A u d i o & M u s i c
h o b b y i s t s '   v i e w s   f o r   h o b b y i s t s


Music lovers with excellent sound reproducing systems often use expensive phono cartridges. 
A price tag of $ 1000 or even $ 4000 for a cartridge is no exception. Naturally these music lovers ask that the gramophone record is of very good quality: no scratches and the groove must be clean and undamaged.
There is a second group of collectors of specific artists and performances. They are primarily concerned about the authenticity of the performance and its recording. Minor imperfections are often unavoidable and are accepted. Yet even collectors demand good reproduction without irritating distortion.
I myself fall into both categories. I can enjoy the perfect and overwhelming rendering of a beautifully recorded symphony and also can listen with great involvement to old records.
I know I will get the best quality of reproduction by taking care of the records (and one can in a very relaxed manner) and by well adjusting and maintaining the record player, arm, cartridge and needle tip. That is why each and every record in my collection has been cleaned on the professional Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine, which provides the most efficient way to safely clean records. And after cleaning  each and every record that I want to keep or to swap/sell gets a new, clean inner sleeve.
I also repair the covers. And I clean them because they can have built up quite a history.
Various records have been washed a second time (in some cases even more than twice) in order to further restore the groove. 
These measures do not only imply a long life for the diamond tip of the cartridge, but will also give maximal enjoyment. And by using good equipment the record will keep its current quality, even after many hundreds of playings.
De Beste Kwaliteit

It is of the utmost importance to adjust the turntable and the phono cartridge correctly. Place the turntable on a strong cabinet, in an audio rack or on a special construction that is bolted to the stone wall of the listening room.
See to it that the turntable is perfectly level which is essential to eliminate wow and flutter. It is also a prerogative for the proper functioning of the phono cartridge and the arm. Only if the turntable is level the correct downforce and bias (side thrust) can be adjusted.

Also check whether the arm and the head shell are parallel to the record. This is important to obtain a detailed sound with beautiful high frequencies and warmth at the same time. Lowering the arm at the pivot so that the cartridge will lean slightly back will give a round and less detailed sound. Adjusting the arm at the pivot so that the cartridge leans more forward gives a more detailed sound. You have to find the best adjustment for warmth and detail at the same time. So listen carefully!

Check the cartridge seen from the front. It should be perfectly perpendicular to the record. This is easily checked using a small mirror (as is supplied by Thorens).
Never use a downforce that is too light. Not enough downforce is generally more detrimental to the record groove than a downforce which is slightly too heavy. 
Apply the amount of downforce as indicated by the manufacturer of the cartridge or consult the charts from a magazine like Hi-Fi Choice. Adjusting the bias (side thrust) is best done with the aid of a special test record. The perfectionist connects an oscilloscope to view the vertical and horizontal signals. 
A correctly adjusted downforce combined with the right bias will give a pure stereo image and with little or no distortion.
Regularly check the diamond tip or have it checked by a professional. A used diamond has at its very tip small facets that cannot be seen with the naked eye. These facets let the tip act as a chisel that will "cut" the grooves, especially those that contain high dynamics.
If you play with a good tip and if downforce and side thrust are well adjusted, than you can listen to your records many and many times without the quality diminishing.


There are many cleaning liquids on the market. Some work better than others. Most are expensive. You can make your own cleaning liquid. Since isopropyl can cause leakage of the vinyl (as I am old) you should avoid to use it or just ad a few percent to your formula. 
Here is a good formula: 30% of ethyl alcohol, 5% isopropyl, 65% of destilled water and a about some drops of an industrial detergent (or of the household variety if you cannot obtain a special kind). About 4 drops per liter. The alcohol must be the industrial kind without any additive. This alcohol is always cheaper than the medical type from the pharmacy. 
Use a large plastic container. First put in the destilled water and add the few drops of detergent. Shake very well. Than add the ethyl and isopropyl alcohols. And again shake very well. This formula works wonders on my Keith Monks machine. You can try it and eventually adjust the formula to your needs. You can leave out the isopropyl alltogether.
In general one wash will be sufficient to clean a record side.
The result depends also on the time you have the record turning under the brushes. Do not forget to keep the record wet while cleaning! 
If you clean a lot of records do place your cleaning machine in the attick or the garage and install a ventilator connected to an exhaust pipe. Of course there is more to the right adjustment of your system,  but that is quite an individual matter which varies per combination of cartridge, arm and turntable.
Audio&Music Bulletin - Rudolf A. Bruil, Editor - Copyright 1999-2000 by Rudolf A. Bruil and co-authors