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.