"Can you hear the sound of the static noise? Blasting out in stereo"
Green Day - The Static Age - 21st Century Breakdown
It’s time for another blog on ‘Travelling the Groove’. Last time out I talked about the different terminology that you will find around the site, and when talking about records in general, hopefully that helped some of those that are new to buying vinyl and those that have had vinyl before but wanted to know what all of the new and different options were available nowadays. If you haven't read it yet, check it out.
This time around I wanted to talk about looking after your vinyl records and also your record player. The two have to work in harmony to ensure that you are getting the best sound possible from each. Some listeners will have a record player with the speakers built in and some will have a system made up of several separate parts (amplifier, speakers etc.), all of which can effect the quality of the sound, but today I am just concentrating on the record player and your records.
At the most basic level it all comes down to reducing static charge on your records and cleanliness of the grooves. I am not talking operating theatre clean, which would be great, but at least dust and static free clean. "But James, these are new records, are they not clean in the first place", I hear you cry? In essence yes but records have this annoying habit of attracting dust and pets hairs and anything else that is floating around due to a build up of static electricity (I could quote lots of my GCSE physics class at this point, explaining what causes static on vinyl records, but I won’t). Removing this static electricity and keeping your records dust free(ish) will help keep your records sounding great and reduce the annoying crackles and pops that ruin your joy of listening. Dust and dirt in the grooves of your record will also wear down your stylus over time, so the cleaner your records the longer your stylus will last.
So a few solutions on how to reduce the static electricity and annoying dust each time you play a record.
Antistatic vinyl record sleeves
Nearly all records come in a cardboard outer cover or box with a paper inner sleeve holding the record. These paper sleeves attract static electricity and pass it onto the record. They also breakdown over a long time, depositing small paper fibres in the grooves of your precious records. More so with older 2 nd hand records but not so much of a problem with newer records.
You can swap these original sleeves for special vinyl lined antistatic sleeves, leaving the old sleeve safely tucked away in the outer sleeve/box, many of which have an antistatic treatment which reduces the build up of static and, subsequently, paper fibres and dust in the groove of your record.
You can buy the new sleeves in packs from 10-200 but If you start to build a rather large collection of records this can get quite an expensive option, it really depends on how precious you want to treat your collection.
Antistatic vinyl record cleaner
Despite your best efforts your records will ultimately still have an element of static and dirt particles prior to playing. You also want to look out for any oily finger prints on your records. If left, over time, they will mark the vinyl and create a very unpleasant sound, so you want to clean these finger prints off your vinyl records as well.
One of the simplest ways to reduce this is with a cleaning spray. Many come with a micro fibre cloth or lint free cloth, just spray the cloth a couple of times, so that it is a little damp. Start your record turning and then gently apply the cloth to the side opposite the needle. Let the record spin more than once before moving to a different spot, don’t wipe back and forth, just work slowly from the outside to the center. The solution should dry quickly but if not use a dry part of the cloth and apply it to the record whilst it is still going round until it is dry, you do not need to press very hard.
Your record should now be static free and nice and clean.
If you really don’t fancy going down the spray and wipe route each time, especially if you have mostly new records that shouldn’t have attracted a lot of dust, then the quickest and simplest method is a good old antistatic carbon fibre brush.
These brushes eliminate the static charge from the record and also remove a lot of surface dust at the same time, so win-win. This should be done at the start of playing each side of the record. To many record owners a sweep of the brush across the record is an invaluable before-you-play requirement, so maybe add it to your routine.
These are just a few of the options you have to remove the static charge from your records and add a touch of cleanliness before you place the needle. There are of course other things you can try depending on your budget. You can look at replacing the standard record (slip)mat that came with your record player, especially if it is made of felt. Excellent alternatives are cork, rubber or even cow hide. You can also go all space age and zap away the static with an antistatic gun (I’ll let you look that one up). If you really want to splash out you can always purchase a record cleaning machine.
If you don’t have any cleaning spray or an antistatic brush, at Travelling the Groove we recommend products from AM Clean, which you will find available on site here. The cleaning spray always brings off any dirt or marks and dries without leaving any residue, whilst the antistatic brush and stylus cleaner never fail to do their job. You can buy the individual items or one of the complete sets that includes everything you need. Take a look, you won’t be disappointed.
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to care for your records and you can look forward to fewer pops and crackles from your lovely vinyl each time you listen.
Don’t let snap, crackle and pop ruin your music, save it for breakfast.