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When your auto's CD player experiences a problem

Three days ago, I ran into a problem in a mini-studio at home that I use for recording my radio and television show.

When your auto's CD player experiences a problem

The CD recorder just would not record, displaying "Disc Error" instead. And sometimes even after the recording was apparently complete, the recorder could not finalise the disc or close it so that the disc could be played on another player.

At first, I thought the problem was with the control unit or one of the IC chips, but after checking the sequences, I think it was with the pick-up laser head itself.

Now let's take a look at the symptoms of the head unit and CD changer in your car. Sometimes the problem exists from the very first time you play a CD. Listen for any hiccups while playing a brand-new CD on a genuine CD player. This can happen once in a while. Inspect the disc and you may find a speck of dust or slight scratch, which should not affect the player. However, this could be caused by the pick-up laser head - the laser beam may not be dense enough, because production of CD laser pick-up heads these days have been compromised in terms of material used, such as plastic heads instead of glass. New versions of the head may also be less accurate than older generations. It may not be able to penetrate even a small speck of dust.

Another problem may not be caused by the pick-up laser head, but rather by the DAR detect, which searches for information from the disc and sends it to the D/A converter to tell which type of information it is. The hiccups are caused by an inability of this device to detect the value or meaning of the input information. If this is the cause, then the hiccup is followed by dead silence and a "Disc Error" display, or even no display. Whenever you load a CD and it fails to react, this usually means either the detection system cannot access the information on the disc or the disc may have its own technical problems, not the player.

Every CD player, whether it is a head unit or multi-disc CD changer, is designed to acknowledge mistakes and glitches on the disc accurately. Whenever there is a numerical data mistake, a circuit called CIRC tries to solve the problem. Every CD player has it. This means that when there is a mistake in reading the disc, it will search for what kind of data is lost and compare it with the millions of data on that disc within a split second and then correct the mistakes before sending it back. You will not hear any hiccups in the music at all.

And whenever the mistakes are too much for the system to handle, we would then hear the audible mistakes.

Another problem we often overlook is that the head unit and CD changer are designed to absorb a certain amount of vibration. So when your vehicle hits a pothole or drives over a rough surface, the CIRC system will read a large number of erratic data from the laser head. If the mistakes are at an acceptable level, the problem is solved.

But if there are too many, then hiccups will occur. The number of acceptable errors is designated by the manufacturer.

The head unit and CD changer usually do not read cheap discs of poor quality or copied discs with low signal levels, since it does not want to compromise with poor audio quality. So cheaper players are usually able to read poor-quality discs better than more expensive players, since they allow a higher number of errors to pass by. So don't wonder why your expensive head unit cannot read a disc while your friend's cheap player can.

It depends on whether you can accept poor audio quality from a poor recording. If you want good audio quality, then you need to purchase a disc with good audio quality, not just any disc. Otherwise, you will just be fooling your own ears with something that is not true music.

By Wijit Boonchoo

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