I would experiment with some of the cheaper solutions before buying anything expensive. Last is good. I have some stuff called Finyl that seems to work OK. Try a few different brands and see if they can do the job. If they don't work out, then look into getting a machine.
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The pops and clicks could be static, not vinyl, noise. The dusting of an LP (which is all carbon fiber brushes such as the Audioquest do) can create static, so I would get an anti-static gun. Last Stylus Cleaner (amongst others) is a great product, I've used it for years. But apply it before every side. The Last LP Preservative is great stuff too. A VPI HW-16 is a real good idea if you're into vinyl for the long haul. New records have an invisible layer of record stamper release goo on them, which a VPI cleaning will remove. The HW-16 will keep your new LP's in as-new condition as well. You know not to touch the grooves of LP's with your fingers, right? Hold them with the sides of the LP in the palm of each hand, not pinched between your fingers and thumbs. Finger oils get into the groove, and dust landing on an LP with stick to the oil, creating an abrasive mixture, which will lead to noisy LP's. And store your LP's as vertically as possible, without leaning at an angle, to keep them flat. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it?!
Those ticks and pops are specks of dirt/dust that are in the air and landing on your record. Having a clean tip is good for the cartridge and also the record but it will do nothing for those ticks and pops. Buy yourself an ANTI-STATIC CARBON FIBRE RECORD BRUSH and use it before every play. I've seen good ones on Ebay for less than $15. If you are committed to stay with vynal, then by all means, get a record cleaning machine. They all clean the same. You will pay for add features. I have the VPI 16.5. I would consider it the best investment I have ever made related to vynal. Not the fact that it is a VPI but the fact that it is a Record Cleaning Machine. The more you pay for a machine, the easier the cleaning of the record becomes. But paying more will not, I repeat, not get your records cleaner.
If you do buy a machine, get back to us. Many of us have home made concoctions to use as cleaning fluids. No need to buy those expensive products provided by various manufacturers to clean those precious garage finds!
If you really get the bug and start buying used records at garage sales and thrift stores, then you will need a record cleaning machine for sure. I'd recommend the VPI 16.5. Make sure the suction tube is at the proper height. To low and the tube will crack. Get it just right and the tube will last for years. Also, don't be gentle with the process. Scrub the crapolla out of the record with the VPI brush that's included with the machine.
Another tip ... before playing any record at the beginning of your listening session, dust off the turntable platter. It makes no sense to put a new or clean record on a dusty platter and then get the subsequent tics and pops when you play the flip side of the record.
Buy some of those micro fiber cloths. They are great for dusting everything, including records. Costco sells them in bulk for cheap.
Another tip ... Don't limit yourself to expensive audiophile reissues. You'd be amazed at how great some of those thrift store gems can sound. Yes, you'll have to go through a lot of "frogs" in order to find the "Prince," but that's part of the fun. For the price of one audiophile reissue, you can walk out of a thrift store with 20 to 50 records.
Another tip ... When buying used records, always ask the seller if you can take them outside to look at them in the sunlight. Records can look perfectly fine indoors under fluorescent lights ... but EVERY flaw shows up in the sun.
Another tip ... When looking through the records in a thrift store, always ask if they had a new shipment that hasn't been put out yet. If they say ... "yes, we have some in the back," ask them if you can have a look at them too. That little trick will get you some really sought after records before they get picked through.
VPI 16 and then 16.5 got me through over 25 years at this hobby. I moved to ultra-sonic about 3 months ago and wish I'd just stayed with an RMC of some sort. Ultra-sonic may be better but what a pain!
Stick with a VPI 16.5. Simple, rugged, plenty of support.
I'm sure there are Clearaudio fans out there...let me tell you about my three months with one of their machines...not so happy.
I always clean my brand-new records before I play them at all. This is to wash off any excess mould release that may be left on from pressing. The spin clean is another reasonably priced manual cleaner.
Jeff you mentioned that ultrasonic is a pain? Which one do you have and what don't you like about it?
