.Aspiration.

In my limited experience and observation as a recording producer and audiophile, I have noticed that many times the sonic quality of the end product of a recording, i.e. the CD, falls short of my expectations--sometimes to a disappointing extent. This too-frequent phenomenon is beyond the control of the recording producer/engineer. Once the mastered DDP file is sent to a replication plant for production, its fate is in the hands of the replication professionals. The producer/engineer has no control over the jitter and block error rates during the replication process. It is frustrating to see that all the efforts made during the recording and mastering process have been in vain, or, at least, not been optimized. The driving force behind the Ultimate Disc project is my passion and determination to explore a new production method whereby every step in the replication process can be under stringent control, and the quality of each production disc can faithfully vindicate the musicality and sonority of the original recording.

.What is “The UD Project”?.
It is both a new technology and methodology capable of producing a disc with the highest degree of excellence in faithfully preserving the sound of the original recording, no matter whether the disc is a CD, LP, DVD, Blu-Ray, CDR, DVDR or any other digital disc.

.How a UD is born?.
A UD is handcrafted following several critical steps. The four major ones are as follows: I. II. RCC treatment Cleaning

III. Dynamical balancing IV. The Absolute FidelityTM Process
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.

Treatment.
RCC is an acronym for “Resonance Control Coating”. Almost without exception, all digital discs and LPs are plagued with resonance generated by the rapid speed spinning movement, whopping, and fluttering while playing. The resonance mars the clarity, tonality, and definition of the information content on the disc. Elimination of this unwanted resonance enhances the sonic qualities significantly. To our limited knowledge, there has not been to this date any effective means of tackling this problem in the industry. RCC is a semi-fluid of special mineral and chemical mixture manufactured through a highly sophisticated process. It is non-toxic and dries in hours. A disc can be coated with RCC by spraying finely on the label side. The coating will effectively damp and minimize the unwanted resonance. The result is a presentation of the recorded content with much better transparency, solidity, imaging, and definition, whether the content is music or video. You have to listen, watch, and compare to believe. This new formula is derived from a similar material called AVM (Anti-Vibration Magic) developed by UNIKO. AVM chiefly deals with resonance elimination in electronic equipment, while RCC is for the disc media. The RCC project is a joint development between FIM USA and UNIKO, Canada. This proprietary technology is patent pending.
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.What is the problem with discs in general?.
Not all discs are created equal. To name a few of the differences: - Some are thinner than normal, which may cause excessive vibration and resonance. - Some are non-eccentric and not perfectly flat, causing excessive fluttering and whopping. - Some are not perfectly flat and even, causing irregular rotational speed changes. - Some are not in perfect circular shape, hence dynamically unbalanced. - Some with multiple, heavy, and colorful designs printed on the label side, cause possible distraction and non-linear reading of the laser head. - Some are made of poor quality dyes, foils, and polycarbonate material; the reflectivity of the foil is poor, causing the laser transmitter to misfire and misread. - The glass stamper is made with excessive jitter rate during the conversion. - Some have excessive block error rates. - Some have excessive numbers of pin holes in the foil, or the foil is too thin. - Some have micro- or glaring defects, overlooked in the computer or visual checking process. - Some are produced with sub-standard quality control. The high-speed spinning of a disc amplifies these flaws, and electronically and mechanically generates a significant amount of unwanted resonance. Apart from all these inherent sources of resonance, there are other areas such as airborne vibrations in the proximity of the CD player coming from loudspeaker sound waves, circuit boards in the CD player, hum and vibration from motor and transformer inside the player and from neighboring equipment, all of which add vibration and resonance detrimental to the reproduction of clean music. The RCC coating on the disc minimizes all these sources of vibration and resonance.

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A FIM technician is carefully spraying the discs with RCC material.

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.Cleaning.
We know that dirt, finger prints, and other contamination on the disc can easily be cleaned with products abundantly available in the market. At FIM, we have purchased all kinds of cleaning products with a view to finding out which would best meet our requirement. These products do the function of cleaning with varying degrees of effectiveness. Yet some fluids did not remove the de-molding agent on the disc. The de-molding agent is a kind of chemical liquid used by the disc replication plant to separate the disc from the stamper. The agent may not be cleaned from the disc at all, or not cleaned thoroughly enough, at the plant. For better laser reading, the de-molding agent should be cleaned off thoroughly. According to our tests, a very high percentage of the fluids did clean the dirt, but leave behind residue of the fluid itself in the form of a subtle layer of veil or fume on the disc. This is why the tested cleaning fluids all sounded differently. The other concern was that some fluids are alcohol-based. We suspect that some alcohol-based cleaning fluids may eventually, if not immediately, chemically tamper with the integrity of the polycarbonate of which a disc is made. Clearly, we prefer not to use such fluids. After years of research, we have finally found a product that meets our requirements: deionized pure water. It has absolutely no negative effect on the polycarbonate and, after cleaning, the CD surface is absolutely spotless, leaving no residue, marks, veil, or fume. The disc is immaculately clean. Deionized water can be easily distinguished from normal tap or distilled water by a visual check. Tap or distilled water spreads over the surface of the disc and drains away, whereas the deionized water, due to its strong surface tension capability, stays on the surface of the disc in the form of large, crystal-clear pools of dew. The user can wipe the water away, or put the disc in the vertical position so that the water will drain off the disc. The only drawback of using deionized water as a cleaner is that the apparatus is big, heavy, and expensive. It is also not userfriendly. Nevertheless, for love of the best sound, we still choose deionized water to clean all our UDs. We also bottle the solution in small packages for audiophiles who want to shampoo their discs, like we do. The spray bottle enables the end-user to clean their discs easily.

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The deionizer apparatus

Shampooing the UDs with deionized water.

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.Dynamic Balancing.
To tackle the problem of dynamic imbalance, we use the German Audio Desk System. Care is taken not to tamper with the edge of the foil, or leave residue and dust on the disc after balancing. This is a time–consuming process requiring patience and care.

Balancing an RCC treated disc with Audio Desk cutter.
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.The Absolute FidelityTM Process.
This process is twofold: (a) Find the best CDR (b) Burn a CDR using The Absolute FidelityTM Process

.(a) Which is the best CDR?.
There are hundreds of kinds and models of CDRs on the market, with pricing ranging from a few cents to $14 each. But which is the best? We judge the quality of a CDR mainly by two parameters--measurement and auditioning--not by price. We utilize the following procedure: - We measure a particular blank CDR using Plextool, whereby we can produce two specification sheets showing the block Error Rate, C1, C2, and CU data of that particular CDR. We choose the one with the lowest distortion, of course. - We burn the selected various kinds of CDRs with our special Plextor Premium-2 using the same music. We audition the sound and identify which is the best. After a span of two and a half years, we have finally chosen a particular model of silver foil CDR (not aluminum) which can be archived for over 20 years, and a particular 24 K gold CDR, which can be archived for 300 years. Our discussions with our friendly manufacturer helped speed up our research process. (Please note that the life span of some budget discs may be as short as just a few years.)
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.(b) Burn a UD CDR.
(i) We use the RCC coated, deionized water washed and dynamically balanced CDRs to burn a UD, following The Absolute FidelityTM Process as laid down by Gary Koh of Genesis Advanced Technologies Inc. Here it is.

The Absolute Fidelity™ process
1. Extract the music from the original CD using Exact Audio Copy (available for free at www.exactaudiocopy.de) using Paranoid mode. Make sure that you do proper detection of the features of your CD drive (accurate stream, caching, C2 error) before using it to extract the music data. When you use Paranoid mode, the software will warn you that it is not recommended, and you will damage your drive, but proceed anyway. It WILL wear out your drive, so use a cheap CDROM drive as using a better drive makes no difference at this stage. Just before burning, copy the files to an empty Compact Flash Card (you will need at least 1Gb capacity) that is DIRECTLY connected to the synchronous master bus of your computer, not connected via USB. Highly recommended is a laptop computer with an ExpressCard bus interface. The advantage of this is that the laptop is run on batteries during the burning process, with the screen turned off. Burn the CDR using the best external CD Burner available – I recommend the Plextor Premium-2 or the Yamaha CRW-F1. Both features Audio Master Quality Recording mode – use the fastest speed for AMQR, which is 4x. Place the CD Burner on a resonance-controlled surface like the FIM Signature Platform, and power the burner with a linear power supply plugged into the IsoTek Sigmas power conditioner. 4. a.

By Gary Koh

Choose the best CDR to use in your burner: Black CDRs sound the warmest and most musical. However, they do not seem to last, and hence they should only be considered as “disposable” discs. Also, it is almost impossible to find a great-sounding black CDR these days. The Memorex Black All-Use that is made by Mitsui is very, very good. The Mitsui plant in Colorado makes the best archival-quality gold CDR – the MAMA Pro Audio Gold Master. However, it is sold 50 pieces in a “cakebox” and you will find that the discs on the bottom do not sound as good as the discs on the top. If you manage to get a “fresh” cakebox, store them in a cool dark place on its side (like you would store your vinyl). The MAM-A Archive Gold is sold individually packed in jewel cases, and these are more consistent. They don’t sound as good as the best of the Pro Audio Gold, but sound better than the worst of the Pro Audio Gold. The absolute best CDR to use is the First Impressions Music version of the Pro Audio Gold Master. However, at $45 a disc, you will probably reserve it only for your best music.
By Jerry Pomeroy

b.

2.

c.

3.

d.

CD care
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To lessen the wear on your CD drive when using Ex- Over the last several years I have used Optrix on finger-

(ii) We use our special burner, the discontinued Plextor Premium-2, highly modified with super power supply and powered by our wonderful Energy Center on Isolation Platform. We burn a Direct-from-Master Edition UD, using the original master as the source. (iii) We use a modified top model of Rimage Replicator: 5100N with FIM Energy Center on Isolation Platform to burn a Collector’s Edition UD. All production is assured with data checking and auditioning. The whole procedure is under full inhouse control. (Regular FIM albums are pressed by JVC Japan, known to be one of the best replication plants in the world.)

.Type of UDs.
We have three models: (i) UD Blank CDR: RCC treated, deionized water washed, blank 24 K Gold CDR, retailing at $35.00. We shall release, in limited quantity, some albums in UD format. They sound superior to regular FIM CDs, which are already famous for excellent sonority, retailing at $50.00. All Collector’s UD Edition albums are individually numbered and coded. The average block error rate is 3 or lower! The industry standard is 220! (iii) Direct-from-Master UD Edition “I have the simplest of tastes; I only like the best” – Oscar Wilde For those who are only satisfied with the very best, we burn a UD direct from the original master. This version is the closest to the sound of the original master, because it is in essence a second master, the highest quality a consumer can obtain. It is not available in stores. The prospective customer has to subscribe, fill in a form with personal particulars, and sign an undertaking not to make any copies whatsoever, since the sound is so close to the master, it may be tempting for certain people to use this UD for illegal production (though FIM can trace that particular person, as the disc is coded). FIM reserves the right to disapprove a subscription application. All Direct-to Master-UD Editions are individually handcrafted. The CD jacket is embossed with the customer’s name and registered number; his or her name and registered number are also printed on the disc. Two different certificates of authenticity of that particular disc, signed by
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(ii) Collector’s UD Edition

Winston Ma, are included. The disc is certified with an average block error rate of 1 or lower! The cost is $150.00 each… expensive, but probably the best sounding CD money can buy. For argument’s sake, one could say that it is very inexpensive to buy a second master at only $150, taking into consideration the time, energy, and care that go into creating these discs. If a customer wishes to request his or her favorite number for use on all Direct-fromMaster UDs, we shall be happy to do the extra management work. However, he or she is requested to make a donation not less than $300 to any charity organization of his or her choice. This opportunity is offered on a first-come first-served basis. If there is more than one customer asking for the same number, that number will be auctioned, with the proceeds going to charity. In future, we may create a scholarship or award to support meaningful projects or talented audio designers who need financial help. For subscription, please email to wma@fimpression.com. For UD subscriptions and related questions, please email wma@fimpression.com. For questions on AVM, please contact www.accentusaudio.com

First Impression Music, Inc.

Winston Ma September 28, 2008

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Postscript
I gave Gary Koh of Genesis Loudspeakers a couple of UDs last week for his show in Florida. The following was his feedback:
From Gary Leonard Koh (Gary@genesisloudspeakers.com) Sent: Friday, September 26, 2008 11:42 PM

“Hi Winston, …… I made a RCC coated version of Happy Coat on my CRW-F1 at home, and it is absolutely fabulous. Very critical ears here in Florida have said that they thought that it was the very, very best of vinyl. When I told the audience that it was the lastest technology from FIM, they were astounded. We have two more days – and we are taking orders for the non-RCC coated version of Happy Coat, and many want the RCC coated one no matter what they cost. I told them that you had to apply for the very, very limited copies, and it might be $150. Still they want it!!. I think that you have a fabulous hit here! Cheers Gary
Sent: Friday September 26, 2008 11:43 PM

