Shaving Compact Discs—A Vintage Audiophile Scam

You’ll love the part where he compares the audio waveform produced from the digital data stream from the original and “improved” compact discs and finds them absolutely identical.

When compact discs (CDs) came out in the 1980s, many audiophiles detested their sound, saying it was screechy and unlistenable compared to the “mellow” sound of vinyl. One of the main reasons for this is that record companies, faced with an unexpected rapid collapse in the sales of vinyl records and consumer demand for CDs, rushed CDs to market based upon analogue magnetic tape masters used to produce vinyl record stampers. Because the vinyl record cutting and playback process has a roll-off at high frequencies, the source used to cut disc masters is equalised to boost them, producing a (more or less) flat response when the records made from them are played back. If CDs made from them were not re-equalised or incorrectly equalised to take out the boost, they would indeed be screechy and harsh, which is precisely what happened. Some record labels were notorious for this, including Deutsche Grammophon, who rushed their classical catalogue onto the market with improper equalisation, contributing to the bad reputation of CDs in the early years.


In 1994 I had a cow-orker who moonlighted as an audiophile.

He was a big believer in green ink, as applied to a disc’s circumference, which apparently was a thing at the time. Ever since he inked all of his discs, so he said, all of his music CDs sounded markedly better.

I had just enough background in digital audio to know that this green ink theory was a load of nonsense.

I suggested an A/B test with a disc that we both owned: his inked disc vs my identical but non-inked disc. He eagerly agreed. (He lost the control group when he inked his disc collection and thus was unable to A/B test on his own.)

Despite an extensive series of blind tests, and despite his confident assurances to the contrary during the test, the results were clear: his golden ears, when listening to his golden HI-FI setup, could not distinguish the inked disc from the non-inked disc.

He was thoroughly deflated and embarassed by his failure.

In retrospect, I probably should have let him go on believing in his green ink nonsense. A budding friendship was stunted by the embarrassment he suffered that day. I felt bad about that for a long time afterward. Still do, kinda, but time marches on.