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All music presented on this site is shared under the premise of "fair use"; this site is solely intended for the purpose of education and critique. If you are a rights holder to any of the music presented and wish for it to be removed, simply contact me directly and it will be taken down.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Lotsa people write and ask about technical things relating to how I present the songs for this blog, typically complimenting how good the records sound (even the ones that looked thrashed).

Here's the process.

1) Start with a clean record: The first thing I do before I listen to any record is deep clean it. Most of these things have years of dust and filth caked in the grooves so a deep cleaning will bring out MORE sound that is, well, cleaner. Sure, there are fancy machines on the market that cost hundreds of dollars but I do it the old fashioned way (as demonstrated by Joe Bussard in "Desperate Man Blues"). I use the kitchen sink, mild dish soap and a sponge. First wet the record, then scrub it groove-ways with a soapy sponge then rinse. I then place it on a dish drying rag as seen in the picture. If a label is porous paper, you may suffer label damage. As for me, I'd rather have a clean record and I don't worry so much about possible water damage to a label.

2) Playback: Grado makes an EXCELLENT mono stylus; the mono stylus is wider which covers more of the groove and brings out more sound, as well as removing lots of surface noise.

3) Preamp: Hi fi receivers from the 60's and 70's tend to have excellent quality phono preamps, the likes of which would cost well over a thousand bucks for a modern equivalent! These vintage receivers (mine is circa 1966 and tube powered) tend to be found for CHEAP and they will help make your records sound better. 60's tube gear is more for maniacs like myself who don't mind maintenance; 70's solid state amps are very reliable and cheaper yet. I have a backup 70's Scott that i bought for $25 that sounds almost as good as the tube unit.

4) digitizing: I've used a bunch of different methods, but for the last 2 years I've stuck with a Zoom H2 digital recorder. The analog to digital converters have improved drastically and these units have surprisingly good sound.
Hopefully this will help make YOUR records sound better!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I got several 45's I have often wonder how I should clean them. One more question, What kind of turn table would you recomend? John

Derek See said...

You're welcome! I have a bunch of old 70's era turntables around. Technics (which I'm favoring these days), Dual, Pioneer...All really well made stuff and once again, CHEAP!

Paul said...

Has anyone mentioned your label scans? The best quality I've seen on the net! Great work Derek.

Derek See said...

thanks Paul! It's all in the HP scanner set to high resolution.

phil daniels said...

i've got one of these kits

Knosti Antistat. german i think.


it cleans brilliantly and the clamping and bath make sure the record is well treated. mada a massive difference to a lot of vinyl i've picked up cheaply and then transformed to reveal a much better quality disc underneath. you can buy in the UK for around £40 and replacement fluid bottle are £15.

Anonymous said...

woaw good to see ** you washing by hand too this is how i learned it from my mentor as well..

and lol ;) this eeeeeeeeeeendless diss:cussion bout vinyl washing machines - b:live one single grain and the whole rare treasure which survived for long gets damaged ..ooh ooh

guess you know the track "I'll Be The One" main lyrics: i got a message to get to you - don't let yo left hand know what the right can do ;) guess this fits.. hahaha

'appy Friday nite* soulsis pg

Anonymous said...

I've been cleaning vinyl like this for years. Another little tip, for removing minor scratches, use furniture polish on a soft cloth rubbing with the groove (Spray type, not wax). Do this first and then wash the disc.

Ian (UK)

Scott said...

Derek, is your receiver a Fisher 500-C? If you can find one of these for cheap (less than eBay) then we need to talk off the comment forum.

I've had some good luck with a soft bristle toothbrush w/ soap and water for cleaning as well.

Derek See said...

Scott, mine is a 400. I never see them cheaper for ebay prices, which are usually less than $400 which is an outright steal.

44Corky said...

Derek, thanks a lot for all your hard work. I was overjoyed to know there are more than a few of us using the sponge-and-soapy-water technique. We even have the same dish drainer! I've found that it makes a huge difference in the sound quality on old vinyl. I also use Cool-Edit to eliminate scratches and noise when converting to digital.

Anonymous said...

Derek- Great site! Do you play your LPs with a mono stylus? I'm always concerned that the larger stylus will cause groove wear (esp. on modern reissues). Any thoughts on this?

Derek See said...

I only use the mono stylus on vintage mono LP's and 45's...