MRA : Myth or Menace?

New Vinyl : MRA : Myth or Menace?

This is an exercise to see how far I could get playing brand new LPs, UNCLEANED, before MRA toxicity became a problem.
I must forewarn you that for digital audio enthusiasts, the following notes will seem as productive as watching paint dry… ;^)

In an earlier A’Gon thread which lamented the number of warped examples of new vinyl on release I posted the beginnings of the experiment. Quote :

“Here's a heartening story for the OP : I often accumulate new LPs but don't play them with the intention of getting them cleaned first. Yesterday I took a chance and played one that had been stored, uncleaned from new since 2013. Opening it for the first time, it was "ruler flat", no discernible warps. Hole and label registration were very good. The LP played as if it had just been scrupulously cleaned. Noise floor was inky black. Transient peaks tracked perfectly and cleanly throughout the entire record. This 180g was a triumph of LP manufacture that harked back to the halcyon days of the 70s & 80s when no one had even heard of MRA and uncleaned LPs bought new still sound perfect today."

“Emboldened by my own experience (above) I've started playing new LPs without cleaning them. After warming up the stylus on a 2nd-hand LP, the next two that I tried were "For Your Pleasure" (Roxy Music), 1x180g LP, and "The Raven That Refused To Sing" (Steve Wilson), 2x180g LPs.
To my pleasant surprise all three of them gave the same result as above. Each had a nice glossy black patina with no staining or “marbling”.
(It’s possible that coffee coloured staining/marbling may be an indication that someone needs a new chemistry set and that the formula may be compromised in some way but I can’t be sure about this…) :^D

I paid particular attention to the quiet/silent passages on the Steve Wilson because it had a bit more dynamic contrast than the other album.
Even though I listen at levels of 85db or so - measured at a distance of 5-6m there were no clicks or pops just inky blackness. As a double-check I stepped into the near field during quiet sections and got the same result.
The run-ins and run-outs were also smooth and untroubled.”

After those listening experiences I sensed the beginning of a grand experiment to see how many new, uncleaned, LPs I could play while still obtaining such gratifying results before I crashed-and-burned on a severely MRA-riven one… ;^)

So, the experiment continued….
In addition to the ones previously posted (above), and as before, this is a description of their physical and behavioural properties for the purposes of checking where we are in terms of meeting acceptable standards of LP manufacture :

Norah Jones, “The Fall” (single album).
Anti-static poly lined sleeve supplied with enough room to slide the LP out unlike those that are paper only and so tight you end up destroying the sleeve to get the LP out!
Very slight spindle hole mis-registration. Again, not as bad as the HFN/RR test disc.
Disc was as flat and unwarped as you would have liked it to be.
In terms of surface noise this was silent throughout.
Run-in and track transitions were silent also.
The runout on Side A was silent despite having a piece of fluff caked on the end of the stylus!!
(I noticed this LP was one of those rare ones more inclined to become statically charged, despite the diligent application of a Zerostat)
Doesn’t get any better than that if you are looking for a result. SQ was excellent.
Another winner?!?!???

(Please note : for the next set of reviews none of them were static “chargers” i.e. the stylus was perfectly clean at the end of each side (not, perhaps, under a microscope but visibly clean when viewed with the naked eye – the stylus was cleaned, once per LP, btw..). There were also no signs of discolouration or blotchiness on any of the discs mentioned.)

Edwin Astley, “Randall & Hopkirk Deceased” (single album) sourced by Network-on-Air.
Quote : “Featuring new transfers from original analogue tape elements, mastering/vinyl cutting by Ray Staff (one of the best audio engineers in the world) and high quality pressing by the renowned Pallas pressing plant in Germany, this range of audiophile-level albums is presented on 180g virgin vinyl…”
Like the NJ, provided with an anti-static poly lined sleeve with plenty of room to reach in and grab the LP.
The manufacturers do seem to be getting their act together. Even the few that only have paper sleeves at least enjoy a decent sized one.
This was an album released to celebrate RSD but whenever I tried to get a copy in the shops I struck out.
I ended up ordering it on-line from the creators…
This was a terrific test of surface noise in fact it was a bit of a revelation. There were plenty of long silences on this collection of incidental orchestral music. (Rather like listening to a work such as Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” only twice as long!)
Inky blackness prevailed during those silences. Track transitions and run-ins/runouts also silent. SQ superb. Slight 1960’s “colouration” to the recording – more so than you’d experience on e.g. John Barry Collections, but still the best rendition of this music I’ve ever heard (and I’ve got some BD recordings featuring it).
Again this disc sounded so good you’d think it had been cleaned. Excellent dynamics and recording depth.
If only BDs sounded like this, audience involvement would be off the scale!
So, a triumph! There are others available from Network. Given the quality of this offering I’m going to have to collect them all now… 
(Update : I’ve made a start and ordered a few already….)

