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Jena Labs Esoteric 3D-X Digital Disc Treatment Review

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Jena Labs' Esoteric 3D-X disc treatment system

What would you think of a product that comes with a half-sheet filled with warnings such as, “ATTENTION! SAFETY WARNING!! AFTER USE, PLEASE DISPOSE…IN A SAFE MANNER!” What kind of audio product is worth risking life and limb? Those are legally necessary alarms considering the object in question is a pin taped to a piece of paper cautioning in giant letters, “SHARP OBJECT!” It seems Jena Labs has tried to cover all the bases (including people with deficiencies in common sense) with its Esoteric 3D-X Disc Enhancer kit for CD/SACD/DVD. It is a new formulation, a replacement for their Esoteric Mist treatment.

Purchased Direct from Jena Labs on their website, or through their dealers, the Esoteric 3D-X Disc Enhancer comes in three options yielding different supplies of 3D-X and complementary supplies.

The standard kit contains a 4 oz. bottle of Esoteric 3D-X, forty application pads, fifty polishing pads, and a plastic box to hold the “in use” application pad – oh yes, and the much warned about pin! As a bonus, for your $80 it comes in a nifty mini metallic “lunch box” of the sort that those old enough to have grown up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s saw too often! I appreciated the storage box as I was only able to treat a few discs at a time and found myself constantly moving to a different spot when treating discs. Since this treatment system is not based on a sloppy liquid, I was able to work on discs pretty much anywhere I desired.

The other two levels of kits are at $40 for the two ounce version and $275 for the industrial strength-sized 16 oz. kit, which also has a bottle of Jena Labs Contact Enhancer. Again, warnings are issued profusely in regard to the Contact Enhancer not to be used in conjunction with any metallic-based contact treatment. Also clarified is the fact that, “non-metallic system shorts are not possible with our contact enhancing formula.” I asked point blank if one could treat IC’s, insert them, and power up a component; I was assured there is no risk.

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To give some sense of how far a bottle of 3D-X will stretch in treating discs, one has to be mindful first that, some will, no doubt, squander the substance by putting onto discs more than the small pearl sized amount recommended. I was conservative with the formula and found that if one treated successive discs there was residual carryover of the polish on the pad and less was used. I estimate pretty conservatively that a 4 oz. bottle can handily treat between 200 and 225 CD’s.

If Jena Labs has covered the warnings, what you need to cover are all your discs with the white Esoteric 3D-X treatment to hear the astounding difference it will make in listening! And I do mean astounding. They are absolutely correct when they claim that it, “wrings heretofore unimagined performance from all optical media.”

I recall the first time I heard an audiophile suggest cleaning/treating a CD. The idea sounded insane; why clean a perfectly pristine surface? Yes, the disc as it comes from the manufacturer is clean and dry. But it is not in the best state to be played on a CDP. I have seen plenty of explanations as to why a disc sounds better when cleaned. Some make sense, some seem nonsense. But I’ll tell you this, it makes a difference, and the higher the fidelity of the system on which the disc is played, the more easily it is heard.

Years ago, I determined I would discover my own cleaning solution for discs. I thought, “Why should I spend ridiculous amounts of money for cleaning hundreds of discs?” So, I went to a dollar store and got a bottle of non-abrasive cleanser with bleach. I cleaned the test disc and was pleased with the improvement so much that I spent a fair bit of time cleaning my entire collection.

When I was sent a kit of the Esoteric 3D-X treatment to review with the Jena Labs Jazz cables and Java IC’s, I made no mention to Jennifer of Jena Labs of my home brew CD cleaner. I was going to do a little experiment, pitting the elegant and important sounding Esoteric 3D-X against the homely dollar store cleanser. As I approached the task I was most pleased to learn from the instructions – the ones that say, “WARNING! Contains Petroleum based products. Do NOT ingest, do NOT place on open wounds. NOT A TOY, keep away from children and pets.” – that the white polishing paste could be applied over previous treatments. My test would be to see, if I survived the white paste, whether the 3D-X would yield worthwhile improvement to already cleaned CD’s!

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I was absolutely unprepared for the result I heard. When I had previously cleaned my discs with the dollar cleanser the change was just enough to warrant treating all the discs. I would not have guessed that a significant margin of improvement was left. But that is exactly what happened; the Esoteric 3D-X stripped away a shockingly large amount of veil and shading from the sound of all the discs. The effect was far greater than that achieved originally with the dollar cleanser, and this was on already cleaned discs!

I concur with the online description of the benefits of treating discs with the Esoteric 3D-X treatment. Jena Labs claims discs will have enhanced sound-staging, more “air” and detail, reduced digital harshness and more low level recovery of detail. In laymans’ terms, it made my CDP sound like it had been exchanged for a model one step higher.

3D-X treatment is not only beneficial for audio discs, but also for video. Again, according to Jena Labs, the stated benefits of treating video discs include: blacker blacks, more saturated colors, less “noise”, and improved sound. I did not test the visual enhancements of the 3D-X treatment as my goal was to determine its sonic benefits. If it performs half as well on visuals as it does for vocals, then it’s a “twofer”, two great products rolled into one.

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I do not consider cleaning a disc to be a “tweak” since the result in my experience has been permanent and quite noticeable. In addition, it is effective for every component used in conjunction with it, not as a “fix” for a problem but an enhancement similar to prepping a vinyl album for play. I have performed treatment listening tests with the 3D-X kit for several guests, both audiophiles and interested parties, and they have immediately noticed the change in sound after treatment. Some purist audiophiles sit befuddled when they hear it, since it challenges their preconceived notions that an untreated disc cannot be improved.

This product is an “Ace in the Hole” for Jena Labs. When used in conjunction with their braided cables, they have created a winning combination. I adjure not just purchasers of Jena Labs cables, but any audiophile who has yet to try treating redbook CD’s to obtain an Esoteric 3D-X kit, since it will put a real polish on your listening experience.

Manufacturer’s Comment:

Dear Editor,

Thank you very much for this review of our product.

The only thing to note is that Esoteric 3D-X is not really a polish. It is a refractive index modifier between the CD plastic layer and the refractive index of air. It performs as a lens coating, to make the transmission and reception of the laser light of the CD / DVD player or CD / DVD recorder more accurately returned from the CD or DVD, with lower light loss due to transmission or reflective scatter or diffusion.

When any modern device is made with optical components, they are almost always sold with coated optics because of the gain in efficiency. A CD is an optical device with an uncoated optical surface. Esoteric 3D-X puts a temporary lens coating onto the optical surface of the CD.

Michael Crock
Jena Technologies

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