Looking after your “Source” – LPs

What do I mean by “Source”? – Looking after your musical information, vinyl, CD – whatever format you listen to.

Lately, I have been the recipient of some terrific vinyl. Much of it is from the 70’s era, some are from the 60’s. I am totally amazed in the terrific condition they are in. Yes, some have surface noise which to some extent can be reduced by the use of a cork mat or a turntable “puck” and then to some folks “ticks and pops are ok” you only hear them at the lead-in grooves or between tracks.  Whatever your fancy, I am totally amazed at how great some of these albums sound – and remember they are anywhere from 40-50 year old. Vinyl is a wonderful format.  Those of us who love vinyl each have our own words of why we like it but the universal consensus is that it simply “sounds wonderful”. 

What is the secret here. Why do these old discs sound so wonderful, well the gentleman that owned them simply took great care of them.

  1. They are all very clean. Just a light dusting with a carbon fibre brush gets off the small specks of dust. Of course a bath in Spin-Clean works wonders on these.
  2. They sit very flat on the platter, indicating the owner stored them vertically rather than pile one on top of the other.
  3. There are some, but not many scratches or what I would call “buff marks” on the vinyl indicating that he used great care in taking the vinyl out of the “paper sleeves”.  40 or 50 years ago there was no such thing as archival sleeves so some scuffing would happen simply by removing the vinyl from the sleeve.
  4. They all sound pretty good which by the way – there were some great recordings made back then. This to me indicates that the gentleman made sure that his turntable was set-up correctly.
  5. The lack of much surface noise also means that he made sure his stylus was cleaned.

Please remember that over time, we have been provided with great products to help our vinyl perform ?better over long periods of time.  One of the first cleaning systems that I remember was a brush from Watts. This was a fabulous cleaner that included different types of brushes designed to remove dust from the surfac of the vinyl. Decca Brushes, Discwasher Record Care – (still think they have one of the best stylus cleaners) then Nagoaka and Mobile Fidelity Anti-Static Sleeves. We had preservatives from LAST (still available) which to my ear made the vinyl sound rather muddy at first, but I must tell you that those discs treated with Last sound fabulous today!

Today we also benefit from automatic record cleaners and baths from such companies as Nitty Gritty, Okki Nokki and of course my favourite “Spin-Clean”. Theses devices make a huge improvement in killing surface noise and are highly recommended.

The Real Secrets:

  1. Storage: store vinyl vertically, milk crates are great, but crates are also available from any stationary store
  2. Use a stylus cleaner – The stylus is pounding down on the vinyl at rediculous amounts of pressure, any grit on the stylus will – not might – damage the groove. (Pro-ject has a great one)
  3. Vinyl Cleaner – use a good cleaner, wet or dry each time the album is played. 
  4. Use a proper archival sleeve. These sleeves are true anti-static so will not allow dust to stay on the record.
  5. Turntable/Cartridge: make sure the are set-up to the optimum. Correct Balance and tracking force. Too little or too much tracking force will both cause damage to the vinyl.
  6. Use at least an elliptical stylus. The more contact area on the groove, the lower the moving mass which will offer less wear (and more music) .
  7. Not a must, but a suggestion, I cannot believe the difference some “baths” make. They get the gunk out of the bootom of the grooves, clean fingerprints and oils but also after a bath, if you store the vinyl in a good quality sleeve (I use Mobile Fidelity) you only need to uses a simple carbon fibre brush – no more fluids

In the 60’s and 70’s, keeping your vinyl in great shape was a chore, today it can be pretty simple and cheap. Good baths like the Spin-Clean can be had for under $80.00 and will clean hundreds of albums, good brushes are under $30.00, Stylus Cleaners are about the same, Sleeves are usually about $30 for a pkg of 50.

As a wrap up – look after your vinyl. You’ll have great sound for years!