Hi BDP24 and all-
Yes, it does sound like a lot of work! But as good a place to put my OCD tendencies as anywhere! Thanks, guys, for such incredibly helpful advice. I'm thinking I will go ahead with the VPI HW 16.5--among other things, it's exciting to think I might be able to get into collecting used records this way. Just to ask a few follow ups then, if you all don't mind. Would this make sense for procedure:
For a new acquisition:
1) clean in VPI machine
2) treat with LAST record preservative
before each play:
1) clean stylus
2) use carbon brush
3) shoot with antistatic gun (DO I SHOOT THE VINYL ONCE PER SIDE? WHERE EXACTLY SHOULD I 'AIM' THE GUN? DO I ALSO SOMETIMES SHOOT THE CARTRIDGE???)
and then periodically dust the platter. [CAN I ALSO VACUUM OFF THE FELT MAT OR IS IT BETTER JUST TO GIVE IT A GOOD SHAKING OUT?]
Am I getting close? Thanks!
New records should be cleaned as well as used records. There is always a trace of release agent left in the grooves after pressing. If not removed before playing the heat of the stylus will make the residue permanent.
I have used VPI record cleaners for over 25 years. The 16, then the 16.5 and now the 17F.
Yes, you are close. You could eliminate #3 by using a anti static carbon brush. (grin)
Also I am not so inclined to apply anything that is going to 'stick' to the record. Like that LAST preservative you mention. Some swear by it. I have over 4,000 records. Some bought back when I was in high school. That would be over 40 years ago! All cleaned by my one and only VPI 16.5. No need to clean for each play if you use the anti static carbon fiber brush. None of my records have been coated with any preservative. 99.99% of them are tick and pop free!
Regarding LAST Record Preservation Treatment, I used it for a brief time back in the 1980s. I eventually abandoned it because I found that if I applied it to a record that was not scrupulously clean (I didn't have a record cleaning machine at that time) it would substantially INCREASE tics and pops. My speculation is that it tended to "cement" in place any microscopic particles that may be present in the grooves, rather than allowing the stylus to sweep them along.
I do use Last Stylus Cleaner, before and after playing every side of a record. Apply it back to front, of course, and try to avoid applying it any higher up on the cantilever than necessary, to assure that it won't migrate up into the internal suspension of the cartridge. I use a small flashlight to make sure I can see what I'm doing when I apply it.
I also use a Zerostat Milty anti-static gun. My technique is to shoot the record in three places (roughly trisecting it), from a distance of roughly 6 or 7 inches. At each location I slowly squeeze and release the trigger three times, with the last release not being performed onto the record. I seem to recall that results in positive ions being applied last, which has been alleged to be preferable.
For the past 20 years or so I've been using a Nitty Gritty 2.5FI record cleaning machine (the "FI" stands for Fluid Injection), which I have been very pleased with. Various dealers currently offer it for $915 or so. Other Nitty Gritty models are available starting at a bit more than $400, but personally I would not want to have to deal with the manual fluid application, manual brushing, and manual rotation they require.
The VPI machines seem to be more popular among audiophiles than the Nitty Grittys, and I don't doubt that they would be an excellent choice. Personally, though, I like the fact that with a Nitty Gritty you are not placing the record on a platter. The Nitty Gritty's brushing fibers which surround the vacuum slot and contact the record are easily cleaned with a supplied wire whisk, which is preferably used with the vacuum turned on.
I also have a high quality older Oracle record brush, but since getting the Nitty Gritty machine I rarely use it. Although many audiophiles feel differently (as exemplified in the post just above), my instinct is to have as little as possible come into physical contact with a record once it has been cleaned. The concern being that a brush, no matter how well designed, may apply some microscopic particles while removing others. JMHO.
At a far lower price there is also Spin-Clean, which I have no experience with or particular knowledge of.
I would also suggest purchasing a supply of good quality anti-static record sleeves, to be used after each record undergoes its initial cleaning. I use these Mobile Fidelity sleeves.
Also, while I'm not sure how much relevance it may have to tic and pop issues, you might want to consider purchasing a record clamp if you are not already using one.
