I’m not one who lavishly spends on audiophile gadgets, especially when it comes to those intended to improve vinyl replay. You won’t find fancy mats, expensive cartridge alignment gauges or test records here. A record cleaning machine, a record brush and a Zerostat anti-static gun are the accessories I use often, along with the subject of today’s review which replaces the humble stylus brush.
That brush, originally supplied with an Audio Technica AT92E cartridge had been keeping my styli dust-free for years. However being visually impaired (completely blind in fact), approaching the fragile and often very expensive stylus with a tiny brush often in a rather ungainly manor was never an experience I particularly enjoyed. One small slip, and at best I’d be replacing the stylus, and at worst the cartridge itself. I’ve never had an accident with a stylus and wanting to keep up that track record, I decided to seek a safer solution to clean my styli and hopefully one that would offer better cleaning performance.
There are many such products on the market designed to do just that. Some use a combination of cleaning fluid and a brush, and were immediately discounted. I don’t like using fluid to clean a stylus, as many such fluids are alcohol based and can not only dissolve the glue holding the stylus tip to the cantilever, but can also cause all kinds of havoc should the fluid seep into the cartridge body and degrade the cantilever suspension. Such a solution didn’t solve the issue of stylus safety either.
High-end stylus cleaning solutions feature a vibrating pad or brush which quite literally shakes the dirt from the stylus. Such devices are not only astronomically expensive but also carry the risk of damaging the minute connections inside the cartridge. The Vinyl Passion Dust Buster is the middle ground solution, consisting of a small circular pot of a specially formulated polymer gel. The stylus is lowered into the gel, which is slightly tacky in nature, and then raised at which point the dirt sticks to the gel and the stylus tip emerges microscopically clean.
Priced at £21, the Dust Buster claims to extend the life of a new stylus tip by up to 100% depending on the condition of the records and the frequency of cleaning. The dirt is retained within the gel, which can be washed under the tap and left to air dry when it becomes too dirty to be effective. When washing looses its effectiveness (supposedly somewhere between 12-18 months of consistent usage), the Dust Buster is cheap enough that a replacement won’t break the bank.
I purchased mine from the official Vinyl Passion eBay Shop so as to insure the product i received was the genuine article and not one of the knockoff products that have appeared on the market. 10% of the purchase price was donated to charity which was a pleasant surprise.
The VP Dust Buster is supplied in a simple plastic packet with some usage instructions. The idea is to place it beneath the stylus and to then lower the stylus onto the surface of the gel using your arm lifter. The stylus can then be raised, a small pop audible from the speakers as it is lifted from the tacky surface of the gel. Cleaning after each record side is recommended which I personally find to be somewhat excessive, preferring to clean every few records or so depending on the condition of the records being played.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure that wherever you place the Dust Buster, the hight of your arm lifter is such that the tip of the stylus is able to clear the top of the pot as you move the stylus over the surface of the gel. It’s approximately 15 mm in height (the thickness of 5 180 gram vinyl records), so it’s unlikely that your lifter will clear it if you place it on the platter of your deck. If you’re using a Technics, placing the Dust Buster beneath the stylus when the arm is sitting on the lifter above its rest works well. For other turntables, a bit of DIY involving a cardboard tube and some tape, or some basic woodworking skills, can provide a means to mount the Dust Buster next to the platter for quick and convenient access.
The results are excellent. I do keep my records clean, but even the cleanest records will leave deposits on the stylus as it traces their grooves. The Dust Buster does an excellent job of removing dirt and debris from the stylus resulting in a noticeable improvement to the sound, less wear to the stylus and most importantly less wear to the records themselves. It also leaves no residue on the stylus. Perhaps most importantly however, it’s completely safe. There are no fluids in use, eliminating the potential of damage being caused to the cartridge, nor is there a need to manually attack the stylus with a brush. I set out to seek a cost-effective solution to keep my styli in optimal condition and I’ve found it in the Vinyl Passion Dust Buster. Highly recommended.
Are you famaliar with the Onzow Zero Dust Stylus Cleaner? I’m wondering if there’s any meaningful differences between that and the Vinyl Passion Dust Buster. At the U.S. Amazon site, owners give the Onzow products pretty high marks, but there are only a few user reviews of the Vinyl Passion product and they aren’t as good.