Hawkwind, “Electric Tepee” (double album, red vinyl Limited Edition)
These played perfectly with a perfect noise floor (or at least as far as I could tell given that it was a hard-Rock album). Track transitions were silent and run-ins/outs also silent until the very end.
Nicely finished product. No rough edges or rags.
Textbook stuff! 
My only objection was that it, disappointingly, had been supplied with paper sleeves with circular cutouts and no poly liner 
They were loose enough to get the discs out easily so no problems.

The Enid, “Invicta” (double album)
The first LP needed the spindle hole to be reamed slightly (loose core) nothing too involved. Second one fitted ok.
The first LP was clearly “dished” even though it wasn’t easily visible. (The reason I know this is because I have a spirit level bolted to the bearing housing on my tonearm ;^)
It started off with a strongly “negative” VTA i.e. “tail down” then the arm progressed “downhill” towards the inner grooves where VTA levelled out.
The reverse situation applied to Side B. (I didn’t bother adjusting VTA to average it)
Apart from slight “dishing” there was a single pinch-warp on the first disc but not severe.
Basically it looked good – even to a perfectionist.
Grooves were not very deeply cut and the runouts were excessively long (1.5” typically). They could have used the available space better.
Perhaps attributable to the dishing, noise performance slightly less than perfect on occasions with both discs but commendable as it was low-level and wasn’t intrusive.
SQ was faultless otherwise.
Verdict : less than perfect (physically) but still excellent.

The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” 180g single album.
No defects in drilling or labelling. Not warped in any way.
Poly lined sleeve plus detailed inner sleeve.
Very low-level noise only during the occasional track transition, no audible noise during the music itself.
SQ was first class. Very lifelike and alive. Sounded like it was recorded yesterday.
Excellent pressing.

Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin” 180g single album.
Needed the spindle hole to be reamed out. Again, not warped in any way.
Poly lined inner sleeve similar to the Goldring type.
Back to 100% inky black background silences with this one. Run ins completely silent as were the track transitions.
SQ beyond reproach. This album will leave you dazed & confused…

Based on these most recent experiences I’m inclined to buy MORE new vinyl rather than less.
I’d had one bad experience with MRA and this had put me off playing new vinyl – tending to save them until an opportunity to get them cleaned arose – but as you can see, some of these new albums have been different class while all have been eminently playable.

With no problematic issues after about 16 LPs (4 of them not yet described here) you can see the percentage failure rate is still zero. This gives a good percentage indication of success and I have to say the signs are good but the most important observation is that cleaning was not essential to get good results (especially in terms of surface noise & tracking on peaks)and that is what the experiment was really about. ;^)
This may not be "your" experience but if not we’re still interested in your comments if you've tried the experiment already ;^)

I still have large amounts of new vinyl still sealed in its packaging so I’ll keep going… but effectively the notes end here as I feel the exercise has been worthwhile ;^)
Did you inspect the stylus after a few plays of the new LPs?
I wonder if there was any residue left in the grooves after being stamped.
I'm glad your experiment worked for you. No way in hell I would ever let an uncleaned record touch any of my tables/arms/cartridges. YMMV.
Hi Lowrider,
No I didn't inspect it with a magnifying glass only eyeballed it but I did clean it regularly enough.

There are those who maintain that MRA does not exist. I recall an old thread on another Forum which specifically mentions the addition of MRA to the vinyl formula. (Dated 1976). I'm just wondering what happened before 1976! ;^)

Over the years I've heard the occasional "bad disc" whose faults, I believe, could only be attributable to MRA. It may be that the material predominantly collects in the deepest grooves during highly modulated passages or the cartridge only noticeably objects to it when it tries to track the difficult peaks?

Since, in theory, MRA continues to be exuded by the vinyl for years after manufacture (assuming it really does exist), one wonders if cleaning is indeed a permanent solution...?
Dear Mo-fi,
In the 60s, 70s & 80s it wasn't as fashionable to clean new LPs as it is now. The general attitude was, "What can be cleaner than a brand new LP?"
These days the average vinyl enthusiast is much more sophisticated and knows that there is more to this than meets the eye, or rather the ear...

