HighEnd audio enjoys/suffers recurring encounters of the third kind. These occur by way of products whose mechanics of operation are either so revolutionary and esoteric as to fall outside the layman's scope of Physics; are utter poppycock that exploits gullible hopes for better performance;
or exist in some intermediate zone of murkiness. The latest such sighting? Golden Sound's Intelligent Chip. The website states that it is "an emerging technology device that can improve CD sound quality in the blink of an eye. The Intelligent Chip is a thin, 1-inch square orange wafer that automatically upgrades any CD/DVD/SACD disc when the Chip is placed momentarily on the top surface of the player while the disc is playing. The sound of the upgraded disc more closely resembles the sound of the original master recording, with less congestion, more information, greater dynamic range and more air. The disc upgrade is virtually instantaneous - and is permanent. The Intelligent Chip is available in two models - the GSIC-10 ($16) upgrades 10 discs; the GSIC-30 ($40) upgrades 30 discs."

A number of apparently inexplicable items collide. The chip expires after a preprogrammed number of employs as though it could count. The chip can sense the presence of a spinning CD through metal. The chip can sense whether said CD has been treated already. The chip can prematurely wear out if not kept in its plastic case between treatments. The actual treatment takes 2 seconds but requires that the disc be spinning. Once treated, the benefits are permanent.

Radiation treatment? That still doesn't explain the feedback sensor mechanism by which the chip recognizes a CD through metal and whether it's been treated before or not. If a CD were bathed in some form of flash radiation, why would it sound recognizably different/better thereafter? Why would it hold this charge when the chip itself can prematurely expire if left out in the open? Why can its plastic case prolong its potency while a CD player's metal casing (in certain cases rather substantial) proves no hurdle?

The only possible solution for anyone curious enough to experiment with this device is to follow Marc Mickelson's excellent suggestion from his current SoundStage! Editorial - to keep an open mind and not let the lack of current science, experience or exposure pre-qualify the outcome in one way or the other. Product introductions like the Intelligent Chip pose quite a challenge for reviewers contemplating to write them up. Hear a difference in some form of controlled listening experiment and risk becoming a laughing stock when subsequent tests (perhaps by way of sophisticated equipment) call the device a measurable fake. Pretend that the device doesn't exist. Or jump on the bandwagon once it's safe because there is a marching band to join. The latter two scenarios are far less likely to undermine one's credibility but perhaps don't bode too well for that part of the press credo that reports on novelties while they're still novel. Of course one could simply report that one tried it and couldn't tell any difference. Or one could describe the differences one did hear and abdicate any responsibility for explaining why and how the darn thing operates.

Discarded chip opened up
At the cost of one CD -- and with the promise to improve 10 if it works -- the Intelligent Chip for once doesn't break the bank should it turn out to be a hoax. The inimitable Clark Johnsen meanwhile presents this link to introduce us to the emerging field of nanotechnology, quantum dots, artificial atoms and programmable matter. Whether there is a connection between the chip and this information remains for the really smart folks to determine.