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A CD that cleans up after itself

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


A CD that cleans up after itself
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1994, The Syracuse Newspapers

Demonstration discs usually are the most boring CDs you can listen to. But I've heard one demo disc that at least has the good sense to clean up after itself. And it sounds good, too.

It's the "3 in 1 Utility Disc" from AudioSource, a small company that specializes in high-quality audio gear. In addition to some stunning musical tracks and a useful test segment, the AudioSource CD has a built-in lens cleaner that whisks the cobwebs from your player's inner sanctum.

It's also unusual in another way. The first time you look at the CD box (a bendable plastic container that is much easier to handle than a standard CD box), you'll probably do a double-take: They say "Dolby" on them.

That's what you usually see on an audio cassette tape, and sometimes you'll see it on a video tape.

The Dolby logo on the AudioSource CD stands for the Dolby company's movie-theater surround-sound system.

And that means the AudioSource CD contains multi-channel surround sound, with much better audio quality than you'll find on any videocassette tape.

Better yet, in addition to surround-sound music, the CD has a series of tests recorded in surround sound so you can adjust your home playback system for best results if you watch those rental movies through a home-theater audio system.

This is good news to audio fans who have upgraded their hi-fi systems to surround sound. Multi-channel audio systems can be very hard to set up properly—on nearly all the ones I've heard, for example, the rear channels are much too loud—but the step-by-step setup tracks on the AudioSource CD make everything easy.

The stereo tests on the CD are useful, too. They include test tones at different frequencies and signals that let you make sure the left and right sounds are coming out the proper side.

The Audiosource CD also has a special test so you can see if your speakers are vibrating in sync (it's called a polarity check), and even has a total-silence track so you can see how much hum and noise your CD player is adding to the music.

The music itself is wide-ranging and well-chosen. The CD would be ideal for comparing speakers in an audio store. (If speakers sound bad playing the music on this CD, they'll sound bad when you take them home and play the Stones or Rachmaninoff, too.)

The laser lens is a pair of tiny brushes that stick out on the playing side (the underside, as it turns out) of the disc. I don't know if it worked, since the lenses in my CD players were clean before I put the disc in and clean when I took it out.

So, in an attempt to perform a semi-scientific test, I asked a friend to try the "3 in 1" CD on a player that had stopped reading discs properly. He came back the next day and announced that his player was now working perfectly—and then admitted that he had also swabbed out the insides of the disc compartment with a Q-Tip just before he cleaned the lens with the AudioSource disc.

So much for science. Nobody else I know has a dirty player, so I'll just have to wait until dirt takes its toll. In the meantime, everything else about this CD is clearly worth having.

If you can't find the AudioSource "3 in 1 Utility Disc" at a store or by mail order, write to AudioSource at 1327 North Carolan Ave., Burlingame, CA 94010.


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