Over the years there have been so many record and stylus maintenance products brought to market; record cloths, stylus brushes, sticky rollers, carbon fibre record brushes, anti-static guns etc., these ranged from just a few pounds to £50+ with varying degrees of success.
Alongside these relatively affordable items lurked a number of quite exotic and in some cases hideously expensive record cleaning machines (RCM); many extremely complex in design and difficult to house. Since the ‘vinyl revival’ more and more such products have hit the market, some quite outstanding in performance but beyond the means or needs of many.
However, such products display a distinct advantage over the cloths and brushes, they actually remove all the contaminants from the record rather than merely redistribute them more evenly around the surface of the disc giving one the visual impression of a clean record. Sure, the larger fluff particles are mostly lifted by carbon brushes and their daily use is to be encouraged but such fluff is pretty benign in terms of record and stylus wear.
The real damage is caused but much harder particles of dust, grit and metal. Metal? Yes metal; especially true of new records. How’s that, one may ask? Well you only have to look at a moving coil cartridge under a microscope to see attached to the bottom is what looks like grey dust. This ‘dust’ is actually tiny shards of metal swarf (remember those old toys whereby you rearrange metal to put a beard on a face using a magnet?)
So where do these metal particles come from? Well actually the only possible explanation is the factory where they are pressed; probably created by the machinery itself, which means that the most important records to clean are new ones. It’s not only the record and stylus wear that’s exhibited either. My personal and very expensive moving coil cartridge started to produce horrible distortion in low bass notes on just one channel. The distributor found upon examination that such shards of metal had formed a ‘bridge’ like some species of ants do, from the coils on the armature to the yoke impeding the movement of the assembly. Clearly this is bad news for both record and stylus, indeed many will opine that a well looked after stylus and record collection will mean it’ll be the cartridge’s suspension that will deteriorate before the stylus actually wears out; here’s the solution;
Some years back, Project identified a market for an affordable and compact RCM and thus the VC-S was launched later to become the VC-S Mk2, ironing out a few niggles in the original design.
Now the design has gone through a serious makeover to make it easier to use, quieter in operation and built to last longer whilst looking sleeker too.
Here then is the Pro-ject VC-S2 Alu, and as the name suggests, it has a very elegant aluminium finish using an aluminium-composite laminate, replacing the rather dated vinyl-wrap MDF casework. This means fluid spills no longer can seep into the casework and cause damage; it’s noticeably smaller too.
Operation is a doddle; place the record (I’ll refrain from calling them ‘vinyls’ if I may?) on to the small foam topped platter and screw down the similarly protecting foam surfaced clamp (the foam is there to prevent any fluid soaking into the label) and switch on the motor which rotates at 30rpm. Apply a generous quantity of the provided fluid and, using the goat hair brush provided scrub lightly to agitate all the contaminates to thus be suspended in the solution then simply position the arm across the disc and with the motor still running and switch on the vacuum. After one or two rotations switch the motor to reverse, allow two more rotations before lifting the arm. Finally stop the suction and then repeat on the other side leaving one with a record cleaner than new!
The bottom line is that deploying the use of carbon fibre record and stylus brushes and a Project VC-S2 RCM will not only make your records and cartridge sound better but will significantly increase their longevity for a most modest outlay.
Simon Walker - Audio T Reading