This column ran in the Courant on May 27, 1999

Bedini: Houdini?

The Bedini Ultra Clarifier is the ultimate amusement-park ride for your CDs. It'll make your head spin, too.

The Ultra Clarifier is an extraordinary accessory that improves the sound of any disc, sometimes dramatically, by spinning it over a pulsed electromagnetic force. Bedini Electronics Inc. (; 800-876-0299) of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, says it eliminates the electrostatic charge created in the manufacturing of the disc and through repeated use. This claim is a source of controversy because aluminum, at least on this planet, does not hold an electrostatic charge.

``But people don't understand that they mix alloys,'' says company president/designer Gary Bedini. ``And plastic holds a charge like you wouldn't believe.''

Don't worry so much about the science of the Ultra Clarifier. It works. This is the third version I've tried. The first was a $35 handheld device. The second was a more potent $125 tabletop model. The latest is an even more potent but otherwise identical $180 tabletop version just out with a dust cover, washing fluid and, most important, a second electromagnetic beam for dual-layer DVDs and two upcoming audio formats, DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD. But it works beautifully on regular CDs.

Place a CD on the Clarifier (a sort of mini-turntable), press a button and allow the unit to run through a high-speed spin cycle over the dual beams until it turns off automatically after about 45 seconds.

Bedini suggests the effects of the Ultra Clarifier are best demonstrated by rubbing a CD on a wool sweater before playing it, then treating the same disc (both sides if you wish) with the Clarifier before playing it again. Even though the results were no great surprise - I've clarified almost every CD I've played the past three years - they were no less impressive. The title track of Lucinda Williams' ``Car Wheels on a Gravel Road'' came alive when Clarified, almost as if the volume had been turned up, with each instrument seemingly now owning its own spot in the soundstage and Williams' voice more upfront.

Then I did the before/after test with Arto Lindsay's cover of Prince's ``Erotic City'' off his 1997 album ``Mundo Civilizado.'' Melvin Gibbs' bass line is way down there, the deepest bass on any song I've heard. After the wool treatment, the bass was merely low and muffled, the instruments clustered and Lindsay's vocals somehow set off deeper into the mix.

After a spin on the Ultra Clarifier, all that changed. Most noticeably, the bass improved incredibly. It wasn't an illusion. This time, a mirror on the wall vibrated.

The new Ultra Clarifier isn't cheap. The less-effective hand-held version is still available.