Finally, Ralph K. of Atma-Sphere (maker of very high quality tube amplifiers and preamplifiers, who participates here regularly as "Atmasphere") has stated in a number of past threads that the audibility of tics and pops can be markedly influenced by the design of the phono stage electronics. The reason being that a lot of the energy associated with tics and pops occurs at ultrasonic and possibly RF frequencies that are not directly audible, but which may have audible consequences as a result of non-linearities, intermodulation distortion, feedback, and other such things that occur in phono stage circuitry. As a general rule of thumb, it can probably be expected that phono stages using passive RIAA equalization and no feedback are likely to give less emphasis to tics and pops than other kinds, although such designs may tend to be more expensive than others if comparably well implemented. Something to keep in mind.
I'd also suggest that you're using the stylus cleaner too frequently. If dust accumulates on the tip, just use a little dry brush to get it off.
If you over clean your stylus with fluid, in time, the fluid will travel up the cantilever and start to eat away at the suspension of your cartridge and then you'll need a new one.
I made the same mistake a few years back.
I clean my stylus with fluid maybe once or twice a month and only after I'm done listening for the night.
A used VPI 16.5 would be a great investment. I use the "One Step Forumla No. 6" cleaning fluid with mine and have very good results. My favorite fluid to date and I've tried three or four.
If you get an anti-stat gun, two or three pulls and releases of the trigger at various points over the record surface will suffice. I wouldn't point it at the cartridge.
One question regarding the gun, what do you mean when you say the last release is not performed on the record? You kind if shoot across the record horizontally rather than aiming straight at it? Or something else? And do you ever use the gun on the cartridge?
Also, I am wondering if my felt mat isn't creating a lot of dust and static too. I have a Rega RP6. Any Rega owners have any tips on this?
I should have been more clear, but what I meant by not performing the last release on the record is that after the trigger is squeezed for the third and last time at each of the three locations, I then move the gun completely away from the record and the turntable before releasing it.
Regarding using the gun on the cartridge, no I've never done that, and FWIW I haven't ever read or heard of others doing so.
MC---Al and Griffith gave you a lot of great info and advice, all of which I agree with. Here's some more!
Both the Nitty Gritty and VPI cleaners are good, and each has an advantage over the other. As Al said, with the NG the LP doesn't sit on a mat when it's being cleaned, so doesn't pick up dust (or whatever) from said mat. With the VPI, the LP sits on a felt mat as one side is cleaned, so when you flip the LP over to clean the second side, the just-cleaned side now lays on the felt. If there is any dust on the mat it can get on that just-clean side. I solved that problem by having a spare mat, which I put on the platter after I clean side one of an LP. That mat is reserved for already cleaned sides exclusively, so I wrote "cleaned" on it's bottom in felt pen. The platter of the VPI is what gives it it's one advantage over the NG---a work surface on which to lay a used LP to scrub it with a hand-held brush, before vacuum cleaning it. And I have a third mat just for used LP's, so as not to contaminate my new ones. And it's labeled "dirty", of course. Okay, maybe a little OCD, but I see you're okay with that!
Some of the LP cleaning fluid companies make a product specifically for removing the stamper goo from new LP's. You use it only once, before any other cleaning.
Regarding Last Record Preservative: I completely understand others' apprehension about putting anything on their precious LP's. I'm confident Last does no harm (quite the opposite, in fact), but it's always a good idea to exercise caution. Actually, it's value increases with heavily played LP's, so if you have records you're going to play infrequently, skip them. I know Walter Davies, the Last company owner/designer (he had a Hi-Fi store in Livermore, CA---I bought my first good system from him in '72), and the research he did on the preservative before bringing it to market. As for the increased noise after applying it to uncleaned records, what happens is the preservative bonds molecularly to the vinyl, pushing the dirt on the surface of the walls of the groove out of the way to do so, where the stylus of the turntable "hears" it. So yes, clean the LP after applying Last.
The anti-static gun I use is the Milty Zerostat, and my procedure is exactly as Al's, including not releasing the trigger in the direction of the LP the third and final time. What's that expression about great minds?!
One of the carbon fiber brush makers offers a version with a grounding wire, to drain static from LP's. That option is available for you.
New inner sleeves in a real good idea, as long as you get the Mobile Fidelity type. There are others that transfer "plasticizer" contained in their composition onto LP's put in them, as I found out years ago. Hopefully that type is no longer even being made.
