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Accessories for the vinyl. Protecting records is our profession!

Accessories for the vinyl, their correct and timely use is an integral part of live for every vinyl fan, and one of the crucial factors for the record’s longevity. No other physical media, such as tape, CD, DVD or Blu-Ray, requires the comparable amount of care. And that is all, one might think. Surely there is nothing interesting in cleaning a record, removing dust specks and admiring black iridescent sheen of the disk? Not even close! Vinyl has some kind of magnetism to itself. It warps the minds of beginner collectors: it makes them marvel record sleeves, reverently extract the disk with gentle touch, clean it and treat it well, ensure a proper storage condition.

And it goes without saying that seasoned vinyl worshipers won’t hesitate to sell their soul for this passion! For the true sound connoisseur vinyl related accessories, responsible for the cleanness of the record, are essential tools, humble servants, whose duty is to appease His Majesty the Sound and Her Highness the Emotion. Those rough times, when our only options for cleaning the vinyl were velvet patch, alcohol and distilled water, are long gone. We dropped our experiments with PVA glue.

 The era of vinyl worship has begun. Nowadays discophiles have access to wide range of vinyl care products: from carbon fiber brushes to automatic washing stations which have a price tag of a car. The choice is yours, but remember: record collection is a slippery slope. Once you take that path, your reason would surrender to pure emotion, whish spirals down following the tone arm.

So, what’s in the standard toolbox, what actual accessories for vinyl audiophiles use today? Collector’s first step is always shy one, and it’s usually a dry cleaning. For this procedure manufacturers offer various products: brushes made of velvet, goat hair, even carbon fiber. The last two not only remove dust, but also have antistatic properties. Static electricity, a sworn enemy of the vinyl, can be defeated with the help of cunning devices, resembling tone arm with a brush instead of needle. For especially difficult cases you can use a special antistatic “gun”.

Now, how can we forget about a needle? You can clean it dry, there are miniature brushes for it, but special liquid detergents are more effective. Usually they are equipped with integrated brush.

Of course, sprays, liquid cleaners and concentrates also are available. There’s plenty to choose from. Different approaches to cleaning, different formulas - alcohol solutions, compound non-alcohol solutions, small and big volumes, single bottles and cleaning sets. This detergents’ task is more serious: to soak the grooves to the very bottom and wash off contaminants. Excess moisture can be wiped with microfiber.

To keep the record clean until next use, put it into the antistatic sleeve. To protect the album jacket you can purchase special covers made of thick polyethylene film. They also reduce static electricity buildup.

At the end, whichever type of cleaning was used, you’ll hear the change! Accessories for the vinyl are easy to buy. Actually, it’s hard to stop. Looking after your vinyl collection is a bit like tending a garden. Don’t hold back, and you’ll be surprised with results!

Accessories for the vinyl. Protecting records is our profession!

Cleaning the vinyl. A recipe for the clear sound

What’s the right way to clean the record? Knowledge is power, and every audiophile sooner or later asks a question: How do I clean my records at home? Today we are offered so many devices, detergents, cleaning methods and various innovations that making a correct choice may prove to be very difficult.

Let us lend you a hand. First step: we need to determine a right cleaning method for your particular situation: express-care or deep cleansing. This will suggest what kind of vinyl cleaners you need. The record itself, the sound of vinyl, will tell you if your choice was right.

Even a brand new record, charges with static after first play, starts to attract dust particles, which form a foundation for future layers of dirt. There’s enough dust in the cleanest of your rooms, trust us. It is a mix of shed skin, pollen, fibers from paper and clothes, and lots of other stuff. We all saw in a beam of sunlight. A release agent, used to treat mould for easy extraction of the vinyl disk after pressing, acts as cement for dust particles. Same with the grease from your fingers.

So, how do we clean the record, in which you’re not 100% sure?

 

A: Visual control. If you see some dist on a surface of the record, it’s time for B: removing it with the special brush or piece of velvet. But place it first on the turntable or special pad designed for vinyl care. And C: more thorough record cleaning is possible using special spray and microfiber. In that case you will certainly need a soft pad, because you’ll have to apply a little force. Remember: you always move the brush or the microfiber in a direction, opposite to record’s rotation. You are spiraling outwards, from the label to the edge.

