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 ;^)

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.  ;^)

Post removed 
There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture...

"..Wanna see somethin' really scary....?"

I don't mind straying off-subject in this instance. Does anyone else find John's azimuth research mildly alarming?

Not that I'm advocating that folk should stop setting azimuth "by ear" to obtain a satisfactory result. It does cast measured readings in a different light, however...

The information here is a result of my own research done for a review of Audio Intelligent cleaning products a few years back.   I am not a scientist.

 My understanding is that the ingredients in record vinyl have changed multiple times over the years.  When we talk about what's in or on a record, we're talking about a moving target across time.  Furthermore, there are no standards or practices followed by all pressing plants.   However, there are not that many customized vinyl pellet offerings at any given time.  Part of the changes in formulation have come from efforts to avoid actual or purportedly hazardous chemicals.

At various times in the history of vinyl records, dibasic lead stearate or cadmium or other esters of stearic acid have made up as much as 2 percent of the vinyl compound. These additives provide thermal buffering for the vinyl during pressing, prevent oxidation on the newly minted record, and for some purposes, aid the platter’s release from the mold.   Once these so-called mold-release agents have served their function and to the extent they are on the vinyl surface, they are (or turn into) foreign substances between stylus and groove, where they remain and attract dirt. Depending on what is put into the vinyl, these compounds may maintain their percentage as part of the vinyl formulation or they may continually work their way to the record's surface over time or they may reside primarily on the vinyl surface.  I have read that chemical analyses of 50-year-old used records reveal such agents still in the groove. 

So I don't think there is a "once and for all" settlement of the question posed by the OP.  It depends on the record you have in your hand.  My practice is that no uncleaned record goes on my 'table for play and that includes new records.  That seems to work okay for me.