Fine Tunes #37

I have to remember how seriously audiophiles follow Stereophile. Reader David Zappardon's (davida@gscyclone.com) e-mail to me began with "Hello, my friend." But I have to admit to feeling some guilt when he yowled that he'd wasted two fruitless hours of his time looking for the silver-bearing conductive grease I'd mentioned in the October 2000 "Fine Tunes."

Persistent fellow that he is, David came up with the proper link.

Thank you, David! The problem is partly that HMC Electronics is a bit persnickety. When you hit their homepage, they redirect your browser and check which it is. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but previously they welcomed only those surfers using Internet Explorer. HMC is more browser-friendly now. So you can, with whatever software you wish, search for product number Circuit Works Conductive Silver Grease (product number 1530-0141 CW7100). David suggested that it's easier to bring up the site and then search for the stuff rather than plugging in the full URL cited above.

The manufacturer of Circuit Works Conductive Silver Grease is Hub Material Company, Inc. (33 Springdale Avenue, P.O. Box 526, Canton, MA 02021-0526, tel. (800) 482-4440 or (781) 821-1870). There is a website, but it automatically redirects your browser to hmcelectronics.com. When you first search on CW7100 there, the software returns the entry without a price. Clicking on Add to Basket returns $14.95 retail. As I write this in April, there's a deal going on for free shipping. (It was tax time—take your breaks where you can find 'em!)

Here's the description of the material itself: "Syringe dispenser precisely applies grease to provide superior electrical and thermal conductivity, lubrication, and protection for metal, rubber, and plastic. Protects against moisture and corrosion. Thermally stable over a wide temperature range."

David: "I'm getting some today, but you might check to make sure they have it before ordering." I'd take his advice. The grease should be helpful with both RCA and speaker-terminal connections—and XLR balanced connections, for that matter. Perhaps David will let us know the effects of greasing up his system. Seems a better tweak for you-all than for someone (such as yrs trly) who's always changing cables and interconnects.

From the realm of science to that of [cue Twilight Zone theme] a not terribly strange message from E. Atmadja (erwinatm@dnet.net.id), audiophile and citizen of far-off Indonesia:

"Dear Jon," he began—I get a lot of those—"I'm a fan of your articles. I would like to share a tweak which I find improves the sound of CD players and transports." Atmadja took an old 5¼" diskette, ripped the data-storage floppy from its shell, and cut it to the size of a CD. He placed it on the label side of the recording, as you'd do with such commercial aftermarket CD mats as the light-sensitive, glows-green-in-the-dark AudioPrism Blacklight. Atmadja reported that his home-brew mat improved the sound: "You will have bigger soundstage and deeper bass. The explanation is perhaps that the [magnetic-coated] plastic reduces and absorbs the magnetic induction from the spinning polycarbonate CD. Try it and you will hear the amazing improvement! Keep on tweaking, man!"

Of course, this is all a little hot; just how does an aluminum CD become charged in the first place? Some have suggested it's the ink in the label, or the static cling of air friction created by the rapid spinning of the CD. No one knows for sure.

The well-reviewed, relatively inexpensive ($39.95) AudioPrism Blacklight is described as a precision-cut, "high-modulus," medium-density composite "that presents an effective vibrational short circuit, that adds rotational mass and "dynamic stability" said to increase bass definition. Conductive carbon traces "lower the electrostatic potential" of the disc, "resulting in less read interference with the laser subsystem, improving imaging and soundstage." Not content with remaking the world, AudioPrism adds, "A proprietary, frequency-specific, highly emissive phosphorescent surface layer optically saturates the compact disc as well as the disc compartment, thus reducing jitter and resulting in a more open and smooth presentation." Further, they explain, Blacklight "unifies damping, electrostatic reduction, and stray-light cancellation into one passive device that requires only a light source (either natural or artificial) to activate." The instructions suggest that Blacklight works with most drawer- and top-loaders, but isn't recommended for car or multidisc home players.

Despite the improvements in CD playback and the underlying mathematical sophistication of digital filters, available storage, and bandwidth, I continue to used the Blacklight. The damn thing works. I also take the time to spray Auric Illuminator on "Red Book" CDs, although it's not to be used on SACD pressings, Auric says.

One CD mat taxed John Atkinson's credulity to the max but still makes me mirthful. The ever-urbane Yves-Bernard André demonstrated a YBA CD mat two CESes back. As I recall, the "floppy" mat was some kind of electrically conductive material that "funneled," if you will, the built-up static charge to the bonded-metal CD clamp, which in turn grounded the static to the spindle, on which sat the whole kit'n'caboodle. The blue laser (its own tempest in a teapot) sounded wonderful, but I noticed that JA was swallowing hard, looking as determinedly noncommittal as I've ever seen him!

We received the following letter:

Conductive silver grease

Editor: You don't have to order the conductive silver grease directly from HMC or mail-order houses ("Fine Tunes," July 2001). Most local electronics parts stores sell it. In the San Francisco bay area, one such store is R&D Electronic Parts, 370 Montague Expressway, Milpitas, CA 95035. Tel: (408) 262-7144. Price is $11.60.

I use the grease for my scale (not toy) model trains in the areas where both conductivity and lubrication are required, such as wheel axles.—William Louie, Fremont, CA

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