You may have to re-think the pricing, because test pressing vinyl that don’t even sound as good are being sold for $200 here in Florida. Cheers Gary

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was the First Impression Muchez by Chuck Mangione – floored Wins sic Audio Master. This is a “Perfect Sound Forever”. everybody. The improvement was speci Finally, report recordings huge, auditioning and different recial resonance control coated, Below is an excerpt from an interesting three on a session of UD and it was like acomparison Far and away, the best CD-R brought in by the members namically balanced, ionic water different Impression audi by the Pacific Northwest Audio Society in September, 2008 cording and a totally was the First sound Muwere copied to a FIM CDR. system. The improvement Master.the way aned, 300-year archival-quality sic Audio on This is a upon special resonance control ld CD-R. They will retail at $45 The first was Charlie Hayden on the third recording was also not subtle. coated, dynamically balanced, ionic water this h, and worth every penny. Now, double bass, and while there was a cleaned, 300-year archival-quality As a finale, weCD-R. 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The improvement was it sounded so good that most by therecordings cleaned, and it was like a different rebrought in of the members huge, 300-year archival-quality brought in by the members were copied to no selec Gold CD-R. They will different $45 audience thought that there wasa FIM CDR. retail at sound The first was Charlie Hayden on the were copied to a FIM CDR. cording and a totally penny. Now, could be improved then each, and worth improvement on the way that this discdouble bass, and while there was a every e first was Charlie Hayden on the system. Thesince the introduction subtle a perfect it was not upon. If there ever wasimprovement, CD, and after 26recording was also not subtle. years third hugely noticeable. The improvement uble bass, and while there was a the this would be it. in the second disc – Children of ionic of Compact Disc, we are beSanAs a finale, we reality “This tle improvement, it was not chez by Chuck Mangione – floored ginning to approach the played of the is However, when weThe improvement relea everybody. played the was K2 HD Sound!” – a sampler gely noticeable. The improvement “Perfect Sound Forever”. Collector’shuge, and it was of a this quan Edition like different reby FIM Recordings. This is he second disc – Children of Sancording and a totally different sound disc, mostsystem. The and some on Winston Ma explains sounding CDs ever available members of the best the recordings z by Chuck Mangione – floored one Finally, threeintricacies of producing the best sounding CDsof the improvement subtle.the third recording wasThis is also not brought we be the members special When in played the the near could rybody. The improvement was made.limited CDs toby released inoriginal, future. hear the improvement. we played “This is As a finale, been specially were so good a FIM CDR. ge, and it was like a different re- it soundedcopied to that most of the a pressed CD that hasK2 HD Sound!” – a sampler by quality, and the The first was Charlie Hayden was ding and a totally different sound audience thought that thereon theno selected for outstandingFIM Recordings. This is one of the best sounding CDs ever double bass, and while there was a control coated Mas made. tem. The improvement on the way that this disc could be improved then it is resonance When we played the original, sounded so and then copy upon. If there ever it was not d recording was also not subtle. subtle improvement,was a perfect CD, and dynamically itbalanced,good that most of the hugelywould be it. The improvement ionic-water washed. When these are orig this noticeable. As a finale, we played “This is the second disc – Children of Sanin However, when we played the released, they will be in limited onto K2 HD Sound!” – a sampler They chez by Collector’s Edition floored Winston Ma explains the intricacies of producing the be Chuck Mangione – of this quantities. be near future. by FIM Recordings. This is everybody. The improvement was special limited CDs towereleased in theSecond ence disc, most of the members Finally, played the of the best sounding CDs ever Mas huge, and it was like a different rehear This audienceMaster Edition, andwas no selecte thought that there this was scrib de. When we played the original, could and athe improvement.sound is cording totally different specially this disc could be improved then i ounded so good that most of the a pressed CD that has beenon the way that yet another leap forward over takin system. The improvement the Collector’s was a perfect CD, and dy upon. If there everEdition. The Second ever third recording was also not subtle. Master, be it. ionic-w this would as the name implies, is not a num As a finale, we played “This is copy, but a recording made from the 4 You could hear a pin dropwe played the release Winston was nam However, when whenand burnedspeakin K2 HD Sound!” – a sampler original studio masters, quanti Edition of CDR. com by FIM Recordings. This is ontoCollector’sAudio Master this a FIM disc, be of the members one of the best sounding CDs ever They will mostthe ultimate in refer- the Pacific Northwest Audio Society Audioletter could hear the CDs. These Second made. When we played the original, 4 ence-quality improvement. This is disc a pressed CD that has be sold to sub- will been 14 | it sounded so good that most of the Masters will only could hear aspeciallyWinston was sp You pin drop when the Co scribers who have signed an under- $150