Moonglum...there can be much more on a new record than just MRA (mold release agent). Like dust, dirt and paper fibers from the inner sleeve. I just opened a new LP and found a fingerprint on it. Most places make the people who package LPs wear rubber gloves, but those get dirty. Not sure how often they replace them during a shift.

These can cause severe damage to a stylus if encountered.

I started collecting records in the early 70's and there were numerous ads for record cleaning devices. No, there weren't many RCMs, but record cleaning was very prominent back then.

I have massive LP collection and again, I'd rather be safe than sorry, but it's your system, so do whatever you think is right.
11-18-15: Moonglum
"Dear Mo-fi,
In the 60s, 70s & 80s it wasn't as fashionable to clean new LPs as it is now. The general attitude was, "What can be cleaner than a brand new LP?"
These days the average vinyl enthusiast is much more sophisticated and knows that there is more to this than meets the eye, or rather the ear..."

Dear Moonglum, I still believe so and never ever had problem or issues. I'm probably to dumb to fall onto various theories.
..sounds like hukus pokus to me. I never clean my new records...even old ones (except if I discover peanut butter and jelly) on them. I run a Hunt brush over them before playing to remove dust, and am good to go. My records from 1970's have an occasional click or pop, but in a concert hall, someone is occasionally coughing or sneezing.
Dear Mo-fi,
You must remember that 70s & 80s were dominated by Linn's philosophy and they advocated using the stylus to clean records then brushing it off with stylus cleaner after it had collected! ;^)

I must confess to some scepticism about fingerprints causing extreme damage to a stylus though? Any fingerprint won't likely penetrate beyond the outermost groove surface and the domain of the stylus lies within the deeper part of the groove? Small bits of paper get deflected without even being noticed (although I think it's best to dust them off first). The acid test would be whether there is any accompanying sound of impact from the fingerprint(??).

By contrast, a carbon fibre brush when applied to the stylus will scare the proverbials out of you if the volume is even within 10db of your normal listening level, so if anything I'd be more concerned about the rigorous nature of the brush rather than any mild contaminants?

One of the great things about hifi is that we can celebrate our different approaches to each and every problem and it's always interesting to hear others experiences.
Kind regards,
Moonglum...sorry my comment about damage to a stylus was to be associated with the dust, dirt and paper fibers NOT fingerprints. I knew that I put that statement in the wrong place :-)

I totally agree with each his own.
Moon- I buy mostly old copies, so whether to clean isn't a question for me. As to new records, and I buy some, my experience varies- some copies, often the ones that aren't from the fancy reissue houses, are pretty dirty right out of the sleeve. Visible sleeve lint, the occasional fingerprint or smear from handling, etc. The reason I clean new vinyl is that in playing for the first time, I don't want to grind that stuff into the grooves. Then there's the stuff you can't see.... Perhaps it is out of an excess of caution in those cases, but my cleaning processes aren't harming the record, and are adjusted to meet the apparent issues of a given record. I'm not dogmatic about any of this- do what you think is appropriate- i have records I cleaned and resleeved back in the '80s that I've pulled out and played for the first time in decades and they were fine.
As to mold release, I think the issue is overblown.
The first proper cleaning machine I saw was a Monks, at Opus One in Pittsburgh in the early '70s. RCMs really didn't become common until VPI and Nitty Gritty (at least in the States, dunno about elsewhere) started marketing machines that were more reasonably priced. And there was very little choice for fluids- that market seemed to really explode after the Death of Vinyl (tm), I got my first RCM (a VPI) in the early '80s. But my attention to methods and results really didn't snap into focus until far more recently, when I started to seriously collect good pressings (used for the most part) and cull through the thousands and thousands of records that I had accumulated with a vengeance starting in the mid-'80s. Once I started to explore this more seriously, I realized that a casual run through a machine did not necessarily = a clean record. This became more apparent with old records from the late '60s and early '70s that I bought in the last several years. Whether it was bad past cleaning (which left water, cleaning fluid or other contaminants bonded to the surface), cigarette smoke or cooking fumes, or just handling from 40 plus years, some of these records really needed more than a fast once over in an RCM. That's when I started to look at this more closely, to try and figure out what methods worked most effectively. Answer: it depends. :)
Thanks Mofimadness, I thought the original poster was talking about MRA (Martians Randomly Attacking). I read the whole original thread wondering how that would affect the stylus but figured I was safe because I was wearing my tinfoil hat.
When i have a week ill read this thread.
@Ebm- If you have ears, don't waste your eyes.
Dear Mo-Fi,
I think I got off lightly there ;^)
After repeating Linn's original philosophy I expected to see, "Well, it seems nothing has changed these days then!". :)
I would have walked right into that one. ;^)

