Get a VPI 16.5. Clean ALL records with it. Throw away the felt pad. Realize that all used records are a crapshoot.
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If you can't afford a machine simply use the sink!!! wash them in mild diluted dishsoap, use a carbon fibre record cleaning brush (cheap) to clean. Rinse very well with normal water and do a final rinse with distilled/purified water. Pad dry on a towel and stand upright in clean dishwasher rack for final drying. Not the most convenient but it works as well as my vpi 16.5. Oh, and many records are noisy but also different stylus/cartridges emphasize or deemphasize the noise.
On my experience if the record looks good it can play good no-matter what price you pay for the record. On the other side very often I do sacrifice for small surface noise to get more music vs. CD. I even bought used records for as low as $1...2 each with great results.
A tonearm/cartridge combination may play there a vast role as well.
Worn and abused LP's reveal noise of a less than perfect turntable set up, whereas new records don't require that precision to play perfectly.
I've purchased LP's for fifty cents at used book stores that are as quiet as new virgin vinyl Classic Records reissues.
Last Tuesday night we spun a forty year old Audio Fidelity LP of Louis Armstrong that exhibited noise on only two tracks. This LP looked like it had been through the war, REALLY mistreated, but cleaned up very nice.
Most important, It cost $1.50 and this music cannot be enjoyed on CD, as it is not available (according to AMG).
Take the advice of Ivanj, dispose of the pads and buy yourself a VPI record cleaning machine. If you really intend to build a library it is a solid investment that will last a lifetime.
As to setup, perhaps there is an Audiogon member who lives in your area that can help. Record players (regardless of price) are mechanical and like any precision device may perform totally different within hundredths or even thousands of an inch of adjustment.
Once the work is done, the investment in time will repay you a thousand times over. It's not difficult, just requires a person who understands how to go about it.
Heed Albert's advice. It is excellent. Get help to set up yout TT, TA and cartridge combination as prefectly as possible. Clean you records before every play, keep the stylus meticulously clean and you'll be surprised at the results. If you don't want to invest in a record cleaning machine, which you should, if you want to seriously collect vinyl, you should do as Audio Revelation suggests.
Not having the money (nor the collection) to warrant a cleaning machine I bought an Allsop orbitrac. It was $40 so I figured "what the heck". I found that it made an astounding difference in reducing surface noise of my oldest albums. Perviously I had only used hunt EDA brush.
I'm sure a VPI is much better, but the Allsop orbitrac delivers tremendous improvement for $40. My wife also couldn't believe such a simple little thing could make such a difference.
I have had excellent results with a product called GruvGlide on older used records. 1 kit treats over 150 records so the cost is very cheap. Best of all you can hear the difference. Check out their website at www.gruvglide.com
I buy it from Needle Doctor or Elusive Disc.
Hope this helps happy listening.
I also agree with a VPI,With one more thing to add to it,Also buy a portible steamer(The ones used for cleaning around the house),Steam the record as it is turning on your VPI record cleaner with the vacuum switch on to pick up any moisture. I think you will be impressed with results.Rock On!
Once you've cleaned your records there's little need to use the fluid every time. It's ok to use the dry brush to pick up bits of dust. Back in the good old Discwasher days I wetted the brush ever time like the directions said. Then my pal in the retail record biz enlightened me to this variation of "if it's not broken don't fix it." I'd also recommend taking a look inside or decanting the fluid bottle to see if something is growing inside. In winter when static prevails swipe the LP as usual then pick it up and touch the edge to the tip of your nose to remove static.
"I knw it's NOT my setup or machine." Sorry, but I'm afraid it probably is. Some setups and cartridges accentuate surface noise, however clean the records are (not that a good cleaning regime isn't absolutely essential). You'll find that the better your vinyl system gets, the less problems you'll have with surface noise. If your vinyl doesn't sound substantially better than your CDs, something is wrong. Good luck, Dave