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K E V I N . H U N T

By KEVIN HUNT
This column ran in the Courant on May 27, 1999

Bedini: Houdini?

The Bedini Ultra Clarifier is the ultimate amusement-park ride for your CDs. It'll make your head spin, too.

The Ultra Clarifier is an extraordinary accessory that improves the sound of any disc, sometimes dramatically, by spinning it over a pulsed electromagnetic force. Bedini Electronics Inc. (www.bedini.com; 800-876-0299) of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, says it eliminates the electrostatic charge created in the manufacturing of the disc and through repeated use. This claim is a source of controversy because aluminum, at least on this planet, does not hold an electrostatic charge.

``But people don't understand that they mix alloys,'' says company president/designer Gary Bedini. ``And plastic holds a charge like you wouldn't believe.''

Don't worry so much about the science of the Ultra Clarifier. It works. This is the third version I've tried. The first was a $35 handheld device. The second was a more potent $125 tabletop model. The latest is an even more potent but otherwise identical $180 tabletop version just out with a dust cover, washing fluid and, most important, a second electromagnetic beam for dual-layer DVDs and two upcoming audio formats, DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD. But it works beautifully on regular CDs.

Place a CD on the Clarifier (a sort of mini-turntable), press a button and allow the unit to run through a high-speed spin cycle over the dual beams until it turns off automatically after about 45 seconds.

Bedini suggests the effects of the Ultra Clarifier are best demonstrated by rubbing a CD on a wool sweater before playing it, then treating the same disc (both sides if you wish) with the Clarifier before playing it again. Even though the results were no great surprise - I've clarified almost every CD I've played the past three years - they were no less impressive. The title track of Lucinda Williams' ``Car Wheels on a Gravel Road'' came alive when Clarified, almost as if the volume had been turned up, with each instrument seemingly now owning its own spot in the soundstage and Williams' voice more upfront.

Then I did the before/after test with Arto Lindsay's cover of Prince's ``Erotic City'' off his 1997 album ``Mundo Civilizado.'' Melvin Gibbs' bass line is way down there, the deepest bass on any song I've heard. After the wool treatment, the bass was merely low and muffled, the instruments clustered and Lindsay's vocals somehow set off deeper into the mix.

After a spin on the Ultra Clarifier, all that changed. Most noticeably, the bass improved incredibly. It wasn't an illusion. This time, a mirror on the wall vibrated.

The new Ultra Clarifier isn't cheap. The less-effective hand-held version is still available. 


Home Theater & High Fidelity

- Jason Serinus - March, 2002

Introduction

When a product has been on the market for a long time – especially a controversial “tweak” -- we may tend to overlook its lasting value. Such may be the case with a device so seemingly simple as the Bedini Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier.

When the original portable Bedini Handheld Clarifier first appeared on the market in the early 1990’s, it was greeted by a slew of positive reviews. I recall reading at least three or four reviews praising this “demagnetizing” device that everyone agreed lowered the noise floor and dramatically improved sound, detail, and depth of CD playback .

Exactly why the Bedini worked, however, remained a puzzle to those who wrote about it. Many reviewers and readers asked the same question: If CDs are made of aluminum, and aluminum doesn’t hold a magnetic charge, how is it possible to demagnetize them? Various theories were forwarded in articles, reviews, and letters to the editor. Our Editor, John Johnson, formulated a
theory based on static electricity. Controversy continued for months on end. While some theories seemed plausible, and some seemed to contradict others, none, to my understanding at least, offered an incontrovertible explanation for why the damn thing worked.

With the advent of new sonic and video formats, Bedini has added to its initial claims of sharper CD sound that the Bedini Dual Beam Ultraclarifier can also improve DVD sound quality and reduce unwanted noise. The company also claims that the unit can promote better DVD picture resolution, sharpen images of multimedia and photo CDs, and optimize color separation. More on this below.

Personal Experience

Because the original small, handheld Bedini Clarifier was relatively affordable, I decided to give it a try. All I had to do was put a CD on the unit’s spindle, push a button on the side of the unit for a minute or so while the CD whirled around, release the button, remove the disc once it stopped whirling, and then play. The demagnetizing effect was reported to last for one entire play of the CD. Easy as pie.