As you've probably guessed, this was never intended as an assault on the right to clean. Just to say that if buyers do opt to play them straight out of the bag, they won't die. ;^)

I think you've summed up the situation extremely well.
Second-hand records, different proposition. Like you said, you've no idea of the history of these things, so it makes sense to always clean. For me, cigarette tar would be the main worry. The 2 bosses : Boss No1 and Boss no2 (wife & daughter) know better than to cook while the 'Stats are charged up ;^)
I am not inconsiderate, however. I'll power down if they want to cook :)
Davt....good to hear that you always wear "protection". Don't mention Hollywood film stars... ;^) :D
I agree with you Moonglum.
Always clean second hand discs......rarely clean new ones.

I also want to thank Mofimadness. Like Davt I too thought MRA was Martians Randomly Attacking and was about to vote for 'Menace'....
Is MRA a myth or just a myth?

Just to be sure, I researched the process of stamping out vinyl records. NOWHERE in the description of the process is ANY mention of any kind of mold release or special mix of vinyl with a mold release added. There isn't any support for the myth.

I think the entire concept of mold release in the vinyl record production process is just another excuse to create and sell another record cleaning product.
I have had several RCMs. Loricraft, clearaudio just to mention two. I would clean, clean, clean. I used/tried steam, mult different cleaners and self made cleaners. Four years or so ago we(my wife and I) decided to move. So I decided to sell my entire system, then rebuild once settled in. It was a 20 or so component setup. It was a huge undertaking but would make the move much easier. The only retained items were my realitvily large record collection and my music server. I mostly buy new vinyl now a days. I had already purchase any and everything I wanted from 60's through 2010 or so. While my system has less moving parts then before, I believe it is as good as the best I have ever owned and that is saying something. The only component not replaced is the RCM. As I said I own and buy vinyl. Lots of vinyl. To much vinyl. I do not miss nor do I intend on replacing my RCM anytime in the near future. I clean the vinyl and my cart tip with the appropriate brush. No snap, pop or clicks. Just dead quiet background. This has been my process for the last 4 years. This is my finding. Don't agree no issue.
I'm just say'in 🖖✌️
The guys stamping out vinyl like Chad deny there is anything Like MRA. Just sayin'.
Many thanks BPoletti & Wntrmute2.
I made an earlier reference to a 1976 vinyl LP patent whose description featured MRA in the composition but I've no idea whether that actually became a production reality...
Whatthe, can you share what RCM you presently use?

Thanks, James
WARNING! Having worked at Tower Records when they were still selling LP's (late 80's), I can tell you authoritatively that an LP in "still"-sealed shrink-wrap is NOT necessarily new. Huh? Tower (and I'm assuming other retailers) stores had a shrink-wrap machine in their back room; when an LP was returned to the store by a customer (for various reasons, sometimes only because the customer didn't like the music) it was put on a backroom shelf awaiting the store's monthly return. Record retailers have to pay a penalty to send product back to the distributors for credit (a little more than a buck a disc back then, which they would obviously prefer not pay), so one of the shipping/receiving clerk's responsibilities was to inspect each customer-returned LP and determine if it could be sold again. The attitude was, some consumers were more picky about surface noise, warps, etc., than others, and that a returned LP might be perfectly acceptable to another customer. Plus, as I said, some were returned for a reason other than a defect.

