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Tweakers' Asylum: REVIEW: Audio Deck Systeme CD Sound Improver Other by Sean

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REVIEW: Audio Deck Systeme CD Sound Improver Other Review by Sean at Audio Asylum

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This is a device which i found curious to say the least. I had read comments pertaining to it and they were all quite positive. Being an electronics tech by trade, i was rather skeptical to say the least. I work with measurements and data on a daily basis. Then again, i know enough about electronics to know that we don't know it all and that some things just aren't measurable.

For those that aren't familiar with it, let me give you a quick rundown on what it is and how it works. This is a small box, appr. the size of slightly thick-bodied "toaster" turned on it's side. The top has a clear cover so that you can watch what is going on while the unit is operating. The top section has a three sided "U" shaped frame with rear mounted hinges. The front section of the lid does not have framework and is open. This is necessary to operate part of the device when in use.

Under the cover near the back of the unit is a pulley attached to a motor that is mounted inside the base of the unit. The pulley is connected to a belt which drives the bottom turntable platter. On the platter is another removable machined aluminum plate. This acts as the upper section of the clamping device that holds the CD in place. There is another machined piece of metal that screws down into the spindle of the bottom platter and locks everything in place, much like a locking record clamp. Both the top and bottom sections of the CD platter are lined with some type of rubber or vinyl material so as not to scuff the CD.

In the front section of the box, which is the part that has the no frame support for the lid, a machined aluminum arm and handle stick out. This is spring loaded and pivots via manual pressure in towards the CD. The end that makes contact with the CD houses a user replaceable cutting edge. The cutting edge is quite sturdy and looks like it will last a long, long time. What the cutting edge does is multi-fold. It removes all burr's from the edge of the CD and tru's it. As you apply more pressure to the arm, it begins to bevel the edge of the CD at an angle. While I'm probably making it sound like you could end up with a real mess and quite a few destroyed discs until you got the hang of it, it's really quite simple.

Everything is built quite sturdily and everything anchored very well. There are adjustements for how far the blade sticks out, the angle that it cuts at, how deep it cuts, etc... The arm also has an adjustable "stop" mechanism so that all cd's are cut to the same size. As long as this is correctly adjusted, you can't dig into or gouge a cd.

As long as i'm talking about adjustments, the "manual" is basically a double sided piece of paper folded in half. It basically has a parts description and extremely basic rundown as to operate the unit. How to set up and make any of the adjustments is strictly up to the operator to figure out. Quite honestly, the "manual" is quite lacking and pretty much a joke. Good thing that they include a version in both English and German though.

While all of this sounds quite involved and just a little crazy, you also have a variable speed control on the front of the unit. This allows you to vary the speed of the motor as you apply more pressure to the cutting arm or to slow the disc down as needed. The manufacturer recommends and supplies a quick drying black marker to treat the edges of the disc with once it's been cut. You can do this quite easily while the disc is still clamped in the platter and the rotational speed reduced.

There is a small basin in the rear section of the unit. This was designed to catch the plastic shavings from the disc as they are removed. You can also insert a vacuum hose through a port on the rear panel that rests within the basin. There is a rubber seal that actually grips the vacuum nozzle and keeps it from sliding out of place. The power cord is also mounted on the rear of the unit. Cosmetically, the upper frame and base of the unit look pretty good. I don't know if the manufacturer supplies different colors or not, but this one was arrayed in a black and white speckle design. As noted, there is only one electrical control and it's the front mounted on / off / variable speed control on the front panel.

Sounds simple enough to operate, right ? Mount the disc, adjust the speed and move the arm until it's done GOUGING the edge of the CD. Yikes. This does sound scary.

Bes, from Audio Direct where i purchased the unit, began by playing me two identical discs. One disc that was "stock" and then one that had been "circumsized". Not being familiar with the recording or the system and not enough time to become familiar with either, i had to jump into the fire and enjoy it. The system consisted of a Pioneer DVD player, Mantissa Preamp, tube power amp ( ??? ) with a Monster 3500 power filter. Didn't recognize speaker cables, but the speakers were Von Schwiekert VR-4's. Keep in mind that we did very quick "sound bytes" and then swapped discs. My initial impression was that the "circumsized" disc offered a much more open sound with greater clarity. It was noticeable and NOT imagined even if the listening periods were quite short and under adverse conditions.

Bes then proceeded to grab two identical discs. We took one over to the "cutter" and he fired the unit up. First of all, this thing spins incredibly fast when running at full throttle. Audio Desk claims 9000 RPM !!! Since we didn't have a vacuum handy, we winged it. Quite honestly, i was utterly surprised at how much material was being trimmed and flying around inside the machine. I can see how a vacuum would come in handy. Bes then proceeded to pop the "stock" disc into the system and i listened for a little longer than the first time. Out came the first and in went the modified disc. Everything was sharper sounding, had more focus, notes were cleaner, etc...