While I definitely heard sonic improvements after treatment with the handheld clarifier, I found operation of the device a bit problematic. The unit worked just fine if fastened it to a solid surface. If, however, it was handheld and accidentally moved around while the CD was spinning, or wasn't held level; or if a CD wasn't placed correctly on the unit’s spindle, the CD could spin crooked and even get scratched on the unit’s base. This happened with several CDs over the course of nine months. Not fun.

Less than a year after I purchased my handheld Clarifier, the store announced the arrival of the Ultra Clarifier. Then a single beam unit, the device looked just as pictured herein, but lacked the clear plastic lid. Though the Ultraclarifer cost well over $100, a liberal trade-in policy made the upgrade quite tempting. Ultimately seduced by claims that this unit had a much more profound effect on CDs, I traded-in my original unit for the Ultra Clarifier.

The Ultra Clarifier has several advantages over the hand-held unit. First, it’s more powerful, especially if you turn the CD over after the first one-minute treatment and treat its other side. Secondly, it easily rests on a flat surface, and doesn’t scratch CDs if you mess up. Finally, the unit turns off by itself after the CD whirls around for a minute or so. Unless you push the button without putting a CD in the unit, which can potentially burn out the motor - just pull out the plug fast and all will be okay - the unit is foolproof. (Given that fact that many audiophiles have long ago surrendered sanity in quest of the illusive supersystem, this is a major plus.)


The Proof is in the Puddin’

Shortly after my Ultra Clarifier arrived, I invited Bay Area Audiophile Society members over to hear my system at one of our System Hopping events. When the first visitor offered up a Lyle Lovett disc for audition, I decided to demonstrate the difference the Ultra Clarifier made.

First we played his disc without treatment. I could not help noticing how flat Lovett’s voice sounded against an instrumental background that seemed located in virtually the same plane as the voice. Everything also sounded a bit gray and uninvolving. Then I whirled the CD around on the Bedini and played it again. The difference was huge! Lovett’s voice was now round and more life-like; his back-up instrumentation, also far rounder and surrounded by more air, was distinctly behind him. Furthermore, the grayness I heard the first-time around had vanished, and in its place was far more color.

"The improvement the Bedini made was enormous."

I have conducted this demonstration at least 50 times, not only for committed audiophiles and local dealers, but also for high-end babes in the woods who claimed they would never be able to hear things I could hear with my “trained” ears. There has not been a single visitor chez Serinus whose eyes didn’t open wide when they heard the difference the Bedini makes.

Skeptical readers may ask why I did not perform double-blind tests, summon a panel of experts, or obtain two copies of the same CD, one treated with the Bedini and one not, play them in an unannounced sequence, and then ask people to guess which one had been treated. The answer is simple. I did not find the extra work necessary because I could easily hear the difference. However, because of the criticism that was sent to the Secrets Editor about my original review, we will try to run this experiment to prove that the Bedini does indeed work, and report the results subsequently.

Whenever I performed this demonstration, I never planted in a listener's mind what I expected them to hear after I treated the disc. I simply said, "Tell me if you hear a
difference." If they said, "Yes" (which they ALL did), I asked them to describe what they heard. Some people were better with words and the nuances of sonic perception than others, but everyone basically declared with certainty that treatment improved the sound of the CD.

Beating the Competition

A few months ago, my 7-year old single-beam Ultra Clarifier began to malfunction. While it still demagnetized discs, its motor sometimes kept on whirring away for minutes at a time until I manually unplugged the AC/DC adapter from the unit.

Unable to find a replacement Bedini, and forgetting to do a search on the net, I tried the far more expensive Furutech demagnetizer. I was quite drawn to the Furutech’s silence, and to claims that its effects lasted longer than the Bedini, making demagnetization before each play unnecessary. What I didn’t like, however, were warnings to keep one’s distance from the unit while it was on, and to demagnetize no more than 10 CDs in a row without taking a break. The device did not feel like it would contribute to long life and good health.


More to the point, several days of use did not yield the effects I desired. While discs certainly sounded better than before treatment, the results did not seem as three-dimensional and life-like as with my ailing Bedini.

