Recommended Components Addendum

Phono Accessories & Record Cleaners

Acoustic Revive RL-30 Mk.3 record demagnetizer: $1975
The RL-30 Mk.3 removed the high-frequency glaze from harsh-sounding LPs to make a believer out of Mikey. "I'm sorry to report that demagnetizing LPs works—consistently and decidedly," he said. Its conservative looks and useful dustcover give it an edge over Furutech's De Mag, in MF's opinion. (Vol.29 No.10)

Air Tight AT-LCE-1 Cartridge Enhancer: $360
(See "Analog Corner" in Vol.30 No.10.)

Benz/Aesthetix MC Demagnetizer: $199
Battery-powered, reasonably priced, seems to do the job as well as any of them, decided MF. (Vol.25 No.7)

Blue Note Kymyas Hi End LP Treatment: $75
This LP treatment is composed of a cleaning fluid and a restorative polymer coating that's claimed to "cure" scratched LPs for up to six months. Though records were made "far more musically palatable," the scratches were still present and annoying, and, even after long drying periods, MF found that a single play left a large ball of Blue Note's polymer coating on the stylus. "If you have irreplaceable scratched records that you treasure, use this expensive stuff carefully and transfer the music to CD-R," he advised. (Vol.29 No.6)

Clearaudio Outer Limit Turntable Ring: $1000
Heavy, stainless-steel ring acts as a speed-stabilizing flywheel, damps the record, and flattens outer-groove warps. However, MF cautioned, its weight means that you can use it only with turntables with massive platters and/or very powerful motors. MF also noted that a centering template would be a happy addition to the package. The Outer Limit was "a pain to center." Nonetheless, it "blackened backgrounds, solidified images, and made them 'pop' in three dimensions." (Vol.24 No.10)

DB Systems DBP-10 protractor: $49
Fiddly but accurate guide for setting cartridge tangency. JA's preferred alignment protractor. (NR)

Expressimo Audio Micro-Tech digital stylus force gauge: $95
This low-cost stylus-force gauge can measure 0.1gm to 120gm in increments of 0.1gm, and proved to be as accurate as and far less delicate than the $800 Winds ALM-01. MF: "It places the stylus very close to the record surface to measure the tracking force with greater accuracy, it's easily self-calibrated, and it appears to be bulletproof." (Vol.27 No.10)

Feickert Universal Protractor: $250
Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, the Feickert Universal Protractor takes into account the distance from the tonearm pivot to the platter spindle, as well as the tonearm's effective length, making it truly universal. "Ruggedly built and an ingenious design," said MF. Proper overhang and zenith angle were easily and reliably set. "I highly recommend the Feickert Universal Protractor," MF concluded. (Vol.29 No.10; see "Analog Corner" in Vol.30 No.10.)

Funk Firm turntable modifications: $1599–$3159
Pink Triangle founder Arthur Khoubessarian's new company, The Funk Firm, offers two levels of modification for the Linn LP12. The Funk Link ($1599) includes a carbon-fiber top plate and an ironless-rotor DC motor with an outboard power supply. The Vector Link ($1859) adds an upgraded DC motor, an upgraded power-supply PCB, an entirely new subchassis, and includes the Achromat platter mat. The kits are available together for $3159. AD's fully modded LP12 sounded "brilliant"—Funk Firm's mods completely removed the LP12's upper-bass emphasis and warmth while providing better musical timing and transparency. AD preferred the sound of the Funk Link, which preserved the Linn's innate upper-bass warmth. (Vol.29 No.12, Vol.30 No.1 Review)

Furutech deMag record demagnetizer: $1800
"Who knew?!?" Like the Acoustic Revive RL-30 Mk.3, the deMag removed glare and enriched the midband of edgy-sounding LPs. Users should make sure the Furutech's uncovered surface is clean before putting freshly scrubbed vinyl on it, warned MF. (Vol.29 No.10)

Furutech deStat SNH-2: $360
(See "Analog Corner" in Vol.30 No.10.)

Furutech DFV-1 Disc Flattener: $1480
(See "Analog Corner" in Vol.30 No.10.)