So, if the clerk found the LP to look fine (and believe me, they didn't have audiophile standards or sensibilities, being normal "civilians"!), he would put the LP (in it's jacket of course) into a length of the plastic film that was on a roll at one end of the shrink-wrap machine, seal the open end (the film was a "tube", open only at the two ends, so one side would need sealing---the other open end of the tube being already sealed from the last LP that had been done, if you can envision that) with a heated electric "press" (which created a rough edge in the seal, with tiny "beads" of melted plastic), the LP/jacket then run through the small heating oven (warps anyone?!) at the far end of the machine until the wrap had shrunk tightly on the jacket. Overly tight, if left in the oven too long. The way to identify such a resealed LP it to look for the two "rough" seams running along two of the four edges of the jacket. Unfortunately, some seals didn't produce the rough edge, looking just like some factory seals. Great, SOMETHING else to worry about!
Indeed, BDP24, it is possible that retailers recycle returned goods back onto the shelves (not necessarily with the shrink-wrap attached - as a friend of mine recently testified).
It's not something I've done more than two or 3 times in my lifetime although there's the rare "roller-coaster" warped disc that I probably could have returned had it not been 35 yrs ago ;^)
The retailer is long since gone, sadly. :(

Pinchwarps are the ones I find most annoying (i.e. with the wrong cartridge).

Is there any evidence that online retailers are guilty of the same thing?
I have many pinch warped records; where the warp is confined to one area, and they're all on LPs from the original vinyl days. What is the cause of pinch warp; factory defect or from storage in shrink wrap?

New vinyl that I've bought has the familiar continuous warp.
i plead ignorance. Will someone enlighten me and explain what the letters MRA stand for?
MRA=Mold Release Agent.
If they used teflon coated molds I kind of doubt they would need Mold Release Agent for either LPs or CDs. ;-)
I like Mo-FI clean all records now. I did a test to see what sounded better. I first played some new records without cleaning them then again after they were cleaned. I found the cleaned records were quieter and more of the nuances through out the records came through.
I also just did this with between a friends Amused to Death cleaned and mine that was not. The Q effects were much clearer and easier to locate. The dog barking was more there with the clean record.
Low- re your question about pinch warps, I think (and admit this is speculation on my part) it is the way the record has been stored over the years; i've read some anecdotal stuff suggesting that the record was pulled off the press too soon, but I question that for at least two reasons- I don't remember those kind of warp problems back in the late '60s and '70s when those records were new, and even if you are skeptical of record plant QC, I would hope not all of them made it out the door that way. I am very reluctant to buy a 'sealed' pressing of an old record for precisely the reason that you cannot get the seller to verify condition; one of the key questions I ask is whether the record is flat when spinning on a turntable. I am ready to buy a serious flattener at this point, the warps seem common, even on brand new stuff (not the MoFi or Chad stuff- I buy very little of that- more standard pressing current issue) that I suspect is warped due to storage in non-climates controlled warehouses. I think Amazon US has cleaned up its act, not so sure about Amazon from EU.
The mold is not the same as the stamper. That's why the very term is misleading. If you scroll down a ways here you'll see how the stamper fits into the mold block.
If mold release was actually used in the record stamping process, could someone provide a reference. I have NEVER seen mention of any kind of mold release agent or stamper release material being used in the process.
BP- I can contribute a little. Someone above (apologies, I didn't go back to see who) mentioned a patent that described one such process. Here is a link:
As you will see, this was at attempt to deal with the challenges of 4 channel audio on vinyl. My recollection is that the old Mo-Fi "Super Vinyl" was similarly developed for discrete 4 channel vinyl records. The patent suggests that an excess of the agent can leave a deposit on the surface of the record. Other, older papers I've read about vinyl compounds talk about lubricants- which presumably aid flow of the molten compound, but don't seem to address "mold release" as such. One of the difficulties in getting to the bottom of this seems to be that the exact composition of vinyl compounds currently being used is probably proprietary- in discussions I had with someone knowledgeable in that field, he claimed that the whole concept of mold release was foreign to him, but I cannot quote or provide any external reference. The other source of information is likely the pressing plants themselves; I doubt they add anything to the compound, but who knows? I've been trying to get to the bottom of this myself. The makers of commercial fluids- some of whom I respect, seem to believe that mold release agents are a problem. But, I have yet to be convinced that any compound being supplied to pressing plants causes some adverse effect in the pressing of a record that requires cleaning. Whether other variables, like the temperature/duration of heat, cooling, operation of the press, stampers, etc. contribute to the problem, beyond the compound itself, one can only guess. I've certainly had badly manufactured records that suffered from no-fill, stitching or the like (all symptoms of a failure to properly impress the information onto the plastic), but those defects cannot be remedied by cleaning. Hardly the last word, but at least gives a little more insight?
That was me, Whart ;^)
Thanks for finding that patent. :)
I can certainly see where Mold Release Compound might be a problem for CDs, what with the transparency of the "clear layer" being an issue (assuming some of the MRC is absorbed by the polycarbonate) but I fail to see how MRC could be deleterious to the sound of vinyl since it would presumably act as a lubricant. In any case, having the cartridge geometry off just a smidgen would override any such effect MRC might have.
I believe Mike Fremer has written about the subject on numerous occasions over the past thirty or so years, but can't provide any specific TAS, Sterophile, or Tracking Angle issues in which he has done so.

