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Records are coming back but a word of caution for record makers.

Posted Monday, July 5, 2010, at 3:39 PM

(Photo)
Still brings smiles
Some of you know I "process" records as a sideline. This is not an advertisement but an observation about the record quality that I see or hear.

Many believe the quality of sound from a record is much better than the CD or other electronic recording mediums. I can not confirm that with my equipment but I have noticed that over the years the record industry probably caused some of their demise by trying to make the records cheaper and cheaper.

I can play old 78 rpm records and have more dependable play than some of the more modern 33s. Thinner vinyl seems to result in less reliable the playback. I usually grade by sight since playing complete albums is very time consuming. For some reason I decided to play an album that looked perfect and still does, but it had more skips that an old 78 stored with no sleeve and showing visible scratches.

I cleaned it several times and checked the grooves with a magnifying glass because I just could not see the problem. I still can't but the record is trash and will become a bowl, coaster, clock or just about anything else but a record for listening.

What is the word of caution? If the recording industry is going to keep the trend for records growing, don't use crappy vinyl or cheap recording equipment.


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I have a bunch of old vinyl records, but they haven't been cleaned in probably 30 years or so. What's the best way to clean them? I can't find any record cleaner anywhere, like Wal-Mart and the like, so is there any household stuff that can do a good job? Thanks!

-- Posted by welkindance on Tue, Jul 6, 2010, at 7:38 AM

To clean manually it would help if you got a record cleaning brush. Not sure if these folks have one but they are local. http://shelbyvillerecordshop.com/

For one time cleaning it is probably just as well to get cleaning fluid from them as well. If you are going to clean thousands of records it might be less expensive to make your own fluid.

78 records require a different fluid than 33 and 45. No alcohol! The 78 material can be damaged by the cleaners made for 45 & 33s so be sure to tell them which type for cleaning.

If a home made brew is interesting, distilled water with a few drops of ivory liquid or similar should do. Use the bush to lightly push the cleaner around then rinse with clear water.

I would not immerse the 78s in water. Many are made with a fiber core that could absorb water. Just push a little in and push it around. Keep it away from the label as well.

That can work for 45 and 33 as well but the professional cleaners have a few more ingredients for rapid, spot free drying and loosening oils.

Professional mechanical cleaners can cost thousands of dollars but there are some simple one on the market as well. For a few hundred records, I would probably not invest in any of them, just a good quality record brush.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Jul 6, 2010, at 10:22 AM

Don't use alcohol on any records!

It will clean them, and they'll look nice and shiny, but it damages the sound quality-if you are using a decent stylus...

-- Posted by espoontoon on Wed, Jul 7, 2010, at 5:09 AM

Listening to records is a part time occupational hazard. Like last night, listening to the Carpenters made me get all nostalgic. In my opinion, they were one of the great duos throughout my life.

I listened to the album "A Song for You" twice just now. Probably could do it again, but Billy Joel was sitting there waiting and then Judy Garland. What could I do?

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jul 7, 2010, at 7:29 AM

My experience with buying new vinyl has been that it tends to be higher quality (180 or 200 Gram) than what was made 30-40 years ago. Many indie bands that release vinyl currently also give you a digital download to so you get the best of both worlds.

http://www.needledoctor.com/ is a good online source of phonograph needs. I don't think I can afford many of the turntables they sell though.

-- Posted by cortnerkin on Wed, Jul 7, 2010, at 6:44 PM

And here I had Deb think the Jack Daniels was for records. Glad she does not read my blog much.

I have not seen any records being made today but I am disappointed in some big names not getting more involved in the quality of record their songs were going on. It seems the more flexible the record is translates to poor stylus tracking.

How would you describe records coming out today cortnerkin?

We've bought from needledoctor before. Their Spin Cleaner looks like it might clean well and certainly is much better in price than the other units. I just wonder how long the brushes last. Anyone use one?

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jul 7, 2010, at 8:28 PM

I did not know you were a record aficionado espoontoon. I was looking for the official name of on who collects records and found out they are called..... wait for it.... a record collector. What a let down. I was sure there was a special name.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jul 7, 2010, at 8:45 PM

I don't buy any anymore. I have over 1,000 and that is too much. All are protected with plastic sleeves and well taken care of.

I used to be able to find Discwasher cleaning systems on ebay-the old ones with the red bottled solutions. Discwasher fluid, in my opinion, was the best. It didn't leave any residue and wasn't made with any type of alcohol. A foreign company bought their name, but they produce a different fluid-contains alcohol...if it says it's flamable, don't use it.

I mean, would you use something flamable to clean vinyl around your house?