Gryphon Black Exorcist MC cartridge demagnetizer: $230
The Black Exorcist uses a sinewave sweep tone to demagnetize a cartridge's coils. "The Gryphon is very nicely made and works as well as any demagnetizer I have tried," said MF. The similar-looking Exorcist (also $230), claimed to demagnetize an entire system, wasn't as convincing: "After I use it, I think my system sounds cleaner and more open." (Vol.29 No.5)

Hagerman Technology Uniform Frequency Orbiter Strobeclamp (UFO): $29, half-kit
This useful, easy-to-build kit features a three-speed, crystal-controlled electronic strobe with blue LEDs powered by two 3V camera batteries, and can be made to damp your turntable or check its speed. MF suggested using an aluminum slug for damping. He concluded of the Strobeclamp used as a clamp, "The sound seemed kind of glary and disorganized compared to the [Locus Design Group] BasiClamp." (Vol.28 No.10)

Hannl Aragon LP-cleaning machine: $3299
Hannl's "beautifully built, attractive, and quiet" Aragon is functionally very similar to the VPI 17.5F, capable of spinning records in both directions, and equipped with a fluid well and built-in pump. In addition, the Aragon lets the user vary the amount of suction and the speed at which the platter spins. The awkward placement of its On/Off switch and its variable vacuum pressure and platter speed took some getting used to, but "If you treasure quiet, cost isn't an object, and you want to keep your cleaning machine next to your turntable in your elegant listening room, the Hannl Aragon is worth considering," said Mikey. (Vol.29 No.1)

K-A-B SpeedStrobe Digital Phonograph Speed Readout: $99.95
Easy-to-use strobe disc simplifies precision adjustment of turntable speeds from 331/3 to all of the variations on "78." "It's just fantastic," effused J-10. "It looks cool, and it's a snap to perfectly set the speed." (Vol.19 No.2)

Kerry Audio Design F2 Titanium tonearm counterweight: $129
Titanium replacement counterweight for Rega tonearms. Machined with three sets of thin contact rails that ride on the Rega arm's counterweight stub. The sonic improvement was "amazing," thought MF; he found the F2 gave better bass response, greater low-frequency extension and control, and an improved sense of overall weight and tonal richness. (Vol.26 No.5)

LAST Power Cleaner for LPs: $40/3/4-oz bottle, with applicators
This small bottle of Freon-free cleaner is enough to treat 75 LPs. JE found just three drops sufficient to remove dirt, dust, and grime from garage-sale records, though he discovered that a subsequent wash with his VPI HW-17 was still required to reduce groove noise to acceptable levels. "A worthwhile companion to LAST's wonderful Record Preservative." (Vol.17 No.5)

LAST Record Preservative: $41/2-oz bottle
Significantly improves the sound of even new records, and is claimed to make them last longer. A 2oz bottle contains 60 treatments. (Vol.5 No.3; see "Analog Corner" in Vol.30 No.10.)

LAST STYLAST Stylus Treatment: $33/1/4-oz bottle
Stylus treatment designed to reduce friction between groove and phono cartridge. Some manufacturers caution against it, claiming it migrates up the cantilever and attracts dust, thus clogging the armature. One reader suggests applying treatment to brush rather than stylus, which would reduce the possibility of over-applying. MF has found STYLAST effective, but expresses concern over possible cartridge damage. (Vol.18 No.12)

Locus Design Group DampClamp: $399
The DampClamp comprises two record weights, both CNC-milled from billet aluminum and constrained-layer-damped with a layer of visco-elastomer compound, and is designed to cover most of the record label: if you don't lift the stylus at the end of the side, you'll get an ugly grinding noise and possibly worse, depending on the width of your cartridge and headshell. Use with wide-bodied cartridges should be avoided. In Mikey's rig, the DampClamp "overdamped," creating a sound that was too thick and heavy. Bright setups, and those in need of some rhythmic discipline and bottom-end weight, however, may benefit greatly. The $99 BasiClamp—half a DampClamp with no elastomer damping sandwich—offered a lighter, airier, more natural sound with MF's rig. (Vol.28 No.10)

