverse, can often make one recording sound like two drastically different recordings. It's amazing. One way usually sounds much more natural and pleasing, with improved staging and focus. The correct polarity sometimes provides a listening experience that is much closer to analog recordings that are familiar from many years of listening. I've had experiences when the polarity is corrected that are: Aaaahhh, there's the recording that I still remember well from the 60's and 70's playing vinyl records. Inverted polarity can cause a diffuse sound, and some instruments or voices will sound unnatural. Hearing and getting the maximum benefits of correct absolute-polarity requires speakers that have good phase-coherence and time-alignment, otherwise it's messed up anyway and then there is no such thing as truly correct absolute-polarity. Unfortunately, a lot of mainstream speaker systems get phase coherence very wrong -- witness the step-response graphs in Stereophile magazine speaker reviews. It's rare to see good step response. If you don't have absolute polarity correct, any other conclusions you draw regarding component performance may be invalid. Since most audio equipment doesn't offer a polarity switching control, it may be necessary to switch connections at one end of your speaker cables (red to black & black to red) on both channels, or use a sound editor on a computer (such as GoldWave which makes it very easy to do batch inversions of all sound tracks), to experiment with polarity inversion.
Anyway, my point is that there is a lot wrong in the audiophile and audio engineering world, and fixing some of these wrongs can provide major benefits without building or buying ultra expensive equipment. UltraBit Platinum helps alleviate a wrong. It's not the cure, but I believe it can be a substantial help for many music lovers.
Digital Systems & Solutions is offering to give you your money back plus an extra five dollars if you don't like UltraBit Platiunm and return it, plus cover shipping cost both ways. That's a lot of confidence in their product. I challenge you to try it, and see if you reject it and return the product to earn five dollars. If you do try it, make sure you follow directions carefully. All surfaces of the CD need to be treated and polished including the inner and outer edges, and even the label side. For some extra benefit, treat it a second time. And if you really want to go crazy, try treating the optical lens inside the CD/DVD drive. (But make sure it's unplugged, and be aware that you may be invalidating your warranty, and risking damage to the drive. At least one person has tried this and claimed it provided further improvement.).
Thanks, DulcetTones, for the link to the Specifying the Jitter Performance of Audio Components article.
Try to have open ears and an open mind guys, and please don't kill the messenger. Reality is what it is.