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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Vinyl Record Cleaner

**************check out the latest version of the Vinyl Record Cleaner here******************

My vinyl collection keeps growing fast, and I often buy used records if there is no audiophile reissue available. Unfortunately, many vendors grade their vinyls only visually. This results in many disappointments even when buying 'Near Mint' or 'Mint' rated wares via eBay or Discogs et al... Often the records look pristine, but when played there is a lot of background noise and crackling due to dirt and dust lodged in the grooves. So recently I wondered about an effective way to clean such records, to restore them to an enjoyable quality. I poked a bit around and it seems the marketplace is swamped with overpriced record cleaning machines for hundreds and even thousands of $$...large amounts for a fairly trivial problem.

A while ago I realized that Mr. Clean 'Magic Eraser' is a powerful tool to restore the signature brushed aluminum surfaces on vintage Bang and Olufsen units. As long as there are no mechanical scratches one can usually restore the surfaces to a new-like appearance with these pads and some dish detergent (only use detergent for hand washing, not for machines since these detergents are aggressive and can possibly damage the surface of aluminum panels, but that is for another post...).

I started using the Magic Eraser pads on crackly vinyl a while ago and it seems to work pretty well. The fine foam of these pads very effectively conforms to small surface features, and it seems to be able to smoothly enter the grooves on records. The only issue I had with this method was that it was a bit cumbersome to consistently wipe the grooves with the pads in a circular fashion for a couple of minutes. So last night I sat there while listening to a crackly version of 'Softly as the Morning Sunrise' on the Modern Jazz Quartet's absolutely awesome 'Plays for Lovers'  (Prestige 7421) record and I wondered about a way for making this process more pleasant.

This is what I came up with: I printed the parts over night and in the morning I tried the design on the MJQ record. The design simply is made of two bars with 4" long cabinets for Magic Eraser strips and  a center pin to fit the record to be cleaned:

With pads inserted:

And here 'in-action' with the record inserted. I cleaned it for a minute with pads that I moistened with some detergent solution by just manually rotating the record, while pressing the top bar down to apply the pads. The design has a built in stop that one cannot touch the record with the plastic parts while pressing them together.

After the cleaning process I rinsed the record with tap water followed by filtered water from the fridge. Then I dried it with a soft cloth. After that the record was ready for a test spin. And strikingly, the crackling was mostly gone! Absolutely lovely! The whole process just took maybe 5 min. I now foresee some exponential growth for my record collection...;-).

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