A Newbie's First Week Impressions -- Vinyl Rules

Well after owning my first turntable for a week and having let the cartrige run in a good bit (Music Hall MMF-5.1 with Goldring 1012 cart), I've come to the conclusion that I've heard nothing digital that even comes close to the realism here. In a way it feels as though somehow I have rediscovered music. Up until now, I had never heard a half-decent analog system, so I didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect this much of a difference. So often on these forums I see comments posted by "vinyl zealots" and I can see how it is very easy to become one. And this is all with a very modestly priced turntable setup. I now feel as though my system has room to grow. Before I was always trying to dampen and smooth out the harsh sound of digital. I used to think that the harshness was caused by other things (solid state instead of tubes, bright speakers, etc.). After purchasing this turntable I discovered what the problem had been this whole time. I will probably never be able to afford a cd player that I think is capable of coming close to analog playback (I would imagine it would take a good $10k to reach that level). So to achieve audio playback that is acceptable to my ears, digital is just out of my reach.

So I guess this rant is really just my way of saying hello and welcoming myself to the vinyl crowd. I know I'm gonna be part of it for a long time.

P.S. Do you guys have any recommendations for record cleaning and ways to reduce static? I've already got a humidifer running...
VPI 16.5, the best money you'll spend cleaning records.

For static look here:
Welcome to the insanity of a Sound Mind
A record cleaning machine is considered by me a necessity, there are a number of them out there, those by VPI or Loricraft are usually rated highly, I have a Loricraft myself. Brushes for the records , my favorites are by Disk Doctor, fluids, I've used Disk Doctor, am about to try Walkers, have heard good things about Mofi's and Audio Intelligent's but have not tried them.
Hope this helps for a start, others will surely follow with as good or better tips and/or ideas
Everyone really seems to swear by these expensive record cleaning units. I have to say I'm still very skeptical. I mean after all, how can a record cleaner make a record sound better than it was when it was brand new? It just seems that buying a record cleaner that costs as much if not more than my entire turntable/arm/cart wouldn't make sense. I bought a Spin-Clean for $70 (expensive for what it is) and it seems to do an ok job. Not sure how it would compare with the expensive vacuuming units.
I considered the 16.5 an investment. I can pick up records for $4 that sound better than a $20 CD, so why not make sure that it won't mess up my cartridge, and will sound perfect every time. That's what a good record cleaning machine is all about for me.
You won't be satisfied until you go somewhere over the $3k mark for a table and $2k for a really good moving coil... and a really good dedicated phono preamp. THEN you'll be raving about vinyl. I have a pretty good Nitty Gritty machine but they say the VPI machines are better.. someday I'll upgrade.
VPI and Nitty Gritty cleaning machines are great and definitely worth investing in, but just starting off you'll be fine with a standard velvet pile brush and cleaning fluid - the cleaning fluid I use has an anti-static component that seems to work fine. You'll also want a carbon fiber brush to brush down each record before dropping the stylus - a little preventative maintenance goes a long way towards keeping new vinyl pristine.
Xiekitchen, I hope that was a joke and Jwglista knows that isnt anywhere near the truth.
I have about a $2500 Vinyl rig and not alot of money but buying the VPI 16.5 was a great investment period, I buy records for as little as $0.50 at Goodwill and cleaning them makes them sound fantastic. Condidering you can buy records for a buck or three think of the money it would cost at retail or for Digital and you will find that buying a machine isnt very hard to justify.
Sorry don't mean to be rude and hijack the thread, but since we're talking about record cleaning machines, has anyone used a DIY cleaning fluid for a RCM? I just bought a Nitty Gritty 1.5 FI (automatic cleaning and vacuuming and don't want to pay $50 for a gallon of fluid.

I've come across several "recipes" for cleaning fluid and was wondering if anybody has some sort of comparative experience?
A brand new record has mold release compound on it and it is tougher to get off than normal dirt. Mold release compound is so the record gets "released" from the stamper,or "mold", much like pam spray does in cooking.It usually requires an enzymatic cleaner to get it off the record. I've played brand new records and they have a haze over the music, and upon cleaning, it is removed, and sounds much better. Much more clarity, resolution, and detail.
There is nothing digital ! I repeat nothing digital, regardless of the cost that can approach the sound of a well set up vinyl rig. One can spend thousands of dollars (and many on this forum do) to make digital sound more palatable but the inherent philosophy of digital playback is flawed. Of course, digital has the convenience factor, the no clicks and pops factor and the availability factor in it's favor. Strictly on a sound quality alone though digital sounds like bird droppings. The so-called "improved" sound of CDs is IMHO one of the biggest scams perpetrated on music lovers.

