Hey, let’s clean those records!
If vinyl records are a part of your music collection, here are some useful facts about record and turntable care and feeding:
1. You should clean your records before and after you play them.
- The “before” cleaning is critical. At the very least, you should use a velvet brush cleaner like a Pro-Ject Brush-It or MoFi Record Cleaning Brush. Follow that with an anti-static treatment like a carbon fiber brush or a Milty Zerostat. These methods don’t deep clean a record, but they’re better than nothing.
- There are superior methods which truly deep-clean records. You can expect a much better cleaning from devices that employ a turntable to spin the records, either a manual or automated method of applying the cleaner, a scrubbing mechanism, and vacuum systems to remove the dirty fluid and dry the records. If you have a large and/or cherished record collection, one of these may make the most sense for you. The prices range from the affordable Okki Nokki RCM at under $500 to high-end units, like the Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner and Clearaudio Double Matrix Pro, which use ultrasonics to more deeply clean the grooves of the record.
2. Your turntable should be placed on a stable, level surface. Please note that some cheap bubble levels are not accurate.
A good, reasonably-priced unit is the Orotofon High Precision Spirit Level.
3. Preventing vibration from reaching your ‘table is very important.
Each turntable manufacturer has its own preferred way of providing isolation and vibration dissipation. For example, some companies use different high-mass materials, while other use mechanical mechanisms, like springs. You can use external products to further improve vibration control.
- One unique approach to eliminate vibration and noise is to use a dedicated shelf, such as the Pro-Ject Wallmount-It, to mount a turntable to the wall. This approach is particularly effective for lightweight or suspended ‘tables in eliminating floor-borne vibrations, like footsteps.
- Dedicated isolation feet and platforms are also available to reduce vibration. Some examples are IsoAcoustics Orea Feet, Mapleshade Platforms, and HRS Isolation Bases.
- Yet another effective technique is to use a record weight. Generally, these use either high mass to weight-down the record, compression to keep the record from vibrating, mechanical vibration dissipation, or combinations of these approaches. Some examples are: Pro-ject Record Clamp, MoFi Super Heavyweight, and the Stillpoints Ultra LP.
4. For a stylus to properly track a groove, the tonearm must have proper “geometry.”
Geometry means that the tonearm and cartridge are mounting at the proper distances to ensure the best tracking. If your turntable came with the arm and cartridge already mounted, the manufacturer has already taken care of this for you.
If this seems too complicated, we are happy to set up your turntable for you. Geometry is a very complicated topic, so we refer you to a couple of great resources:
- Be sure your tonearm is properly balanced and the tracking force setting is set correctly. There are a number of stylus gauges available that can help you check. We recommend a digital one like the Pro-Ject Measure-It or Clearaudio Weight Watcher. The lowest tracking force listed in the specifications for your cartridge is most likely wishful thinking. Somewhere around the middle to the upper end of the range is often more reliable. Listen for tracking distortion on loud passages, particularly those with high-frequency content.
5. Your stylus should be cleaned regularly as well, using a brush or other device specifically designed for this purpose.
We like the Pro-ject Clean-It and the Clearaudio Elixir.
6. Although there are those who don’t use the anti-skating, try it and see if you feel it improves sound or tracking.
It is well worth checking your turntable’s manual and adjusting this setting.
7. Finally, there is azimuth.
This setting makes sure that your cartridge is set perpendicular to the record. Please note that many tonearms do not allow you to set azimuth. But, if your arm does, then we recommend getting it right. Here are some useful references:
- a. https://www.analogplanet.com/content/crazy-little-thing-called-azimuth-part-1
- b. https://www.gcaudio.com/tips-tricks/cartridge-alignment-the-basics-explained/
8. And finally, we recommend ditching the cheap sleeves that come with most records.
We recommend you replace them with MoFi Original Master Sleeves. We keep plenty of those in the store.
If you have questions or need any of these types of products, we’re here to help!