I am now four articles behind in my “second job” of writing audio reviews. In order to catch up I decided to write up the review that would be the quickest and least complicated, and this is it. However, and more importantly, I’m doing this review first because it’s by far the biggest bang for your audio buck. It’s the UltraBit Platinum-Plus ™CD treatment and the CleanDisc disc cleaner.
Who is it?
Digital Systems and Solutions is a company started and run by George S. Louis Some of you may have run across George in the various forums and blogs. He has been the world’s champion of correct polarity, earning nicknames such as “Perfect Polarity Pundit” and amazing folks with his fervor on the subject. But that’s a separate story. I only mention it because with George you are dealing with a perfectionist, and I would expect that to be reflected in his products, UltraBit Platinum Plus and CleanDisc. For ease of reference, I’m going to refer to UltraBit Platinum-Plus as “UBP”.
What’s in the box?
You can buy them separately, but as you will see below, I definitely recommend that you order a bottle of both the UBP and the CleanDisc. If you do, this is what George will send you:
2-ounce bottle of CleanDisc
2 or 4-ounce bottle of UltraBit Platinum-Plus
2 microfiber buffing cloths
2 microfiber buffing pads and 1 plastic handle with Velcro attachment for the pads
How Do You Use It?
At the outset, please note that you can use these products on all digital media, including DVDs, your laser stylus and on vinyl. However, this review focuses on CDs.
Apparently, George has had a troop of beta testers trying various combinations and sequences of the UBP and CleanDisc, and the suggested application procedure has changed over the years. The following is the current suggested approach, and the little experimentation I did suggests that this is indeed the optimum usage.
On New Discs
Position the UBP sprayer about 4 inches from the playing side of the disc and give it a single spray. Use the microfiber cloth or pad and buff the disc for 15 seconds or until it’s clean and shiny. It’s important to brush outwardly in a radiating pattern. Turn the disc over and spray the label side, and then clean it. Here it doesn’t appear to matter whether you use radial strokes because the purpose appears to be removal of static charge. Then spray a small, 1” circular amount of CleanDisc on a soft paper towel and clean the outer and inner edges of the disc, then buff them dry. That’s it!
On Previously Treated Discs
You would perform the same routine as noted above for new discs, but use CleanDisc first to clean off previously-applied treatments as well as any green or black markings on the discs. Yes, I actually removed the indelible marker markings from all of the several hundred discs I had treated this way. You will be happy you did this. Note: not only the UBP, but also the Audiotop Digital and Walker treatments work better after removing pen markings.
When he contacted Dagogo, George Louis asked me to be blunt about the UBP and “let the bits fall where they may”, so I assembled several existing CDs that I had already treated with treatments other than the Audiotop, and then went out and purchased four duplicate pairs of new discs that I knew I could later give to friends as gifts. Here’s the list of discs involved:
Previously treated discs: Aja/Steely Dan, Manassas/Steven Stills, Anthology/Al Dimeola.
Duplicate new discs: Joshua Judges Ruth/Lyle Lovett, One Size Fits All/The Nylons, If I Could Only Remember My Name/David Crosby, Luke and the Locomotives/Robert Lucas.
Previously treated discs were cleaned with CleanDisc and then re-treated with UBP. One of each new disc was treated with the UBP/CleanDisc combination and the other treated with Audiotop Digital.
How Does It Sound? (Let the Bits Fall Where They May!)
To remain consistent with my past reviews of CD treatments, I’m going to address the same points I made in my review of the Audiotop mold release formula. In fact, I’m repeating some of what I said about the Audiotop because the UBP/CleanDisc combination does the same things, just a little better.
Let me first state that both the UBP and the Audiotop performed much better that the other treatments I’ve used, and that both seemed pretty equal in terms of improving extension, dynamics and tonal integrity. Neither treatment did anything to detract from the musical presentation, and in fact both significantly added to my musical enjoyment. What they both did better than the other treatments I’ve used was in the areas of transparency, soundstage and spatial cues. I will discuss them separately. However, the reader should be clear that the differences between these two treatments are much smaller than the large improvement both make to the vast majority of discs.
Clarity, transparency and detail
Reviewers use the phrase “ripped away a veil” when they refer to an improvement that makes you feel as though a curtain had previously existed between you and the performers. This was the most immediate effect of the UBP/CleanDisc application. Both the UBP and Audiotop Digital created this effect in all of my systems, regardless of system cost. Similar to what I said in the Audiotop review, applying the UBP made everything feel “cleaner” and less congested. Applying the CleanDisc in the second step enhanced this effect a bit more. Excellent examples of this were all three of the previously-treated discs that had notbeen treated with the Audiotop.
As soon as I had cleaned them with the CleanDisc and treated them with the UBP, I got a huge sense of openness in the soundstage. Steven Stills’ Manassas includes a tune named “Bound to Fall” which has thick harmonies that need to be sorted out. Application of the UBP/CleanDisc supplied a wider and more open stage, as well as the ability to distinguish individual voices. All of the instruments on Steely Dan’s Aja come alive, especially the piano, which feels like somebody switched from an upright to a concert grand. Al Dimeola’s Dinner Music of the Gods gained speed and agility, which is hard to believe given the speed with which Al DiMeola plays at. Of course, treating the old discs with the UBP/CleanDisc solution said nothing about UBP/CleanDisc vs. the Audiotop. That required comparisons between the duplicate new discs.
I believe that this is a specific component of “ripping away a veil”, and this separate characteristic illustrated one way in which the UBP/CleanDisc was a bit better than the Audiotop.