I also think Walter Davies has included the subject in his technical/white papers for the Last products.
I fail to see how MRC could be deleterious to the sound of vinyl since it would presumably act as a lubricant.
Why assume that a lubricant is necessary or beneficial? Neither is consistent with my experience.

Any substance on the vinyl surface isolates the stylus from the smallest modulations, which reduces audible micro-dynamics and HF extension. If the goal is to reproduce everything that's cut into the groovewall, then by definition (and to my ears) anything that mediates stylus-groovewall contact (including "lubricants") must impair ideal reproduction.
I have a decent pile of old white papers that were published by the AES; you can access them cheapest by paying a one time fee for a year of access or pay a tariff per download. Among the things I found were various papers on the subject of wear, static and the like, along with various patents that are part of the public record (you need no AES access to obtain these) addressing surface noise, and again, static. I found very little to no discussion of "mold release" compound or agent as such. One paper, by S.K. Khanna, from RCA circa 1977 did address vinyl compounds in some depth, including the chemistry of PVC, polymerization processes, general characteristics of PVC resin as used for records, and then contained a discussion of various formulation variables, including the resins themselves, stabilizers (for heat and lubrication during compounding), colorant (which the author noted was used to "hide" plate out problems); fillers to change the visco-elastic properties of the compound and to reduce noise. Khanna also made note of certain "special additives" including lubricants, modifiers, plasticizers and anti-static agents, all of which have an impact on "flow". The author observed that the compounding process was complex, more "art than science' and at that time- during the height of vinyl as a medium, urged that basic research needed to be conducted into materials science to address the needs of "quality-conscious" persons. What this tells me is that even during the "golden age" the medium didn't follow one practice.
A couple other things to note: remember the oil crisis? It led to a lot of shoddy vinyl. I don't think that's when recycling started, but it probably become more widespread; Albert P noted in another thread that he has found debris embedded into vinyl; i have, as I'm sure others have too. One last thought- again speculation on my part. If the mix is made up of different (recycled) materials, each with their own chemical and heat/flow/etc characteristics, this could make manufacture far more problematic. I don't know, but I suspect one advantage of "virgin" vinyl, isn't that it is "pure" but it is probably more consistent. I offer this for what it is worth, not as an answer. As Miller said in Repo Man, I think about this stuff on the bus.
Dear Doug,
You offer an interesting alternative viewpoint on the outcome of record cleaning by saying that cleaning will make records noisier(?)

Let me throw in a few wildcards :
- Countless RCM owners will have waxed lyrical in their assessments about how quiet LPs are after thorough cleaning.
- Check out MF's review of the ADS (scroll down to "so how well does it work?"). Quietness, post-cleaning, is the first comment.

- The stylus, almost as soon as it makes contact, develops a film, an "interference layer" if you will, which may negate those results as playing progresses?
- As above, because the stylus causes the groove to melt and reflow behind it, it throws into question whether a clean groove should be "noisier" or not, given that the most intimate thermal contact is obtainable when clean?

I'm not being critical of you, Doug, as I'm certain your routines are far more thorough than is possible from any automatic RCM. Anyone who dedicates themselves to that level of perfection deserves cleaner records than everyone else ;^)
Dear Geoff,
That was one of the 2 classic arguments when record cleaning initially became a subject of debate. People were torn as to whether it was a good idea to clean the MRA/MRC off, by facilitating the passage of the stylus through the groove ("lubrication"), despite the claims that MRA renewed itself i.e. the vinyl "sweated"/exuded MRA for years after manufacture
(or at least it did so to a reducing degree?).

