Is a VPI better then a $10 Clothing Steam Iron?
Fascinated by record cleaning, marketing, and hype I did some experimenting and here's what I've concluded: My audio geek buddy has leant me his VPI for the last three months for cleaning my records. But I love to experiment so I decided to explore the VPI Vs. my own DIY, with an Iron. Yes an Iron, what do you think? Here's my take on it after reading a ton and watching videos and some creative hands on. I decided this rainy day was the perfect time to get freaky and experiment with steam. I've been wanting to for a long time, but at the same time I've been satisfied with the VPI and thought it was the best. For the lack of the motivation it takes to get in the car and buy a steamer (it's cold and wet out there), I decided to try my Iron. After all it makes steam and everyone has one handy. This is for the everyman, and perhaps not for the faint of heart. Starting with a .99 cent badly warped, Steve Miller record with finger prints, visible dirt and the obvious hidden mold, smoke, oil, grease, and whatever, I played it for 10 seconds and immediately took it off, cleaned my cartridge tip and looked at the iron. It's nothing special, just a $20 steam pulse iron. I filled it with purified drinking water, set it on hi, put the record on a broken D.D. TT, I had laying around and used a Pro-ject weight/clamp. Holding the iron 3"-4" over the record w/my right hand the steam pulsing out the bottom of the iron, I kept hitting the "turbo steam" button which produces a steady flow of hot steam. With a $15 Audioquest de-static brush in my left hand 4"-5"inches away. I spun the record about ten times around, using the brush till the record began to warp. Then, took the iron away and let it cool 3-4 spins w/no brush applied. There was lots of muck on the brush the first time. So I did it again. Then I used a Disc Washer D4 pad for 5-10 more rotations with more steam. Then five without steam, just the pad to really deep clean in to the grooves. One final pass with the steam and the D4 and five final rotations with the $3.50 8'ft x 8'ft piece of Micro Fiber bought from a fabric store, cut in to 8"x 8" inch towelettes, to dry it off (3 spins). I let it airdry further about a minute before playing it. The record sounds amazing afterword, like it's brand new. It's quiet as a new record would be, maybe better then new. If the record is scratched, it will still be scratched, this isn't a miracle, scratch remover. But, virtually all of the surface noise contaminents and debris seems to be gone, with no damage to the record at all. Both the original warping it had and the steam induced warping is gone and the record when cooled spins perfectly flat. The difference in detail, the separation, imaging, bass contour, mid bass, midrange is jaw-dropping and worth further experimenting, everything improves. Maybe I just got lucky. So I repeated the process on a $150.00 Stevie Ray Vaughn NOS original I found at a record swap meet. It was slightly warped but otherwise as new and unwrapped for the first time by me. The first play before cleaning it and the after effects caused me to write this thread. I don't buy the hype anymore, the expensive vinyl cleaning machines, the expensive washes, treatments, etc., not anymore. In my opinion it's all hype, all snake oil. Steam (no matter from what source) is superior. A few brushes, an old turntable and some towelettes will outdo any VPI and any cleaner. In reality steam is all you need. Now where's that garage sale mini Shop Vac I got for $5? I'm going to make an attachment for the broken TT, and try sucking the steam and dirt up, after passing with the brush first. VPI eat your heart out! Anyone else try this or want to? Go ahead, just be careful because besides the steam, Irons also put off a lot of heat. A pressurized steam canister type steamer will no doubt produce superior results and allow easier, more controlled applications.