I’m always on the lookout for low-cost tweaks, and I have had some experience with CD mats in the past, such as the Marigo 3-D Stabilizer Tuning Mat that I experimented with in 2002. I thought it was OK, but not enough to keep using it after I heard some scuttlebutt about it getting caught in certain CD drives and/or stressing the transport mechanism (mind you, I don’t know whether these rumors were true or not – I just didn’t want to risk it).
In 2003, I began using a CD enhancer called Optrix from a company called Compact Dynamics. I liked its effect, so I tried another of the company’s products, called “CD Upgrade”. The product involved applying a small blue adhesive ring to the data side of a CD and a large clear plastic adhesive mat to the label side of the CD. I felt more comfortable with using something that didn’t just “float” on top of the disc, and I heard some good effects from using this product with drawer-style CD players. I applied CD Upgrade to over 100 of my CDs, discontinuing only when I acquired my Esoteric P-70 transport, which uses a VRDS clamping mechanism with CDs and which did not seem to benefit much from the adhesive mat. However, even though I liked what CD Upgrade did, I would never say that it was a huge difference – just an incremental improvement in bass, body and smoothness which was attractive for the price and eliminated my worries about a free-floating mat.
With that background, I recently reviewed the Lindemann 820S CD/SACD player (one of the best players I have ever heard). At the same time, I received the Millennium M-CD-Mat Carbon CD Damper. I was focused on evaluating the 820S, so I didn’t pay attention to the Millennium carbon fiber CD mat until two weeks had passed. I was in the process of making my last notes about the Lindemann and remembered the mat. I was playing Carmina Burana (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, hybrid SACD), noting the 820S’s ability to maintain an ideal balance between overall presentation and individual voices. In went the Millennium M-CD-Mat, and I restarted the chorus I had been listening to. I could immediately tell both that the voices sounded more natural and that I could hear more detail of the individual voices in the chorus. The improvement was definitely more significant than any of the other mats I’ve used. The mat’s effect was like stepping up to the next level of player. Mind you, this was an improvement to a world-class $21,000 player.
To be sure that the effect wasn’t limited to choral music, I inserted Avalon by Roxy Music (hybrid SACD). The bass was both richer and more defined, and Brian Ferry’s voice was more palpable. Again, the effect was a noticeable improvement, like switching to the next step up in CD player, except that I achieved this effect by using a $119 accessory instead of spending big bucks to upgrade an existing player. I was able to repeat this effect both in a Marantz DV 8300 universal player and a Pioneer Elite DV-38A. While doing so, I also played some movie DVDs and discovered that the Millennium Carbon CD Damper at also improved video. Again, it was similar to buying the next step up in a video player. [Norm Luttbeg has indicated in his review that he has actually gotten better copies when ripping discs with the Millennium. I haven’t done that yet, but will experiment with some CD-to-CD copies I plan to make with Walker Audio Ultra Vivid-treated XRCDs.]
One of the concerns I initially mentioned was the effect on CD and DVD transport mechanisms. The Millennium Carbon CD Damper is extremely thin (.3 mm) and light. I recall the other mats that I have used being both thicker and heavier, including the Compact Dynamics “CD Upgrade” adhesive mats, which themselves were thinner than the free-floating types I had tried. However, they are not for use with compression-loading car CD players or VRDS transports (since they are free-floating) so don’t try it in your car or on an Esoteric transport.
It strikes me that the Millennium M-CD-Mat Carbon CD Damper is really a $119 upgrade to all your CD, SACD and DVD players. All you have to do is use it on your CD/SACD player when listening to music, then remove it and put it in your DVD player when watching movies. Though your first reaction might be to wonder why you’re spending $119 on a thin circular piece of carbon fiber, the actual effect may very well save you a thousand bucks or more in upgrading your CD, SACD and/or DVD players. Definitely recommended.
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