I have heard CD players worth more than a car, alongwith the best gadgets and gizmos that money can buy but have walked away unimpressed. Remember though that not all vinyl sounds good either. Overly mixed, multitracked lps sound terrible while some of the older stuff can sound wonderful.
I was always trying to dampen and smooth out the harsh sound of digital.
I know any number of audiophiles, some with systems costing well north of $100K, who've spent years and dollars trying to do just that. They typically end up with a bunch of rosy, smooth and soft sounding components that smother the life out of the music - all to make digitized waveforms tolerable.

When they (re)discover analog, they have a hard time shaking the (false) concept that their components need to protect them from the sound by gentling it. Natural waveforms don't need gentling, they need the most honest and accurate reproduction your budget and skills can achieve. Whatever level you're at, or hope to be at, the first thing to do when shifting to analog is to appreciate that honesty in a component is a good thing, never a bad thing. This is true of every component in the system.

And yes, record cleaning is essential. Playing any record, old or new, before proper cleaning guarantees inferior sound and risks permanent damage. Headsnappin' explained why. Welcome to vinyl madness. Enjoy!
And I am in the opposite camp I have never heard a vinyl rig that made me want to go there. Except for the fact that I have a bunch of vinyl in my basement and some TT's are very cool looking. My friend has a JA Michele (sp) and it is absolutely gorgeous. But not better sounding than my digital but it may just be his system.

Of course in my system I might change my mind. But I have never been able to get past the surface noise. Even minuet pops and clicks bother me.

Oh and yes he has a record cleaning machine and swears by it.
I use a loricraft prc3. It is a miracle worker often restoring old records to new condition. It cannot of course remove scratches but often what seems to be a scratch turns out to be dirt. The machine was bought new and cost £1200! However if you have decent size record collection it will soon pay fo itself. Incidentally new records often benefit too.
Doug, I agree whole heartedly, music is not always pretty!
I wish there was a way I could go all vinyl and never see a digital medium or cd again. I cannot because most Live Dead releases are on cd and occasionally something else appears on cd that simply cannot be had on vinyl. But, if any of you have heard a first-rate table set up carefully -here I am thinking of RMAF 2007 and Roy Gregory's and Richard Foster's dem- I am sure the question of vinyl's superiority would be moot. Sadly, many of us have not heard these "hidden" qualties in their tables and systems even though we think we have.
I enjoy both vinyl and digital formats. I hope you will check out the KAB Evo record cleaner. In addition search for the vinyl "steam cleaning" threads that feature Crem1. I use a multi-step procedure for cleaning LPs. Google: Audio Intelligence record cleaning solutions.

There are several threads about DIY RCM fluid just there for the taking.....search and you will find bunches of info, ideas and recipes. I use an DIY fluid that is Ultra Pure water, Alcohol, and Gene in a Bottle butmany have their own ideas.
i've always records(lifetime of collecting) 'cause they're big, and you interact with them. as far as sound, its a dice roll regardless of the software. that said, the dna in all cd players and turntables is more alike than the fringe hi priced manufacturers will ever admit to.
The Dark Disc will soon call you to tubes-tubes-tubes for a preamp, than an amp (ideally monoblocks!), than a phono preamp, leading to a more expensive turntable and/or cartridge, isolation devices, rack, static gun, different record clearning solutions, and rice paper lp sleeves. Shortly, you'll discover the magic of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab discs, Nautilus, Direct Discs, and Half Speed Masters. At each and every new step a perceived new level of musical nirvana will be revealed enticing you to more and greater pursuit of audio esctasy. Welcome to the club of doomed souls - it ain't pretty but we have a helluva good time.
Jwong - that is both an incredibly accurate and scary post.
Vinyl vs. Digital

Vinyl set-up is VPI Scoutmaster, Clear-Audio Discovery Cartridge and a VPI 16.5 cleaner, Thor Audio phone stage.

Vs. Blue Note Stibbert Improved CD player with tubes-
The Cd sound with the Thor Line stage to me is far superior. I also have the 180-200 gram, Speaker corner,
reference recording, some mobile fidelity, and yes there are some recordings on LP that are superior, but on my system with a good quality cd ( the source is critical) I'm the guy in the music forum that finds the sound more important than the performance contrary to other opinions)
In any case after spending a substantial amount of money on my LP set up I am tired of chasing my tail for an other incremental improvement, which to go to the Super Scoutmaster, speed controller, better cartridge, etc. is another $5000.00.(Not to mention the new heavy platter that I could take to the gym for my workouts) Therefore, I am happy with the sound that my CD player produces and it I don't feel a need to upgrade.
I don't buy into the upgrade path to sonic Happyland. I have a Scout and a Wright WW200C and I don't plan on going any further. For what I paid, $50 for a 180gm recording is a bad addition to this table, so I buy crap vinyl. A 16.5, however, and a little steam can turn most of those sorry discs into hidden gems. That's no joke. The cleaner paid for itself in no time.

