DiscRx (Disc Restore) - DVD Formula

This review is sponsored by


    A common problem that has emerged since the very dawn of the CD Digital Audio format is the inherently difficult nature of caring for one's discs, as well as repairing discs that have been damaged in some way, be it by accidental mishandling, or because of persons less careful than yourself getting their hands on a disc. For years, various products have been marketed as being able to repair certain kinds of damage to our beloved shiny discs, so it is only fitting that there be a product marketed as being tailored for the DVD format. The packaging makes many bold claims along the lines of making unplayable discs playable again. Although I have yet to become the proud owner of a DVD that has become unplayable, there has been many an occasion where one of my CD-DA discs has either refused to play or stubbornly decided to skip at a certain time. According to the packaging, Disc Restore was invented in Silicon Valley ten years ago, during which time it has been used by professionals the world over, and is now available to the general public. Given that the general public in question would never admit that the problems they might have with small, shiny discs could be related to their own way of handling them (you wouldn't believe some of the stories I could tell), such a product as this would be in hot demand. So, with some cynicism and foreboding, I decided to put this cleaning and restoring product through its paces.

What's In The Box

    The Disc Restore box that I received for review contained a number of items, most of which will doubtlessly be a bit confusing to behold at first. Upon opening the packaging, I found a sheet of stickers with the words "Protected by Disc Restore" on them, a pair of lint-free cloths (one white and one blue), a small booklet of instructions, and a pair of chemical bottles under the packaging insert. These two chemical bottles are central to the overall package, as one contains a formula for buffing the disc and putting it into its cleanest possible state (labelled Care), while the other contains a formula for repairing the disc (predictably labelled Repair). The booklet contains a series of instructions on how to apply the product, along with a series of warnings that most people who remember the early days of the format will be familiar with. The most important of them is that the cloths, referred to as Opticloths in the instructions, should only be used to wipe the disc in a linear direction from the centre of the disc to its edge. This familiar statement about disc cleaning is accompanied by a warning that wiping in a circular motion with the combination of the cloth and the liquids may cause further damage to the disc. This is a cause for alarm in itself, but a minor one for those who can follow instructions when there's a good reason. Another statement that is repeated on two parts of the booklet is that if your disc is scratched on the label side, and light can shine through that scratch, then your disc is irreparable. This is not such a worrying statement as one would normally think, as it takes a great deal of abuse to get a disc of any kind into this sort of state, although one can never be too careful. One thing about the instruction booklet that I found a little perplexing is the lack of acknowledgement of the existence of dual-sided or dual-layered DVDs, causing me to wonder how the instructions apply to such discs.


    I tried very hard to provide a fair and objective test for this product's capabilities, and took something of a risk by testing how the product performs with a rather scuffed CD. The CD in question, an ageing copy of Roadrunner Records' Redrum compilation of bands from the Australia and New Zealand independent scenes such as the much-loved Sadistik Exekution, had certainly seen better days. On CD players with a lot of overscan sampling, which includes most standalone CD players sold in the past few years, this disc performs as well as you'd normally expect. However, on CD-based portable stereos, the disc had begun showing minor problems when attempting to play back the fifteenth and final song, Hecatomb's Never Ending Terror. Being that this song is one of the best on the disc, this was a cause of much frustration for me in previous years when I used a portable stereo system for enjoying my rather esoteric music collection. Because the data surface of this disc looked like a cat had been playing with it, I decided to jump right in and use the repair formula as per the instructions provided. Without getting into too much detail, I buffed the disc using both formulas and both cloths, wiping in a straight line from centre to edge as has been the prescribed cleaning method for sixteen or so years now.

    After cleaning this particular disc, I played it in a variety of CD players to test if there was any discernible difference in performance after the cleaning. Neither of the CD drives in my computer picked up on any problem with the disc, which is no surprise considering that they are rated at thirty and thirty-two times the standard reading speed of CD anyway. My standalone Sony CDP-XE300 also stated that all was well with the disc, which is something of a surprise given that Sony CD players have long had a reputation as being more intolerant to imperfections in the material they are trying to read. A pleasant surprise, however, was that the disc played back without missing a beat on the portable stereo that most often found problems with the scuff marks, a Sanyo MCD-S810F. Given that this player is nearly a decade old and has often spat the dummy at discs for merely having a hair stuck to them, this was an encouraging sign. However, one must take note that if the CD looks scuffed and marked when examined under the light, Disc Restore will not make the marks disappear altogether in spite of how well it seems to improve the disc's playability.

    The next test for this product I performed was one of how well the cleaning agent performed by itself on a disc that was marked by fingerprints. To this end, I used the El Mariachi/Desperado double-featured DVD, one of the few discs that I can tolerate being dual-sided in spite of how damned hard these discs are to take care of. The data surface on both sides of this disc had noticeable fingerprint marks upon them (oil from certain parts of your hand tends to "bleed" into discs no matter how you hold them in my experience), so I merely used the Care formula to clean both sides of this DVD. The Care formula tends to wipe off the disc quite easily after a few minutes of effort, taking any fingerprints and dust with it, whereas the Repair formula did leave behind some streaking in spite of concentrated effort to wipe it away. Given that the Repair formula is meant to be used in conjunction with the Care formula, I don't believe this will be much of a problem for most users. Funnily enough, after cleaning the disc with the Care formula and the white "opticloth", the disc seemed to respond more quickly to my remote inputs, although whether this was just a perception or a real difference is something I cannot comment on with any authority.

    As far as the concerns about making the disc in question any worse are concerned, I found that such fears on my part were completely unjustified. Naturally, I used the product more or less exactly as specified in the instructions, but the point is that after cleaning a disc that had presented some difficulties beforehand, there seemed to be some noticeable improvement. In that regard, this product delivers pleasing results that are consistent with the manufacturer's claims.

In Summary

    If you are having problems playing back a disc on any CD or DVD player because of marks on the disc, then you cannot go far wrong with Disc Doctor. At a retail price of $29.95, it may seem like a lot of outlay upon initial consideration, but it could save you from buying a disc again because of playability problems.

© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
June 17, 2000