Unfortunately we're still no closer to knowing, for sure, whether MRC actually exists in vinyl manufacture. (Whart's commendable research says no.)
If that's the case we should have a reasonably clean groove after manufacture provided the Alchemists didn't make it on a Friday. ;^)
Back when I had my special ed. Maplenoll air bearing everything with 500 feet (count 'em!) of air tubing, two air buffers, sub hertz isoaltion stand for the Mapleshade, and naked Quad 57s I used the water lubrication system for playing vinyl records, you know with that little red roller do dad from Audio Technica. There really is NO substitute for playing records wet. Thus, I don't understand why anyone would not favor a bit of lubrication. Now, whether or not MRC would actually act as a lubricant who knows. Apparently we don't even know if MRC is involved at this point.
What I don't understand is the lack of belief when those in the record pressing business say there is no release agent in their processes. We just continue with "yes, but". Additional disbelief on my part towards those that swear MRA must be cleaned off and then apply Last to their newly cleaned records! This is not to say I believe one should not clean new records but I believe I am not removing MRA
Based on some of my reading, which is by no means definitive, we may be speaking at cross-purposes. From what I gather, various fatty acids are used in the PVC compound used to make vinyl records. These serve to help control the mixture and the point at which the ingredients melt, i.e. thermal stability. In this, they are sometimes referred to as "lubricants" but not in the sense that we might commonly think of a lubricant. At the same time, to add to the confusion, these materials can also be used as a 'release agent' in molding. Such materials, which include stearic acid, can apparently migrate to the surface- this is, I think, what people are referring to when they talk about the need to clean off "mold release agent." So, there may in fact be artifacts from manufacture that need to be cleaned off of the surface of a new record. And, if you read some of the messaging from the cleaning fluid folks, they talk about removing the bad stuff, but not doing damage to plastics or their properties; in this sense I think the term "lubricant" is used in a more common form. But, is that stuff really there to "lubricate" the surface or as part of the chemical composition of the compound to make manufacture more consistent? (And, to what degree is there any consideration given to the ease with which the just pressed record can be removed from the stampers?). Perhaps I'm just restating the question, but you see how these terms can be used, e.g. "lubricant" in different contexts.
I'm not sure if you asked a materials scientist if he or she is including a "mold release agent" in the vinyl compound, they would consider this the primary purpose of adding this material to the mix. So, the folks selling fluids may be correct, and the folks involved in making the vinyl compound and pressing the records may also be correct. I'm not a plastics scientist, I am just reading papers, patents and trying to work my way through a practical understanding of how all this adds up. That's my reading at this point in time, which could change, based on further information. But, it is consistent with everything I've learned, and somewhat conveniently, also reconciles the different views on the subject.
Glad to be corrected.
Dear Whart,
That was possibly the most thought provoking post I've read on the subject. I can almost feel myself veering back towards cleaning new vinyl.

I suppose we must remember that vinyl is, broadly speaking, a piece of plastic material. Different forms of plastic material are notorious for "out-gassing" even at room temperature. Vinyl doesn't seem to be as "chemical-smelling" as bin liners, cables etc so I guess we should be thankful that we're not inhaling cyanide on a day-to-day basis ;^)

The results were undeniable though, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Perhaps the conclusion should be "clean if required" and leave it to individual choice.
Thanks, Moon. I think -- and base this only on rough knowledge, not my pseudo-scientific background-- that outgassing is more common when plasticizers are involved. I'm not sure there is much in a vinyl record, since it is meant to be stiff, not pliable. The problem encountered with those heavy PVC type outer jacket protectors reacting to vinyl records is due, I think, to the plasticizers in the record jacket protector (which is soft and pliable due to plasticizers), leaching or chemically interacting with the record (potentially, even through the cardboard jacket). I don't know that records themselves are really out-gassing, but I'll defer to somebody who has plastics/science background. In the meantime, maybe more questions than answers, but you (and others here) stimulated my thinking; this is one of several issues I've been casually looking into- trying to get answers is a whole other thing, so I'm open to other views. Glad to contribute where I can. Good holiday, if you celebrate.

Thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking followup.

Yes, thoroughly cleaned records are in fact noisier than *almost* clean records, for just the reason I explained. That's not a prediction, a theory or based on anyone's white paper. Its a statement of findings based on my own listening experience while cleaning, rinsing, re-cleaning and re-rinsing thousands of LP sides.

If others tout the efficacy of methods or machines based on totally silent surfaces, well, that's their privilege. I can only say that I've re-cleaned many such records for friends. In every case, bar none, the improvement in micro-dynamics and fine detail was audible, sometimes stunning. Also in every case, there was an increase in low level groove noise.

