Recommended Components Addendum

Phono Accessories & Record Cleaners

AcousTech The Big Record Brush: $31.95
This large-handled brush has soft bristles of both natural hairs and conductive synthetic fibers, and makes dusting LPs nearly foolproof. The 5.5"-wide bristle area easily spans the width of any LP's grooved area. Version with ground wire ($46.95) does "a pretty effective job of dissipating static electricity," Mikey said. (Vol.31 No.9)

Acoustic Revive RL-30 Mk.3 record demagnetizer: $2350
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)

Audio Intelligent record-cleaning fluids
MF: "The AI fluids are reasonably priced, easy to apply and (especially) to spread, clean extremely well, and leave no audible residue." Prices are for 16-oz bottles: Enzymatic Formula, $25; alcohol-free Premium Archivist Formula, $25; Super Cleaning Formula with research-grade isopropanol, $25; Ultra-Pure Water (claimed to be 50 times purer than distilled water), $16. Distributed by Missouri-based Osage Audio Products, LLC. (Vol.30 No.12)

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 Matrix record-cleaning machine: $3600
The beautifully made Matrix is housed in clear acrylic. Cleaning fluid is automatically pumped from the Matrix's reservoir and spread by a height-adjustable microfiber brush. The Matrix's platter is bidirectional and operates at two speeds. "In terms of build quality, quiet operation, and smooth performance, the Matrix is superior to VPI's HW-17F," said Mikey. "Deluxe with a capital D." (Vol.31 No.12)

Clearaudio Outer Limit Turntable Ring: $1200
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)

DIGIstrobo strobe platter speed checker: $160
The DIGIstrobo is a laser-based device for checking the rotational speed of turntables. Resembling a RadioShack SPL meter, the quartz-crystal-based DIGIstrobo, powered by three AAA batteries, records the speed of a turntable's most recent revolution, as well as the slowest and fastest revolutions taken during the measurement period. Getting an accurate speed reading requires that the DIGIstrobo be held utterly still, cautioned Mikey. For this reason, he found the DIGIstrobo's readings inconsistent, and would have preferred that the device be equipped with a tripod. (Vol.31 No.9)

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. Current production is easier to read and provides an improved instruction manual. For accurate readings, care must be taken to ensure the precise placement of the Protractor's needle tip on the tonearm's pivot point, cautioned MF. (Vol.29 No.10, Vol.30 No.10)

Furutech deMag record demagnetizer: $1980
"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: $396
Furutech's deStat static-discharge device simultaneously generates positive and negative ions and fans the balanced ion flow across the record's surface. Proved easier to use than the much less expensive Milty ZeroStat 3, and eliminated static cling uniformly and "in grand style," said MF. Requires four AA batteries. (Vol.30 No.10)

Hannl Aragon LP-cleaning machine: $3995
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. "I unhesitatingly recommend LAST Record Preservative," said Mikey, whose records sound as quiet now as they did when he first started using the treatment, over 25 years ago. AD is not a fan, however, though he does admit that LAST, if used correctly, does no harm. $148.50/8oz, $246/16oz. (Vol.5 No.3, Vol.30 No.10)

LAST STYLAST Stylus Treatment: $33/¼-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)

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)

Merrill G.E.M. Dandy Hydraulic Record Cleaner: $150
Designed to sit in a sink, the "rudimentary but ingenious" G.E.M. Dandy is an inexpensive manual record-cleaning rig that uses a proprietary cleaning solution comprising a degreasing detergent and an alcohol-based carrier, followed by a tap-water rinse. Made mostly of PVC tubing, the Dandy has a vertically mounted clamping mechanism that permits easy rotation of the secured LP. Also included are a faucet-coupling adaptor, a protractor, and a length of clear plastic tubing with a pressurized water nozzle. "Until you get the hang of it," Mikey warned, "the G.E.M. Dandy can make a mess." Despite his best efforts, water invariably seeped into the Dandy's protective cups to wet the outside edges of record labels. However, the Dandy proved "terrific" for cleaning water-damaged and crudded-up records, MF concluded. (Vol.31 No.9)

Milty Zerostat 3: $100
"The gold standard of static-discharge devices," the ZeroStat is a gun-shaped gadget with two heavy-duty piezo-electric crystals and a patented compression trigger. Slowly squeezing and releasing the trigger produces a neutral static condition, thus removing static cling from record surfaces. Said to be good for at least 10,000 squeeze cycles. (Vol.30 No.10)

Nitty Gritty Mini Pro 2 record-cleaning machine: $1109
Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi Vacuum record-cleaning machine: $779
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: $365 $$$
Audio Advisor Record Doctor III: $299

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)

Rega cartridge torque wrench: $245
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)

Rek-O-Kut Stylus Force Gauge: $24
The Rek-O-Kut Stylus Force Gauge is a big, easy-to-use balance beam that comes with a total of 5.75gm in plastic weights, for use in various combinations. For cartridges designed to play at downforces of 3.5gm or more, the Rek-O-Kut is "a good, cheap solution," said AD. (Vol.32 No.2 Review)

Schopper modifications for Thorens TD 124
Replacement parts for vintage Thorens TD 124 turntables are manufactured in Switzerland by Schopper A.G. and sold in the US by Octave Audio. A new drive belt ($35), new rubber "mushrooms" for isolating the player from its plinth ($60/set of four), and a fresh bottle of Thorens oil ($25) got AD's turntable up and running. However, the biggest improvements to the 124's performance came from new rubber grommets for isolating the motor from its surroundings ($50/set of six) and Schopper's platter-bearing rebuild kit ($90), complete with new gasket, thrust plate, and bolts. The Schopper mods "created a record player that could compete with virtually anything I've heard in terms of treble openness and clarity, midrange detail, and bass extension," said Art. (Vol.31 No.5 Review)