After Bes packed the unit up and i got it home : ) I proceeded to sit my girlfriend down. I did this for two reasons. First of all, she had no idea or preconcieved notions as to what to expect. Second of all, she hates this stuff and if she was biased, would be towards the negative. If she did notice a difference and like it, it would surely confirm my earlier findings. We took a disc that she was familiar with and listened to it on my HT system. I then took it out and proceeded to "do the dirty deed" and trim the edges with the Audio Desk Systeme. Once it was back in, she and i both instantly noticed most of the same things. I did not say anything to influence her opinons and ask her what she thought. Her comments were, "it sounds more open and clearer". Those were my initial observations also. Not to mention that the soundstage was more vivid.

Being the sceptic that she is when it comes to audio gadgets, she said that she wanted to compare two identical discs. I wanted to do the same thing, so i hunted around and found something that i had two of. I proceeded to "cut" one disc and left the other alone. I loaded both discs into the changer and proceeded to listen to the "stock" disc for a baseline. We picked a song for reference and hunkered down. After she felt familiar with it, i hit the remote and loaded up the treated disc. There was a DEFINITE difference. Most noticeably, the vocals were smoother and had more air around them. During the mellow sections of this specific tune, it almost seemed faster than the untreated disc. Once the chorus section kicked in, there was far greater seperation of intstruments, more air, a wider yet fuller soundstage, etc.. We switched back to the stock disc as fast as the changer would go. Everything sounded slightly blurred, especially during the chorus. Nothing had as much definition and everything was kind of jumbled together.

The "cutter" definetly added detail, definition and resolution to the system. We both agreed that, but in slightly different wording : ) One thing bothered my girlfriend though. She thought that the speed of the discs was different. We went back and listened to them again, using different songs for reference. We concluded that the "slower" disc was the stock disc. Bass notes seemed to hang on longer but with poorer definition. It made the recording sound slower and muddier, hurting the pace of the tune. The treated disc had better attack and sounded sharper without losing any of the all too precious harmonic content. Many "fast" systems tend to sacrifice harmonic structure and "musicality" for detail and the ability to "etch" each individual note. That wasn't happening here though.

For the first two discs that we treated at home, my girlfriend would not let me use one of her discs. After she witnessed the results, she asked to do one of her discs. We proceeded to listen to it and then i cut it using the Audio Desk Systeme. As i started to apply cutting pressure to the arm, we heard a horrible noise come from the machine. I looked at my girlfriend and saw a look of horror on her face. "Now my disc is screwed, right ?!?! " she said as i inspected it. As it turns out, i didn't tighten the clamp down enough and the disc was slipping inside the clamp. There were no physical signs of damage, so I tightened the clamp up and proceeded back to cutting. Popped the disc into the player and we proceeded to notice the same differences as the previous times. There was far greater spaciousness, the seperation of voice and instruments was improved, the presentation was smoother and far more liquid, etc...

I proceeded to take one of the treated discs and play it in another system that i have and confirmed the observations that we had made previously. That makes three different transports & systems with the same results. This tells me that it is basically a "universal good" and not susceptible to system dependency problems. For the record, i listed the system that we did most of the comparisons on first and then the other one that i verfied the results on second.

There are only two possible drawback that i see to using the Audio Desk Systeme. The first and biggest one is the added detail, clarity, resolution and open-ness that it offers. If listening to music that is "dark" or heavily distorted by nature, cleaning up the retrieval process can actually DETRACT from what your used to hearing. In all honesty, some of the "mud" adds a certain flavor that lends itself quite amicably to what your listening to. On certain types of music and specific discs, i DO think that mid-fi works better than hi-resolution. I know that some will agree with that point while others will argue with me. To each their own. I WILL be selective as to what discs i end up "cutting".

The other is that the vacuum recovery system doesn't work very well. Even with a relatively powerful vacuum hooked up to it, the majority of shavings remained inside the machine until i manually took the vacuum hose loose and siphoned up all the loose material. Adding some type of gasket or seal where the lid and base meet and then partially closing up the front section of the lid would probably make a drastic difference. This is really a minor point and does not affect the operation or performance of the unit in the least.

I will say that i would heartily recommend this device and procedure without hesitation to anyone that listens to folk, jazz, acoustic, classical, new age, choral, opera, etc... type music. While it will certainly let you hear down into the bottom of the recording on some pop, rock, reggae, etc... type recordings, you might not really want to. Then again, it might just take little getting used to on my end.

I went into this venture as a skeptic. I am fully convinced of the benefits of "disc tru-ing & shaving" with NO doubts in my mind whatsoever. Sean

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Topic - REVIEW: Audio Deck Systeme CD Sound Improver Other Review by Sean at Audio Asylum - Sean 00:10:19 08/5/00 ( 11)