Loricraft PRC-4 record-cleaning machine: $2745
The PRC-4 now features a cabinet with an attractive veneer of English ash, and a vacuum pump that's 40% more powerful than the one in the PRC-3 and is even more immune to overheating. "The PRC-4 has proven so effective that it's gone beyond its predecessor in compelling me to clean virtually every record I play—and the results are sometimes stunning," said AD. Compared to other record-cleaning machines, "It's easier to use. It's quieter. And it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch." (Vol.23 No.11, PRC-3; Vol.28 No.3, PRC-4 Review)

Lyra SPT: $45/5ml bottle
Includes a small, wedge-shaped applicator with which MF brushed a drop of this fluid carefully, back to front, along the stylus. Don't get any on the cantilever, he warned, and wait 10 seconds before playing a record. Pricey fluid said to lubricate the stylus, to improve S/N ratio and trackability, and to last for one side's playing time. Mikey thinks he noted a slight sound-softening effect, but wouldn't bet the farm on it. (Vol.23 No.11)

Naim NAPSA2 "Armageddon" turntable power supply: $1850
A 430VA low-impedance transformer designed to drive the Linn LP12 Basik turntable while isolating it from powerline noise. WP was enthusiastic, citing the improved pace and energetic presentation of the music over his Valhalla'd LP12. "The snap and surge of the rhythms that propel the song along were better served," he asserted. However, this came at the cost of ultimate bass extension—a tradeoff that many would not undertake willingly (JA, for one). Highly recommended—MC agrees with WP that the Armageddon LP12 is a Class A turntable—but audition before committing your Linn to surgery. For AD, the Armageddon-powered LP12 "pulled music out of the groove in a more rhythmically nuanced way, and presented lines with more flow," making him feel more involved, physically and emotionally. "The Naimified LP12 sounded sexier," he concluded. (Vol.19 No.2, Vol.28 No.2 Review)

Nitty Gritty Mini Pro 2 record-cleaning machine: $1109
Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi Vacuum record-cleaning machine: $719
Nitty Gritty 1.5Fi record-cleaning machine: $709

The Mini Pro is a semiautomatic machine that cleans both disc sides simultaneously. The 1.5 is identical to the 2.5 but substitutes black-vinyl woodgrain for the latter's genuine oak side panels. Instead of a vacuuming "tonearm," as on the professional Keith Monks machine, the NG cleaner uses a vacuum slot, with the record cleaned by fixed, chassis-mounted "lips." Gunk-laden fluid is vacuumed off. Cleaning is efficient and as good as Nitty Gritty's Pro, at a significantly lower price, though it takes twice as long, cleaning each side of an LP in turn. Don't smear the schmutz from one record to another, MF warned; he suggests manual pre-cleaning of records for best results. While the vacuum-cleaning Nitty Gritty does a job on dusty albums nearly equivalent to that of the similarly priced VPI HW-16.5, CG felt that the VPI's hard-bristled brush did better with really dirty LPs than did NG's velvet one. He found the effect of both was to produce a less colored, more detailed midband sound from LPs, as well as provide the expected reduction in surface noise. (Vol.8 No.1, Mini Pro; Vol.7 No.5, Vol.8 No.1, Vol.23 No.6, 2.5Fi; Vol.17 No.5, 1.5Fi.)

Nitty Gritty Model 1.0 record-cleaning machine: $335 $$$
Audio Advisor Record Doctor III: $249

Both of these machines (the latter is manufactured for Audio Advisor by Nitty Gritty) are manual units that offer the least expensive way to effectively clean LPs. Record Doctor II differs from the original in that it has a roller bearing to make turning the LP easier when the vacuum-cleaning motor is on. The earlier model can be fitted with a roller-bearing accessory—available for $15 including S&H from K-A-B Electro-Acoustics, P.O. Box 2922, Plainfield, NJ 07062-2922—which fits beneath the existing platter. The Nitty Gritty 1.0 is also available as the oak-finished 2.0 for $329. (NR)

Onzow Zero Dust: $69
"A circular mound of semi-gelatinous goop in a box, onto which you gently lower your stylus," said MF. Use is simple: "After a few seconds, you lift the stylus, and it's as clean and residue-free as the proverbial whistle....Upside: no potentially dangerous brushing, and no fluids. Downside: if you like to leave your platter spinning, you'll have to stop it each time, or find another steady surface upon which to perform the operation." (Vol.25 No.3)

