do record cleaning fluids soften the treble?

Over many years of cleaning records with fluids containing a surfactant (not specified) I have come to the opinion that the process leads to a very slight softening of the treble. After cleaning the sound was more"cosy" and less extended in the treble. However I did not get this effect with the VPI fluid that came with my 16.5 machine. It made the sound somewhat drier. Anyone else noticed this /these effects? Any idea why???
I have used VPI and Nitty Gritty on and off for years but haven't noticed this. Different after cleaning but no pattern I have noticed. Maybe I missed it.
Rrm, I agree with your findings, much like my own.

What confuses this issue is each persons cleaning methods, attention to detail, number of steps employed and even the brand of record cleaning machine used.

Mo Fi fluids (previously Record Research) if rinsed properly do not cause any problems, at least with my record cleaning machine.

The Audio Desk Glass (automatic-ultrasonic two side LP machine) is relatively neutral in the highs but does benefit from a final rinse with lab grade water. Unfortunately this requires a second machine.
Based on my experiments, I have concluded if a record does not seem to need a cleaning, leave it alone. Like you, I've typically heard treble softening with a number of cleaners, however, when I strictly use a pure alcohol/water blend of 25% to 75%, I routinely get that "somewhat drier" sound you allude to.
Most fluids do this. I am very sensitive to this. The all roll of the highs to a certain degree. I was very frustrated and started to rince after my washes. This brings back the highs. Now, I do a double rince. Triple rince would be even better
Interesting comments above because my experience is different. Many of the fluids I have tried change the tonal balance by thinning the bass and accentuating the treble, making the overall sound brighter and thinner than the LP was to begin with. This varies in degree but has been true for me with all of the AI fluids, the Mint LP and some others whose names I am forgetting right now. The "super pure" water rinses have the same effect even when used without a cleaner.

The exceptions to this thinner/brighter change are Disc Doctor and (my current favorite) L'Art du Son.

The same results were obtained on my Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi and Loricraft vac machines.

Surfactants reduce surface tension, which helps a solution spread out into a thinner layer and wet smaller surface irregularities. This makes the solution more resistant to being vacuumed off and in fact vacuuming is insufficient. Rinsing AND vacuuming is required to remove it.

Unrinsed surfactants leave residues. Try washing your dishes in soapy water and vacuuming them dry without rinsing. Good luck, and don't invite me to dinner!

If the surfactant residue on an LP isn't removed it forms a cushion between vinyl and stylus. The first thing to suffer will indeed be the highs, since their groove modulations are the smallest. If the stylus can't see it you won't hear it.

Low level details and overall amplitudes also suffer, but the audibility of that tends to vary with the ability of the entire system.

Rinsing (at least twice) with extremely pure water and dedicated brushes, with a vacuum pass using a dedicated wand after each rinse, usually removes this residue. There are exceptions however. Some old (pre-MoFi) RRL Super Vinyl Wash contained a leave-behind lubricant. Water would not rinse it away, a complete re-cleaning was required. The orginal Disc Doctor cleaner was also notorious for being difficult to rinse.


As regards a cleaner, better-rinsed record sounding "drier", "brighter", "thinner" or any other adjective that doesn't imply "closer to the original", that's just personal musical taste overruling reality. By definition, only the cleanest, most completely rinsed and residue-free groove can allow a playback stylus to precisely retrace the path of the cutting sylus. Any residue, by definition, introduces a form of distortion. If you or your system prefer that distortion to the reality of a cleaner groove, okay, but it should be acknowledged as such.

Harrumph! ;-)
Most of the cleaning solutions can't be removed completely, mostly based on the Design of RCMs. Point nozzle is the winner here.
In combination with a cleaning fluid which has parts of soap in it, this will be the written result. Other cleaning fluids have chemicals in it, which "smears" the vinyl, reduces the noise and so on.
Doug, Your logic appears reasonable but the results don't agree with what I hear with my own ears.

Fortunately, everyone is free to make their own conclusions about record cleaning. What works for me is very simple---I only clean records that need cleaning. To my ears the "uncleaned" record usually sounds better, so why subject a record to cleaning if it doesn't need it?

The very word "cleaning" implies that cleaning is an improvement. But maybe other things are going on than just cleaning. People get hung up on whether cleaning fluids leave a residue behind. Maybe the concern is whether they remove something from the record surface that actually contributes to the sound quality.

The why behind all this is really not terribly important to me. I have no interest in exploring the chemistry of records or cleaning solutions. All I want to do is enjoy the music on my records, and if someone wants to call this distortion, that's ok. After all, I listen to records on an all-tube system; maybe I like distortion.

Only if you gargle with them.
All very well but I just listened to "Music From the Time of the Crusades" on Argo; I gave up half way through one side before I cleaned it, really noisy. After cleaning it was much better and sounded fine to me. It use to be a general recommendation that you clean new records before you play them, I have seen several comments about how much crud was on them. Everyone to their own taste but all my friends with LP collections have cleaners and use them often.
As I mentioned earlier, if a record does not seem to need cleaning, I leave it alone. Salectric's ears tell him "...the 'uncleaned' record usually sounds better..." Time and again, my ears tell me the same thing.
If I may, can I then ask, and perhaps make a few conclusions-assumptions about these different viewpoints-opinions mentioned here?

