Static electricity is a
something we’ve all experienced in our daily lives, as in static cling when
removing clothes from a dryer. And you may recall that synthetic fiber clothing
retains the most charge. Frictional forces can create potent static buildup,
especially in a dry climate, and I can personally report that my polyester
blanket sparks spectacularly when I sit on it– unless the bedroom is well
humidified. It turns out that materials such as vinyl, urethane, polyester, and
other polymers have a strong affinity for negative charge retention. And it is
this physical properly that can interfere with optimal music playback.
Whether you playback an LP or a CD, in both cases the physical medium is a synthetic material and an efficient attractor of negative charge. In the case of an LP, the composition is a vinyl chloride-vinyl acetate copolymer, while a CD is made of a polycarbonate substrate, followed a reflective coating (usually aluminum), and finally a lacquer top coating. Static buildup on vinyl is commonly experienced as a discharge of hot spots during playback resulting in annoying pops and crackle. It has also been argued that these electrostatic hot spots, which are distributed along the nominal 1,500 feet or so of groove length, and are rotating at 33 and one third rpm, can generate a magnetic field that may interfere with the cartridge’s own field. I’m not sure about the latter, but I can tell you that I have routinely used a hand-held Furutech deStat static eliminator on all my vinyl to blast ionized air over the surface of the disc and thus neutralize static hot spots.
But what about static’s impact on CD playback? I never really gave it much thought until I witnessed a demonstration of Orb Audio’s “Sakura” destat unit during my visit to the Acoustic Zen/Triode Corporation room at the 2013 CES in Las Vegas. These are the same folks that manufacture Furutech’sdestat unit on an OEM basis. The demo consisted of listening to a CD without the destat treatment, and then repeating the test after the CD was treated with the Orb Sakura destat. The treatment time was about 10 seconds and included the front and back surfaces of the CD as well as the CD player’s tray. The demo included several CDs and each time the sonic improvement was instantly identifiable. My impression was of enhanced image focus and overall clarity.
Granted, Las Vegas is located in a dry desert valley, but most of us living in the great Southwest are subject to similar low humidity conditions. And so I was determined to confirm these results in the context of my own reference system. I hand carried a review sample back home and listened, before and after the Orb destat treatment, to several familiar CDs and SACDs. The Orb is lightweight and easy to manipulate. It is powered by four AA batteries (batteries included), which provide about 1.5 hours of continuous use. Well, I was able to verify the Orb’s sonic benefits. In particular, I became aware of enhanced image dimensionality and transient clarity. The noise floor was blacker and deeper, as if layers of grunge were being washed away.
The question then becomes: how does the CD and
SACD destat treatment generate a sonic benefit? After all, the data on the disc
isn’t being impacted. Think about it: the internals of the player contain
several digital chips. The act of loading and playing a disc with a high static
charge can adversely impact static-sensitive digital circuitry. At least
that’s my theory.
Of course, fluid treatments such as CD Clarity
can also neutralize static buildup, but I find the Orb destat easier to use. And
it should be noted that simply handling a CD with your hands can buildup static
on the disc surface all over again. There have been some claims from computer
music aficionados that a CD ripped onto a hard drive sounds better played back
as a file then does the original CD. This mystery is explainable if one posits
that static on the CD is interfering with the CD player’s digital circuitry.
United States Distributor: