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Review: CD Repair and Cleaning Kits, The Digital Innovations Lineup
Eli
post Jan 19 2006, 20:03
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A short time ago I posted a review of my experience with the Digital Innovations SkipDR AutoMax ( here ). After the good results I was interested in comparing the other product in the CD Repair market to see how they stacked up. Digital Innovations was kind enough to send me the rest of their CD repair line up (Maxell, Memorex and a few others did not respond to requests).


Advanced Disc Repair System

The Adanced Disc Repair System is their step down from the motorized version, the AutoMax (see link for review above). This product requires some minimal assemble - the hand crank needs to be screwed on, the unit snaps into the base and the repair wheel needs to be fixed into place. After putting it together I set out to see how it performed. Just like the automax you spray the disc with the repair solution (see link above for directions on making your own), pop the disc in and start cranking the handle. Unfortunatly the device is very unstable and requires you to hold down the base while cranking with the other hand. And I do mean cranking - you really have to go at it for awhile, and unlike the AutoMax the disc doesnt pop out when done so you have to judge it on your own. I had set out to actually compare the results of the Advanced vs the AutoMax but after a few discs I really wasnt going to crank that handle anymore. Repairs did work well, on par with the AutoMax, but requiring significantly more labor.

Conclusion: Splurge and get the AutoMax. You wont use the hand powered system for long.


AutoMax Power Adaptor

I pretty much thought the power adaptor for the AutoMax would just save on batteries, but after plugging in the AutoMax with the Adaptor it was a whole new beast. The thing really has alot more power then it does with the batteries. I would strongly suggest that you get one, but try looking at RadioShack or somewhere else for a 9V adaptor that fits since DI charges $8 for it and its around $2-3 at RS. Im really disapointed that for the premium price DI charges for the AutoMax it doesnt include the Adaptor.


Universal "DR" Replacement Accessory Kit

DI suggests that you only use the wheel to repair 50 discs, and they sell the replacement wheels (as well as cloth and "repair solution") I would skip on the cloth and solution but their is no other way to get the wheel. Do a search on the web and you can find it a 2 disc wheel pack for about $8. Personally I feel that this price is still a bit high but much better then the $13 DI suggests. I would like to see abrasive sticky strips that could be affixed to the wheel, and at a much better price. Better then tossing the whole wheel and better for the environment.


Severe Scratch Repair Pads

These pads are a fine grit sand paper (dont know the grit) with a padded backing. Considering thats all they really are they are a bit pricey. That being said, they do work. I had three discs with scratches severe enough that discs were not even recognized by any of my drives. Multiple repair attempts did not improve the situation. After sanding with the Repair Pads and then smoothing everything with the AutoMax I was able to read the discs and even accurately rip most of the songs, though not all of them.


Motorized Disc Cleaner

This device is for CLEANing your discs and does not repair them. I didnt have any dirty discs myself, so I poured a few beverages on some old discs and let it dry. The discs would not rip accurately after this. I followed the directions and sprayed the discs with the rubbing alcohol (isopropanol) and popped it in. I expected the disc to pop out when done as it does with the automax but it doesnt. With the dried on sugars it took a few times through to get them clean, but it worked. I would suggest skipping this one as its nothing a soft rag and a bit of water or rubbing alcohol couldnt do. Plus I was disapointed to see that you couldnt plug an AC adaptor into this device. I have found it useful for the drying phase after running discs through the automax.


Multimedia Optical Lens Cleaner

Wanting to see if cleaning my drives lenses would improve ripping I gave this device a try. It has multiple tiny brushes on the underside of the disc and can be used with the onscreen directions. I didnt notice any difference with my own drives so I took it over to the in-laws and tried it in their DVD player which had been skipping alot recently. It fixed the problem. So I dont know how often it would help for music ripping but it does seem to clean the lenses as promised.


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Eli
post Jan 20 2006, 05:49
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AUTOMAX Motorized Disc Repair System

Original AutoMax Review:

After reading many comments and suggestions on CD repair I was convinced that devices like the SkipDr didnt offer much, and instead tried the widely suggested brasso and elbow grease methods.

Brasso gave moderate results and was ALOT of work.

So I broke down and purchased a SkipDR AutoMax, figuring worst case scenario it didnt do what it said and I would return it. The AutoMax is the motorized version of Digital Inovations Disc Repair Kit. It comes with a small spay bottle containing water w/ 0.5% Isopropanol (Make your own with 1 cup(~200ml) distilled water and 1/2 teaspoon (~2ml) 70% rubbing alcohol), a drying cloth, and a felt buffing square. It requires 6AA batteries or a 9V converter, I didnt have one around so I went with the batteries.