Al's mention of the circuit of your phono amp affecting the amount and degree of LP surface noise is fact. The quality of your tonearm also affects the perceived noise level. The more non-resonant your arm is, the less it will "ring" when fed the sharp impulses from your phono cartridge playing groove defects.
I know this sounds like a lot of stuff, but once it becomes a routine it's no big deal. I'm not sure I would want to get into LP's now if I was young, but when you have four or five thousand of them (or more. My friend Brooks Berdan had, I don't know---at least 20,000, maybe thirty. He converted his dining room into his record room!), having kept a collection already amassed when everyone else "went digital", as some of use have, and having not gotten CD versions of many of those LP's, if I want to hear the music contained in their grooves, I have to do this stuff. I actually enjoy the ritual---most of the time!
A Spin Clean is inexpensive and works all my old LPs got the cleaning and I clean any new ones once they aren't getting dirty. An anti static carbon felt mat, anti static LP sleeves (Mobile Fidelity), and a good anti static carbon brush every time I play a side if I still have a static issue I don't hear it. I use Last on the stylus with its little scrubbing thing once every few LPs, and all of this works swimmingly.
Ask three audiophiles about record cleaning and you'll get 17 different
responses. Here's my take:
The surface brushes push surface dust around, don't remove it and have the
potential to add a static charge despite claims to the contrary. I usually don't
bother with them, although I have several.
I would be careful applying any liquid to your stylus; you should buy a cheap
jeweler's loupe (Amazon) which should give you enough magnification to see
if there is any build-up on your stylus. Dry brushing should normally be
enough, or use the Doug Deacon Magic Eraser method (with caution).
Wet Record Cleaning-I don't think all machines clean equally, but do believe
an RCM is essential. The VPI is fine (mine, which started life as a 16, still
works). Much is in the method. You'll read about various fluids, applicators,
how long to 'dry', etc. if you do some digging. Basic good practices involve
keeping everything that touches the record clean, including the vacuum lips.
Dry does not necessarily mean clean- the objective is to get the fluid to
loosen the contaminants, and then have the vacuum remove the 'slurry' of
fluid in which the contaminants are suspended. Sometimes, with used
records, this may involve multiple cleanings. I use a pure water rinse to
remove the residue of the fluid/contaminants (and therefore, with a VPI, use a
second vacuum pillar/wand- not a huge investment).
I think the Zerostat gun is overkill- try to get to the root of the static problem
rather than charging the record to compensate for it- issues include
handling, carpeted floors and inner sleeves. After cleaning, each record goes
into a high quality aftermarket sleeve.
As at least one other poster mentioned, you could and should explore older
vinyl pressings- the "audiophile" reissues are not always the best
sounding copies, and often sound worse than a standard issue copy made
back in the day. But older records really force you to double down on
cleaning methods because I've found that records I believed were trashed
were in fact just badly contaminated, including by previous 'cleanings' where
the fluids dried and added noise.
I'm machine and fluid agnostic and use multiple machines and methods. I
don't think there is one approach to solve all the problems associated with
record cleaning or surface noise, but once you get hands on and experiment
for a while you will find that some records clean up easily and others require
more work and different methods. Good luck and welcome to LPs.
One other question about best practices: After applying the cleaning solution and vacuuming, is it also a good idea to rinse with distilled water? Perhaps apply with a spray bottle so as not to get the paper label wet? And then vacuum again to dry? Also, would it make sense to have two brushes? One for the cleaning solution and one for the rinse cycle?
Go back to old school that's basically everything similar minus brainwash. Keeping records clean is enough.
1. Purchase enough VRP or MoFi inner sleeves and keep the original inner sleeve if you have to (lyrics, poster etc).
2. Don't get overwhelmed by cleaning your stylus. Less stress is best!. I've been keeping 'dirty' styluses for near 10,000 hours before re-tip. sweeping dust is enough in vast majority of cases. Using liquid stylus cleaner only upon necessity if you can't sweep or simply blow the dust away from needle(best!). So if I can't blow the dust away, I'll use brush and if I can't brush it away I'll use stylus cleaner. My stylus cleaner is Stanton .5oz bottle that I still have since over 20 years ago and it's not even half-way down.
