Add Ons To Warm Up Cd Sound

Remember the promise the record industry made when compact disks first appeared in 1982? They were supposed to sound as good as the original master tapes. But the truth is, many CDs have a harsh quality; they lack the tonal warmth of the venerable long-playing album. The sound of a string orchestra can be especially grating.

Don't despair. Starting with the CD player, there are many useful, even inexpensive "tweaks" that can enrich the sound of your disks. They improve the laser's ability to read data off the disk and maximize the transfer of sound from player to the rest of the system. "A CD will never sound like a record, but the gap is closing," says David Griffiths, a consultant at Audio Advisor in Grand Rapids.

By far the most important step is replacing the cables that connect the player to the amplifier or receiver. A poor cable can cause distortion or even loss of sound. Look for cables that use low-resistance materials and high-purity metals, which are better conductors. Expect to pay $50 per cable--and probably a great deal more, especially for those with gold-plated connectors. Robert Stein, owner of The Cable Co. in Upper Black Eddy, Pa., says you can dramatically improve sound by plugging your CD player into a $100 silver extension cord.

THRIFTY TIPS. Another easy upgrade: Install a set of feet--rubbery disks that fit underneath the CD player--to help absorb excess electrical energy and isolate unwanted vibration. At about $30 for four, the feet provide a cheap but audible improvement. You also might try CD stabilizer rings, which are circular, adhesive devices that attach to the disk and weigh it down to reduce wobble during play. The rings are about $1 each.

For $100, you can buy a Simply Physics Isodrive clamp, which goes inside the CD mechanism itself. The clamp helps stabilize the disk, reducing demands on the player's power supply, and ensuring that the laser will more accurately retrieve data.

There are all kinds of sprays and paints to apply to disks. CD Stoplight ($15) is an opaque green liquid that you put on the edges of the side the laser reads. The treatment helps cut refractions, which cause the laser to misread the music. Two clear sprays, Finyl and LaserGuide (also about $15), address the same problem.

And new ideas keep coming along. High-end audio journals discuss the merits of freezing CDs in liquid nitrogen. This changes the disks' molecular structure in a way that improves sound. So far, the idea is largely confined to the outer fringes of audiophilia. But with green paint and rubber feet already in the mainstream, such notions may not be far-out for long.

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