each, and worth every fferentyears since thepenny. Now,thought that there was no selected for outstanding quality, and sound audience after 26 introduction way are this ment on the Disc, wethatbe- disc could be improved then it is resonance control coated of the Compact upon. of there ever was a perfect CD, and dynamically balanced, and then ginning to approach the reality If the not subtle. “Perfect Sound Forever”. ionic-water washed. When these are this would be it. ayed Finally, is “This three recordings brought in by the members However, when we played the released, they will be in limited – a were copied to a FIM CDR. sampler Collector’s Edition of this quantities. The first was is ings. ThisCharlie Hayden on the double bass, and while there was a most of the members Finally, we played the Second ng CDs ever it wasdisc, subtle improvement, not Master Edition, and this was hugelyoriginal, The improvement the improvement. This is the noticeable. could hear in the second disc – Children of Sanyet another t chez by Chuck Mangione – flooredCD that explains been specially the best sounding CDs available and leap forward over most of the a pressed Winston Ma has the intricacies of producing some the Collector’s Edition. The Second everybody. The improvement was special limited CDs to be released in the near future. huge, and it was like a different reMaster, as the name implies, is not a cording and a totally different sound audience thought that there was no selected for outstanding quality, and copy, but a recording made from the system. The improvement on the way that this disc could be improved then it is resonance control coated upon. If there ever was a perfect CD, and dynamically balanced, and then third recording was also not subtle. original studio masters, and burned ionic-water washed. When these are this would be it. As a finale, we played “This is in limited onto a will However, when we played the released, they FIMbe Audio Master CDR. K2 HD Sound!” – a sampler quantities. Collector’s Edition of this They will be the ultimate in referby FIM Recordings. This is disc, most of the members Finally, we played the Second one of the best sounding CDs ever ence-quality and this was Master Edition, CDs. These Second made. When we played the original, could hear the improvement. This is Winston Ma explains the intricacies of producing the best sounding CDs available and some yet another leap only be Masters will forward over sold to subit sounded so good released in the near future. that most of the a pressed CD that has been specially special limited CDs to be the Collector’s Edition. The Second scribers who have signed an underMaster, as the name implies, is not a audience thought that there was no selected for outstanding quality, and copy, but a recording made from the taking not to make copies in whatway that this disc could be improved then it is resonance control coated original studio masters, and burned upon. If there ever was a perfect CD, and dynamically balanced, and then onto a FIM Audio Master CDR. ever format. Each disc is serially ionic-water washed. When these are They will be the ultimate in referthis would be it. numbered and engraved with the However, when we played the released, they will be in limited ence-quality CDs. These Second name of the sold to subMasters will only be subscriber. It will also Collector’s Edition of this quantities. disc, most of the members Finally, we played the Second scribers who have signed an undercome with two certificates showing could hear the improvement. This is Master Edition, and this was taking not to make copies in whatthe specifications of that particular a pressed CD that has been specially yet another leap forward over ever format. Each disc is serially the Collector’s Edition. The Second numbered Only verywith the disc. and engraved limited quantities Master, as the name implies, is not a name of the subscriber. It will also will be produced, and copy, but a recording made from the come with two certificates showing they will cost original studio masters, and burned the specifications of that particular $150 per disc.

onto a FIM Audio Master CDR. disc. Only very limited quantities They will be the ultimate in refer- will be produced, and they will cost ence-quality CDs. These Second $150 per disc. Masters will only be sold to subscribers who have signed an undertaking not to make copies in whatever en Winstonawas speaking was speaking format. Each disc is serially You could hear pin drop when Winston numbered and engraved with the name of the subscriber. It will also come with two certificates showing Pacific Northwest Audio Society Audioletter,specifications of that particular the September 2008 Society Audioletter, September Genesis Advanced technologies, Inc. for his Special thanks to Gary Koh, 2008 limited quantities disc. Only very generous sharing of hiswill be produced, and they will cost knowledge and experience in the technology of $150 per disc.

burning the best CDRs and other related fields.

peaking

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