The pandemic means different things to different people. For the lucky few, who still had jobs, working from home meant less time spent commuting, and therefore more time to catch up on old, overdue projects – like cleaning your record collection! There are many approaches to clean vinyl, and in this, part one of a two-part article, we’ll explore a couple of tools to rid your vinyl of annoying clicks and pops, without breaking a sweat.
For an audiophile and music lover, the chance to work at home, listening to their favorite music, from their prized systems, was a pretty sweet use of all this newfound time, and considering the duress, a nice stress reliever. Some folks have been swapping speakers, cartridges, cables, components, and tweak speaker placements and room conditioning. But we have another idea, use this time to clean your albums. All of them, not just the one you are about to play, but all of them. Each day, clean a small stack of them, and soon your entire library will sound better. Easy peasy.
When I was a teenager, I listened to music with an old Gerard turntable with a venerable Shure V15 cartridge, a homemade amplifier, and a Dynaco PAT-4 preamp supplied to me (out of mercy) by my friend and audiophile speaker designer, Mark Merlino. As I learned more about audio, and played more albums, the clicks and pops really bugged me. I took steps to reduce the clicks and pops, and even though I had a Zerostat to eliminate static, it never worked that well - although it was fun to zap my friends.
I also used a Watt’s Record Brush, a Parostat, the Sound Guard system, and of course, everyone's high school favorite, a wood handled Discwasher. All were reasonable for obvious surface dust, but didn’t really clean the grooves all that well. I was in high school when I heard my first commercial click and pop remover, the DBX II, which was simply amazing at the time, but far beyond the $10 bucks I probably had in my pocket to spend.
During my college years, I finally stepped up to a Luxman PD-252 turntable, and later, after college, a Dynavector Ruby cartridge, a GAS Thalia pre-amp, and a self-built Hafler DH-200 amplifier. All powering a gorgeous pair of B&W DM2/II speakers with Monster Cable. That purchase was made possible by a pot grower who got busted, left the country, and unable to pay for them. They were more expensive then most of their other speakers, and needed to move them. So, courtesy the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), I was able to get a pair of amazing speakers at half price!I finally had a good sounding system, especially for a college student, but the clicks and pops were still there, and it continued to bug me. After college, an archivist friend had a suggestion: fill a sink or large bowl with lukewarm water, add a drop or two of Kodak Photo-Flo, spin the record in a solution (holding it vertically so as not to get the label wet). Then rinse with clean, distilled water, and pat the album dry with some clean terry cloth towels.
Voila! Soon the sink was full of dirty, cloudy water. It worked beautifully, and impressed upon me, just how much dirt and gunk had gotten into my meticulously cared for albums. The albums sounded much, much better, with a marked reduction in surface noise, and a more open soundstage. My cousin Ivan had a VPI record cleaner, which was very cool, but more expensive than I could afford.
That was then, and if you are wondering if there is a better way to do it in 2020, the answer is yes. Since those Kodak Photo-Flo days, I’ve spent time with a slew of LP cleaners, from affordable to very expensive. Fortunately, there are some great products that won’t break the bank.
The entry point for a high-quality cleaner is the Spin-Clean Record Washer MKII, a venerable product that first debuted in 1975, complete with patents and the ability to clean both sides of an album at once. It’s a great choice for someone on a budget, or just starting to build a vinyl collection. There are cheaper knock-offs out there, but none as good as the original. but we urge you to stick to the real thing, the Spin-Clean Record Washer MKII. There are some knockoffs,
The Spin-Clean Record Washer MKII washes 33, 45, and 78-rpm records, and according to the company, it ships with enough materials to clean up to 700 records. Spin-Clean operates using specially formulated, new, alcohol-free, MK3 vinyl record cleaning fluid. The cleaning solution is concentrated and not viable on its own; it needs to be diluted in the base of the Spin-Clean unit. It's patented vinyl record washer basin and lid, and it's compact, small footprint size, that's it's easy to store, even if you live in a tiny New York City studio apartment, bargain priced at just $5 grand a month.
It’s easy as pie to use - you just set up some rollers for the size of the record you want to clean, add brushes, water, and MK3 fluid, and you are good to go. Elapsed time is two minutes, tops. Spin the album clockwise three times, and then counter clockwise. Then, pull the album out, and dry with the included cloths. That’s it! You could actually do it in 30 seconds, compared to what seems like hours with a fancy ultrasonic cleaner.
It’s not all that different from when I spun albums in the kitchen sink with a drop of Photo-Flo - the dirt and grime that collected was proof that it was doing its job. Unlike my sink method, the Spin-Clean uses special pads to clean and dry the cleaned and washed album. It’s effective, completely manual, affordable, and starting at just $79.99 should be within the reach of most vinyl aficionados. All the parts and accessories are proudly made and assembled in the U.S.A., by a family-owned business. The Spin-Clean Record Washer MKII is a great gift for the soon-to-be-addicted vinyl lover in your life.
In part two of this article, we will turn our attention to the Record Doctor IV, which washes and vacuums LPs clean. Sucking dirt out of your grooves is the next step up in record washers, and best of all, it’s automated.
We think that the Spin-Clean Record Washer MKII is the real thing. Inexpensive, but not cheaply made, works without fault, and provides proof of the gunk that was formerly in your grooves, and it’s made in the U.S.A. It’s fast, quick, and does a great job. The Spin-Clean Record Washer MKII is highly recommended.
Harris Fogel, with editorial input by Nancy Burlan, posted 7/4/2020
For more information on the Spin-Clean Record Washer MKII visit: https://spinclean.com
For more information on the Record Doctor VI Record Cleaning Machine visit: https://www.pangeaaudio.com/Record-Doctor-VI-Record-Cleaning-Machine