3. Don't get overwhelmed by cleaning records before each listening - less stress is best. You can clean right out of the shrink wrap and than keep it this way. Use anti-static brush and keep them clean in good clean sleeves after listening.
4. Don't limit yourself with audiophile pressings. Very and very often these pressings don't match quality of original issues and sometimes even inferior.
5. If you only plan to purchase new records, than I's suggest waiting till you get hefty collection of at least few hundreds before you'll develop an urge to professionally clean them. It may happen probably few or more years after you've purchased your new vinyl. You will probably develop more ticks that professional cleaning can take care of.
6. As vinyl being a large part of my hobby and professional business, I use an ultrasonic bath and self-constructed spindle rack that allows a record to spin at 1...2 rpm inside the ultrasonic well. Also the well has aquarium filter. It's substantially superior to VPI vacuum cleaner.
Regarding stylus cleaning, while I may be prejudiced as the author, the following remains definitive even after eleven years:
Google "stylus cleaning magic eraser" and you'll find posts from thousands of satisfied users on dozens of forums.
Some form of liquid record cleaning (and rapid, vacuum removal of the grunge-laden fluid) is very advisable. Dragging microscopic junk through a plastic groove with a sharp-edged diamond is not a good plan for the long-term health of the plastic.
Having tried virtually every commercial product out there, I'm partial to the fluids made/sold by AIVS.
Margot, I believe in a 'pure' water rinse- how pure can drive you to distraction, but in my estimation, it is good practice- to remove any residue from the fluid and pick up any remaining contaminants.So, yes, separate applicators, vacuum wands/towers (for the rinse step vacuum). There are all kinds of tricks you pick up along the way- for example if a record is pretty nasty, you want to pre-clean before you clean- especially to avoid grinding detritus into the grooves by vigorous agitation/scrubbing. (There are scrubbers and flooders, all different pews in the same 'church').
I wrote an extensive piece on all this, including an interview with the Library of Congress folks on cleaning practices. Happy to send or post, so long as you (and others) appreciate that it is based on my personal experience, and not meant as the last word on the subject-
Margot: Re the 'clarification': if you look at a VPI 16.5 you'll see that the vacuum wand (the part that touches the record, spans that record from rim to spindle and has velvet-like lips and a slot to pull the liquid off the record) inserts into a spring loaded vertical pillar. The pillar is easily removed. Rather than trying to switch wands from a 'fluid' wand to a rinse wand for each step (inserting and aligning the wand into the pillar takes a little care), it is easier to buy a second wand and pillar from VPI and you just interchange wand/pillars for each step. (I mark the top of the 'rinse pillar/wand' with a colored dot so I keep track of which is which). I also use glass trays to hold them, nothing fancy. And I constantly clean the vacuum lips (a soft toothbrush will do fine) as well as rinse and scrape the applicators (folks have different preferences- on the VPI, i like the Disc Doctor applicator, which is more like a fuzzy replaceable pad with a T shaped handle- it absorbs more liquid than a 'brush' so you have to pre-wet it, but it does a better job if you are a 'scrubber.' Mobile Fidelity makes a version of this that is larger).
Doug's recommendation of AIVS fluid is a good one- i've tried a lot of different fluids, but like their No. 15 for problem records- you agitate and let the enzyme soak before vacuuming; you must do a rinse step with this fluid. (Some fluids are 'one step' or don't necessarily mandate a pure water rinse, but I invariably do a rinse step, even with less aggressive fluids). Here's a link to the piece. In it there is a link to my interview with the Library of Congress restoration specialist. (I visited their restoration facility in December, 2014 to do a feature on the facility, the archives and some of the collection). http://thevinylpress.com/cleaning-vinyl-records-my-personal-odyssey/
Has anyone tried cleaning records with glue? A while back someone told me about it but I thought they were crazy. But then he showed me a video (youtube, if I remember correctly), and as crazy as it sounds, it looked like it might really work. I was always afraid to try it because I thought that if I didn't do it right I may damage my cartridge.
Quite welcome, Margot. The historical aspects of recorded music are what really intrigue me- both the technical aspects and the musical/creative ones.