Premier! Record cleaner: $19.95/can; $179.40/12 cans
Great for removing mold-release compound from new LPs, says MF of this spray-on cleaner from www.microcare.com, and for quick cleaning of used LPs to see if they're worth a full-blown vacuum cleaning. Contains DuPont's Vertrel CF, which is said to be ozone-friendly. (Vol.25 No.10)

Rega cartridge torque wrench: $145
Expensive, but a must, MF felt, "for serious analog addicts and professional installers." Agreed, sez ST, but "for God's sake be careful with this thing, especially with the new Grado wooden-bodied cartridges...best used with very strong-bodied cartridges—such as Rega's." (Vol.19 No.11)

Shun Mook record clamp: $2000
The best record weight J-10 has used on his Forsell turntable, "bar none." Michael Fremer agrees "I'm sorry to say that everything positive I've ever read about it is absolutely true." Ridiculously expensive, however. "This thing's lame," snorts BD. MF admits the opposite: "I'm sorry to say that everything positive I've ever read about it is absolutely true. . . . It produced a richness, clarity, three-dimensionality, natural liveliness, and harmonic rightness that must be heard to be appreciated." (Vol.17 No.2, Vol.28 No.10)

The Disc Doctor's Miracle Record Cleaner: $25.00/pint plus $8.50 S&H
The Disc Doctor's Stylus Cleaner: $26.50/18ml plus 3.50 S&H

Chemist Duane Goldman, the Disc Doctor, claims that his Stylus Cleaner—a mixture of sub-micron filtered water and separately sub-micron filtered +99.5% 1-propanol alcohol—leaves no residue on the stylus or cantilever. Comes with a stiff brush for the first wet cleaning of the stylus. After that, the good Doctor recommends a natural-bristle artist's brush that's been cut down at an angle or been given a crew cut, as Mikey put it. Quart of fluid, $37.75/$9.00 S&H; half gallon, $60.00/$9.75 S&H; size A for LP brushes, $42/pair/$5.00 S&H; size B for 45s, $30/pair; replacement pads for brushes, $14/4; QuickWash solution, quart, $25; half gallon, $41. (Vol.20 No.3, Vol.23 No.11, Vol.24 No.7)

VPI HW-27 Typhoon record-cleaning machine: $2000
The Typhoon is smaller, quieter, and more attractive than earlier VPI record-cleaning machines, "with the look and feel of a turntable." Its vacuum pump, twice as powerful as that used in the HW-17, proved capable of drying an LP in a single rapid revolution. "The Typhoon is a clean, efficient record-cleaning machine that's almost fun to use," said MF. (Vol.30 No.5)

VPI HW-17 record-cleaning machine: $1300
VPI HW-16.5 record-cleaning machine: $500


Clearly an industrial-quality machine of reassuring quality, the VPI '17 cleans one side at a time, semiautomatically, and is slower than the Nitty Gritty. "Best I've used," says LA. Latest version has a heavier-duty vacuum system. The '16.5 is a manually operated version with a noisier motor. Adjusts automatically to thickness of record; gets hot quickly. Of the HW-17F, MF says, "Fast, convenient, beautifully constructed, and can be used indefinitely without overheating. The fan version of the 17 is well worth the extra money for those post–garage-sale/record-convention analog orgies when only cleaning the whole pile will do." "The 17F is probably the best record-cleaning machine available," MF concluded; "a true workhorse." (Vol.8 No.1, Vol.19 No.6, Vol.23 No.6, HW-17F; Vol.5 Nos.7 & 9, original HW-16; Vol.17 No.5, Vol.19 No.6, HW-16.5.)

