Fancy blasting negative ions at your CD collection? Paul Rigby does just that to see if they’ll improve sound quality via the Acoustic Revive RIO-5 II
I have tried and tested some strange bits of kit in my time. Some are based upon cables and feature all manner of strange gizmos within. Some fire weird rays at your CD discs, some demagnetise vinyl, some are massive, resemble a Dalek, sit in your room and look at you with a furrowed brow and are designed to improve the sound quality of your room. Many readers gaze at these gizmos with amazement, some are aghast at the scientific basis behind them. Some laugh and shake their heads. Some just can’t believe what they are seeing.
The quality of these accessories varies, of course, in terms of results. Some are better than others, I have to say but, in every single case, they changed the sound in some way. Not one failed to do something. Which is why I have always been and remain very open minded about any piece of technology. I can afford to be, of course, but at least it allows me to pass on my experiences.
I apologise to those who have heard me say this before but I would gladly plug in a Teflon-coated cheese sandwich into my hi-fi if it was guaranteed to improve the overall sound quality. This, my friends, is the latest ‘cheese sandwich’ that I have been sent. And it’s made to improve the sound quality of CDs.
The RIO is a tall chrome coloured tube. Piled at the top but under a wire mesh cover are numerous tourmaline balls (HERE is a quick overview of this gemstone)
In use, you place the CD on the top of the tube. The CD just about fits inside and is held firm by an outer rim. You then press a small red button on the outer base of the tube and the whole thing springs into action as the balls are quickly heated by a strong light. This process releases those negative ions. A low noise fan blows those heated negative ions at your CD. Just the face it sees, though, not the entire disc. When the timer ends, you turn the CD over and press that red button again to repeat the process. Hence, each full CD process takes 28 seconds.
So what is going on here? According to the company, Tourmaline is widely known to contain electric current (0.06mA) and, as I say, releases negative ions when heated, which are the same types as those released naturally. These naturally occurring negative ions size 1/10000 smaller in comparison to those produced by electrical components. And that’s the problem, so the company has it. Firing the natural stuff at a CD improves the sound. I guess the reason relates to changing the inherent electrical charge (no matter how tiny that might be) stored on the CD during play which may influence jitter and the like. Reading the company’s translated notes from Japanese to English is only a partial help, I have to say, in terms of providing a full explanation, so you are left filling in the gaps yourself. One extra note, the RIO-5 II also emits infrared rays which activate the surface of the disc and, says the company, improves the transmission of the laser beam to the disc. The reason for the fan? Apparently, it’s to improve the ion circulation.
I’m sure that you’ve seen this sort of negative ion technology for general use in homes as air purifiers promising to lower pollen and bacteria in the treated room, a lowering of stress for those people in the immediate area and the like. But would it improve the sound of a CD? I gave it a test.
I began with a piece of vocal jazz from Bing Crosby. Useful because this music offered a jazz trio sitting behind the man with that emotive baritone voice. So there’s lots of subtle things happening.
Did the RIO-5 II have an effect? Yes, absolutely. It had a very similar effect to, for example, placing good quality isolation underneath your CD player, such as Sorborhane. That is, there was a reduction in extraneous noise. The noise reduction added new focus and precision to the Crosby vocal giving his voice extra texture and emotion during his delivery while the double bass firmed up, adding new weight while the reduction in noise enhanced the air and space in the soundstage, allowing more of the treble-infused cymbals to reach the ear.
I moved to Enjoy The Silence from Depeche Mode to see how the RIO-5 II affected more high energy discs.
Again, there was a reduction in background noise which meant that the music and vocal emerged from a blacker silence, from a calmer background which meant that David Gahan’s crescendos didn’t include a slight flaring and stridency during crescendos, bass was tighter and the twangy lead guitar had more ‘twang’. In short, the music sounded as though it was no longer fighting to get through to the ear. It was calmer, instrumental separation was greater, subtle details were more easily heard.
I say all of this and confirm that positive changes occurred but the effects were subtle. Not massive at all. There was a change but it wasn’t earth shattering. I wanted more. And I thought that I might know how to get it.
You’re not supposed to leave the CD on the device after the allotted process time has been completed because part of that process includes heating up the tourmaline which means that your CD warms up alongside it. Leave the CD in situ and you risk warping that CD.
Nevertheless, I decided to ignore the instructions – to an extent, at any rate – and, instead of giving the CD a single front/back process, gave the CD five such processes instead. That is, treated the front and back, removed the disc for a few seconds to allow it to cool and repeated five times in all.
This time the change was a lot more significant. In fact, the midrange became very smooth. Super smooth, in fact with a large removal of digital edge that often accompanies CD play. The output was more analogue and warming in tone. Vocals had a sense of ease and flow while drums were far more organic and character in nature. Guitars had a tonal enhancement, sounding as though they were operated by human hands instead of the robotic attack that preceded it.
That the Acoustic Revive RIO-5 II achieves in what it sets out to do is without question. Once treated, your CDs sound different. The sound quality is improved and, if you do decide to purchase it then I would encourage going the extra length and giving each CD five treatments before each play, not the recommended one.
There are three issues here, though.
Firstly, is the price. This is a lot of money to spend on an accessory. You will need to have money to spare, as it where, away from other priorities such as components. If your budget is restricted then you will need to think long and hard before plumping for this device.
The second issue is demagnetisation. I have tested CD demags before and I know that they work too. If you are going to go for the Acoustic Revive RIO-5 II then I would highly recommend that you invest in a CD demag too and go through the entire process properly. The Acoustic Revive RIO-5 II offers improvements but only really takes you 50% of the way there. If you are going to bother at all, then do the job properly by treating your CD with the RIO and the demag before each and every play (the effects will wear off pretty quickly after you’ve finished playing your CD).
This brings up the final point. Can you be bothered? That is, before each CD play, you will need to spend a few minutes giving each CD five treatments from the Acoustic Revive RIO-5 II and then, if you go for the demag too, a few more minutes with that (demag devices also require multiple treatments, again ignore the instructions on the ‘single’ treatment idea).
Do you have the patience to treat your CDs for 10 minutes or slightly less before you play each and every one of them? Over and over again? Only you can decide. Using the RIO (and the demag) sound quality will improve, there is not doubt about that. For many, that is the aim and the only thing that matters. For such users, you need the Acoustic Revive RIO-5 II.
ACOUSTIC REVIVE RIO-5 II
Tel: 0203 5442338
GOOD: smooth mids, lowers noise, firms bass, instrumental separation
BAD: treatment time (x5), price, you need a ‘demag’ to properly complete the job