Re the glue thing, I never tried it, some people on the Hoffman forum who are avid collectors have used it for records that are beyond conventional help. There is another product called "Revirginizer' from Australia that is intended to do the same thing, like a facial 'masque'/peel designed for vinyl. And there's a recipe for a home brew of the same type of stuff floating around the Web (which I haven't tried either).
I've had a bunch of different cleaning machines, each of which I've thought where over-kill so I eventually sold all of them. These includes the VPI's: 16.5, 17F, and HW27 Typhoon, and a Clearaudio Matrix.
All worked well with the VPI 17 and 27 being incredibly powerful and easy to use.
I tried multi-step (Walker Audio) and single fluid (MOFI) washes among many others, and found that for old records the 3 step Walker Audio enzymes made the biggest difference, and with new records, just laboratory grade water.
With all of that said, I now have a Nitty Gritty Mini Pro 1 and find that the convenience of washing both sides at once have made me wash tons of albums. For newly bought older albums I still hand scrub both sides with the Walker system, but on any new or existing albums (cleaned when initially bought) a quick run through the Nitty Gritty washing both sides with laboratory grade water (from a scientist friend of mine's lab) is all I need.
Records have never sounded better. I think this is the one machine I will keep.
All of that said, if you buy lots of used records, the ultrasonic machines that are all the rage now and can clean multiple albums at a time make the most sense. If you've ever owned a Sonicare tooth brush, you know sound waves are a more effective way to clean surfaces.
So my recommendation is either buy the Nitty Gritty Mini Pro 1 and easily clean all the time, or buy one of the Sonic cleaners.
Then of course every time you play a record use a static proof brush, and a Zerostat Milty.
Prompted in part by this thread, i did a quick 'photo essay' of a basic record cleaning process that you may find helpful. I saw a record in my 'to be cleaned' pile that inspired this as well. Don't mean to flog my blog (ahem), but here 'tis.
You really don't need a record cleaning machine unless you rub your peanut buttered hands all over the discs. Your Audioquest brush takes off the dust...that's all I do. My records are quiet (CD like). If you do get peanut butter on the records, get a steamer (about 20 dollars or so) which will take off anything serious.
I sympathise with all 3 viewpoints above. There is more than one strategy unfortunately. Folk have varying amounts of disposable time and the size of their collections may make it a physical impossibility to clean all their LPs before they expire ;^)
For example in my case I don't casually listen to the HiFi or use it as background but set aside time for 2 long sessions of 4 hrs per week of dedicated listening. Even though I've retired aged 59, if I'm struggling to get the listening time how much more difficult would it be to spend 25 minutes per item deep cleaning?
The good news is that vinyl purchased new from 1970 onwards in most cases has a remarkably low noise floor and still manages to sound "like new" on a properly set up half-decent rig. If one is disinclined to clean LPs regularly there are other options.
While RCMs have now become de rigeur, please remember that in the first decade of Linn LP12 world domination that the Linn mantra was to allow the stylus to clean the LP for you then to clean the stylus afterwards. Despite this apparent negligence no one ever complained that their LP playback was either noisy or lacking in resolution. Indeed it was quite the opposite! ;^)
My past perception isnt questionable as long as those old LPs withstand current comparison (or indeed sound preferable) to CD.
I admit that if I hear a bad case of MRA on a newly pressed LP I will get it cleaned by a bureaux or agency for a small charge (or you can even buy from record shops that will clean LPs you on a Loricraft or Keith Monks. Admittedly they will add a small surcharge to the price while accepting that there are those who will not trust anyone other than themselves to perform this task. For this reason they usually offer the courtesy of using their equipment to enable you to do the job yourself.)
Earlier in the thread it was mentioned that there were thousands of satisfied Magic Eraser users. Anything that exerts a downward pull on the stylus suspension creeps me out. I also feel the same about sticky gels that perform a similar action. You wont catch me using this method but thats just a personal thing and it shouldnt stop anyone else who wants to risk it.
I know I'm going to take pelters for this but a dry carbon brush is the only excitement my stylus is likely to see. Absurdly, my current regime is far more thorough than when I was a flat-Earther but the LPs survive regardless! ;^)
We can become obsessive about the process. Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and step back.