Finally, after Furuteching and playing a disc, and wondering where the three-dimensionality I was accustoming to hearing had gone, I placed the same disc in my ailing Bedini, whirled it around for a minute, and took a second listen. Even without treating both sides of the disc, which is what Bedini recommends one do, the improvement was dramatic. All the three- dimensionality and silence I was accustomed to hearing had returned. Clearly the Bedini was doing something that the Furutech wasn’t. Bye bye Furutech.


Enter the Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier

At this point, a web search turned up the Bedini website. When I wrote Gary Bedini to explain my problem, he graciously supplied me with a new Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier.

The Dual Beam unit has several advantages over the original single-beam Clarifier. First of all, it’s more powerful. Secondly, it also washes CDs (if desired) by using a washing fluid that comes with the unit. To make washing possible, the unit boasts a clear plastic flip-down lid to contain the washing fluid. Even if you don’t wash CDs with the unit, the lid prevents dust from settling inside and getting stirred up when the unit is engaged. Finally, the Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier runs much quieter than the older units. These are all major plusses.

Technical Explanation

The Bedini Company claims that, "with its patented Electro Magnetic Beam Configuration, the Clarifier polarizes the polymer in such a way as to maximize the laser's ability to retrieve stored data."

Although I would never claim to be a technical expert -- I am a music lover, performer, and critic who has developed the ability to hear subtle differences in sound, and has a clear sense of what live, unamplified music sounds like in various venues -- I found this explanation incomplete to say the least. I therefore conducted several e-mail exchanges with Gary Bedini in which I asked him to explain, among other things, (a) what the "beam" was of which there now two, (b) what the whirling accomplished, and (c) why the unit did what it did.

After conducting several e-mail exchanges with Gary Bedini, I ended up with the following information:

“The Dual Beam runs opposing beams (specially configured magnetic structures) that oppose each other at the base of the motor.

“Extensive research has gone into the development of this product. Although the disk does hold electrostatic charges just from normal operation, it is also degraded from the manufacturing processes as well. We have incorporated a highly specialized electromagnetic beam(s) configuration to process the disk, as well as centrifugal force to achieve the ultimate treatment.

“It is apparent that electrostatic charge alters the polymer’s configuration and causes the laser’s light to diffract while reading the bits of information encased in the disk; thus more error correction is employed to compensate for this effect. This means that the CD has more noise, causing reduced clarity and degraded sound to the specific tones of the original recording. By simply removing the electrostatic charge it will not re-align the crystalline structure of the polymer
composition which causes the diffraction.”


If you would like to know if I find this explanation adequate, the answer is that I do not. However, I confess that I am not prepared to sacrifice my unit for the highest good, dismantle it, ask technical experts on the Secrets staff to spend untold hours using sophisticated measuring devices to come up with an incontrovertible explanation for why the device works, and then buy another unit.

Instead, I have decided to trust my ears. The bottom line is, what I and everyone who has ever joined me in listening to a CD before and after Bedini treatment have discovered is that using the Bedini makes a huge difference in sound quality. I may not be able to explain how the device works, but I am sure that it does.

Testing on DVD-Video

As noted above, Bedini claims improvements in DVD sonic and picture quality. Alas, I was only able to test claims for sonic improvement. I’ve got a great audio system, but my DVD-video setup consists of a cheapie Pioneer DVD-V player modified to accept a detachable powercord. (I’m currently using a Shunyata Python.) While the digital signal is carried via a Nordost Silver Shadow RCA to BNC digital cable to my Theta Gen. Va DAC, video goes through standard video cabling into a cheap Radio Shack unit and then into an 18-year old (at least) 19” Quasar TV which, most of the time, resides in my closet. Sometimes the TV works fine, and sometimes it doesn't. Hence, I can do a fine job evaluating sound quality, but I leave evaluation of picture quality to others on the Secrets team.

I can tell you with surety that the sound of DVD-Video improved dramatically after using the Bedini. While the picture may have improved as well, I’d need better cables and a TV monitor on less than its last legs to say for sure.