Simply spray a disk with the solution, pop it into the machine, and watch it spin around until the disc pops up. Time for some elbow grease - Didnt I buy the motorized one? - Dry with the provided rag and buff radially with the felt square.

Discs look noticably better after a run through the machine, though you can see they have been buffed.

Using this method I have been able to get accurate rips in EAC about 80-90% of the time where I was previously unable to (a small number can be re-buffed with good results). My success rates with brasso where closer to 25% at best.

IMHO, its an investment well worth it.


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dreamliner77
post Jan 20 2006, 07:19
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Sounds like my experiences with the skip dr. I have the old school one from about 5 years ago and it still work great.


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Eli
post Jan 20 2006, 14:13
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I had brought up the topic some time ago but most people seemed to suggest the brasso or toothpaste methods (havent tried toothpaste). After giving that a go I was frustrated. Just wanted to let others know of the positive expereince I had with the commercial kit. And it seems that Im not alone.


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Never_Again
post Jan 25 2006, 07:16
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A very helpful and informative review, Eli! Thank you very much for putting in personal time, effort and money into it - a great community service.
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Eli
post Jan 26 2006, 04:56
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NeverAgain, Thank you for the feedback. Good to know people are reading and enjoying the review.


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Shade[ST]
post Jan 26 2006, 05:03
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I have yet to fail repairing a CD with 5$ of equipment : Sandpaper, Brasso, a torn-up tshirt as a cloth and some Turtle Wax car wax...

The CDs even look mint when they're through the process..
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Halcyon
post Jan 26 2006, 07:56
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Your experiences mirror those of mine. Here are my results for the manual version of Skip Doctor:

http://www.digital-inn.de/exact-audio-copy...kip-doctor.html
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Eli
post Jan 26 2006, 14:04
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QUOTE (Shade[ST] @ Jan 25 2006, 11:03 PM)
I have yet to fail repairing a CD with 5$ of equipment : Sandpaper, Brasso, a torn-up tshirt as a cloth and some Turtle Wax car wax...

The CDs even look mint when they're through the process..
*



While I was far from 100% success with the brasso method you mention I was very unsatisfied with it secondary to the amount of labor required to recover a CD with brasso. Also, my success rate has been significantly higher, with a fraction of the labor, using the AutoMax. Personaly the little extra cost is worth the time savings to me.


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djstone86
post Jan 26 2006, 14:11
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Question, how exactly do you use the sandpaper and brasso?
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Eli
post Feb 5 2006, 15:58
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QUOTE (djstone86 @ Jan 26 2006, 08:11 AM)
Question, how exactly do you use the sandpaper and brasso?
*


you can google to get details. Use a fine grit sandpaper and go in a radial fashion (inside to ouside of disc), then put some brasso on a rag and buff in a radial fashion, finally use a clean, soft, lint free rag to clean up.


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Never_Again
post Feb 12 2006, 20:52
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Last week my SkipDr. AutoMax unit arrived. It was accompanied by the power adaptor: I took Eli's advice and didn't even bother trying to run the unit on batteries. I was surprpised to discover an offer for a free power adaptor in the AutoMAX's box; but then I saw the standard "allow 3-6 weeks for processing and delivery" notice and was glad I paid for mine.

Having thoroughly familiarized myself with the instructions and the FAQ, I set out to repair some of my unrippable (in Secure Mode) Audio CDs. Three were factory pressed, and one a borrowed CD-R.

The first two CDs failed to show improvement; and only then I discovered they had label-side damage. Nothing can be done about such damage, of course; so after carefully examining the third disc, I ascertained it had neither holes in the data layer nor scratches on the label side and submitted it to the AutoMAX. The CD was near-mint, except for a couple of rather ugly scratches on the last track. These had caused my standalone to skip (jump to the beginning of the track) and EAC in Secure Mode to abort with the combo of a Sync and a Read Errors.

I was pretty annoyed when after two passes EAC kept aborting just the same, thought the point where the Read Error was reported shifted closer to the end of the track. I had had some bad experience with a manual SkipDoctor unit bought at a Radio Shack; it may have been by the same company, Digital Innovations, but I cannot find that model on their site now.