I am aware of the Onzow. It seems to have a softer gel and is almost double the price of the VP DustBuster. In all honesty I didn’t notice a difference in performance between the two. The DustBuster might have had the edge; I haven’t experienced any of the issues reported by other users with it. There’s a new cleaner from DS Audio (the DS_50) which is based on a similar principle with a bit of extra styling and an audiophile price to match, I’ve yet to see how well it performs.
Hi. I’m glad yours is ok. Bought mine from somewhere on Amazon two months ago for the RRP and started to use three weeks ago. Mine is pretty useless and leaves clumps of dust on my Exact cartridge so much so that I have to use a brush first. I looked at it against the light and it’s covered in stylus marks so it’s obviously a return. Really disappointed and I have lost details of where I got it from. You live and learn!
Hi Nigel – I’m sorry to hear of your troubles with the VP DustBuster. Unfortunately there are some knockoff products around that aren’t as good as the real thing. I haven’t experienced the issues you describe using the genuine article with many cartridges, which leads me to wonder whether you in fact have one of the inferior knockoffs. Are you happy for me to forward your concerns to Vinyl Passion directly and ask that they get in touch with you to assist?
Yes, certainly. The problem is it arrived with a tiny receipt and I threw it out- didn’t use the product for a month. I could check PayPal though and investigate!
I have forwarded this to Vinyl Passion who will be in touch.
Hi Ashley. Thank you for passing on my issues. After being contacted and sending images of the used dust buster, Mark felt the product was old stock and in very poor condition sold by an official reseller and kindly said that he’d send me a new one in the post free of charge. What custom service! I’m in your debt again. Thanks so much for making representations on my behalf.
Glad to hear this has been resolved, thank you for sharing an update. Top customer service.
This sounds a really useful product. I’m still a bit concerned about stylus clearance over the top of the pot. Not being keen on cardboard tube DIY (!), would it be possible to measure the exact height of the pot (mm) when sitting ready for use, and let me know? I’d be very grateful; I have a lower-than-average tone arm!
Apologies for the slow response. The pot measures 15 mm, give or take a millimetre or so depending on the height of the surface of the polymer itself. Getting the position can be a bit fiddly and depends on the height of your cartridge as well as the height of the tonearm. I stand mine on a small block of wood, 6 mm thick for optimal height on the Technics.
Thanks! I should be just ok. When on the raised arm-rest, my stylus sits 15mm above the baseboard!
It will be close but should just work. It may be advisable to raise your arm lifter by a millimetre or so if you can to avoid crashing the stylus into the pot, or file off the underside of the pot to make it slightly slimmer.
Hi; as a committed web trawler for information on all things hi-fi, I feel I must draw your attention to an American product (designed for other more mundane household uses) which our transatlantic hi-fi cousins swear by, and which after testing I found to also thoroughly clean the stylus. It is called Magic Eraser and is sold as soft pads that the stylus is gently lowered into (straight up and down only!) a few times. A YouTube video was posted in 2011, and there are numerous Hi-Fi magazine forums/articles praising its abilities. To be fair there are a few posted brickbats too; no product is without detractors. However, I can only speak as I find, and attest that this product is certainly magic at removing any accumulated fluff with consummate ease, and most of all safely; viewed with a hand-held microscope afterwards the stylus does appear to be absolutely pristine.
The Magic eraser is certainly a viable alternative. I think the main reason I wouldn’t usually recommend one is that some of the cheaper knockoff versions do have a habit of leaving deposits on the stylus themselves, or becoming attached to the stylus resulting in a damaged cantilever when the stylus is lifted. To me, the price of a stylus easily justifies a dedicated cleaner such as the Dust Buster, especially when MC cartridges with non replaceable styli can run into the thousands. That said providing the erasers are of reasonable quality I don’t see a problem with using them. They’re also great for removing light surface scratches from turntable dust covers, particularly those made of softer plastic such as those found on Rega and Technics tables.
I intended to make it completely clear, but forgot, that the cheaper UK versions/copies should be avoided and the original product should be sourced from America. Apologies.
I Am Mark the designer @ Vinyl Passion i would just like to say a personally thank-you for you taking the time to write such a thoughtful review it is obvious you totally get the product.. it took 5 years of research & product testing to bring it to market basically solve a problem for myself having tried all of the other solutions such as your self being an avid vinyl collector and music enthusiast i find it indispensable and the increase in stylus life means the product pays for itself.. we have had a lot of press accolade for the product and it sells well around the world we are always looking for new re sellers but nothing is as rewarding as a genuine user review..
Kind Regards Mark Jan & our 5 Cats..
No worries Mark, I’m glad you enjoyed.