-- Posted by espoontoon on Thu, Jul 8, 2010, at 7:29 AM

I'll see if I can find the old recipe. I have a few stored away from other searches and one was highly refined.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jul 8, 2010, at 12:53 PM

My experience with new vinyl has been very good overall. Most new records tend to be a very thick heavy vinyl that holds up well under normal use. Most of my old vinyl from the 70's and 80's tends to be thin and easily scratched. Much of the new vinyl tends to be small independent, or indie, artists. There are also quite a lot of reissues of older popular releases many of which are issued on 180 or 200 gram vinyl. These records tend to be thick, heavy and durable. They sound excellent too even though I have a fairly inexpensive no frills turntable. My vinyl from the early 60's and 50's, which I don't have much of, tends to be pretty thick but also more brittle. The main problem with 78's tends to be how brittle they are. I have a handful of 78's but I don't really seek them out because it is a challenge for me to play them and I have a general lack of interest in the artists commonly found on these.

I buy many straight from the label like Subpop Merge Records or Matador. Many times, the record label will send little promo items like stickers, posters or buttons which is really cool. Other online retailers I buy from tend to be Amazon and auralexploits.com. As far as local retailers, there is the almost invisible Grand Palace on the square in Murfreesboro which sells old and a few new records. In Nashville, there is the Great Escape for old records and Grimey's which has a decent selection of new indie label vinyl. I remember the days when you could actually by records at the Shelbyville Record Shop. Mr Davis would also special order stuff for you too.

Below are links to some albums I have actually purchased. The first one contained a bonus 12'' with B-sides and remixes and mine is on white vinyl. The second is on 180 Gram vinyl.

https://www.auralexploits.com/product09_...

https://www.auralexploits.com/product09_...

To store my vinyl, I put the actual record in a plain white paper sleeve and keep the original sleeve in the cardboard jacket. The cardboard jacket goes into a plastic album cover with the acual record stored behind the cardboard jacket in the plastic album cover. This way the carboard jacket does not get edge cuts from the disc and no ring wear on the album's front artwork. I keep the album stored on a shelf and the record itself does not receive any physical trauma that would damage it.

Most of my music listening tends to be by my iPod or by CD but there's nothing that compares to the experience of playing an actual physical record and having the big album artwork to peruse.

-- Posted by cortnerkin on Fri, Jul 9, 2010, at 11:44 AM

Wow! You take care of the records as an investment. Which they can truly be. Let me know when YOU have a yard sale!

Cardboard and sleeve splits are very common in used records. The first time I had someone ask us to remove the record from the cover before we shipped, I thought it was strange. With a little thought I realized the edge of that record is like a butter knife and sudden movement can easily cause a record to slice through the edge.

I know you know it but the weight of the records stacked flat increases the incidence of record ring. This is the impression of the record you see on many cardboard jackets. It is best to stand the record on edge and keep it straight up and down so there is no tendency to warp.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Jul 9, 2010, at 12:10 PM

When I moved here in 2000, the first thing I did was check out the Shelbyville Record Store.

To my surprise, there wasn't a single record in the store.

I told them they needed to change their name...

-- Posted by espoontoon on Sat, Jul 10, 2010, at 3:19 AM

I would bet that is something that tugs at the heart strings. How long have they been open as the SRS?

-- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Jul 10, 2010, at 11:28 AM

My Mother passed away last year and we found stacks and stacks of her old records, I can't wait to get back at them. How fun that will be. I can't wait to go through all the old titles. I know her old "Platters" albums are real scratchy sounding is there any way to buff out that back ground sound?( I don't mean literally to Buff them)

-- Posted by KaiteJones on Mon, Jul 12, 2010, at 4:41 PM

I have heard a number of "methods" but the best is a real good cleaning. If they are scratchy after that, they are probably scratched beyond repair.

Cleaning will probably mean a "wet" brush, meant for cleaning records. There are a number out there on the internet, but look and learn a little. Does anyone have a reliable source they use?

The only other way might be to have them digitally cleaned up, but I think you could just buy a CD cheaper. Still the old records have their allure, so good luck with the cleaning.

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Jul 12, 2010, at 8:08 PM

Once they're scratched, they're scratched. Surface noise can be dulled with a cheap stylus/needle or record player.

And Steve brought up a good point. You can eliminate a little of it by running it digital.

Some people think the scratch noise is nostalgic, so....

-- Posted by espoontoon on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 6:53 AM

Hmmmm, I wonder if I could use the nostalgic approach on some of my bad records? At least the 78s.

Do you mean that an inexpensive stylus would not be as sensitive and therefore not pick up some of the noise? Interesting. Plus you probably do not want to ruin a more expensive stylus when you know the record has issues.

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 7:28 AM

Thank you guys, I look forward to exploring the piles or memories.

-- Posted by KaiteJones on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 3:12 PM


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Steve Mills and his wife have one daughter and live on a farm outside of Bell Buckle. They previously owned two coffee/ice cream shops, currently operate an internet sales company and teach classes, but his primary job involves the paper industry worldwide. Hobbies and interests lie in gardening, photography, recorded music and of course, their pets.