Common cotton rag is useless for vinyl care. It doesn’t soak up a cleaning solution, and its fibers are too soft to reach the bottom of the grooves. Only thinnest bristles of quality microfiber are able to do this work.

Listen to the record. If you still hear clicks and crackling noises, or the second-hand album you just bought looks shabby... Well, it’s time to learn how to wash the vinyl. First of all, no audiophile who values his record collection should ever try cleaning the vinyl according to some shady recipes, like using dishwashing liquids, soap, tap water or Elmer’s glue. There are plenty vinyl care products on the market. Besides, why cleaning the records should be less exquisite than listening?

 

Records can be cleaned by hand or with special washing devices: vacuum and ultrasound.

For hand wash you’ll need a plastic container. Specialized washing device for cleaning the records is very advisable.

Great choice for the tight budget. It’s portable, doesn’t need an electricity to work and offers decent cleaning quality. Usually these devices come with cleaning liquid.

 

The record is placed in the device, which is filled with a cleaning solution to a certain level. Then you rotate the record with your hands, while it is cleaned by internal brushes. Of course, you can use ordinary household plastic tub, but it proved to be less productive. And don’t forget - only professionally formulated solution, factory-made vinyl cleaner, can do a proper job. It combines three main features - superb cleaning properties, high penetration and antistatic effect.

Cleaning of the vinyl records with vacuum is more effective, because emulgated contaminants are sucked with air stream into a special container within a device. As a result, cleaning time is much shorter and record comes out virtually dry.

 

These electrovacuum machines closely resemble turntables. The only difference - instead on tone arm they have a small tube with little brushes installed. Of course, they are much more expensive. So buying this device makes sense only if you have very large collection. These machines also tend to be pretty noisy, because, they are, basically, vacuum cleaners.

Ultrasound cleaning also involves liquid cleaner and brushes, with one major addition. Ultrasound generator emits acoustic waves that create ‘exploding’ bubbles at the hard surfaces and effectively ‘scrub’ all the contaminants. Cleaning fluid - several liters of it - then is filtered and reused, while record is drying. Use of cavitations technology and full automation makes these devices very expensive.

Apart from washing, there are alternative methods of the vinyl care – regenerating solutions and glue-like liquids you pour on the surface of the record. The resulting film is peeled after drying, along with most of the dust particles. Roller cleaners and antistatic devices, mounted under the turntable also worth mentioning. Since the birth of long-play albums audiophiles are questioning themselves, how do they clean the records without damaging? As of today, we’ve got plethora of answers and solutions. We are witnessing the second coming of the vinyl and now we can say with certainty: Yes, we know how to clean vinyl!

Armed with that knowledge, we can now take a good care of our vinyl collection and guarantee its long life. Vinyl must be cleaned - old and new. Vinyl care and proper arsenal of products can make your listening more enjoyable and fill the audience with faultless and positive emotions, free of any impurities.

Liquid detergent for vinyl records. Mundane things

Record cleaning liquid is arguably the most important element of the ‘routine’ life of a vinyl collector, in between the listening sessions. Why ‘routine’, you may ask. Elementary! Have you ever heard of a hunter, who wouldn’t be passionate about the forthcoming hunt? Or a fisherman, indifferently mending his gear? Have you met a car lover, bored with waxing a microscopic scratch on the hood?

A true passion doesn’t have an ‘off’ switch.

Sooner or later you will stumble upon a ‘noisy’ record and decide to buy record cleaning solution. The sooner the better. Just to be ready, when you discover that couple of records you bought just yesterday, rumble like a bulldozer!

Available record cleaning solutions fall into two main categories: synthetic and alcohol-based.

Alcohol-based cleaners are getting less popular lately. Their main ingredient, isopropyl alcohol, has superb cleaning properties, but also is marked with significant disadvantages.

First of all - strong odor. It can annoy your family members and cripple your enthusiasm. 

