$13 Is Cheaper than a New Blu-Ray Player

A number of years ago I bought a nice Yamaha Aventage Blu-Ray player. I bought this model because it’s a so-called “universal” disc player, able to deal with nearly any format in existence, including high-resolution SACDs and DVD-As. On top of that, reviews gave it very high marks for its audio quality for just playing CDs.

Though my CD listening has decreased over the years as my Sonos listening has increased, I still have hundreds of discs, many of them not available in a streaming format. So I was dismayed a couple of weeks ago when my wife reported that a favorite CD by Arto Lindsay wouldn’t play. She gave it a cleaning and we tried it in our office stereo, an NAD C715 compact stereo, and it played fine. But the Blu-Ray player wouldn’t even acknowledge it.

I’ve had a few situations in the past where my DVD player wouldn’t read some CDs, so I just chalked it up to these more sophisticated video machines being more sensitive.

But then a couple weeks later my wife reported that another disc, Variable Unit’s “Handbook for the Apocalypse” wouldn’t load either. Again, it played fine in the office stereo.

Now I was getting annoyed. Although the Blu-Ray player is about 8 years old, I wouldn’t expect it to be dying already. Especially because it doesn’t get used that much.

I started googling around to see if there were any specific problems reported for my particular model, and found nothing out there on message boards or on Yamaha’s support site. Not experiencing any problems with DVDs or Blu-Rays, I wondered if maybe the problem is reserved for CDs, so I also started looking for a new CD player to supplement it, or a new universal Blu-Ray player to replace it.

As you might guess, there are fewer component CD players available these days. If I were to go that route I wanted something more compact that might slide in to a smaller shelf in my TV stand. There are even fewer new models that meet that requirement, and two I found cost at least $400. Ouch.

Feeling a little frustrated, but not defeated, I figured I could just rip the CDs that won’t play right and put them on my media server. But that’s just more effort, and still annoying.

Then, somehow I happened upon discussions of general Blu-Ray player problems, discs of all sort not loading, even when clean or relatively new. A consistent solution was to use a cleaning disc.

I remember having a laser cleaning disc for my 1987 vintage CD player back in the day, that only ever got used a few times. And that experience left me with the impression that such a remedy wasn’t generally necessary.

Blu-Ray players – and DVD players to some extent – are different, I learned. There are two factors at play. First, the pickup lenses are very different since they have to deal with three different wavelengths of light, and Blu-Ray is a much tinier wavelength than CDs (blue vs. red). Second, almost all Blu-Ray players, mine included, have fans, which blow in dust, along with air, making them much more susceptible to contamination.

Thus I set about finding a Blu-Ray cleaning disc. Along the way I was cautioned that you need to buy the proper kind of disc – that a DVD cleaner is not suitable for a Blu-Ray player, and vice-versa. This is largely due to the fact that the laser lens sits at different distances from the disc in each kind of player.

In the end I ordered an Endust branded Blu-Ray lens cleaner for $13. It arrived today.

Before giving it a go I gave the Arto Lindsay disc another try. Just before ordering the cleaning disc I made multiple attempts to play that disc, ejecting and trying to play it several times. Once it worked, but it was not reliable. Again, today, it wouldn’t even read.

So I ran the cleaning disc procedure, which takes less than a minute, then loaded in Arto Lindsay. It played right away. Next went in the Variable Unit disc. Boom, success.

In our contemporary world of irreparable and disposable electronics I consider this to be a small victory. $13 is a small price to pay not to replace my disc player.

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