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The TNT Digital Cork: a DIY CD stabilizer

[Italian version]

After several months of trials and errors and tiring listening tests here it is: the definitive version of the TNT CD stabilizer!
The idea of minimizing Compact Disc vibrations and resonancies during playback isn't new, the HiFi market is full of such devices of any kind: carbon fiber ones, Kevlar discs, etc etc.
I was seeking for an alternative material, very light and cheap but with excellent damping properties: CORK was the logical answer!

Here's what do you need to build your own Digital Cork.

Going out for shopping

At any DIY-bricolage store buy this stuff: That's all you need.
A cutter is just that: the one you use to cut cardboard, paper and stuff.
I'd suggest you, since this is a hi-precision work, to choose a hi-tech cutter, like the aluminium bodied cutter by Stanley, which is safer to use and more precise and durable. The cork sheet. It will be better a non-self adhesive cork, because the glue used can be too *sticky*, with possible damage for the CD label side.
Of course if you can't find a sheet of *pure* cork, buy the adhesive one but be sure to stick it several times over a rough surface so that the glue loses some of its properties.
The removable glue is needed in the case you can find the sheet of *pure* cork at your DIY store.
The removable glue doesn't damage the label side of your Compact Discs and can be used as many times as you want.
Say what? You don't know what the h@*l is this *removable glue*??? Do you have a Post-It on your desk?
Well the glue of that Post-It is of the removable kind. Actually it is made by 3M as well (as the original Post-It) while some clones are available. They all work fine.
It is available even in spray bottles, which is easier to use on uneven or rough surfaces. If you're a *die-hard tweaker* I'd recommend to put a bottle of 3M removable glue into your survival kit.

How do we make it?

Easy, easier.
Just cut a 12 cm (4.5 in.) disc (slightly less than a CD would be better) and a 3 cm (1 in.) hole right in the center. This is the trickiest part: be sure to make a high precision work, otherwise your Digital Cork can easily become a Digital Junk.
If you're using self-adhesive cork then you're done. Stick the stabilizer on the CD and you're ready to rock.
If not, spread a reasonable amout of removable glue on the stabilizer, let it dry for 30 seconds and you're done. Using a spray removable glue will make things easier.
Now you can glue the stabilizer on your Compact Disc: this is a high-precision work, too. The Digital Cork should be perfectly glued on the disc, avoiding air bubbles and wrong placings...your CD player could refuse to read the *stabilized* disc!!!
Don't panic! Probably your Digital Cork is too thick or misplaced. Also, it can be your CD trasport's fault: some CD players don't like *hosts* inside, other than a standard naked CD :-)
Obviously enough, we are not responsible for any damage or malfunction, please read our Disclaimer.

Does it really work?

Yes. And its effect is pretty similar with every kind of CD player I've tested it. Also, the *stabilized* CDs were easily accepted by the CD transports. No problems occourred.
So, which is its effect? You won't be surprised to know that these CD stabilizers, of any kind and material, work and have almost the same effects on your system:
the overall sound becomes warmer and the bass range gains some power and extension, for example, some organ pedals are more *present* when the Digital Cork is on.
The mid range becomes warmer, sometimes this effect is so evident that you can consider it *too much*.
The virtual soundstage widens a bit, especially the depth of the image increases and sometimes its height diminishes.
You don't need hours of listening tests to *tell* the difference: it is so evident that 15 minutes of a well-known recording are suffucient, even on budget HiFi systems.
Try this: listen to a CD WITH the Digital Cork on and THEN WITHOUT, then try to listen to the naked disc again. You'll be able to tell the difference.
I'm not saying that the sound gets better. No, it CHANGES. For better or for worse is up to you and your system to decide.
Actually if your system is already warm and smooth, the Digutal Cork can be *too much of a good thing*. But, if your system tends to sound overbright, harsh and on the light side well, then the Digital Cork can make wonders on your system.
If your system sounds too much *in the face*, try this device, it can help to move the soundstage behind the loudspeakers, improving the realism of the reproduction.
You can also try to build a smaller Digital Cork, trying to find, by means of successive approximations, the perfect balance for your systema and your personal taste.

The bottom line

The Digital Cork works. With certain systems its effect can be even considered excessive. You've been warned.
Since it costs almost nothing it is well worth a try.
It's cheap, ecological, easy to build and use, removable, it doesn't damage your CDs permanently (some CD fluids stay on the surface of your disc for one year or even longer) and can make wonders if you're searching for a warmer sound from your CD player. But please remember that the idea was brought to you by this humble and non-commercial HiFi mag.

Copyright 1998 Lucio Cadeddu

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