I suppose I’m a lot like a great many vinyl fanciers. I don’t have an archival collection, but it’s a darn good mix of personal faves, nostalgia, and a few killer super discs. I’m not neurotically fastidious but I want to keep the discs clean, not just for the sake of the vinyl but for the preservation of the stylus. And with new 180/200-gram releases and reissues clocking in at twenty, even thirty bucks a pop, it’d be great to keep the cleaning costs in line.
Does this sound familiar? Well, then, meet my new best friend, the Spin Clean Record Washing System. Developed back in 1968 it’s a pure manual design—nothing to plug in, no automatic washing and drying. A little elbow grease and fresh air does all the work.
Operationally, a Spin Clean session is a breeze. First adjust the removable rollers for the appropriate diameter records—12″, 10″, or 7″. Fill the taxicab-yellow basin with distilled water up to the indicated fill line and add a capful of the cleaning solution, Finally slide the record between the brushes and begin, er… spinning! A couple of spins over the surface, remove from the tub, and let the air of your room and a couple of swirls of the supplied lint-free cotton cloths do the rest. The process worked best for me using two hands to gently rotate the LP through the fluid, placing the pads of my fingers on the edge of the disc at opposite sides. The result is a disc that is suddenly as shiny black as the day you brought it home. There is an encapsulating mechanism built into the cleaning solution that will actually sink the dirt to the bottom of the unit so it does not get re-deposited on the record. In fact that’s the main reason the tub is bright yellow–so you can see the dirt collecting at the bottom.
The results speak for themselves—less noise means more clearly resolved music. On a prized direct-to-disc like the Atlanta Brass Ensemble’s Sonic Fireworks [Crystal Clear], which I’m ashamed to admit hadn’t been cleaned in years, the difference was marked by an overall reduction in background noise—removal of most tiny snaps and crackles from the lead-in groove right through to the end. Cleaner surfaces means a gain in perceived dynamic range; girt and grime raises the noise floor essentially reducing dynamics and adding edges to transients that aren’t really part of the recording.
A single bath is good for up to fifty records, so you’ll need to organize an assembly line. Use a table that’s well lighted and level; lay out the cloths for easy access. However, if you want to wash just a handful of records, it is possible to remove the brushes after washing a few LPs, rinse them off, and let them air dry on top of the lid until you’re ready to clean more.
Is Spin Clean as slick as the fully robotic vacuum machines? Well, if you’re in the habit of haunting flea markets and bringing home box-loads of records—probably not. But for lighter duty it’s pretty tough to beat. Not to mention avoiding the hidden costs like worn styli and the further degradation of the surfaces of your prized LPs. Finally for the eco-conscious Spin Clean is a truly green product; all the energy expended is your own—totally off the grid. Perhaps best of all, the dough you save can be spent on what truly matters—more records!
Note: Shortly before going to press, Spin Clean announced an improved Mk II version. It offers improved UV grade resin for a more rigid and fade-resistant washer basin. Re-designed rollers reportedly deliver a smoother and quieter “ride.” Finally, an improved washer fluid formula and new foam and brush material round out the improvements. No doubt a great device made even better.
By Neil Gader
My love of music largely predates my enthusiasm for audio. I grew up Los Angeles in a house where music was constantly playing on the stereo (Altecs, if you’re interested). It ranged from my mom listening to hit Broadway musicals to my sister’s early Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Beatles, and Stones LPs, and dad’s constant companions, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. With the British Invasion, I immediately picked up a guitar and took piano lessons and have been playing ever since. Following graduation from UCLA I became a writing member of the Lehman Engel’s BMI Musical Theater Workshops in New York–working in advertising to pay the bills. I’ve co-written bunches of songs, some published, some recorded. In 1995 I co-produced an award-winning short fiction movie that did well on the international film-festival circuit. I was introduced to Harry Pearson in the early 70s by a mutual friend. At that time Harry was still working full-time for Long Island’s Newsday even as he was writing Issue 1 of TAS during his off hours. We struck up a decades-long friendship that ultimately turned into a writing gig that has proved both stimulating and rewarding. In terms of music reproduction, I find myself listening more than ever for the “little” things. Low-level resolving power, dynamic gradients, shadings, timbral color and contrasts. Listening to a lot of vocals and solo piano has always helped me recalibrate and nail down what I’m hearing. Tonal neutrality and presence are important to me but small deviations are not disqualifying. But I am quite sensitive to treble over-reach, and find dry, hyper-detailed systems intriguing but inauthentic compared with the concert-going experience. For me, true musicality conveys the cozy warmth of a room with a fireplace not the icy cold of an igloo. Currently I split my time between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Studio City, California with my wife Judi Dickerson, an acting, voice, and dialect coach, along with border collies Ivy and Alfie.More articles from this editor
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