Given the recent discussions of various grades of water for the record cleaning rinse cycle, and all the discussion of steam cleaning, I thought I'd add some comments about yet another rinse step that I've added to my cleaning regimen: Walker Audio's Step 4 Rinse
When Lloyd called me to tell me what he'd been working on, I was skeptical. I'd been using his Prelude cleaning fluids for months and was very pleased. I couldn't imagine adding something to the process that would give me yet a further improvement over what I was hearing. But Lloyd is ever the perfectionist tinkerer and his money back guarantee on this products if one is not fully satisfied makes it pretty easy to try his creations. The only problem over the years is that I never send anything back! Everything Lloyd has recommended has done exactly what Lloyd says it does, and always makes an improvement in my system. The Step 4 Rinse followed that pattern.
After receiving the Step 4 Rinse solution, my listening partner and I sat down to do some careful listening comparisons. I freshly cleaned several LPs that we knew well using the three step Prelude cleaning process. We listened to selections from these LPs, then I applied the Step 4 rinse and we listened again.
With the Step 4 Rinse we both heard the same things: improved clarity and resolution through the mid-range, improved purity of tone in the high frequencies, and a modest but noticeable improvement in the soundstage. But were we fooling ourselves? To shorten the listening cycle, we chose just a single record with a short passage we knew well from some earlier critical listening we'd been doing to set up the cartridge. We cleaned it with the three-step Prelude process, then listened carefully to the passage two times. Then I applied the Step 4 Rinse and we listened again to the same passage. Yes, again we heard those same improvements in midrange clarity and resolution, tonal purity in the high frequencies, and improved soundstage.
What was the degree of improvement? Subtle, but distinctly noticeable and definitely consistent. My listening partner (who is my spouse, so she knows the sound of our system very well) would say that using the Talisman is a larger incremental improvement than applying the Step 4 Rinse, but that both are cumulative in their effect. For us, the secret to having a great listening experience is paying attention to these small incremental improvements: keep paying attention to the details and pretty soon you have significant overall improvement from the cumulative impact.
For me, the Step 4 Rinse is now a regular part of my cleaning regimen. I've just ordered two more bottles. Certainly YMMV, but I recommend you give it a try whether you're using Walker Audio Prelude (highly recommended) or any of the other cleaning fluids.
(Side note: A friend who has been experimenting with steam cleaning for his final rinse cycle has now dropped steam cleaning as his final step and has switched to using the Prelude Step 4 Rinse. He tells me he's getting better results without risking his vinyl to an accidental over-exposure to the heat of the steam process. He's in the process of re-rinsing with Step 4 Rinse all of the LPs from his Fantasy 45 jazz reissue series subscription and is using Step 4 in all new cleaning. Me, too.)
(Disclosure: I consider myself a friend of Lloyd's, as do many people who own his amazing Walker Audio Proscenium Gold Signature and Black Diamond Turntables. When you commit to one of Lloyd's turntables, you do become part of the larger Lloyd family. So, take my comments for what you deem them to be worth.)