I buy crap CDs, too. So comparing apples to apples, there are times, more often with LPs than with CDs, that the sound just hits all the good buttons. On that finding alone, I give analog the nod--the Scout delivers. And that's good enough.

When I was looking for a table, I believe it was Jaybo who warned me not to look forward to any analog revelation, any sonic orgasmatron to going vinyl. For the most part, he was correct. The differences are subtle, though some are profound, which have mostly to do with the recordings. There is good, bad and ugly in vinyl, just like in digital. I'm a little lighter in the wallet to learn that lesson, but a lot wiser. Still, where I shop, vinyl is cheap and it's fun, and I find it an enjoyable way to wither away an afternoon.

You don't need a honking big table to have fun. A little steam and a 16.5 can make a bad record sound damned nice, and you never have to think once about throwing your cds or your player out the window, or gawd forbid, upgrading. My $.02. YMMV. LOL.
P.S. Do you guys have any recommendations for record cleaning and ways to reduce static? I've already got a humidifer running...

Back to your original question...

Go get yourself a pint of Disc Doctor Miracle Record cleaner ($25.00) and Size A wet scrub brushes ($42.00). This will take care of you until you decided you want to dump a bunch more money into this hobby.

Yes, you'll hear arguments for record cleaning machines, various solutions, approaches and techniques, the necessity of demagnitizers, isolation platforms, mats, pebbles in a jar, etc. that you *have* to have to get the most out of vinyl. For now, indulge for amusement in between spinnin' your freshly-scrubed vinyl. Don't be discouraged by those who insist that you need to spend a ton to enjoy this aspect of the hobby. There is a time, place, and price for everything.
I put together a homeade record cleaning "machine" using a small nightstand mounted with a platter and bearing from a dual 1229 (found in the trash)on top drilled a hole to fit a length of pvc about 2 or 3 from edge of platter made a pvc vacuum arm/wand wraped in velvet connected to a shop vac motor after getting the measurements (area to be vacuumed)centered corectly this works fantastic easily equals all manufactured units Ive seen in action (all three retailed between 500-1000 I spent $12 at home depot and used trash picked items and achived killer performance (but quite ugly) prior to vacuuming records are scrubbed using a (I'm being absolutely serious here)shoe polish aplicator brush (wal-mart item name brand shoe gear)with the bristles carefully cut down to about 3/8" with scissors and solution of about 1 part isoprpyl (also wal-mart 91%) 5 part distilled water plus just enough simple green to allow even surface contact. Writing this desription I cant stop picturing some of the tools from the fintstones. I suppose i could put together a slick looking mdf cabinet covered in gelcoat sometime when I'm snowed in and the wife has pms but till then I'm set.
I have a system in place for cleaning vinyl without machines that has served me since the 80s.

Don't clean them.

I'm serious! The more you clean vinyl, the more dirty they get and the more pops and crackles you hear. Most of the records I have (that haven't been eaten up by termites) do not have static nor pop sounds because I've never cleaned them from day one.

What you DO have to do is to use Nagoya 102 anti-static sleeves. Place the new record in the sleeve and don't use the record for 2-3 days. After that, the record's conditioned and there isn't any static anymore. That's it! Each time you play the record following this, let the needle clean the record for you and you just remove whatever the needle collects at the end of each side of playing. Use some liquid cleaner or vibration cleaner for the needle. In my experience, liquids are better.

I've used this technique for years and I don't have problems with dirty or static records. Never had to 'clean' my records with machines nor carbon brushes nor antistatic guns/sprays etc although I understand that by cleaning, you can get deeper into the information as there is a chemical coating on leftover on the record surface during the manufacturing process. However if you get pass this coating, you also will get into the rougher edges of the record groves that was glossed over by the chemical coating thereby increasing noise in addition to the information. I suppose you can't have both the cake and eat it!

One thing to note though, if you use the do-not-clean technique stated above, you have to be careful during the handling of records - no oily hands from food, open record sleeves to bring records out, not slide them out of their sleeves etc etc etc...
I recently aquired both the Music Hall 5.1 and shortly before that a Music Hall 2.5 CD player. I have to admit that I feel the CD players sounds much better although by the same token I have been listening to more vinyl than CD's. I suppose it it because of the nostalga, the regime / tinkering required. I have also been looking in to some upgrades for the 5.1. It occurs to me that one the Project Hall carbon fiber arms could probably be retrofitted. I am sure I could use a better phono stage and cartridge and I believe there is an electric speed control available for the 5.1. All I have done at this point was upgrade to a Herbies mat from the stock felt mat. Static has been cut down a bit but not much. Probably need a zero stat. I do prefer the warmer sound the Herbies mat provides utilized with the clamp.
I have obtained all the necessary materials to try steaming but I just haven't gotten around to trying it yet.

