Keep It Clean!
Gettin’ your Sadie on isn’t about being obsessive compulsive it’s about getting the best sound out of your records and ensuring your stylus does its full mileage. It’s not an up-sale, it’s an essential. And it’s one that will save you big money in the long run.
So what do I need?
The bare essentials consist of a record brush, record cleaner, and a stylus brush. These three tools are an absolute must-have if you’re going to upkeep your record gear and ensure its longevity, because they won’t only improve your sound quality, they’ll extend the life of your stylus and records too. According to studies (and, yes, there have been studies), the dirt in that black wax of yours largely consists of jagged silica particles, diamond dust, soot, grit, fibre, and lint. Plus, 40% miscellaneous stuff – whatever that is! Most interesting of all is that over 65% of the extraneous material found in the grooves of your record is harder than the soft material of your record, meaning most of that crap will scratch up your favourite albums if left unchecked. Plus, there’s actually enough friction (heat) caused between the stylus tip and your LP to weld dust and dirt particles to the stylus itself. If that happens, your sound quality goes straight out the window and you’re up for a new stylus. And depending on its type and quality you could be up for big dollars. So the easiest way to combat all this is to keep your shit clean, like real clean.
You need to begin with a record brush. Every time you whip a record onto the platter and turn on your player you should be cleaning it with a record brush. Just slipping the LP in and out of its jacket creates an electro static charge, instantly attracting dust particles floating in the air to your record. So to ensure you clean any residual dust from your record once you take it from the jacket you need to use your record brush before you drop the needle, every play…both sides.
Following this, you need to clean that same record with an isopropyl solution every five to six plays. The brush isn’t enough. Sure, it’s going to get a lot of dirt but it’s not going to get it all. Over time, residual dirt will collect in the grooves of your record beyond the ability of the brush to clean it out. This is where a solution and cloth combo comes in to play. Isopropyl is an alcohol, which is brilliant for records when diluted because it evaporates rather than leaving a sticky residue in the grooves of your records – the very thing we’re trying to avoid. Luckily, AM offer a 200ml isopropyl solution with a microfiber cloth for twenty-five clams. Just place the record on your platter matt (off your turntable and maybe on a bench top or something) cover the centre plate so you don’t wet it, give the record a spray and wipe clean with the cloth provided, repeating if necessary. I say five to six times as a minimum. If you want to do it every time, feel free! The cleaner the better.
Finally, you need a stylus cleaner. The dust will stick to your records but it’ll also stick to your stylus. To alleviate this, it is essential to use a stylus cleaner. A stylus brush will help, but AM’s brush and solution combo is a far safer option. It’s like a eyeliner brush in a little solution bottle and you gently (and I mean cradling your new-born baby gentle) brush it over the stylus once or twice a week. This in combination with the record brush and the solution will ensure your records are in pristine condition and your stylus will reach its full life.
Improving your sound quality.
So you’re using the three basic tools to keep clean your shit because we’ve just learned how bad it is for your stylus and records if you don’t. But the hidden gem in all this dust-buster business is the fact you’re records will have never sounded better...never! Yes, the crackle of vinyl is an endearing property, but to anyone who has a decent collection it’s one that gets old fast. Records never quite sound the same after that maiden play, do they. So how do you make every play sound like the first? You keep them clean, very, very clean. Know what that crackle and pop is? It’s dirt. Plain and simple. You eliminate the dirt and you eliminate the crackle and pop in your records, leaving only that lush analogue sound.
So there it is, vinyl junkies. Keeping your records clean protects their integrity and improves the longevity of your stylus. Plus, your sound quality will have never sounded sweeter. Happy playing