I love the sound of vinyl. So much so that the top of my hi-fi rack, an expanse spanning roughly 1 meter, not to mention some of the below shelving is dedicated to my turntable and it’s associated accessories. Only a large fan, strategically positioned to aim directly at my listening position in attempt to counter the current British heatwave, ruins the audiophile aesthetic – but i digress.
The top of the rack not only features the necessarily electronics to reproduce vinyl in all its glory, but also several accessories, designed to improve the listening experience even further, and to keep my vinyl in tip-top shape for years to come. Many a time I have received questions from those new to vinyl regarding the products i use and where they can be obtained, so here goes.
The Anti-static Brush
A topic of controversy among many audiophiles (what isn’t?), this handy little device is essential for ridding the vinyl surface of the inevitable dust particles which will accumulate as the vinyl is slid from its sleeve and dropped onto the turntable platter. I use a Milty brush, available from Amazon.
This solid little brush consists of 2 neat rows of soft fibres to remove light surface dust, and a large felt pad designed to remove larger contaminants, and to prevent accidental scratching of the vinyl should you become a little heavy handed and press too hard. The bass of the brush even includes a wall hook – so should you wish to hang it above your turntable, you can easily do so.
The Zerostat Anti-Static Gun
Yet another controversial audiophile product among audiophiles, and yet another product from Milty, this clever little device effectively discharges static build up on your records, helping to illuminate pops, clicks and crackles. This product, admitedly a little on the expensive side, is again available through Amazon. If it sounds familiar to you long-time Audio Appraisal readers, that’s because the Zerostat received a review of its own – available Here for your perusal.
Polythene Sleeve Covers
DOn’t worry, I won’t insult your intelligence in attempting to persuade you that a simple plastic sleeve cover will alter the sound of your records. In fact, I doubt even the best audio fools (sorry, audiophiles) could demonstrate such powers of persuasion. However it goes without saying that to place a plastic cover over a records sleeve serves to protect your valuable investment, and that can only be a good thing.
Not only do the covers help protect the sleeves from damage, but they make removing a record from a crammed shelf far easier than it would otherwise be. Various thicknesses are available, 250 and 400G being the most common. There are even specific sleeves for gatefold albums, allowing you to open the gatefold without removing the sleeve first, but they are, for now at least, rather pricy. I obtain mine from Covers33, where 7”, 10” and 12” sleeves can be purchased in bulk for a very reasonable price (among the cheapest I’ve found thus far)
Record Cleaning Machines
It doesn’t matter how carefully you handle your records, over time they will attract dust, the occasional finger mark and other contaminants. In order to help extend the life of your records and to achieve the best sound, keeping your collection clean is a must. That’s where a cleaning machine comes in – as cleaning records by hand is a long, laborious task, these machines are designed to speed up and in some cases even automate the cleaning process. There are a wide range of machines available – the machine that is right for you will depend on the size and value of your collection, the quality of your playback equipment, and the amount of manual labour you wish to put in to clean the collection.
For those just getting started, Knosti’s Disco Antistat is an excellent option. Previously reviewed Here, the Antistat (originating from Germany) is a wet cleaning machine, in which the record is rotated in a trough of cleaning fluid and left to air dry. The efficacy of this machine is detailed in the review – for the money, you can’t go wrong, though I’d certainly recommend obtaining a second machine to rinse the record of cleaning fluid during the cleaning process. They’re available from many retailers, including – you guessed it – Amazon.
Next up are the vacuum cleaning machines, such as the moth (Review Here). These machines all operate under the same basic principal; fluid is brushed onto a rotating record, penetrating the grooves and loosening the embedded dirt. A vacuum then lifts both the fluid and the contaminants from the surface of the record, drying the record almost instantly.
Vacuum machines have several advantages over a manual machine such as the Antistat, not least of which is their ability to effectively remove more contaminants from the playing surface, rendering the records dry in the process. Use of a vacuum machine takes some trial and error – too much time spent vacuuming the record results in static build up, and too little results in residual fluid and contaminants being left behind on the record surface. However, for owners of larger record collections, a vacuum machine is the ideal solutions.
For those with considerable collections and high end playback equipment who seek the ultimate cleaning machine, we once again head to Germany and to the AudioDesk ‘Systeme’ vinyl cleaner. Previously reviewed Here, this machine does not employ a vacuum. Instead, it uses an ultrasonic generator to loosen dirt embedded in the record grooves, at which point it is brushed away by a set of microfibre rollers. Once cleaning is complete, the record is rotated and dried by a set of powerful fans – at which point it is ready to play.
The AudioDesk is a fully automated machine, requiring no user intervention during the cleaning or drying cycles. Its cleaning performance is staggering, and the alcohol-free cleaning concentrate is specially designed to achieve the best cleaning results. Of course, there are alternatives – clearaudio’s recently announced Double Matrix Ultrasonic looks to be a worthy competitor – it too is fully automatic, but offers greater flexibility and employs a vacuum.
Of course, the considerable time and effort it takes to clean your collection would be wasted were you to place the records back into their old, dirty inner sleeves. Each record I buy, once cleaned, goes into a new poly-lined inner sleeve. These sleeves help to prevent static build up, prevent dirt in the sleeve scratching the records, and of course aid in keeping the records clean.
Of course, it’s important to keep the original sleeves -you’ll find that in most cases, the record jacket is large enough to contain both the record in its replacement sleeve and the original sleeve. I obtain my inner sleeves from Covers33, who sell them in bulk packs at very reasonable prices.
And there you have it. With a couple of notable exceptions (tools and stylus cleaning) which will be explored in future posts, these are my essential vinyl accessories. Employing these cost-effective accessories will preserve the life of your records and their covers, extend the life of your playback equipment, and – most of all – result in a better listening experience. Until next time…