7 Tips to Keep Your Vinyl Records Sounding Great

Vinyl records are cool again. But just because you've dragged your parent's old turntable up from the cellar or down from the attic, it doesn't mean that you're getting very good sound. Older folk who grew up with records may remember them as the awful sounding poppy, static-laden experience that they gladly ditched when the CD came along. Now, whoever you are and whatever your age, you can get really good sound from your vinyl, without clicks, pops or hissing, and at a relatively inexpensive price, just by sticking to these 7 common practices of cleaning, caring for and of course, playing your records.

1. Storage

Record storage is very important. Store your records upright and never let them stack on top of each other. Storing records horizontally causes them to warp and may make them unplayable. If you don't have a shelf that's wide enough to hold the entire base of an LP, consider getting an LP storage box. You can find them on Amazon for around £30, or you can get cheap cardboard boxes for literally the price of lunch.

 

2. Sleeves

Make sure that all your records have good inner sleeves. Most LPs come with those awful paper sleeves that do more harm than good. They can scratch the record, they leave paper flakes on the record surface and they add static, but more on that later. You're much better off getting multi-master sleeves. They are durable, anti-static, high-density polyethene and they prevent any scratching. They are a little pricey, about £15 for a pack of 50, but it's a small price to pay when you're preserving your records.

 

3. Handling

Touching the record surface with your bare hands is a big no-no. Only handle the record by the edges and the label. If your hands are dirty or they are wet you shouldn't touch the record at all, and of course, don't let the record sit out to accumulate dust. Once you're done playing it put it back in its sleeve and store it properly, i.e. vertically. And don't try to remove records from the platter while it's still spinning, you're just asking for them to get scratched.

 

4. Dust

those pops and clicks that you hear when you listen to a record is the stylus (or as noobs call it, the needle) hitting a piece of dust. Think of how a record player actually works. A near microscopic stylus is being dragged through a groove, a channel that is 30 microns wide. That's more than half the width of a human hair. So yes, a tiny dust particle is going to make some noise. And not just that. Playing dusty records can cause serious damage to the stylus. You can buy a good quality carbon fibre brush to clean dust from your records for about £10.

 

5. Stylus

Just as your record attracts dust so will the stylus. You might even be able to see the grime with the naked eye. Cleaning the stylus is easy but keep in mind that the cantilever (the tiny arm that connects the stylus to the cartridge) and stylus are both very fragile, so please exercise caution. There are two main methods of cleaning your stylus. The first is by using a stylus brush. Don't be cheap and use your record brush or you will damage it. Stylus brushes are made from different materials and cost a couple of pounds. Gently brush from the back of the cartridge to the front with your stylus brush. Do not brush from front to back or side to side or you will damage the cantilever.

 

This method will get rid of all the grime, but the easier, more expensive, and not to mention safer and more effective method is by using an ONZOW Zerodust. These things used to be really overpriced but they have come down a lot in recent years and you can buy one now for about £20. the Zerodust has a gelatinous plastic that clings onto anything it touches. Make sure your tonearm is unlocked and gently lift it up a few millimetres by pressing the Zerodust gently against the stylus. Dust gone!

 

6. Static

Static electricity runs rampant with all records and all record players. It's especially worse in dry and arid climates, but even if you're in a humid area you still have to worry about it a little. Vinyl is PVC and by nature, it's prone to static. Static charges against the record when you pull it out of the sleeve, when you use your record brush, and when you walk across the carpet to put the record on the turntable. Even the Earth's rotation will, slowly but surely, give your LP a static charge.

 

Static is especially bad for dust because your record and the stylus become like magnets attracting every dust particle in the proximity. Record brushes remove minor cases of dust and static, but they won't discharge the record completely. So, how do you get rid of static? The most effective way is to use a Zerostat Gun. These can cost anywhere between £30 and £70, but you can also buy them second hand. Point the gun at the record and a few squeezes of the trigger will send a stream of ions that eliminate the static electricity.

 

7. Cleaning

If you look at the surface of a vinyl record under a microscope you'll see tiny particles of dust, dirt and grime. You won't be able to see it with the naked eye and your record brush won't pick it up either. But your cartridge and stylus will. Most of the time when people think a record is really badly scratched it isn't; it's just dirty. So, how do we improve the sound? Wet cleaning.

 

There are machines available that enable you to wet clean your records, but the best of them are really quite expensive and it's up to you if you think your record collection is worth the extra time and money. There is no doubt, however, that this is the best possible method for eliminating the pops and clicks and all the other sounds that spoil your listening pleasure.

 

Not only will wet cleaning remove the debris it will also remove all static for up to a year or more. It's also a good idea to wet clean any new records that you buy because many of them will come contaminated straight from the factory. Luckily, you only have to do this every 50 plays or so, and if you stick to tips 1 to 6 in between wet cleans your record collection will keep on sounding great for years to come.

 

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