In previous articles we've looked at different approaches to cleaning LPs, all of which used the same process – get the records wet, wash the dirt out, then dry. In part one, we looked at a new process from The Vinyl Record Cleaning Company of Australia, in part two, our own vinyl loving Frank Schramm listens carefully to before-and-after tests, in part two of a three part article.
Since many vinyl lovers are also bargain hunters, finding great albums at garage sales, thrift stores, and basements isn't all that uncommon and can be part of the enjoyment of collecting. The havoc that the oil shortage crisis of the ‘70s played with the stamping of vinyl biscuits into finished albums often brought with it a higher number of less-than-pristine pressings. So, cleaning is often more than just getting rid of dirt, it can also undo some of the manufacturing process artifacts.
Does the VRC process work better than the more traditional washing systems? Is it on par with other comparable techniques? The short answer to both questions is yes. All of the traditional techniques cleaned albums, reducing cracks, pops, and surface noise. All dramatically improved the sound, all worked well. However, the VRC provided the least amount of resulting surface noise of the processes we tried. Frank’s comments are below.
“The idea of playing vinyl in the 21st century seems almost surreal. With the introduction of the CD, digital audio became a fact of the 21st century. The compact disc promised that you could throw them like frisbees and STILL have them play to perfection which of course, wasn't true. The demise of the CD happened sooner than expected, by the transformation of mp-3s and other digital formats. The physical format was so yesterday. Then the vinyl revolution happened all over again!
My passion for vinyl began at the age of seven or eight. My father was a true audiophile, and each evening after work, he went into a special closet, where he kept his record collection. He would stand on a stool (which he made in his high school shop class) and carefully select the vinyl of his choice. To this day, I remember the impeccable technique he used for cleaning the vinyl selection, by using a very soft shammy cloth. I know my dad would cherish the idea of using the Vinyl Record Cleaning (VRC) process to treat his vinyl collection to a new life, by restoring a recording to almost-new condition after a careful treatment.
To evaluate the process, I put a variety of vinyl recordings to the test. I'll single out three recordings.
The first, a beloved recording, was one of my personal favorites that I purchased as a child back in 1967: the Bethlehem Bach Choir Festival of the B Minor Mass, with conductor Ifor Jones at the podium. This recording was hand-picked since I knew it had dust (pops) embedded in the album.
The second album I chose, was from the free bin of a favorite vinyl shop. This recording of Roy Harris’ Third Symphony has significant pops and vibrations in the first track of the album, which is in one movement. Here, VRC reduced the level of unwanted pops and clicks. After cleaning, they were still there, but at a lower rate and frequency.
My party-worn copy of Led Zeppelin’s recording of “Good Times-Bad Times” has endured every manner of abuse, yet I heard a reduced amount of pops and surface noise, as a result using the VRC system.
I recorded the albums, before-and-after VRC treatment, and after an analysis of those recordings, it confirmed that this new product has the potential to bring to your vinyl collection, a lowered noise level, reduced noise and pops, and thus a higher quality of music. It was a pleasure to hear some old friends sound cleaner with an opened soundstage.” So, with Frank suitably impressed, we return to our thoughts on the process.
As we wrote in part one, it was clear to us that the VRC-treated albums were among the quietest in our tests. What really stood out for us, was the lack of noise from the albums after treatment, with the combination of what we observed to be less static electricity, along with the normal clicks and pops, and diminished static crackle upon playback. One other benefit was a noticeable lack of static cling, so therefore the completed albums didn't seem to attract as much dust as they previously had.
So, whatever Mr. Price is whipping up down under, it was working up here in the hinterlands of Philadelphia and Montclair, New Jersey. In the meantime, we recommend that you order up a batch and take it for a test run. If you are going to clean your albums, choose a process and solution designed specifically for that task alone.
In part three of this article, we'll get granular about how it works, theories of stylus and groove interaction, thoughts on their new and improved turntable, the simplified VRC solution choices, and the value of treating albums a second time. Part two of a three-part article.
Frank Schramm and Harris Fogel, with editorial input from Nancy Burlan, Posted 10/6/2021
For more information on The Vinyl Record Cleaning Company visit: https://vinylrecordcleaningsystem.com.au
Photographs © Frank Schramm 2021