 

For example, Knosti Disco Antistat mixture is based on isopropanol, and good ventilation during the record cleaning is strongly advisable. We can exclude from this group cleaning solutions that require mixing with the ethanol, or ethanol-based cleaners, like Pure Groove from Clearaudio. Their smell is less intense. Ready to use solution Pure Groove may surprise you its price as well as its cleaning properties.

Another drawback: Isopropanol is a chemically simple organic solvent. It means that it cannot be used to clean old shellac records.

And finally - it may harm you.

After trying Knosti mixture once or twice, vinyl collectors usually switch to synthetic cleaners.

Synthetic record cleaning solution is basically a mix of water and synthetic detergents. This solution decontaminates surface of a vinyl with the same ease, as alcohol-based cleaners.

 

Amphoteric and non-ionogenic surfactant are used as an active ingredient in synthetic record cleaning liquid. Of course, antistatic is an obligatory component. Modern surfactants are safe for the environment and odorless. You can wash your records all day long - nobody’s going to kick you out of the house. Pets won’t cover their noses.

Alcohol-based vinyl cleaning solutions dry a bit faster, than synthetic formulas, but the difference isn’t that big. Besides, number of synthetic formulas, based on distilled water, such as Analog Renaissance Record Cleaning Liquid, contains components that facilitate evaporation.

Record cleaning liquids may also be purchased in the concentrated form. Usually they are sold in small vials, and don’t take up too much storage space. The concentrated vinyl cleaners are the best solution for those collectors, who wash their records frequently and are used to preparing cleaning liquids at home. Big wash or simple cleaning - all you will need is a sufficient amount of purified water.

 

Both ready-made and home-prepared liquid cleaners are equally suitable for hand wash and for vacuum or ultrasound cleaning. They are interchangeable. To be absolutely sure, check an instruction which comes with you cleaning machine for additional requirements and/or restrictions. Usually there aren’t any.

Vinyl record cleaning liquid is sold in virtually every store that specializes on vinyl records and turntables. The thing is: vinyl care products are becoming just as popular as media itself. Stay in the trend - clean your vinyl!

Cartridge stylus cleaning: methods and agents

 Stylus cleaning is a simple theorem, but its formula isn’t always available. Sometimes we don’t pay sufficient attention to this process as indeed we should.

Picture yourself as a child, watching a record play. Is it possible that in that very moment you fell under the spell of the revolving disc, as if it were a hypnotist’s pendulum? Under the translucent cover of the phono we saw a monotonous rocking of a tone arm, following wavy imperfections of the record. We saw a stylus, gradually growing a soft ‘beard’. And, as any kid would do, we probably removed this dust with bare fingers, listening to the speakers rumble. Alas, poor stylus! It was a rough time for the pickup.

And while those young scallywags still live inside us, grown-ups, now we know that such things are never OK. So I cleaned the stylus with my finger and wiped it with a piece of velvet, big deal, one would think. It’s diamond! Toughest material in the world!

But you got to remember, pickup needle constantly faces life-threatening risks: overwhelming pressure, dirt, accidental tone arm drops. Without a question, both diamond and sapphire are very strong, but even toughest material has its limits. One sudden drop of tone arm can splinter the stylus and render it unusable. And broken needle can cripple all the records you try to listen with it, so be extremely careful! Check it regularly (You don’t have a microscope yet?) and don’t drop pickup or jerk it when switching tracks.

Stylus cleaning procedure is a must-do after you play a record and very desirable before listening. It doesn’t require special skills. And you have a lot of cleaners to choose from. For every need and budget!

 

Most frequently used agent - specialized cartridge stylus cleaning liquid, or stylus cleaner. Both stylus manufacturers and vinyl accessories brands offer their exclusive formulas. For example, Japanese stylus cleaners Audio Technica AT 607 and Nagaoka AM 801 belong to the first group. Second category includes German Zomo Stylus Cleaner or Danish AM Stylus Cleaner. Usually a cleaner comes with a brush, integrated with a cap, or separately, like Lyra SPT. The cleaners work with all kinds of styluses regardless of a brand or manufacturer. Original cleaner formulas have two purposes: to clean the stylus and to make no harm. Home-cooked solution with aggressive solvents may cost you a precious diamond - it dissolves glue that holds the gem in place.

