Vinyl Cleaning machines... Are they worth the money?
It's a question we get asked quite a lot, and customers have very good points for asking it. We hope in this article we can explain more about why cleaning machines are advantageous.
Dirt and Dust
Possibly the biggest problem with any vinyl record is a build up of dust and dirt on the surface. This can lead to sonic issues, reduced dynamics and detail and even at times mis tracking. This can also however cause damage to your cartridge and stylus. A build up of dust or dirt can cause excess wear to your stylus, cantilever and puts strain on the cartridge suspension. All of this is bad news for your cartridge.
What about handheld cleaning brushes?
It's fair to say that handheld cleaning products do have advantages. They remove a large portion of dust and they are in general terms relatively inexpensive. They do however have some drawbacks.
1. They don't always get right into the grooves of the vinyl, so smaller particles of dust can be trapped in there, which your stylus will pick up when playing
2. It is quite inconsistent in terms of getting a perfect finish right across the full vinyl record. With practise this inconsistency can be reduced, however there will realistically always be a certain degree of inconsistency.
3. They leave residue behind. The downside is when using a cleaning fluid with a handheld brush, the fluid is left behind so you do have to wait for that to dry before you can play your vinyl. Furthermore, while the liquid is still present on the vinyl record, dirt and dust will gather, and may therefore dry onto the vinyl, making it harder to remove.
So what does a cleaning machine do better?
In general terms... EVERYTHING. A record cleaning machine effectively fixes all the issues mentioned above. Record cleaning machines can get right into the depth of each groove, and thanks to the suction motors built in, can suck out all the nasties that your stylus doesn't want to have in the vinyl. This suction process also completely dries the record, lifting all the fluid (and dirt/dust that has been caught in it) leaving you a perfectly clean vinyl record ready to play.
Another advantage is the consistency in which these machines can apply. That means each groove is perfectly cleaned meaning you are reducing the dangers to your cartridge and stylus, and most importantly improves the sound.
Are there any other advantages?
Yes! Possibly the most important advantage of all, it sounds better! We often spend a lot of money buying turntables, tonearms, cartridges to make our system sound better, and while they do that, we often forget about simple things like cleaning our vinyl properly. If your stylus is trying to read a groove but that groove has a layer of dust at the bottom, it will never be able to pick up the full resolution of the groove, which means you aren't getting the full resolution through your speakers. Its simple when you think about it, but it is often one of the smaller aspects of our system we overlook.
In conclusion, Vinyl cleaning machines are 100% worth every single penny. They ill increase the lifetime of your cartridge and your vinyl, improve the sonic performance of your system and in reality they aren't that expensive. They are a long lasting product that has lots of replacement parts for perishable parts so really there is no downside. They are a must have for any true vinyl enthusiast!