I believe that a record cleaning machine (RCM) is an absolute must. Even brand new records benefit substantially by removing their mold release compound. It doesn't need to be expensive -- I've used a <$200 Record Doctor (Nitty Gritty makes it) from Audio Advisor for many years, and DIY approaches are even cheaper. But using an RCM with something like the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions (AIVS) or RRL products can make an amazing difference. I've brought many thrift store purchase back from the dead. You can too. Good luck, Dave
It's pointless to make a significant investment in
a turntable/arm/cartridge and vinyl without purchasing
a record cleaning machine. I use a VPI 16.5 but there
are others equally as good. I use Disc Doctor cleaning
solution and record brushes. You're losing >50% of the
music without a cleaning machine.
Your question is a good one. With used vinyl records..it is often not easy and sometimes there is no way of telling without playing them , as to the condition and wheather there will be ticks and pops along the way.
If it looks scratched and dirty..it will most likely play that way. But Looking at a record that seems pristine can be deceiving as there may be groove wall damage from repeated plays..especially if the records were never cleaned properly.
I have had records that didn't look great, actually play quiet after a good cleaning...and conversley, had relatively new records play with some ticks and pops that looked pristine.
The point is that you definately need a cleaning machine of some sort that has a vacuum fluid lift. Just dry brushing will not get into the groove to remove the dirt, and it may even make things worse, by pushing the dirt deeper into the groove walls.
A good RCM like your 16.5 is a must, and even with that and a good fluid/brush system..may take repeated cleanings to get some records quiet. Some records however, may never be able to get completely quiet due to permanent damage of the groove no matter how well cleaned. Those you will have to either live with...or not play if they are too annoying.
When I buy used records, I make a point to look before I purchase to at least see its outward condition, and try not to spend too much. Buying new, is much safer and more satisfying, but I also clean those before play so as to remove any mold compounds that may actually be detrimental if not removed before playing.
I like the VPI 16.5 also. Use a good quality fluid and brush system, like Disc Doctor brushes and RRL fluids to name some. I have found these to work great.
BTW..congratulations on your recent TT set up. You have a nice system to start off with! I recently had a friend over to set up his Nottingham Space Deck/Ace arm and Whest Phono..it all sounded excellent with his ZYX Airy3 cart. Best of luck with all your analog! -Ken
All of the above posts are giving accurate advice. I have purchased hundreds of used lp's in the last two years, averaging probably $3.00 a copy. After cleaning them with a Nitty Gritty machine, very, very few have any annoying tics or pops that intrude on listening. Just inspect before buying and avoid the scratched ones.
RCM is an absolute must. I didn't realize it when I first got into vinyl. But you need the vacuum. Other methods won't get it done.
I bought the cheap Nitty Gritty rip off (record doctor) and it cleans, so why spend more? I just needed the vacuum.
IMHO, RCM aren't like hi-fi, you don't get much more for more money, it just gets more convenient.
Thanks for the info guys, you're making me feel better about it. I am getting a VPI 16.5, so I will be able to clean my records. Sounds like I don't have to much to worry about.
I think that you are getting a wonderful settup, the TT and cartridge are both tops. I have a VPI HW19Jr with a Dynavector 10X5 and was very happy. I then added a VPI 16.5 and I am still in shock as to the improvement the RCM made. I have used AI solution, Disc Dr., RRL and the VPI juice. I would rate my satisfaction of them in that order but all are very similar and far superior to even very diligent hand cleaning.
Ditto most of the responses above.
At least 80% of our 3,000+ LPs were bought used. With proper cleaning the large majority are as quiet as any new record. Some are quieter. New vinyl isn't perfect either (and new records must be cleaned as diligently as used ones.)
You must take care while buying of course. Dealing with reputable sellers means that prices are higher, but it's worth it in the long run. Don't expect to find many high quality used records for $1 at flea markets or thrift stores. You may get lucky once in a while, but IME you'll waste alot of time and usually be disappointed.
Much of the disturbing quality in skips is totally hardware dependent. Let me explain why. A skip on a record is not like music. It has a very, very steep rise time and often has energy into the ultrasonic range. Many cartridges, unlike compact discs, can output significant energy to 50K and beyond. Some preamps and amps do not like trying to amplify high level ultrasonic signals with fast rise times and will become unstable or slew rate limit. Not good. Most, but not all, high end gear deals with this better than mid-fi stuff and reproduces ticks without the colorful palette of harmonic and enharmonic distortion products that lesser gear may produce. High end tonearms and cartridges tend to be better damped and store less energy as well; they tend to be less excited by the energy that the cartridge feeds back into the arm when excited by tics. Better platters tend to prevent the record itself from ringing. What I am saying is that, barring the purchase of a peaky old-school moving coil (and the Dyna is not), high end rigs really tend to minimise ticks and pops in a way that mid-fi gear cannot even approach. Finally, with correct VTA the tics and pops are produced in a perceived plane different than the music and not within the fabric of the music itself. The brains sensory gating is then better able to tune them out as well. In the end, don't worry. You're gonna love LP replay.
I only buy new vinyl. The cleaning machine fancy may be a good thing, but once those surfaces are damaged no amount of cleaning will undo the damage. As tantalizing as those stories of the wonders wrought by ever more expensive cartridges and phono sections on surface noise are, there is no circuitry of any type in that equipment to differentiate between a musical signal and clicks and pops. At that point it's mostly all in the mind, I'm afraid...
Audiophilia? Sounds like a disease and perhaps it is.
With thousands of dollars invested in LPs, it just makes sense to invest a few hundred dollars on record cleaning machine and fluids.
While RCM & RCF can work wonders, don't expect miracles from them. Some surface scratches and imbedded dirts are just impossible to overcome.
Yes, the differentiation between damage and filth would seem obvious, but it is a real consideration. Those indicating that there is nothing that can be done about groove damage are correct, no amount of cleaning can reverse careless treatment or scratches. On the other hand, it is amazing how much better an otherwise fine, but dirty, record sounds after cleaning. Sad are the time when one stumbles across a seeming gem, only to clean it up and find there is groove damage.
Funny though, and it may seem heretical to some, but my son was down from college last week and I was playing a couple of old jazz favorites that have a pop or two and some fuzzys between tracks. I apologized that I didnt have a better copy and he said that he often finds that part of the charm of older records and it didnt bother him in the least. A romantic notion, perhaps, but he and I still enjoyed listening VERY much!
4Yanx, I enjoyed your story very much.
It is interesting that some of us can happily listen to the music on LPs without being the least bothered by the noise.
Clicks and pops drive me nuts. So I religiously clean my records. But I must say that given the choice between less noise and less music on CD and more noise and more music on LP, I'll chose LP.
One day will come when we'll get less noise and more music.
During the first oil crisis in the 1970's, many record companies upped the recycled vinyl content of their records. To add insult to injury, they didn't even bother to remove or punch out the paper labels. I remember that at the time someone I knew at Discwasher told me that they had examined some records with an electron microscope and actually saw paper fibers sticking out of the groove walls. Needless to say, no amount of cleaning will ever remove this source of noise from a record.