When cleaning, always move your brush in one direction - back to forward, as it happens during play.

One little vial usually last for very long time, but don’t scoop it dry: the entire gunk you remove from the needle dissolves and sinks to the bottom.

You mustn’t ‘assist’ the brush with your fingers: grease you inadvertently leave on the stylus will cause it to collect even more dust than before. Get rid of cotton swabs and pieces of velvet. These materials leave behind lots of fibers.

There are also non-liquid stylus cleaners, like, for example, Onzow Zerodust. It looks like an elastic pad, soaked with detergent, and you need to press in stylus to clean it. To control the process better this cleaner has a lense integrated into a clear cover.

There are more exotic ways to clean a stylus. Ultrasound is one of them. Some collectors jokingly say that ‘ultrasound will remove everything, including the diamond’.

 

They can joke all they want, but stylus of your phono is worth caring about. Today audiophiles have lot to experiment with. Get into the habit of spending some time on your collection: keeping records clean and your turntable in top-notch condition. To do this, you’ll need a team of trusty helpers.

Stylus cleaning is a simple theorem, but its formula isn’t always available. Sometimes we don’t pay sufficient attention to this process as indeed we should. Picture yourself as a child, watching a record play. Is it possible that in that very moment you fell under the spell of the revolving disc, as if it were a hypnotist’s pendulum? Under the translucent cover of the phono we saw a monotonous rocking of a tone arm, following wavy imperfections of the record. We saw a stylus, gradually growing a soft ‘beard’. And, as any kid would do, we probably removed this dust with bare fingers, listening to the speakers rumble. Alas, poor stylus! It was a rough time for the pickup.

Спрей для чистки винила. Сделаем это по-быстрому!

Spray cleaner’s job is pretty straightforward. But only at first glance. Cleaning might be literally “superficial”, but there’s a way to perform several tasks at once. Detergent’s formula and right accessories are crucial here. The choice is yours: Record Cleaner AM or ZOMO Record Cleaner, Analog Renaissance Magic Groove Cleaner or Tonar QS.

Sprays are used for cleaning records one by one. Speed is their main advantage. Spray is always ready. No need for extra time, space and cleaning container.

 

Sure, sprays won’t make a greasy record squeaky clean, but they are ready to freshen up new of recently cleaned record, to prepare for digitizing or listening session.

Surface of all new records is covered with release agent. This compound may serve as a base for various contaminants, including dust particles. These very particles are responsible for noise, clicks and other sound distortion. Their abrasive properties also cause needle wear. That’s why cleaning a new record is as much important as dusting an old one. And it won’t take much time.

 

Antistatic, which by default should be a part of any spray cleaner, has a protective function. It prevents dust aggregation. During play and shortly after the record gets electrically charged, that’s why you got to treat it with antistatic before putting away in the sleeve. It’ll make your life easier afterwards.

Cleaning procedure is simple. First, sweep the record with a brush (carbon or goat bristles are preferred). Then wet the record’s surface with spray - do not dampen the label! When soaked, wipe the disk dry with microfiber cloth. Move your hand in concentric circles from the center until you reach the outside edge of the record.

Your turntable is not usually a great place for this procedure. Special pad for cleaning is definitely a good idea. You can make one yourself or buy it in the specialized store.

 

Good spray comes with high quality microfiber. For instance, Analog Renaissance Magic Groove Cleaner spray is equipped with exclusive cloth, which shows excellent absorbing and cleaning properties. Only specially designed microfiber products are able to thoroughly clean all grooves of the record, eliminating dirt, grease, cleaning fluids without a trace - including their on fibers.

Not every spray cleaner’s formula is suitable for shellac records.

For example, Record Cleaner AM, ZOMO Record Cleaner, Tonar QS are not designed to work with this material. On the other hand, Analog Renaissance Magic Groove Cleaner with its soft cleaning formula is the best solution for treating old records.