The fact that MF touted quietness as his standard is merely an appeal to authority, which does not interest me. My standard is set by my ears. Truly clean records sound different that "almost clean" records and the ultimate yardstick is not silent backgrounds, it is the presence of the lowest level of musical detail and nuance. I listen to vinyl for the music, not for lack of noise.

Your points regarding an interference layer are well taken. While I've never heard such, the evidence for it exists in the gradual dis-coloring of a stylus that is not properly cleaned after each side. Some of that contamination must, of course, remain in the groove.

This should cause me to re-think the "clean once and forever" strategy, though the law of diminishing returns must come into play at some point. It takes me 20 minutes/side to clean an LP now, longer if it was noticeably dirty to begin. I would hope followup cleanings could be quicker, but I've not taken it to that degree... yet. ARGH!
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MRA = Mold Release Agent. Though in observing the vinyl stamping process, there appears to be nothing used as a mold release agent to help the record easily separate from the stamper, some feel that there are some additives present in the raw vinyl mix used in the stamping process that might act as a MRA.

The question is whether that must be removed, if it's even present, during the record cleaning process. Also, whether it changes the sound or creates a build-up on the cartridge stylus.
Dear Doug,
Many thanks for responding.
I found your reply equally interesting. It got me thinking after your reference to the nature of the film on the stylus, that rather than (my) assumption that it was simply molten vinyl (i.e. prompted by folks commenting that their Zerodusts, Magic Erasers etc, by no mean coincidence, remove "black" stuff from the stylus) perhaps the stylus is, additionally, mimicking the conditions under which "MRA" type contaminants are released...?
If such were indeed the case then cleaning "MRA" could become an exercise in futility(!) ;^)
Not that I necessarily believe this to be the case ;^)

As to the other content, yes, I appreciate your feelings on the nature of noise. My comment was merely to point out that the trend of increased cleaning efficiency points towards progressive noise reduction?
For many others adopting or living with the vinyl medium, noise could be something of a deal-breaker? If noise were above a certain threshold and occurred at inopportune times e.g. peak noise was greater than a low level signal during a classical piece, then I could understand some listeners getting "itchy feet" and resenting the format. So for me, it's a blessing if noise is well suppressed and it is something I would expect/demand from a turntable design.

Getting close to the degree of fine detail that you describe requires the ultimate attention to detail in terms of setup & cleaning even on a per disc instance basis (VTA/Azimuth etc). Not many will do this (I know that you are meticulous to that degree and have reaped the rewards)
Best regards,
My comment was merely to point out that the trend of increased cleaning efficiency points towards progressive noise reduction?
As it should. Progressive noise reduction is the appropriate goal for and effect of ~95% of all record cleaning efforts, including mine. As MF (for example) is writing for a broad audience, including many newbies and wannabees, it makes sense for him to focus on this aspect. This audience lacks sufficient experience to assess anything more.

It's only the last ~5% of cleaning (particularly rinsing and pinpoint vacuuming) that brings a small increase in noise along with noticeable improvements in low level detail and micro-dynamics. It's for a certain lunatic fringe. ;-)

Getting close to the degree of fine detail that you describe requires the ultimate attention to detail in terms of setup & cleaning even on a per disc instance basis (VTA/Azimuth etc).
Very true, except that, when going from LP to LP:
  • Azimuth doesn't (or shouldn't) change
  • SRA typically does
  • VTF sometimes does, though it changes more often due to weather and how warmed up the cartridge is
Putting it the other way around, the ability to make these adjustments depends to a considerable degree on absolutely clean vinyl. Any layer of muck on the groovewall, however thin, masks the sonic cues that I (at least) use to fine tune these parameters.

Dear Doug,

I think I've stepped into a parallel universe.

I'm responding to a comment that was never published ;^)


We are currently looking at v1 (version1) of post no 48 rather than v2. V2 existed for at least 24, possibly 48 hrs before disappearing completely. It did not include the final paragraph about Azimuth as I realised immediately that this was open to misinterpretation! In fact I was one step ahead of you so V1 existed for only a couple of minutes!!!

 V2 was published before 5 or 6am (US time) so, realistically, no one ever saw V1…


Somehow the Administrator revamped the system and managed to pull back a legacy or archived copy of the post i.e. v1, instead of the “final draft”. For V2  I may have added other comments but I can't recall what I said so unless Admin can restore it we're stuck with the poorly written v1 :(

In the short term just take the last para as a compliment and everything will be fine.  ;^)