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Record Cleaning: worth the effort and cost?

I’ll start with what I do and then try to give some simple reasoning behind the thinking.

About half my total vinyl purchases are from charity (thrift) shops and from secondhand (used) record shops. Most of these shops are not the type that clean and grade their stock. The best indication of likely quality is a clean sleeve, not too much dust and not too many finger marks on the record itself. I always clean these records before playing. They usually end up looking really good and sounding somewhere between fabulous and OK.

Sometimes the best looking example is the worst sounding, but until I get to play them there is no way to judge.

Once cleaned a record is given a new polylined inner sleeve as there is little point in putting a clean record in a first sleeve.

New records are rarely cleaned before first play and only maybe 20% are cleaned at all when new. If they are significantly noisy and from a reputable supplier they go back for replacement. If they are from a less easy to communicate with source such as a stall at a hi-fi show or a record fair they will get cleaned.

So does the record cleaning help? A simple answer: yes. It doesn’t make damaged records perfect, but it does clean out crud, whether that is excess mold release agent, leaching plastizers, or just dirt. On some records is removes a good amount of the clicks and pops and on others it just removes a level of low-level masking.

My Rega RP6, Audio Technical OC9II combination is very enjoyable to listen too but it is quite sensitive to click and pops. Unfortunately, no cleaning will remove those that are ground into the surface of the grooves. Some great looking records sound as if they have been played with a knitting needle.

I don’t believe it’s a good idea to clean records too often (once a year is as often as I will ever contemplate), as I believe that over cleaning, whether too often or with too strong a cleaner, is the reason for some enthusiasts saying cleaning makes records sound worse. I believe an over cleaned record, which has had too much plastizer stripped out of the groove, just wears too quickly and becomes noisy quickly.

I’ve linked below to two zipped files. Both the same section of a Bryan Ferry track. The first recorded as the record came out of the sleeve after buying it at my local Cancer Research charity shop. The second, the same record, after a clean using Keith Monks Break the Mold fluid on the Keith Monks Classic Record Cleaning machine.

The recording was achieved using the Pure Vinyl 4 app on a Mac mini.  The ADC was a Zoom TAC-2 set to 24bit 88.2kHz, chosen at it is an easy down sample to CD resolution for anyone without a hi-res DAC. The files are zipped aiff.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions but may I suggest that you concentrate less on the clicks and pops and more on the inner detail, the tonal quality of the backing singers and the way you may find you interact differently to both track excerpts.

Bryan Ferry as purchased

Bryan Ferry cleaned

One small but essential piece of advice. if you decide to invest in a Record Cleaning Machine make sure it’s a quiet one. An afternoon cleaning records wearing ear defenders is not fun. An afternoon cleaning records listening to the record you have just cleaned is great fun.

If you don’t feel the expenditure is worthwhile consider visiting a hi-fi retailer or record shop that offers record cleaning services once in a while.  Start with a couple to check their care and attention and if all’s well get a few of your noisier, muckier records cleaned.


Do turntable belts sound different?

I’ve come to the conclusion that on a good hi-fi system every change to anything is audible.  Not necessarily an improvement, just audible. The better the system, the more audible but below a certain quality changes are masked.  Looking back at my experiments with a budget system it is clear to me that it’s possible to put together some quite good sounding systems, that have low resolving power, for a pretty low cost. Unfortunately good sound and resolving power – the ability to hear small changes and fine detail within the music – don’t come nearly so cheaply.





So, an experiment. I recorded the output from my Dynavector P75 phono stage at 24/88 using Pure Vinyl 4.  The turntable a Rega RP6 was fitted with a Audio Technica OC9 Mk II. The track excerpt was from Jambalaya (On The Bayou) from a copy of the Carpenters second hits compilation  I picked up at a charity store. Sorry I didn’t have time to run the Keith Monks so it’s a bit noisier that it will be when I do.

You can click on the links below and download around a minute of the track recorded using the standard black belt or the optional white belt. No other changes.

See what you think.  Any difference?


Black Belt

White Belt





Mu-so by Naim, now featuring Spotify Connect

Today, Naim Audio confirmed that its new wireless music system, mu-so, will feature Spotify Connect functionality.

 All the power of Spotify, built in

Mu-so can now add native support for Spotify to its long list of music streaming features. Spotify Connect gives premium subscribers the ability to stream millions of songs to mu-so wirelessly via the Spotify app on a mobile device. Mu-so communicates directly with Spotify’s servers, preserving the battery life of the device and leaving it free to open other apps and take calls without interrupting the music.

Naim is working towards introducing streaming services to its wider range of streaming products.