The more you clean vinyl, the more dirty they get and the more pops and crackles you hear. Most of the records I have (that haven't been eaten up by termites) do not have static nor pop sounds because I've never cleaned them from day one.

I don't have crackles and pops from cleaning records. I can't imagine not cleaning my used or new LPs.
Have fun. It only gets more expensive from here.

I had the MMF-5 for about 3 weeks before I upgraded to a Scout. If you want to see what Vinyl can REALLY do...well...it's a slippery slope, That's all I can say.

Invest in a 16.5. You'll save money on the cartridges in the long-run and enjoy the music more than you can imagine.
Hi Maineiac, I suppose for used records, you will have to clean them before playing. I never did get into used stuff, bought all my records new.

I suppose technology and the purchasing power of audiophiles have moved on since the 80s. In those days, you had to go to a shop to get your records "cleaned" by a Keith Monks machine and not actually own a cleaning machine yourself. For what it's worth, the records I purchased new in the late 80s still play like new today and I've never used a cleaning machine and, for many of them, not even a carbon brush.

However I do have a stack of termite eaten records and those have dirt trails all over them. Would a 16.5 be able to bring them back to a functional state providing there isn't any damage to the vinyl itself?

Most of the used records I purchase may not be in such a stressed situation as a "termite eaten LP" but I have had some tougher ones that cleaned up amazingly well. I have also had new records that had a lot of ticks, pops, and crackles both cleaned and straight from the jacket.

Cleaning a record of mold release is very important, you will increase the over all sound quality of the record and reduce needle wear. Your records will have more impact on the bottom end and better highs. When you do clean some records you will hear more surface noise and ticks but most of that will go away as the needle polishes the vinyl. When I got into this hobby in the 70's we only had the Disk Washer brush and cleaning fluid or pay to have it cleaned on the MONK as mentioned earlier.

If you can purchase a VPI 16.5, it is great record cleaner for the money. Also get the Disk Washer to do a preliminary cleaning of used records so you do not contaminate your VPI. Others here will say buy a bigger better record cleaner especially if you plan on collecting a lot of vinyl… WRONG, the 16.5 will be fine. I clean about 5 to 10 records at a time when I listen and it handles that fine. My record collection is at 6000+ and I use the original VPI 16. They do get quieter as they get larger and more expensive though but it will also take up more space you could use to store records. LOL. If you do use a home brew cleaning solution make sure you do a clean water rinse after to get any residue off. Why bother cleaning them if you leave a film on them when done. Your records could also get brittle, especially you use alcohol in the mix, so always rinse.

Enjoy the music
I think the myth of mold release needs to go away. This has been discussed a number of times on different forums, but someone involved with the production of LP's have stated that they have never seen anything sprayed or applied to the the press before the vinyl is injected. I'm not saying that there could not be additives in the vinyl formula that come to the surface and are best cleaned before use, but this notion of a Pam like substance being applied is not true, as least as it was explained in that way.

As far as LP vs CD playback, I find that with top notch analog playback, as ide from sound quality benefits, I simply find I am more emotionally involved with the music. In an interview with a mastering engineer in last year's TAS analog issue, he stated that there was an octave more information in an LP release of a digital master than the CD release of the same material.

Now with 96K and 192K downloads I think the gap will come much closer or perhaps be erased in all but the best analog based systems.

I have read that these high res downloads can sound better than SACD.

But to me an important aspect of reproduction (and recording) is the use of tubes (and I don't mean tube buffers in some CD players)

People who hate CD have no problem with digital in my system. And as I tweek things out, (clean tube sockets, apply tube dampers) Digital playback gets better and better. Of course LP playback is on another level, but most people can't take it to the level that some of us have.

Bottom line is that there has never been a better time to be an audiophile.

Lo end - high end, LP, digital - there is a ton of enjoyment to be had if one is armed with knowledge.
Agree with the "mold release" myth previously mentioned. I used make LP's. Take it from someone who knows, it is a fallacy. Please - just drop it once and for all.
Emailists and gaslover, I always like to reevaluate things to make sure they are indeed correct. Whatever it is on new records needs to be removed for best sound. Playing a new record and then cleaning it with an enzymatic cleaner results in more clarity throughout the range.