Herein we feature the products of Clear Groove. Clear Groove is a brand of Net Utopia, a family run business of over twenty years specialising in the design and supply of products for vinyl and CD care and cleaning. Their product range is plentiful and varied, though with an emphasis on versatility, quality and value for money.
Founder Adam Ellis worked in record stores in the late 90s and eventually became a record dealer himself. In launching his first online record store, Vinyl Paradise, he acquired thousands of used records over the years and tried many of the cleaning fluid brands of the time, but was dissatisfied. Research and a great deal of trial and error led to Adam developing the Clear Groove formula which went on sale in 2006, growing quickly in a market that was far less awash with brands than it is now.
Clear Groove products are supplied by Net Utopia UK and can be purchased from Clear Groove directly, or via Amazon, eBay and other independent brick and mortar stockists. Located in Poole, Dorset, the company also encompasses the Vinyl Paradise and FILOTRAX brands. Let’s dig into the range to see what’s on offer.
Vinyl Record Cleaner
By far the company’s most popular solutions (if you’ll excuse the pun) are their cleaning fluids. Clear Groove manufacture a range of fluids of various quantities and types for both vinyl and CD cleaning, supplied individually in small spray bottles, in handy kits with cloths and pads or in larger quantities for use with a record cleaning machine.
The original Clear Groove record cleaner uses alcohol as its active ingredient and is safe for use on vinyl but not Shellac or non vinyl discs. It is anti static and anti microbial, quickly dissolves dirt, grease and grime and dries quickly leaving no residue. The 250 ML bottle features a spray top and is claimed to clean up to 200 records which is entirely plausible, with a micro fibre cloth provided of excellent quality. Mini (100 ML) and pocket-sized (30 ml) bottles are also offered for quick mobile cleaning of both vinyl and CD discs.
Clear Groove’s T-Total formula is an alcohol-free formula based on natural plant extracts. Being free from alcohol and other strong artificial chemicals it is not only non toxic and biodegradable, but also completely safe for use on all records. It’s supplied in the same 250 ML spray bottle with the same cloth, but is also available in larger quantities for use with an RCM.
I put the two fluids to the test. Clear Groove claim that neither fluid is better or worse than the other. Our recent test in which Vinyl Shelter record cleaning fluid was compared against Pro-Ject’s alcohol-free Wash It formula revealed very little real world difference in the efficacy of the two formulae. Upon spraying the two Clear Groove fluids the difference in fragrance was immediately noticeable. The alcohol component in the original formula is strongly evident, while the T-Total formula has a pleasant, natural fragrance with perhaps a hint of citrus, though the fragrance is subtle and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly it was. Drying time for the alcohol formula is certainly quicker but not vastly so, and of course drying times are not an issue for vacuum RCM users as the fluid is sucked away by the machine.
I found no easily discernible sonic differences between two sides of a record, one cleaned with the original formula and one cleaned with the T-Total formula. Nor did either fluid result in any notable change in the record surface noise, and neither left any residue or caused excessive static build-up. My preference was for the T-Total formula owing to its nicer fragrance, because it is safe on all discs and because I do try to avoid alcohol-based fluids where possible when cleaning my own collection; not that there is any conclusive evidence to support the claims against using alcohol to clean vinyl discs.
Clear Groove also offer a pure water rinse with anti surface tension additives. Supplied in a 5 litre container, ‘Rinse Out’ is ideal for those mixing DIY fluids or worried about residue being left by a cleaning fluid. They also suggest its use as a cleaner for Shellac records and non vinyl discs, if such discs are to be cleaned at all.
Clear Groove’s stylus cleaning fluid is also alcohol-based, and is supplied with a short bristle brush. Fluid is supplied to the brush and applied following the direction of the stylus in a straight line only. The fluid works as expected, though it is important to follow the recommendations of your cartridge manufacturer when applying fluids to the stylus, particularly where the fluid contains alcohol. This fluid also works well for careful cleaning of cassette deck heads, with the brush in its lid particularly good at reaching into such a tight space.
The Clear Groove Stylus Medic kit includes stylus fluid, a bubble level, an air blower, a stylus and groove magnification card and a microfoam stylus dipping pad. The company also manufacture a stylus dipping polymer gel, which I was surprised to see wasn’t included in the Stylus Medic set. Its principle is similar to other products including the Vinyl Passion DustBuster, and is a sticky polymer gel into which your stylus is lowered and raised, emerging (in theory) microscopically clean. I am a fan of these types of stylus cleaners as they offer a quick, safe way to clean the stylus without touching it or risking fluid damage to the cartridge suspension or the glue bond securing the diamond in place.
I have not tried Clear Groove’s stylus dip gel but do intend to do so, as it is keenly priced and could be a product worthy of recommendation if it performs as well as its competition. Perhaps a future stylus medic kit will include the gel, maybe in place of the air blower which I found to be ineffective and unnecessary. The magnification card and bubble level work well, the latter being light enough to be used atop the headshell to roughly set cartridge azimuth if the tracking force is adjusted to account for its weight.
Clear Groove’s other accessories include brushes, cloths, handling gloves and kits for both vinyl and CD cleaning. I found their Soft Dust brush particularly good for spreading fluid on an RCM, particularly on 7” discs where a longer brush has a tendency to drip fluid over the edge of the record and onto the machine. Its bristles are long and soft enough that they don’t scratch, yet firm enough that they penetrate the groove and lift the contaminants from the disc surface. I’d like to see a wider (120 mm or so) brush of the same design to span the surface of the record from the edge to the label as it makes the application of fluid in an even quantity much easier on larger discs.
As a collection of physical media grows, keeping the collection in order and organised such that items are easy to locate becomes a challenge. There are a great many dividers out there but the prices for some are ludicrous. FILOTRAX products are manufactured from an 800 micron plastic which is flexible and strong yet thin enough so as not to take up a significant amount of shelf space. FILOTRAX dividers are available for CDs, DVDs and 7”s too, with blank label tabs or pre-printed A-Z lettering, genre or custom text labels. The dividers come in white or black plastic as standard, with other colours available though with a minimum bulk purchase of 300 units.