Then I remember I had ordered a set of their Scratch Pads, so I gave them a try. You only use one at a time, of course, and here I found the instructions very helpful (unlike those that came with that old SkipDoctor model). I was wondering how hard I should go, and was relieved to read that you can go as hard (or gentle) as you please, as the Pads would never damage the disc. Indeed, their surface hardly even feels like sandpaper - more like slightly rough rubber. After rubbing the affected area a bit I let the AutoMAX do the work and only then EAC could rip the last track without errors, albeit at about 1.5X. Another pass helped get it a bit faster, but I was happy with the results as it was. Curiously enough, the CD layer wasn't happy until after the second pass; and I thought standalones were more tolerant of scratches.

The CD-R was last on the list. It was lent to me by a friend who reported occasional problems with the last two tracks. It had numerous small-to-medium scratches all over, but the worst was a pretty nasty inch-long scratch closer to the edge, one that was not radial but followed the digital "groove" - IOW, the worst case. That and the fact that the CD-R was a Plasmon cheapy didn't make me particularly optimistic about the repair prospects. The wretched disc froze EAC; PlexTools Pro promised some 1000+ minutes of extraction bliss just for one of the two bad tracks - no wonder: the CD's owner didn't even had a jewel case for it! Still, I ScratchPadded the disc all over, passed it a couple times through the AutoMAX and ...

Lo and behold! How 'bout 22X extraction in Burst Mode with matching CRCs?! Naturally, the CRCs were OK in Secure Mode* as well, not even the first row of the error correction indicator lit up!. Here are the PlexTools Pro scans of the last four tracks of this CD before and after repair. As you can see, the repair completely eliminated the CU errors!

The bottom line is: SkipDr. AutoMAX works very well indeed**. I can whole-heartedly recommend it, it is well worth the money. I'd like to thank Eli some more for providing the original review that instilled me with enough confidence to forget my earlier negative experiences with home CD repair kits. Thank you, Eli!

* EAC was started with --usefua CMD switch; Drive caches audio data checkbox was cleared as per own recommendation in the Plextor, EAC and cache, great news for Premium/PX-712 users thread.
** provided the CDs don't have label-side damage.
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Eli
post Feb 12 2006, 21:45
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NeverAgain, nice followup and good review. My next projects are some modifications to the automax wheel. I want to fix a fine sandpaper on a wheel to replace the scratch pad, and also get some wool strips to adhere to a wheel to replace the wool buffing pad.


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Eli
post Feb 14 2006, 00:37
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If anyone knows the relative grit/mesh of the scratch pad and wheel or the types of material they use I would really appreciate knowing.
Thanks


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Shade[ST]
post Feb 14 2006, 01:40
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The wheel is around 800 I think, and the wool pad (scratch pad) is not homogeneous in its 'scratchiness' -- it can really make scratches if you press too hard (which is needed to make the disc 'flat' again) -- that's why I prefer brasso : it's a buffing compound made to make sure metal is flat after polishing, equivalent of a 8000 grains per inch or so : very very fine polishing, and if you fill those cracks with car wax, the cd surface becomes smoooooth... biggrin.gif
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knucklehead
post Feb 14 2006, 02:33
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QUOTE (Eli @ Feb 12 2006, 12:45 PM)
NeverAgain, nice followup and good review. My next projects are some modifications to the automax wheel. I want to fix a fine sandpaper on a wheel to replace the scratch pad, and also get some wool strips to adhere to a wheel to replace the wool buffing pad.
*


You might want to look here for some useful info and products:

http://www.micro-surface.com/

A nice variety of abrasive products ranging up to an amazing 12000 grit!

Ive been using one of the kits (the wood kit - which I already had lying around) just wet sanding by hand with great success.
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Eli
post Feb 14 2006, 17:47
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QUOTE (Shade[ST] @ Feb 13 2006, 07:40 PM)
The wheel is around 800 I think, and the wool pad (scratch pad) is not homogeneous in its 'scratchiness' -- it can really make scratches if you press too hard (which is needed to make the disc 'flat' again)


The wool pad and scratch pad are 2 different things. The wool pad is intended to heat and smooth the surface. The scratch pad is a fine grit sandpaper with a padded backing


QUOTE
that's why I prefer brasso : it's a buffing compound made to make sure metal is flat after polishing, equivalent of a 8000 grains per inch or so : very very fine polishing, and if you fill those cracks with car wax, the cd surface becomes smoooooth... biggrin.gif
*


The brasso, in my experience, is to fine a grit to get rid of significant scratches in the plastic and takes ALOT of elbow grease. It may work well if you had a system where the brasso was used instead of water with an automax wheel type system.


