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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Records cleaning - that's the way!

The 8 Step Cleaning Process

Step 1 - Use a precleaner to remove the largest particles and get the record base ready for a steam cleaning.

Step 2 - Vacuum the record, both sides, using my Modified VPI cleaning machine.

Step 3 - Use steam from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs PURE Water to clean the vinyl grooves - 3 rotations each side. Use DAK Brush to get steam into the grooves.

Step 4 - Vacuum the record again, both sides-4-5 rotations until completely dry.

Step 5 - Using one of my two Ultrasonic machines (Audiodesk or Ultrasonic V-8), run them through a 10-15 minute cleaning cycle where it removes all the dirt the VPI machine could not. It also removes smoke remnants and detergents from past washings.

Step 6 - Using MFSL Pure Water, rinse record using a different MFSL velvet brush and let it spin for 3-5 rotations.

Step 7 - Vacuum the record a final time, both sides until bone dry.

Step 8 - Use the Anti-Static gun twice on each side of the record for removal of any static electricity.

Cleaning records is not a new idea, but it is a good idea! For us audio nuts, we want the best sound quality from any source. Vinyl is the best analog source available besides the master tape, so in order for it to be as good as possible, it must be clean. The stylus that "reads" the grooves must not have interference in order for pure, rich sound to come from your speakers or headphones. We have been cleaning records for over a decade using the most basic methods, like the disc washer brush and even the sink with dish washing detergent! We have tried many methods over the years to really perfect our system.

In September of 2013, we purchased two ULTRASONIC cleaning machines to compare steam cleaning with the ultrasonic method. We bought a V-8 Ultrasonic Machine and an Audio Desk machine. They both work VERY WELL. We changed our method of cleaning records to include the machines now. The  8 step method we perform is the ABSOLUTE best way to get audiophile sound from these records. First pressings, especially, have AMAZING sound! As for vacuum machines, what we have found is that VPI makes the best record cleaning machines for the money. I have used the 16.5, 17, and the Typhoon machines. We mainly use the 16.5 which was modified to control the speed, and we also added a cooling fan. Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, or MFSL, makes excellent cleaning solutions, and Disc Doctor makes a fantastic post wash called "Miracle Fluid" that really improves the sound quality. Most recently we have been steam cleaning records to quiet the backgrounds and get years of grime, dirt, and smoke out of the grooves. 

When all is done properly, in the right order, the records sound MUCH BETTER! Most noticeabley, bass is much smoother and deeper. Dynamics are MUCH stronger, and you have the entire human hearing range, 20Hz to 20,000Hz, represented clearly. The background noise is silenced, and all you hear is a quiet hush between songs. We have never heard how good vinyl can sound until we heard clean records. Even NEW records need to be cleaned from all the oils and pollutants from the factory they were made in.

The most common and cheap record cleaning fluids use alcohol as their main cleaning agent. The problem with that is they leave chemicals behind after they are rinsed or dried off. Our cleaning system uses no alcohol in the cleaning agents. We enjoy cleaning records and comparing the sound before and after. That resulted in our ARCHIVE MASTER Audiophile LP that are sold on our site and on eBay.

After going through all 8 steps, your record is completely clean. It should now have improved DYNAMICS, FIDELITY, STAGING, and be MUCH QUIETER in the background. The only thing it won't remove are scratches or groove wear. In my experience, the dirt is what causes most of the problems with vinyl. A scratch can be tracked without noise in most cases.
Here is a good link to DAK Industries, which sells a good Carbon Fiber Brush that is excellent for dry-cleaning records AFTER they have been cleaned on a machine. It is not a good 1 step cleaner, but used in conjunction with a vacuum cleaning machine, it is an excellent tool. The site has excellent pictures on the grooves before and after cleaning. AS I said before, the cleanings on the pictures were done with a machine, not just the brush.

 Review of the Ultrasonic V8 Cleaning Machine

Thanking ClevelandVinyl's hints... 

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