Improve CD Sound By Shaving?

We always enjoy the odd things that people do to try to get better audio reproduction. Exotic cables, special amplifiers, and higher resolution digitization come to mind.  Most of this is dubious, at best, but [Techmoan] brings up something we must have missed back in the day: shaving CDs with a gadget that was marketed as the “CD Sound Improver.” The theory is that bad CD reproduction comes from light scatter of the laser. The solution, according to the maker of this vintage equipment, is to cut a 36-degree bevel to act as a light trap. You can see the gadget in the video below.

The device claims it reduced vibration, improved audio, and even helped DVDs playback better video. As you might imagine, this has little hope of actually working. The box is essentially a motor-driven turntable, a razor blade, and a port for a vacuum cleaner to suck up the mess. You were told to color the edge with a marker, too.

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Retrotechtacular: 1990s CD Mastering Fit For A King

Before it was transformed into an ephemeral stream of ones and zeroes, music used to have a physical form of some kind. From wax cylinders to vinyl discs to tapes of various sizes in different housings and eventually to compact discs, each new medium was marketed as a technological leap over the previous formats, each of which justified incrementally more money to acquire.

But that’s the thing — each purchase resulted in you obtaining a physical item, which had an extensive manufacturing and distribution process behind it. And few artists demanded more manufacturing effort than Michael Jackson in his heyday, as revealed by this in-depth look at the CD manufacturing process for The King of Pop’s release of the HIStory double-disc set in 1995.

The video was produced as sort of a love letter to Michael from the staff and management of the Sony Music disc manufacturing plant in Pittman, New Jersey. The process is shown starting with the arrival of masters to the plant, strangely in the form of U-matic videocassettes; the 3/4″ continuous loop tape was normally used for analog video, but could also be used for recording digital audio. The digital audio is then sent for glass mastering, which is where the actual pits are created on a large glass disc under cleanroom conditions. In fact, much of the production process bears a strong similarity to semiconductor manufacturing, from the need for cleanrooms — although under less stringent conditions than in a fab — to the use of plasma etching, vapor deposition, and metal plating operations.

Once the master stampers are made, things really ramp up in replication. There the stamper discs go into injection molding machines, where hot polycarbonate is forced against the surface under pressure. The copies are aluminized, spin-coated with UV-cure lacquer, and sent on down the line to testing, screen printing, and packaging. Sony hired 40 extra full-time workers, who appear to have handled all the tedious manual tasks like assembling the jewel cases, to handle the extra load of this release.

As cheesy as this thank-you video may be, it was likely produced with good reason. This was a time when a Michael Jackson release was essentially a guarantee of full employment for a large team of workers. The team was able to produce something like 50,000 copies a day, and given that HIStory sold over 20 million copies, that’s a lot of workdays for the good folks at Pittman.

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Wooden Disc Player Translates Binary Back Into Text

[jbumstead] used MATLAB to convert the text messages into binary to be cut out of the disk.
[jbumstead] wanted to demonstrate the idea of information-storing devices such as LPs, CDs, and old hard drives. What he came up with lies directly at the intersection of art and technology: an intricately-built machine that plays beautiful collaged wooden disks. Much like the media that inspired the Wooden Disk Player, it uses a laser to read encoded data, which in this case is short bits of text like “Don’t Panic”.

These snippets are stored in binary and read by a laser and photodiode pair that looks for holes and not-holes in the disk. The message is then sent to an Arduino Nano, which translates it into English and scrolls the text on an LED matrix. For extra fun, the Nano plays a MIDI note every time it reads a 1, and you can see the laser reading the disk through a protective acrylic shield.

Though the end result is fantastic, [jbumstead] had plenty of issues along the way which are explored in the build video after the break. We love it when people show us their mistakes, because it happens to all of us and we shouldn’t ever let it tell us to stop hacking.

If anyone knows their way around lasers, it’s [jbumstead]. We loved playing their laser harp at Supercon!

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The CD Is 40, The CD Is Dead

The Compact Disc is 40 years old, and for those of us who remember its introduction it still has that sparkle of a high-tech item even as it slides into oblivion at the hands of streaming music services.