VPI VTA adjuster for Rega tonearm: $150
"Seems to maintain the desired rigidity while allowing for about a full inch of vertical adjustability. It's nicely machined from aluminum and has a sturdy mounting collar." Its only downside, reported MF, is that it won't fit into a standard Rega opening. Drill it out yourself or send your armboard to VPI. (Vol.23 No.6)

Wally Phono Tools
Makes cartridge installation in these do-it-yourself days, fast, easy, and ultra-reliable, says MF. Custom laser-cut WallyTractor is indispensable. Other tools for VTA, antiskating, and azimuth are merely supremely useful. "My job has been 100 times easier since Wally came on the scene," sums up the Analog Guru. A new WallyTractor is now available for tonearms whose effective length is unknown or that have a limited range of cartridge adjustment. AD found its tracking-angle alignment guides easy to use and interpret. (Vol.25 No.5, Vol.28 No.12; see "Analog Corner" in Vol.30 No.10.)

K
Record Research Labs LP#9, Clearaudio Diamond Cleaner stylus cleaning fluids.

Deletions
Allsop Orbitrac 2 because of doubts over availability; Torumat TM 7-XH Record Cleaner Solution discontinued.

Books & Computer Software

David Moulton's Playback Platinum Test CDs: $44.95 each if purchased separately, $159.80 for the set of 4
Four-volume lecture series that covers the fundamentals of audio from a popular-music production standpoint: Vol.1, Loudness, Compression, Distortion; Vol.2, Stereo Miking; Vol.3, Equalization; Vol.4, Digital Audio: Sensory Listening Tests. Each volume is on a separate CD, which comes in a hardbound, textbook-sized book that includes about 50 pages of additional text keyed to each track of each lecture. JM: "I'm impressed with how Moulton & Co. take material that has the potential to be dauntingly dry, and make it enjoyable and memorable by adopting at times a 'radio drama' approach." (Vol.26 No.5 Review)

Digital Recordings Audio-CD Hearing Test: $39.95
This system permits useful evaluation of hearing thresholds with only a CD player and a pair of headphones. KR reported that it reveals any significant gaps in your hearing. (His own results were "close to ideal, especially considering my age and usual haunts." Whew.) "Ever wonder why others don't hear what you do? This simple test will tell you, even though you may not like the answer." Such a card. (Vol.23 No.1 Review)

ELAC Technische Software CARA REL 2.1 Plus program: $74.95
To use CARA, one must create a full three-dimensional model of the listening room, using the program's CARACAD module. KR: "By 'full,' I mean that all room dimensions and surfaces are defined: doors, windows, furniture, soffits, bays, etc." Kal found it time-effective to reduce the complexity of the model (eg remove smaller objects) and the order of reflections (3–4) for the early iterations, at which point the number of possible speaker and user positions is large—an 800MHz Pentium III can take 48 hours or more to run even that modest a set of variables. "Several simplified runs will tell you which arrangements deserve more investigation. After that, you can limit the range of positions for speakers and listener while progressively increasing the number of reflections and adding more feature details, as a confirmation of the optimum arrangement." Checking predictions against the results with ETF or with TacT RCS measurements confirmed CARA's conclusions to an amazing degree. KR: "Wouldn't you like to know how well a speaker might work in your room before you buy it? I would." Runs under Windows. Web: www.cara.de. (Vol.24 No.9 Review)

RPG Diffusor Systems Room Optimizer Software: $99
When MF moved to a new home with bare, reflective walls, he was faced wit the question of where to plunk the speakers? RPG Diffusor Systems' Room Optimizer Software—available from, among others, Audio Advisor—to the rescue. Plug in the room's dimensions (they must be rectangular) and the program will output the location where the modal response is flattest and the speaker-boundary interference is minimized. It'll also tell you where to sit! (Vol.22 No.11)

Visual Ears: $89, plus $3 S&H
Inexpensive but excellent computer program for PCs and Macs. Available from KB Acoustics, P.O. Box 50206, Eugene, OR 97405. Tel: (541) 935-7022. Allows an audiophile to move simulated loudspeakers and a simulated listening seat around a simulation of his or her room (in three dimensions) to find the position that gives optimal performance below 200Hz or so. (Vol.13 No.12, DOS; see "Industry Update" in Vol.19 No.4 and "Fine Tunes" in Vol.21 No.8, Windows.)

K
FuzzMeasure Pro, SignalScope, and SignalSuite for Mac OSX, TrueAudio spectrum analyzer for Windows.

Share | |

X
Enter your Stereophile.com username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.
Loading