What you're describing is noisy vinyl. All the Zerostat in the world won't fix it. You might see if
your stylus is worn down so it's riding the very bottom of the groove. I do not know this for a
fact, but my experience is that older LPs were either cut with wider grooves or the grooves have
widened with time (vinyl is, after all, a plastic and plastic is inherently unstable over time). Or
the vinyl was much "chunkier" back in the day, so prone to crackle. Generally, when I play an LP
pressed in USA from pre-1970's or so, I use a more rounded cartridge type and experiment with
tracking weights if it's crackly. Sometimes you can get better results doing this, sometimes the
vinyl is just plain crackly. Everyone knows that at least some Eurovinyl was better all along, and
the Europeans tended to put more content per side so the groove pitch was generally smaller (and
levels lower), all factors making playback on a modern system more likely satisfying. Audiophile
labels copied that approach and now I notice they've gone back to the old-school methods of "cut the
hell out of the laquer" but press on very quiet and rigid vinyl.
I have, use and love a VPI cleaning machine. Cleaning is the best vinyl noise-reducer I've found but
it doesn't have to be a pricey machine. I've heard excellent results from one record-freak I know
who uses a very soft sponge, an ivory and isoprop and water (mostly water) solution and a chamois
(sp?) cloth. Of course, it takes him 15 minutes to clean a record whereas the machine does it in 2
minutes. But the hand-cleaning is part of his ritual and enjoyment (his routine: pour a drink, very
casually select and clean a record, finish whatever conversation threads we have going, pour another
drink, put on Side A and play it at healthy listening volume all the way through with no
conversation, determine if we want to listen to side B or a different record, pour another drink,
etc, it's the hifi equivilent of "slow cooking").
I own and have transferred many (thousands by now) of LPs, and I do not like to listen to noisy
surfaces, so I've worked this problem for many years. People scoff at cartridges like Shure M44, but
sometimes that or an old radio station cartridge will play an old record best. My only theory is
that the needle is thicker and/or more rounded so it doesn't ride as low in the groove. On the other
hand, modern or very pristine vinyl seems better with a modern cartridge. When a client sends or
brings a vinyl record in, I wash it and then play a little bit. If it's hopelessly crackly or loaded
with groove distortion, I'll turn the work away because neither of us are going to be happy with the
results. I'll fix ticks and pops (no auto-digi-fix here) if they'll pay the time, but I can't do
anything about groove distortion caused by too many plays, bad storage/care or tracking with the
dull nails that passed for stylii in some cases back in the day. Some records are just literally
played to death, the downside of grooved mechanical disks.
Finally, Zerostat can't hurt. I use one and like it. Some days, a record just gets full of static
(particularly this time of year). But the kind of crackle you describe won't come from static unless
there's a grounding problem in your system, and even then I doubt it. But do feel free to post or
send around a short sample of what you're talking about.
-- Tom Fine
PS -- Playing wet - some swear by it, I've never tried it. I suppose if someone wanted to pay full
fare and we felt it was the only way ... but I wouldn't do it with one of my own records.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Hirsch" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, February 11, 2006 11:34 PM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] De-static question
> Other than online advertisements for Zerostat, I am having trouble finding information on the
> techniques for and necessity of removing static charge from records. Lamentably, my background as
> collector, cataloger, librarian and archivist does not include much in the way of technical study
> of such issues. Lately, I have been going through a particularly troublesome batch of secondhand
> vinyl. After carefully washing discs with a mid-level Nitty-Gritty machine, they look pretty
> pristine, but generally produce tons of crackle and swish when played. I'm not talking about the
> metronome click of a scratch, but a kind of variable sonic cloud. To my ears, it is the equivalent
> of what one hears while combing one's hair (at least what I remember from back when I had hair)
> with a plastic comb in mid-winter.
> I'm sure I could be doing a somewhat better cleaning job, but I am wondering if I might get more
> bang for my buck with a static discharging device of some sort. I'd also be interested in knowing
> if the beneficial effect is greater if you de-static before or after cleaning. Any suggestions
> that for diagnosis and remedy would be welcome whatever they involve, even if they are not
> cleaning or static charge related.
> I'm sure this is all Basic 101 audio and I should be ashamed of myself for not just going out and
> empirically solving this question by plunking down my $75 for a Zerostat, but isn't plundering
> other's knowledge and experiences what listservs are for?
> Thanks in advance for any input,
> Peter Hirsch