Audio Technology | How To's | Tips -

Some Simple Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Vinyl

Everyone knows how to take care of their digital music collection: don’t delete the files.

Vinyl is different.

Vinyl requires you put in some effort. First of all, you have to get up like every twenty-two minutes to flip the record over, but there’s more to it than that.

A Clean Record Is A Happy Record

That little spinning vinyl record is an electrostatic collector of dust that piles up in the grooves of your records and makes them sound flat and non-descript. Not to mention the big chunks of dust that are a leading cause of all those noises you hear when you play a record. Get yourself a decent cleaning kit and clean your records every fews spins. Don’t think of cleaning your records as a chore, think of it as a way to get completely in touch with your music – an immersion in the overall experience. A decent record cleaning kit will have a bottle of fluid, a microfiber cloth and a brush with harder bristles to clean the microfiber cloth.

How About Under the Faucet Washing?

Many people wash their vinyl under the faucet with years and years of good results to report. Here’s where a little common sense comes in handy. Avoid tap water at all costs because of the chemicals that may be present or deposits like iron and calcium – that stuff could build up on your records like it does on your coffee pot. Distilled water and a gentle soap like blue Dawn with a soft cloth (rubbed in the direction of the grooves) is okay, but a quality record cleaning kit will do more without the added worry of chemical breakdown of the vinyl or deposit build up on the grooves. Some people use Windex and paper towels to wash their records, but both are just too harsh.

Regardless of what wet cleaning method you choose – make sure your records are completely dry before playing them.

A Clean Stylus Is A Happy Stylus

If your house is particularly dry and prone to static, dust buildup on your stylus is unavoidable. Most people just pull the dust glob off the stylus with their fingers, but in spite of how clean you think your fingers are, you’re going to leave a little bit of grease behind when you touch the stylus. Do that enough times and you’re going to get a dirt build up. A nice soft brush or a bottle of compressed air work much better.

There are parallel brushes that you can attach to your tone-arm that clean the record in advance of the stylus reaching the groove as long as don’t mind the extra low frequency rumble, excess pressure and speed variations the brush brings to the playback experience.

Put Your Records Away & Do It Properly

This will not only make your mom/roommate/spouse happy it will also protect your records.

Put the record in the paper sleeve and then put the sleeve back in the jacket with the open side facing up (toward the top of the jacket). This keeps the record from falling out of the jacket accidentally.

Store your records vertically, but make sure they aren’t leaning too much. If they lean too much, the poor last record on the shelf will bear the weight of all the other records and will eventually lose its shape. 

Keep your storage area dry, but not too dry. Avoid direct sunlight or heater vents and the like that may cause your records to warp.

Use Your Dust Cover

When the turntable is not in use, put the dust cover on. Some people play records with the dust cover on, but that’s not really a great idea. Vibrations and unwanted low frequency noise will be magnified with the dust cover in place and in extreme cases the cartridge may actually feedback. Unfortunately, there’s a certain amount of electrostatic dust that’s unavoidable when you’re spinning your disks. A little micro vacuum will work just fine to keep your turntable as dust-free as possible.

Keep Your Hands Off The Important Parts

Avoid touching the grooves as much as you possibly can. Master the art of removing your disks by taking your middle finger and placing it on the spindle hole and placing your thumb on the edge of the disk. Do this a few dozen times and you’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes. Remember: Everything other than the stylus that touches the record’s grooves degrades your music listening experience.  

Remove the Shrink Wrap

Every person born between 1942 and 1970 knows that the rise of the popularity of denim is directly related to how easily you can open the shrink wrap by running your new album back and forth a few times on your Levi’s-clad thigh. Regardless of what method you use to open your vinyl, remove the shrink wrap after opening. With today’s heavier records (180 gm +) this is not a major issue, but on standard thinner mass-produced vinyl the shrink wrap is going to want to – wait for it – shrink even after the seal is broken which will cause your records to warp, especially in a hot environment. If you want to preserve the jacket artwork get yourself some heavy plastic sleeves specifically designed and built for vinyl records.

Vinyl enthusiasts love to brag about how old their vinyl is and what great shape it’s in. At some point in their audio journey they also became aware of how important vinyl is to their complete music experience. It’s kind of what happens to us vinyl people. 

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