Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs- Record Research Lab Super Vinyl DEEP Cleaner Fluid
Music lover, record collector, audiophile, perfectionist. How do you describe yourself and your passion for music enjoyed on phonograph records? Today, it is widely accepted that properly cared for records sound better and last longer. How do you build an LP library for a lifetime of musical enjoyment?
For over 2 decades, record cleaning machines (RCM) have been recognized as the most effective way to maintain an LP library. Wet cleaning is critical and the complete removal of the contaminants from the record without groove damage and residual sonic signature is essential. Commercially available RCMs do an adequate job of rotating and vacuuming dry the wet cleaned record but what fluid and application method are best?
Brian Weitzel, a chemist and LP enthusiast in the Pacific Northwest, has developed what he considers a very safe, non-invasive, yet effective method of cleaning records to audiophile standards. His approach depends on using a wet-wash/vacuum dry machine...and his own proprietary fluids: MFSL/Record Research Labs Vinyl Wash for "everyday" use and MFSL/Record Research Labs Deep Cleaner for hardcases.
To achieve the proper base for RRL fluids, Weitzel designed and built a special copper distillery, producing distilled, quadruple deionized water. Distilled water as a base alone still contains many trace minerals which can be positively or negatively charged and attach themselves to the vinyl. Deionized water reduces the level of trace minerals in the reacted water, greatly reducing the amount of mineral contaminates on the record itself. Chemical labs have for years used deionized water in their work. Lab grade water is single stage deionized water, RRL is quadruple deionized. These added stages provide us a base that is extremely pure.
The active portion of the solution is a low level surfactant that is effective at lowering the surface tension, penetrating and lifting grease. This surfactant is both alcohol and phosphate free. Alcohol permeates the vinyl surface and "leaches" out essential oils from the jagged groove walls. Vinyl life expectancy may be reduced by alcohol based cleaners due to the heat created by the stylus in the groove without necessary lubrication. Phosphates can bond to the surface of the record and are environmentally damaging. Trisodium EDTA is added to the surfactant as a preservative, greatly reducing bacterial growth with no sonic signature. Carboglycinates are added as a vinyl lubricant, again chosen for its lack of sonic signature. Both compounds are vinyl and environmentally friendly.
Weitzel, incidentally, is no fan of the nylon-bristled brushes most cleaning machines are used with, saying they're too coarse, too stiff, and too prone to damaging grooves. He believes it's better to use a gentle, non-aggressive brush to apply and spread the fluid, and to simply let the cleaner do its job chemically. To this end, Weitzel recommends using only a carbon-fiber brush with his fluid.this whole approach takes a little getting used to, as you can't really scrub with these things?and besides, neither the fluid nor these sorts of brushes seem keen on getting the entire record surface wet. (Some manufacturers add "fotoflo" as a wetting agent to help spread their fluids, but Weitzel believes it can leave an unpleasant residue behind.)
Photo-Flo has been used in other cleaning formulas as a "wetting agent" in an attempt to break down valence bonds, lowering surface tension. Unfortunately, Photo-Flo leaves behinds residue that is not only heard, but can be seen as well. This wetting agent attaches itself to the cleaning agent, greatly hampering its effectiveness. If the cleaning agent contains any phosphates or trace minerals, they stay behind on the record surface. Quadruple stage deionized water and low level surfactants are the correct way to reduce surface tension when cleaning records. It should be noted that lowering the surface tension of previously bound contaminates, these contaminates become suspended in the fluid and are vacuumed away. No volatile organic compounds or ozone depleting substance are used making RRL fluids a true "green" cleaner.
My results so far? I'm actually giddy with how effective the MFSL/RRL regimen has been at treating new records in particular..First on the turntable was a gorgeous Decca recording.I listened to it for about twelve minutes or so, enjoying the music but noting also the occasional tic?nothing bad, nothing that sounded "physical," just that slight occasional noise you'd consider par for the course with a new record. So I brought it over to the [RCM] and followed the MFSL/RRL regimen: First a quick Ējust two or three revolutions with the brush) application of the Deep Cleaner; then a quick vacuum dry; then a longer (several revolutions) cleaning with the Vinyl Wash; then a thorough (three or four revolutions) drying with the vacuum. All this was with the Bib carbon fiber brush, and all this was done on both sides?including the one I hadn't played at all, yet. Back to the turntable, needle back in groove, and ?complete and utter silence behind the music. I mean dead quiet. I mean not one single dust tic?not one. I sailed like this through both sides.
And the sound was also a little clearer, a little more "open.".
I am impressed all to hell!
Is it the fluid? Is it the brush? Is it both? Is it me? Doggone if I know.
Now, with my triple-threat approach of the gentle MFSL/RRL fluids; the gentle-in-extremis carbon fiber brush; and my new commitment to keeping the vacuum pickup tube of my [RCM] scrupulously clean (oh, yeah.), I am a changed man: There'll be no more record crud for me.
Reprinted with permission, from Art Dudley's Review in Listener Magazine, Volume 3, Number 2 (Spring 1997). Call 607-433-0808 for subscription information.