There was a time when a rainbow motif was extremely futuristic. Bill Bertram (CC BY-SA 2.5)
There was a time when a rainbow motif was extremely futuristic. Bill Bertram (CC BY-SA 2.5)

If we could define a moment at which consumers moved from analogue technologies to digital ones, the announcement of the CD would be a good place to start. The public’s coolest tech to own in the 1970s was probably an analogue VCR or a CB radio, yet almost overnight they switched at the start of the ’80s to a CD player and a home computer. The CD player was the first place most consumers encountered a laser of their own, which gave it an impossibly futuristic slant, and the rainbow effect of the pits on a CD became a motif that wove its way into the design language of the era. Very few new technologies since have generated this level of excitement at their mere sight, instead today’s consumers accept new developments as merely incremental to the tech they already own while simultaneously not expecting them to have longevity.
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CD Execution Chamber Sends Old Discs Off With A Bang

Welded steel safety cage? Check! Polycarbonate blast shield? Check! Vacuum cleaner motor wired to an inviting red button? Double check! Stack of CDs to dispose of as destructively as possible? [Firas Sirriyeh] has got you covered with his CD Terminator 1.0.

While [Firas’s] build log is a little short on descriptive text, there’s really no need for it. His pictures tell the tale. The combination media shredder and interactive performance art piece is a stoutly constructed affair, which you’d want anything capable of flinging razor-sharp plastic and Mylar shrapnel to be. [Firas] has displayed his CD execution chamber at the Jerusalem Mini Maker Fair 2015 (in Hebrew; English link) and the Musara Mix Festival where the must-see video after the break was shot (mildly NSFW language). Some CDs give up the ghost very quickly, but one held out for a remarkable long time before finally exploding; you can see it flexing and warping in a way that almost appears to be slow-motion.

For those who’d rather not fuss with all that bothersome safety, there’s always this automatic CD launcher to play with.

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CD launcher

Fully-Automatic CD Launcher Looks Dangerously Fun

When [JZSlenker] was challenged to find a creative way to destroy a bunch of compact discs that were burned incorrectly, he did not disappoint. He came up with a rather simple but fun contraption that launches the CD’s at high speeds and with a fast rate of fire. He doesn’t share many details about how this machine was built, but the 18 second video makes it pretty obvious how it works.

The CD gun is built mainly from a piece of plywood. This provides a flat base with which to mount the other components. A stack of compact discs is held in place by what appears to be a metal cage that was welded together. An inexpensive angle grinder is used as the propulsion mechanism. The grinding wheel is mounted just in front of the stack of CD’s in a vertical orientation. The wheel must be placed just high enough above the plywood base for a CD to fit in between the wheel and the base. This design is remarkably similar to the Sticker Gun which our own [Brian Benchoff] is building.

Some type of linear actuator is used as the firing mechanism. The actuator is hooked up to a thin piece of metal, cut into an L shape. It almost looks like a reaper tool. When a button is pressed, the actuator fires instantly. This pushes the metal hammer into the CD on the bottom of the stack. The CD is pressed forward into the grinder wheel which then shoots the CD into the air. Based on the below video, it looks like [JZSlenker] is able to fire at a rate of about three CD’s per second with this rig.

This has got to be a super-villain weapon for an upcoming movie, right? Maybe AOL-man?

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CD-ROM POV Clock

clock

[Kyle] wanted to try something new. A Persistence of Vision Clock using a CD-ROM drive.

We have covered lots of POV Clocks that make use of hard drives, but we think this is the first time we have seen a CD-ROM drive used instead. [Kyle] points out that CD-ROM drives are typically much quieter than hard drives, which is the main reason he chose the CD-ROM route.

At the heart of this project is a good old ATMEGA168 and an RGB LED strip for the lights. To measure and maintain the rotational speed of the clock [Kyle] used an IR photodiode that detects a reference mark on the disc. An elegant build of a classic POV Clock, with a new twist!

The cool thing about this project is he did not actually use the CD-ROM drive like you think he would — he chucked the spindle motor and instead is spinning the disk using the tray ejection motor! He did this so he could control the motor by PWM straight off the microcontroller, whereas the spindle motor would require an IC and a varying control signal with specific voltage amplitudes.

He also experimented with different backgrounds and background lighting, which you can see in the video after the break!

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