Vinyl records are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with the UK sales of LPs at their highest level for more than 30 years. Figures show that sales rose by 11% last year, to nearly six million units – with 2023 being the 16th consecutive year sales have increased.
For some music lovers, nothing beats the authenticity of vinyl, but action must be taken to ensure the sound remains pure and not ruined by a dirty record or stylus. When it comes to listening to vinyl, cleanliness really is next to godliness. Thankfully, with a little care, it is quick and easy to keep a turntable’s stylus and the LPs clean to ensure top quality sound.
Our team were recently contacted by a vinyl devotee who was unhappy with the performance of his record player and the reproduction of his favourite music. Upon investigation, we found the cause of the stylus skating across the record was simply a build-up of debris which was preventing it running in the record’s groove.
Read on for some advice from Simon about why it is important to keep your vinyl, and your kit, clean, and how doing so can maximise the performance of your turntable…
“When fitting a moving magnet (MM), moving coil (MC) or optical cartridge to a tonearm mounted on a turntable, the cartridge will need to be correctly aligned with the correct amount of tracking force applied to make sure the cartridge tracks properly across the vinyl. It’s like fitting a tyre on a car; most people could fit a tyre to the wheel, but can they balance the tyre properly to optimise the performance? That is what we do.
Once balanced, the cartridge will be able to extract as much data from the record groove as possible – but it is crucial both the stylus tip and record surface are clean of dirt and debris.
Dirt can become engrained within the record grooves and sometimes, that’s hard to see with the naked eye. You will also get a degree of dirt on the stylus which will impact of the quality of the signal extracted from the record. While we can expect approximately 1,000 hours of play time before the stylus may need replacing, it should be cleaned regularly.
When doing so, we recommend using a brush from back to front, as one method but there are also fluids available that can help – but you should be careful with these. It is possible to cause irreparable damage with certain solutions, so we’d always recommend people seek advice on the best products for their specific equipment.
For vinyl, record cleaning machines can get the job done. There are a couple of options that are manually operated; the record should be placed vertically in the cleaning trough and rotated by finger tip. Generally, these work well and are a cost-effective way of cleaning. Utilising a goat’s hair brush within the trough is a great, gentle approach to cleaning out the grooves.
There is also a selection of motorised record cleaning machines available. These emit an amount of cleaning solution onto the record surface which is spread finely by a cleaning pad fitted to an arm. Once you are confident you have cleaned one side of the record, you can activate the machine’s vacuum which extracts the solution – and then clean the other side.
Cleaning both the record and the stylus is vitally important to retain its sound quality but that is only half of the issue. Attention must also be given to the record sleeves, which can harbour dirt which can be transferred to the record and impede sound quality. We would recommend buying new polyurethane inner sleeves which minimise scratching unlike the old paper ones. Of course, you can retain the old ones but use new ones to keep records clean.
Here at Home Media, we do offer a vinyl cleaning service in house – but our top recommendations for cleaners include the Knosti Disco Antistat, Okki Nokki One MKII, Nessie Vinyl Cleaner Pro, Clearaudio Smart Matrix Silent and the Clearaudio Double Matrix Silent Professional Sonic, a masterpiece which cleans both sides at the same time.
And once the record and the stylus are clean, that wonderful vinyl sound can be enjoyed in all its glory once again.”
If you would like any advice on how to keep your beloved records or your audio equipment spick and span – and sounding just the way you love – simply get in touch with our friendly expert team of audiophiles… call 01622 676703, visit our contact page (where you can also join our mailing list), or simply pop in and see us at our Maidstone HQ.
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