Using cleaning spray saves your precious time. Use those moments to listen to your favorite tracks. But, to tell you the truth, most audiophiles enjoy taking care of their equipment and collections without additional incentives.

Record sleeves. Invisible protectors

Album liners – what mysterious power hides in this seemingly plain accessory? There are three main causes that may deteriorate vinyl record’s ‘health’: sharp temperature spikes, mechanical wear and dust.

Plastic gets electrically charged, static attracts dust, and dust scratches the plastic. Full circle. People invented lots of ways to break this circle, from fairly complicated contraptions to simple, but must-have products, like antistatic sleeves for vinyl.

It’s only logical, because even ideally cleaned record won’t stay that way for long if you fail to store it properly.

Record sleeves can protect the whole album, including jacket or just a record. Latter are also called album liners.

 

External sleeves protect album jackets, more specifically, cover art. Do not forget that on a second-hand market price of the record also depends on the condition of the album cover. Usually disks are stored vertically, close to each other. When you take an album out and place it back, cardboard jacket wears out, especially cover art. Corners are especially vulnerable. 

Tip: When browsing albums in the store, avoid pulling the corners. Hold them at mid-section. If records are densely packed, take out several albums at once and put them aside.

Another type of sleeve protects disk itself. It shields vinyl from dust, grease and other contaminants. Inner record sleeves are regarded as consumables, since freshly cleaned record is normally placed into a new liner.

Tip: Proper storage is important, but you also need to know how to handle the record. When you take it out from the liner, it can be easily scratched. Through the opening of the album liner put your middle finger on the label and places your thumb on the rim of the record. Take the record out and put the liner away. Then with other hand take the record by the edge and place it on the turntable.

Another type of sleeve protects disk itself. It shields vinyl from dust, grease and other contaminants. Inner record sleeves are regarded as consumables, since freshly cleaned record is normally placed into a new liner.

Tip: Proper storage is important, but you also need to know how to handle the record. When you take it out from the liner, it can be easily scratched. Through the opening of the album liner put your middle finger on the label and places your thumb on the rim of the record. Take the record out and put the liner away. Then with other hand take the record by the edge and place it on the turntable.

Outer sleeves for vinyl records of different brands are pretty much the same. Usually outer sleeves are made of translucent antistatic polyethylene film (60-100 µm thick). Some of them are equipped with Velcro fasteners. There are also cardboard sleeves. They are used, when original jacket is lost or too precious for everyday use.

Tip: Dodgy outer sleeve can attract a LOT of static! Taking out the record charges both the record and the sleeve. So, when dealing with unfamiliar brand, first buy half a dozen for testing.

In contrast, liners are more versatile. We begin with the simple, ordinary liner: antistatic inner sleeve, plastic rectangle 31х31 cm. Its main disadvantage - empty corners. This ‘ears’ often crinkle and stand in the way when you are trying to insert the record into cardboard jacket. At the plus side - they are the cheapest ones.

To deal with this flaw they designed ‘anatomical’ inner sleeves. Closed and of the liner is curved, repeating the record’s contour. Much better! Most famous curved inner sleeves – Nagaoka Anti-static record sleeves №102. 

Tip: don’t let the record to fall into the sleeve. Insert it slowly to the end. Otherwise she sharp rim of the record might rip through the film and the record will fall out.

Is there something left to improve in album storage technology? The answer is ‘Yes’. American company called Mobile Fidelity decided to think out of the box and designed multilayer antistatic inner sleeves for vinyl records Original Master Sleeves. These new sleeves are fun for sure, but not very useful. The more you listen to your records, the dirtier liners become, and sooner than later you’ll have to replace them.

 

Tip: Always use new inner sleeve for freshly cleaned records. 

Paper liners are also available. But in that case you have to be extra careful and picky. Paper wears easily, so cellulose fibers may create more dust instead of protecting the record. Look for sleeves with laminated inner surface.

Inner sleeves are most sought after consumables of the audiophile market. True audiophile, embarking on a quest for new records, never forgets to buy a pack of album liners.

Tip: When browsing albums in the store, avoid pulling the corners. Hold them at mid-section. If records are densely packed, take out several albums at once and put them aside.