Three new colours

Naim also confirmed that mu-so will come with a Classic Naim Black speaker grille as standard with optional custom grilles (sold separately for £69.95). Customers will be able to add a new dimension of colour with Deep Blue, Burnt Orange and Vibrant Red available from selected retailers at launch and direct from the Naim website later this year.

The Naim mu-so will be available at specialist audio retailers, John Lewis and, and select Apple stores and for £895 this autumn.






Mu-so, the features

AirPlay – Stream music from iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch or from iTunes.

UPnP™ (Universal Plug ‘n’ Play) – Stream music from a PC, Mac or network-attached storage in high-resolution ‘better than CD’ quality.

Bluetooth – Pair with a Bluetooth device to instantly play music. Also compatible with aptX for high-performance audio.

Internet Radio – Access to thousands of internet radio stations. Favourite presets can be saved for easy access.

Spotify Connect – Built-in support for the world’s most popular streaming service to play millions of songs from a mobile device.

USB – Play music from and charge iPhone, iPad, iPod and many other MP3 players.  Playback from USB sticks.

Digital Input (Optical) – Play audio from digital sources such as TVs, set top boxes or games consoles.

3.5mm Analogue Input – Play music from other digital and analogue sources including MP3 players.

Multiroom – Play to multiple mu-so devices simultaneously via Airplay or link with other Naim streaming players as part of a Naim multiroom system.

Six Naim Speaker Drivers – Custom-designed dome tweeters (x2), mid-range (x2) and bass drivers (x2).

450W of Amplification – Six 75 watt digital amplifiers drive each speaker unit independently.

Naim control app – Custom-designed Naim app to control mu-so and explore music via iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android devices.

Touch Panel Volume Control – Innovative touch panel volume control (patent-pending) with 11 sector display. Also controls standby, input and preset selection.

Remote Control – Remote control to put mu-so into standby, adjust volume, change track (next/previous), pause and adjust the illumination level.

Room Settings – Two different room EQ settings to optimise sound when positioning mu-so near or away from room boundary.

Loudness Control – Mu-so intelligently boosts bass and treble at low volumes to ensure a full musical experience at all sound levels.



iPhone or Android in as few words as possible

It’s a dilemma? Which to choose?  How does one decide without a few days of hands on experience with both?

I’ve been an iPhone user since the 3G, and have been very happy, but recently Apple has been trying harder than ever to drive me away. Their customer service offers tons but delivers little.  More on this another day when I’m not trying to keep it short.

So in a fit of pique I purchased a Nexus 5.  It’s a sensible price, it has a five inch hi-res screen and it is a wonderful phone.  I spent the weekend or a good chunk of it setting up gmail, exchange email, and all the things I thought were essential.

It’s a truly delightful phone to use and to own – I had the red one – but, and this is only relevant if you are deeply embedded into the Apple ecosystem, it’s not a iPhone.  There are so many apps that I take for granted on my iPhone I would have to buy again from the Play Store.

If I used a Windows PC, I’d probably still use an iPad but I definitely would switch to an Android phone – probably the Nexus 5 and I’d immerse myself in the Google ecosystem.  However, I use a MacBook Air; the link between computer, tablet and phone is just too strong to ignore.  The Nexus is going back.

I felt guilty talking to the very pleasant Play Store chap and found myself saying over and over again I liked the Nexus 5 phone. If the phone itself ran iOS8 I’d have it, no question.

The Nexus 5 is more similar in size to the iPhone 6 Plus so I know which one I’m choosing.

As a simple summary, my suggestion: If you use Windows go for an Android, if you use a Mac pay the price penalty and go with the iPhone, and hope the customer service improves – or you never need it.


Are your LEDs too bright?

A recent product received for review made my listening room at night look as if it was flooded by daylight.  The designer had chosen LEDs that were far too bright, I guess, to make the DAC concerned jump off the shelf in a retail environment.

A quick Google search found Lightdims the answer to problems I didn’t even know I had.

Not expensive and easy to purchase, a quick bit of dual factor authentication with PayPal later and I’d received confirmation that they had been shipped.

Have a look at this TV ad.  Subtle it isn’t, but it does explain the product well.

They have arrived and they do the job well.  My room is now lit by a subtle blue glow at night. They are a bit fiddly to fit as they don’t come off the backing sheet that easily, but ultimately they are in place and reducing the glare.

Here’s the video I should have watched after they arrived, it does help.

Strongly recommended



Naim Introduces mu-so™

London 24th April 2014. The wireless music system to bring Naim musical enjoyment to every home. Naim today announced their long expected and awaited home music system, mu-so. Mu-so is a wireless music system designed to transform your music into incredible sonic experiences. Naim streaming, amplification and speaker technology combined to deliver the best music the world has to offer.

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