Conclusion

The Bedini Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier, which treats DVDs, CD-ROMs, and Photo CDs as well as audio CDs, works wonders on sound. For the mere two or so minutes it takes to fully treat a disc, the improvements are striking. IMHO, the resultant improvement in sonic performance is the equivalent of adding several bits of resolution plus increasing the sampling rate.

If you’ve never before used the Bedini Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier, you owe it to yourself to give it whirl. If you give it an honest try, I believe you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. In fact, I think it quite possible that you will find it indispensable.

 

 - Jason Serinus -

Review System:

Talon Khorus X speakers

Bruce Moore Dual 70 tube poweramp with Electro-Harmonix 6550
tubes; Bruce Moore Companion III tube preamp with Siemens CCa tubes (rewired with Nirvana hook-up wire)


Theta Gen. 5A single-ended DAC; Perpetual Technologies P-1A with Monolithic Power Supply; Audio Alchemy DDS-Pro transport

PS Audio P600 Power Plant power synthesizer with Multiwave; PS Audio Ultimate Outlet and/or Ensemble Power Link on amp;
PS Audio Power Ports in wall

Cabling:

Nordost SPM Reference speaker cable to the speakers
Nordost single-ended Quatro Fils interconnects from Theta to preamp  and preamp to amp;
Nordost Silver Shadow AES/EBU digital interconnects from transport to P1A to Theta; Shunyata Python power cable on the transport; Nordost power cable on the preamp; Custom Power Company Top Gun High Current power cables on the Theta and the amp; and the Ensemble power cable on the P-1A, Power Plant, and Ensemble Power Link.

Sundry:

Michael Green Deluxe Ultrarack, Basic Racks, and room treatment; Black Diamond Racing cones under Theta and preamp; MG audiopoints under other equipment; inner tube, maple cutting boards, bags of sand also under transport; sand and maple also under preamp, amp, and P600; homemade bass traps; Shakti stone atop Theta and Shakti On-Lines on some powercords; Bedini Dual Beam Ultraclarifier, Audioprism Stoplight and Blacklight, Gryphon Exorcist; Sheffield/XLO degmagnetiser and break-in disc.

Analog (hardly the strong suit of the system, rarely used): Dual 1219, Sumiko Blue Point and a Classe 6 phono preampwith the optional umbilical cord. Paired with Tara Decade and Nirvana SL-1  interconnects, and a Shunyata Black Mamba powercord.  


"CLEARLY... An Innovative Technical Breakthrough!"

Audio Video Shopper - October 1996 Volume 1, No. 2

"For those of you deep into the CD world, the Bedini Clarifier is this decade's most controversial audio accessory. The proof, however, is in the listening." - Myles B. Astor


The Audio Adventure - December 1995 Volume 2 Issue 12

"The Bedini Ultra Clarifier sets a new benchmark for degree of sound improvement. You owe it to yourself to get this product if you listen to digital. Otherwise, you haven't heard your discs." - Myles B. Astor


Audiophile - March 1994

"It definitely works. After treatment the sound was clearer and cleaner, with better depth and space around instruments and voices leading to increased clarity and detail." - Jimmy Hughes


High Fidelity - Sweden: April 1993

"...anyone can easily hear distinct differences in sound quality before and after... the sound after demagnetizing was more clear, better detailed and showed a larger soundstage."


Audio Adventure - vol 1, issue 3: December 1994

"They were richer and cleaner, as if some noxious grit had been removed from atop their sound." "Instrumental timbres became more brilliant, vocalists became more intelligible and the whole soundstage lit up... The stage locations of the vocal groups were more precise and the rendering of open spaces between them clearer." - Tom Miller


Son Hi-Fi - May/June 1994

"...the moderate cost of the Clarifier makes it an indispensable accessory for all audiophiles worthy of the name. Try it, you won't be able to do without it." - R. Guy Trepanier


the absolute sound - vol 20, issue 103: August 1995

See Tweak Alert - review


Positive Feedback - vol 5, #1: January/February 1994

"I find the results quite appealing. It does not create any unnatural effect at all. Just the opposite. The sound becomes MORE natural." "It improves the imaging and decreases image bloating on loud passages." "Highly recommended..." - Mike McCall & Clay Swartz

 

Copyright © 1997 Bedini Electronics, Inc.