This Blog entry is from our good friend Daryl G. who has become quite the LP aficionado! Daryl is a great guy, very intelligent, and very personable… love it when he comes to hang out with us! He handed this off to me not long ago wondering if we might post it so his experience might help others. Well absolutely I’ll do that! Anytime we can make someone’s listening experience better, we’re all in. Even though Daryl mentions some products that we don’t carry (yet!), we appreciate that some are good at what they do, and we can provide similar ones… so no need to look elsewhere! Without further ado…
Another Take on Vinyl Record Cleaning
Like many vinyl record fans, I’ve learned lots of new lessons about record care since I returned to vinyl ten years ago. Back in the day (growing up buying and listening to vinyl in the 70’s), the newly-purchased record went straight to the turntable. A quick wipe with a record brush and the music was then preserved on cassette tape for car listening. After that, the record was seldom if ever played again.
Fast-forward to 2008. While on a one-year deployment to Afghanistan1, I started reading about all the latest vinyl products including new turntables and record cleaning machines by companies such as SOTA and VPI. That got me thinking about digging out my two boxes of vinyl records as soon as I got back stateside.
Like many, I did a lot of reading and research on lessons learned by others who were getting back into the hobby. It didn’t take long to figure out there were numerous options out there, but one of the least expensive alternatives was wet-cleaning vinyl prior to playback. Eventually I settled on the Spin-Clean Record Washer as the most cost-effective solution. I ordered the Mark II kit and began cleaning my old stash of albums. While I was at it, I added new Mobile Fidelity inner sleeves and new outer record sleeves to ensure my cleaning efforts weren’t in vain. And for good measure, I added small 1-inch round labels to record the date the record was cleaned on the outer sleeve.2
Before long, I was upgrading to a new American-made U-Turn Orbit turntable with a Grado Blue cartridge for playback. I settled in listening to both my older albums and the newer albums I was buying with more regularity. At the same time, I continued reading up on the latest vinyl trends, watching YouTube videos by Michael Fremer and others, and visiting the audiophile forums like the Steve Hoffman forum. I soon learned other Spin-Clean users were noticing the same thing I was…even after cleaning, there was still some crackliness in the playback. Several users attributed this to the Spin-Clean cleaning solution and its ‘soapy’ properties. To resolve this, the consensus seemed to be using a separate rinse cycle with just distilled water.3
I immediately added a second Spin-Clean for the rinse cycle. Instant improvement! The crackliness was all but eliminated. So now the process was to wash in one Spin-Clean followed by a distilled water rinse in a second Spin-Clean; wipe with Spin-Clean clothes and allow the records to fully dry on dish racks. I only used the Spin-Clean brushes on 200 new records before rotating them for use on thrift-store vinyl. It might be overkill, but I felt better not using the same brushes on thrift store records.
By this point, I was fully on-board the audiophile-never-satisfied-upgrade train. I still recalled reading about the SOTA and VPI record vacuum cleaners. And ultrasonic record cleaners were becoming the new hot thing. I really didn’t want to invest 600 dollars or more in a record vacuum cleaner and 2500 dollars or more for an ultrasonic was out of the question. Then I saw a video on YouTube reviewing the 199-dollar Record Doctor V. This fully manual record vacuum did everything the more expensive units did but just required hand-turning. A little more research and I placed an order.
The vacuum took cleaning to another level. I still use the 2-step Spin-Clean process to do an initial clean, then follow up with a vacuum using Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions Premium 1-Step No. 6 Cleaning Fluid. The thing I really like about the manually-turned Record Doctor and the motorized Nitty Gritty machines is that they don’t use a large platter. The thought of vacuuming one side of an album then flipping it over to have the clean side in contact with the same platter that just had a dirty record laying on it seems counter-productive to me.
Wrapping up, this is still my current cleaning regimen and I usually try to do 10 albums in a cleaning session (maybe more after Record Store Day). I empty the Spin-Clean water after each session and I change out the Record Doctor velvet strips after 200 albums.
An ultrasonic is still on the wish list but I’m completely satisfied with the current results. Over the last 10 years I’ve incorporated use of a Zerostat anti-static gun and an Onzow Zerodust stylus cleaner, upgraded my turntable, cartridge and most recently my speakers (thanks to Mark and Tim at Rich’s Records). I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the hobby. The warmth and presence of vinyl truly does bring back the appreciation and enjoyment of music listening. The hands-on involvement and focus associated with analog playback is a welcome escape from an increasingly digital world.
I wish you all the enjoyment the analog music hobby can bring. Mark, Tim and crew at Rich’s Records have been a tremendous help to me over the last few years and I’m sure they can help guide you if you’re ready to add or upgrade your analog audio equipment.
(1. Our buddy Daryl is an Air Force Veteran… thanks for your service sir!)
(2. Detail oriented…?)
(3. Ed. Note… While there is nothing wrong with doing the extra rinse cycle as Daryl describes, if the Spin Clean is used as directed and albums are dried off and buffed with authentic Spin Clean cleaning cloths, this issue should not be a normal problem.)