What I have normally noted, when there was a rare, past time of playing any uncleaned records, was usually a higher degree of crud accumilation on the Stylus?

So, one question to the original poster, have you noted this as well? Why I ask, and my thoughts, are, if such is occurring, wouldn;t this then be a certain sign, that the Stylus is trying to plow a path through the groove?

Wouldn't this then have a greater degree of degradation, versus a cleaner groove?

Another thought is, can we then lump all makes-types of cleaning fluids, and rinses into the same boat, in that all that is made, can then cause these degrading qualities that some claim to note?

That even to a highly trained eye, that the uncleaned, brand spankin new record appears to be perfectly fine to play, wouldn't a certain degree of Stearates, and Mold Release products on the record's surface, and within the groove then be a benefit, or?

Just curious about this, because generally, most would no doubt find the exact opposite set of results with cleaning versus not cleaning.

Lastly, could it be a partciular cleaner-rinse, or a specific process that is being used, to cause less than optimal results? Mark
You see. No wonder that as much as I like tape I hate vinyl. I just have to deal with it. But it's a big pain in the backside and also very expensive.
Generally speaking, I too try to do as little cleaning as possible - I let the stylus do the work.
Just for the simple fact that your stylus will last longer when tracking cleaned vinyl than uncleaned is cause enough for me to clean every record I play. That and every one I've cleaned has noticeably sounded better without question.

I've yet to hear a negative impact after a cleaning. Perhaps I've just lucked into a effective methodology.
Stanwal and Notec, just to be clear, I am not recommending that anybody play dirty records. If a record is dirty, it needs to be cleaned. Period. My comments are directed to records that are already clean (both visually and in listening) but haven't gone through a cleaning fluid/vacuum process. In my experience, a record that is already clean does not sound as good after the fluid/vacuum cleaning, so I don't do that type of cleaning routinely. I only do it where it is needed.

Also, I use a carbon fiber brush to wipe off the surface of each record before I play it, and I wipe the stylus with a dry brush before I play each record.
My position,experiences,impressions and approach to the issue of record cleaning mirror Salectric's to a tee.
Opus88, You are clearly a man of discriminating good taste.

I can understand a solution leaving behind things that fill the tiny grooves that represent the HF information. I'm not understanding how cleaning can soften bass. But then, that is not what I hear, and I prefer to clean all of my LPs. FWIW, YMMV, etc.
I felt that the sound did change and a little softening did occur. One day after playing a record it slipped and I grabbed so it would not hit the floor. I put finger prints all over it so I had to clean it. I had started doing a final rinse after cleaning my records but had not done it to this record because I had cleaned it a while ago. After a cleaning and a rinse I played it again, I found it had better all around sound, better hi's, bass was faster with more impact and the record had much better micro dynamics. I will now reclean the rest as I play them so I can do a final rinse on all records. I clean all record regardless, you can never tell how a record is handled by the manufacturer or dealer
Cleaning new and old lps is a must and a double rinse is the answer for clear noise free playback. What i find very interesting is if you dont include a small amount of a release agent to your rinse water you will leave behind residue.
Dave: Now,now,where then would that leave the others here who favor cleaning more as a matter of routine? Just kidding of course. There's plenty of room in this fascinating pastime for those taking the other road to optimal listening pleasure.
@RRM: Totally agree with the upper octaves (and there are other effects of cleaning too depending upon the fluid!). Another effect I find with fluids is a decrease in transparency, particularly as one listens deeper into the soundstage. It's not what the fluid takes off but how much fluid is left after cleaning. That was one reason that I switched from VPI or Nitty Gritty to other fluids. Like Albert, have found the RRL/MOFI to be much better in this regard, though some other new fluids are also quite good.

@Syntax: One problem with getting all the fluid off the LP is that the surface tension increases as the amount of fluid decreases. That's why some RCM manufacturers have made machines with more powerful or adjustable vacuum capabilities. I do feel however that one runs a risk with the higher vacuum in damaging the LP if the machine isn't properly aligned. There definitely is a difference say between the "ordinary" VPI machines and their Typhoon.
Hello Myles,
Yes, as I understand it, the VPI Typhoon is claimed to have twice the suction of the lesser VPI 16.5 RCM.

So, to ask further, are you then saying that this additional suction force is an advantage, or a possible detriment?

I do notice with my own VPI 16.5 RCM, when removing the final pure water AIVS Rinse, a tiny microscopic "mist", which quickly evaporates within a few seconds after.

I think all will agree, that the quality, and makeup of cleaner, and rinse used will play an influence, on just how much small detail information, and "air" would be robbed from a recording.

I would assume that this delicate information in the groove is not somehow being permanently removed, or damaged by a high quality cleaning-rinse process, and a good RCM?
Hi Mark:

What I'm saying is the first record that one uses with a new RCM should be a junk LP. That way, if there's anything wrong with the unit or misaligned (or for instance the first NG machines that used a teflon lip to cover the aperature), you don't ruin a perfectly good record!

Otherwise, there is a clear difference in my listening between the conventional and higher suction RCM machines such as the Typhoon.

And yes, except in the case of a machine causing groove damage, the sonic effects can be altered by other RCFS (well maybe with the exception of LAST--something that I'm not fond of).