Monday, November 27, 2006

Clarifying the situation

I often tell friends and fellow audiophiles that I consider myself to be an open minded skeptic. I approach all new tweaks with a certain amount of skepticism but also with the view that it is possible that they do make a difference. The Bedini Dual Beam Clarifier was no different. Bedini’s contention is that the polymers of the CD hold a static electric charge. These static electric charges on the disc surface make it harder for the laser of a CD player to read the data, forcing the CD player to employ more error correction. Bedini suggests that both sides of the disc be treated for best results.

Before discussing the results a brief discussion on methodology is in order. There are a number of discs in my collection of which I have doubles. I chose discs where both copies had been purchased extremely close together with respect to time and also chose title that had small production runs. Thus minimizing the chance that they came from different production runs, or even entirely different production plants. I listened to them and the better sounding of the two (There always was one.) became the control disc (the one which would not be clarified) this put the Clarifier at a slight disadvantage. Then the worse sounding of the discs would have both sides of the disc clarified. It is well established that when presented with a choice between “A” and “B” people will have a slight natural tendency to chose “B” when things are close. In order to combat this bias I settled on an “A”-”B”-”A” format with “A” being the un clarified disc and “B” being the clarified disc. So that switches could be done as quickly as possible I clarified the “B” disc before starting to play “A.” While “B” was waiting to be played it was set on a ceramic coffee mug data side up, not in the CD case. The reason for this was that I felt that there was a possibility that the plastic in the case might affect the CD adversely, reintroducing the static charge that the Bedini was designed to remove. Ceramic is considered to be a great insulator and was therefore ideal for the task.

The first disc up was Ron Geesin/Roger Waters-”Music From The Body”, a soundtrack for a documentary on the workings of the human body. The last track on the disc, “Give Birth To A Smile” has guest musicians David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason in addition to Roger Waters. This makes it a Pink Floyd track as far as I’m concerned. The clarified CD had more impact to the bass guitar. The sibilance of Roger Waters vocals were also much more natural on the clarified disc. As the song fades out the female back up singers sing the chorus “Give Birth To A Smile.” On the un clarified disc the song ends on the word “birth” whereas on the clarified disc the listener could clearly hear “to.”

Next up was “Candy Coated Valentine” from Robinella and the CC Stringband’s self titled debut. On the non clarified disc the bass sounded thick and congested and the mandolin lacked a certain pluckiness and body. At the end of the number there is also some type of creaking (A chair maybe?) which is completely inaudible on the on the non clarified disc. The clarification process also gave a greater sense of sound staging depth to the performance. In particular the vocals and the instruments had better separation. The clarified disc also had more rhythmic dive in the bass.

The last track on the formal investigation was Robert Plant’s “All The King’s Horses” from his album “Mighty Rearranger” Again sibilance was much more clean on the clarified disc compared to it’s non clarified counterpart. On the non clarified disc an oddity occurs in the chorus when Robert Plant double tracks his vocals in order to sing harmony with himself. For whatever reason his vocals pull very slightly to the left of center. This does not occur on the clarified disc. There were some subtle electric guitar parts that became much easier to follow with the clarified CD. Again on this selection the vocals seem better separated from the instrumentation.

The Bedini consistently increases the separation between the vocals and backing instruments on every CD that I clarified. The Dual Beam also removed unwanted sibilance on all clarified CDs. Cymbals also just sound more metallic and had more shimmer around them, but this was by no means extra brightness. Many CDs that had always sounded a bit bright went through the Clarifier and were better for it. For what ever reason CDs that were from Columbia Record Club benefited disproportionately from being treated. Sheryl Crow’s “Tuesday Night Music Club” is a prime example of the Columbia phenomena . It’s a personal favorite that was sounding a bit flat, compressed, and digital lately. I had been thinking of buying a proper (non record club) copy now that may not be necessary. Whether this was because of some inherent flaw in their manufacturing process or because they are some of the oldest disc in my collection it is impossible to say. Although I may investigate this further in the future.


Reverend Chu said...

Whatever your comparisons were, they were sighted in nature. Did you ever consider doing this evaluation with someone else doing the switching?

audioexplorer said...

Yes, that is something that I have considered and to be honest I consider it a needless complication. Also I believe that being blind folded would raise the stress level of the subject (me) and change the results. I believe that my natural skepticism is enough to guard me against the placebo effect. I don't want to hear these differences so I'm as surprised as anyone else when they are there. When I look into something like this I usually guard myself against hearing other people's opinions about what it does for the sound until after I have performed my own evaluation. Then I compare my findings with the findings of others, more often than not they match.