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Eli
post Feb 14 2006, 17:55
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QUOTE (knucklehead @ Feb 13 2006, 08:33 PM)
You might want to look here for some useful info and products:

http://www.micro-surface.com/

A nice variety of abrasive products ranging up to an amazing 12000 grit!

Ive been using one of the kits (the wood kit - which I already had lying around) just wet sanding by hand with great success.
*



wow, looks like a great resource. I think this could replace the scratch pad:
IN. X 2 IN. SOFT TOUCH PAD 1500

And this could be cut into strips and glued to the wheel.
6 IN. X 12 IN. SHEET, MICRO-MESH 2400
The mention they have tapes, which is probably what is used on the wheel. But you need to special order


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knucklehead
post Feb 14 2006, 23:26
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QUOTE (Eli @ Feb 14 2006, 08:55 AM)
wow, looks like a great resource. I think this could replace the scratch pad:
IN. X 2 IN. SOFT TOUCH PAD 1500

And this could be cut into strips and glued to the wheel.
6 IN. X 12 IN. SHEET, MICRO-MESH 2400
The mention they have tapes, which is probably what is used on the wheel. But you need to special order
*


Be sure to check the conversion chart in the technical information section for grit equivalencies.

I almost always start at 3200 and work up to 12000.
Only rarely if there is a deep scratch do I start with 2400.

You might want to start out trying something like:

https://www.micro-surface.com/default.cfm?p...095PV&storeid=1

which would give you different grits to experiment with. Im pretty sure these are pressure sensitive adhesive backed (dont take my word on that - check) and could be cut into strips or pie wedges or whatever suits you. Im sure you could also gust grab any one of then and use it by hand as your scratch pad.
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Firon
post Feb 14 2006, 23:40
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This thread has very useful information, thanks a lot for taking the time to review all these!
I've got a few CDs that EAC dies on, so perhaps I'll be able to fix 'em with the AutoMax and scratch repair pads.
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Eli
post Feb 15 2006, 15:06
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QUOTE (knucklehead @ Feb 14 2006, 05:26 PM)
Be sure to check the conversion chart in the technical information section for grit equivalencies.

I almost always start at 3200 and work up to 12000.
Only rarely if there is a deep scratch do I start with 2400.

*


Above, it was stated that the wheel is equivalent to about 800grit. I dont know if this is correct, but according to their site the 2400 I linked to is ~800grit equiv. It would be interesting to try finer grains as well, but almost all CDs get a perfect rip with the grit on the wheel provided by digital innovations. I just think they charge to much for their wheel


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Rebel
post Feb 15 2006, 16:34
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Hi

Realy nice to read this thread I myself use a eletric drill wilt a polishing pad you
can bye in every car shop just yse som Isoprhopanol to clean dirty records.

Does the machine you mentioned restore the surface to mint condition?
or is anyone out there knowing how to restore a "fine line" shcatched CD to mint condition?

Sorry for bad english

Rebel in Sweden
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Eli
post Feb 15 2006, 16:51
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Looking at the disc itself you can tell it has been polished but they tend to read link mint condition CDs. It may well be that you could use a series of finer grits and not even tell the cd has been polished.


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Rebel
post Feb 15 2006, 17:36
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Well, I collecting Cd's and for trade or selling they has to be in mint condition. Sometimes you find collectables in flea markets etc. that has been "well" used thats why I'm asking.......
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Eli
post Mar 5 2007, 17:24
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QUOTE (Eli @ Feb 15 2006, 09:06) *
QUOTE (knucklehead @ Feb 14 2006, 05:26 PM)

Be sure to check the conversion chart in the technical information section for grit equivalencies.

I almost always start at 3200 and work up to 12000.
Only rarely if there is a deep scratch do I start with 2400.

*


Above, it was stated that the wheel is equivalent to about 800grit. I dont know if this is correct, but according to their site the 2400 I linked to is ~800grit equiv. It would be interesting to try finer grains as well, but almost all CDs get a perfect rip with the grit on the wheel provided by digital innovations. I just think they charge to much for their wheel



Just wondering if anyone ever looked into this any more. I went to one local place but they were really not much help. I have a few of the "disposable" repair wheels around and would like to be able to buy some cheap abrasive tape to stick on the wheels, instead of paying the overprice fees for replacements.


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