Radio Edit: Caring for your vinyl records

Ahead of the 10th annual CFBX record fair, station programming co-ordinator Steve Marlow offers advice on keeping a record collection clean and players in tune.

It would be easy to store new vinyl records and never listen to them. They would stay in pristine condition — but their sound would never be heard.

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That means cleaning and caring for your records is important.

First and foremost, when removing your records from their sleeves, make sure you handle them correctly. Always hold your records by the edges, using the flat of your hand along the outside edge.

Your fingers should never touch the surface, since you will leave behind dirt, grease and oils that collect in the grooves. The same goes for CDs, which your body’s oils can smudge or scratch. If you must touch the record, then only touch the label in the centre.

When removing a record from or placing it back in its sleeves, use your finger tips on the very outside edge to avoid touching any of the surface.

Of course, you’ll want to use your record covers to store your records — don’t leave them out in the open where they can gather dust. Use the inner sleeve that comes with the record, as long as it’s still in good condition. If it’s ripped, replace it.

If you’re really serious about protecting your records, you can even get plastic anti-static sleeves to replace the paper sleeves the record came with.

While records are played horizontally, you never want to store your records like that. Records stored flat will warp and compress over time. Your records should sit vertically. You can get plastic covers for your records in their sleeves, which will protect the cover art from fading or damage.

Remember to keep your records in a cool place, out of sunlight and away from excess moisture.

To clean your records, you’ll want to invest in a couple of essential tools. First, you’ll need a carbon fibre brush, which you can run over the surface of your record as it spins on your turntable to remove dust.

If you need to clean dirt off of your records, use a solution of 1/4 isopropyl alcohol to 3/4 distilled water and a couple of drops of dish detergent. Drizzle the solution on your record, then gently wipe a microfibre cloth counter-clockwise over your records.

There are also devices like an anti-static cleaner that will clean your records for you when put them into the machine.

To clean your turntable, use a microfibre cloth to clean dust off the surface.

Keep your stylus, or needle, clean too. Don’t let dust or lint build up on your stylus. Blow it clean regularly and replace your stylus as it gets worn out. Your stylus should spin firmly in the grooves your records.

If you find the sound of your records getting muffled, dipping in quality or volume, or any other sound problems, it may be time to replace your stylus.

If the stylus skips or drifts across your record, then replace your needle. If you have static in your speakers, it may be a good time to get your connections checked, the speaker wires replaced, or have your amplifier’s knobs and pick ups cleaned. Dust and dirt can get into your connections and degrade the connections between them and the rest of your turntable set up.

Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to thex.ca.

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