As mentioned above, application of the UBP/CleanDisc on one of the new duplicate discs and of the Audiotop on the other allowed me, in both cases, to discern each performer much more clearly without detracting from the musical whole. The effect was an enhancement of the illusion of actual performers in the room. However, the disc treated with the UBP/CleanDisc seemed to have an additional bit of air around each performer. Examples can be found in Lovett’s Church, David Crosby’s Orleans and the Nylons’ Up the Ladder to the Roof. Each of these tunes has portions of the song that feature tightly-knit choruses which emphasize the whole and make it difficult to hear individual performers.
The UBP/CleanDisc version was a tad better at isolating the performers without losing the presentation of the whole. I can’t say that the difference was easy to discern – in fact, you had to pay attention. Nonetheless, it was clearly there if you listened. It is possible that I was better at polishing one disc versus the other, and I did not do this in a double-blind format, so there are plenty of reasons why my methodology could have been biased, but I concluded the same thing on three out of four of the new disc pairs.
Soundstage depth and width
My soundstage has always been very wide, with better than average depth. All four of the new disc pairs displayed outstanding width and depth after treatment, regardless of which treatment was used. However, the UBP/CleanDisc brought out a bit more layering of the performers in the back of the venue. Again, this was more nuance than obvious superiority, but on David Crosby’s What Are Their Names? the depth of the performers and where they were placed front to back was a bit more discernable. This was also true in Lyle Lovett’s Church, with the back of the room more clearly perceptible.
This is where it was easier to discern that the UBP/CleanDisc outperformed the Audiotop. On David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name the outlines of the recording venue(s) can be more easily visualized, with spatial cues even more abundant than on the disc treated with the Audiotop.
In summary, the UBP/CleanDisc treatment combo, used in my system in the manner prescribed by Digital Systems and Solutions, resulted in more transparency, depth and performer separation than my previous reference, the Audiotop Digital. Was the UBP/CleanDisc superiority dramatic? I can’t say that it was “dramatic”, because like so many things in high-end audio, improvements often come in small steps. However, the improvement was nonetheless clear after careful listening, which resulted in a more enjoyable listening experience.
Sidebar on the Cumulative Effect of Multiple CD Tweaks
I’m always surprised by the number of audiophiles who will religiously treat and clean their vinyl, but don’t do a thing when playing CDs. In that vein, I should note that there are two other steps that I’ve been taking, which together with the UBP/CleanDisc combo make a very noticeable difference in playback quality.
First, I’ve been religiously using the Walker Audio Talisman, a magnetic “wand” used to demagnetize discs, cables and other items, since mid-2006 (see my review in the December 2006 issue of Dagogo). I use the wand on CDs every time I play them even though I also use the Ayre “Irrational But Efficacious” system demagnetization disc at least once every few weeks.
Second, I use the Millennium CD mat (see my review in Dagogo from February 2009) (not for use with car audio or the Esoteric VRDS mechanisms). So, today when playing new CDs on an optical reader my routine consists of George Louis’ UBP/Clean Disc, the Walker Talisman and the Millennium CD mat. Each adds a clearly audible improvement to the play back quality, and the combination is easily the equivalent of a major step-up in components.
I can’t say the difference is huge, but I preferred the UBP/CleanDisc to the Audiotop, and thus to all other disc treatments I’ve ever encountered. Definitely recommended as an inexpensive way to improve your sound. As a bonus, you can improve movies and the operation of your optical reader. What’s not to like?
Thank you for your very kind words and astute evaluation of my UltraBit Platinum-Plus™ (UPB-P) and CleanDisc™. One correction is that unless a disc is particularly dirty or has been treated with another disc treatment, it doesn’t need cleaning prior to the application of UltraBit Platinum-Plus because it’s also a cleaner. But I personally prefer CleanDisc to UBP-P on the inner and outer edges of discs whereas some others may prefer UltraBit Platinum-Plus on the edges, so perhaps that could be made a trifle clearer because it may seem confusing when the instructions first tell the user to apply UBP-P UltraBit Platinum-Plus to the playing and label side, and then CleanDisc to the disc’s edges. UBP-P just might just be the first treatment that works on all laser-read media, including the sound and pictures of Blu-ray disc as well as on all vinyl records with Reduced Friction Technology for Vinyl™ (RFTV). See more information at http://www.ultrabitplatinum.com/?page_id=350, and I would have thought that was a big deal but there’s no mention of using it to improve the fidelity of vinyl records.
The two microfiber buffing pads with the plastic handle with Velcro attachment for the pads are especially useful for applying UltraBit Platinum-Plus to vinyl records, but they may be used on optical media as well.
On new discs, the buffing doesn’t need to be radial. It can be in a parallel pattern. Just be sure not to use circular motions or motions that are concentric with the disc’s center hole.
I noticed that there’s no mention of my guaranty that I think is probably one of the best in the industry: A no questions asked full refund of the purchase price that includes shipping both ways and an additional $10 just for trying it. And so far no one has ever sent it back.
UltraBit Platinum-Plus™ is an mostly an optical Impedance Matching treatment for all laser-read media and its cleaning properties are incidental whereas CleanDisc is strictly a laser-read media cleaner and mold releasing agent.
UBP-P can be bought at my website of www.UltraBitPlatinum.com or any of several dealers such as (not a complete list) Music Direct, The Needle Doctor, Elusive Disc, Von Schweikert Audio, Jena Labs, The Tweek Geek, The Horn Shoppe, etc. And it can cost as little as 6.5 cents per application and lasts 4 to 5 years on laser-read media.
Again, thank you so much for your very detailed and comprehensive testing with the comparison to the other treatment.
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