Shun Mook record clamp: $2800
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: "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 $8.75 S&H
The Disc Doctor's Stylus Cleaner: $26.50/16.5ml plus $4.95 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/$11.25 S&H; size A for LP brushes, $42/pair/$6.25 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-17 record-cleaning machine: $1300
VPI HW-16.5 record-cleaning machine: $540

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 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 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; Vol.30 No.10)

WallyTools WallyTractor Universal protractor: $250
Wally Malewicz's new universal protractor is precision-cut to his specs and has 13 laser-cut arcs to accommodate tonearms from over a dozen different manufacturers. "I love using the WallyTractor," said MF. "When I'm finished, I know the stylus is where it belongs anywhere in its travel across the record surface." (Vol.30 No.10)

CD Accessories

Audience Auric Illuminator $49.95
According to LB, "It's two CD tweaks in one, with a black felt pen that you apply to the edges and a gooey fluid that that you spread on the playing surface and buff off with the supplied cloth. The fluid is claimed to improve the optical properties of the surface. Maybe so, given that treated CDs have greater focus and clarity (sonically, that is)." Application resulted in subtle improvements in sound quality, including faster, cleaner transients, sharper image edges, and a more precise overall presentation, said BD. Combo of pen and gel was messy, however. WP praises its restorative properties: "Certainly has saved some damaged discs I had thought lost," he chimes in. (Vol.30 No.11)

Nordost Eco 3 antistatic spray: $39.99/8-oz bottle
"Spray it on, wipe it off: a shot of this on CDs, electronic equipment, and cables will clean up a surprising amount of sonic smog," claims BW. BD concurs. WP adds, "Frustratingly audible when applied to the label side of CDs." He hates when that happens. Simpler to use but less effective than the Disc Doctor CD-cleaning system and Audience Auric Illuminator pen-gel combo, concluded BD. (Vol.30 No.11)

The Disc Doctor's CD cleaning system: $30/kit plus $7.00 S&H
Compared to the Audience Auric Illuminator pen-gel combo and Nordost ECO3 CD cleaner, The Disc Doctor's cleaning system produced the best results, decided BD, removing electronic haze and taming overheated sibilants. Its application process was the most involved, however, and its positive effects seemed the least permanent. (Vol.30 No.11)

FM Tuners

A

DaySequerra FM Reference Signature Modification: $1680 (+cost of tuner)
David Day's Signature Mod effectively addresses this ultimate FM tuner's cathode-ray tube's tendency to burn out. Switching circuitry has been added to allow the CRT to turn off when not needed. The Signature Mod also replaces the tuner's incandescent bulbs with longer-lasting LEDs, and uses hand-matched, low-group-delay filters for lower distortion and better channel separation. LG noted punchy, quick bass response, a deeper soundstage, and a more transparent midrange. "The new CRT's greater range of brightness and longer life expectancy makes the Signature Modification essential for owners of the DaySequerra FM tuner." (Vol.12 No.6, Vol.14 No.12, Vol.21 No.6, FM Reference; Vol.29 No.9, Signature Modification)

Editor's Note: There are currently no Class B FM tuners listed.

C

Music Hall RDR-1 Table Radio: $200
"RDR" stands for "Radio Done Right," and Roy Hall's table radio, made in the same factory as the Sangean WR2 and based on that model, features a 3" horn-loaded speaker and 7W amp. Relatively large (9.4" W by 4.5" H by 7.1" D), the RDR-1 offers FM and AM presets (five each), an Aux input, and doubles as a clock radio. Its many features take some getting used to, but ST loved the RDR-1 for its "exceptionally quiet" AM reception, an area in which the Music Hall trounced the Tivolis. "Highly recommended," he said. (Vol.29 No.8)

Outlaw RR2150: $649
One of the few low-cost, high-performance, two-channel receivers still available. See "Integrated Amplifiers." (Vol.29 No3, Vol.31 No.1 Review)

Sony XDR-F1HD portable radio: $99.95
See ST's review in the April 2009 issue.

D

C. Crane Model CCRadio SW table radio: $149.95
Resembling a classic military shortwave receiver, the CCRadio-SW comes with an AC wall wart but can also be powered by four D or four AA batteries. It has two RCA line inputs, and offers fast and slow tuning, 50 memory presets, and a timer and alarm. Offered "superb" AM and FM reception, and played louder than the Tivoli PAL, said ST. "For casual listening, especially news and talk, this is just fine." (Vol.30 No.12)

Sangean HDT-1X HD radio tuner: $249
The HDT-1X provides an optical digital output, the ability to bypass HD reception, a force-mono position, and 20 memory presets each for AM and FM. ST was "generally pleased" with the Sangean's analog FM reception, but analog AM was "just okay." Though HD sound had greater clarity than analog, it lacked air, ambience, and low-level detail. "MP3 quality sound from your FM radio, anyone?" rhetorically asks ST. HD programming options fell far short of what's available on the Internet. "Considering the low price of the Sangean, this is a buy- if you want to receive HD broadcasts that aren't otherwise available," decided ST, "Terrific value for money in terms of a conventional FM tuner alone." (Vol.31 No.1)

Tivoli Audio Model One table radio: $150
"The Tivoli Model One is a radio stripped to its essentials: no stereo, no station memories, no remote control, no tone controls," said ST. This design from the late Henry Kloss didn't like being played very loud, ST discovered, but was "plenty loud for a typical office, and, ultimately, loud enough for me." He heard "a richness, a warmth, a generosity of tone, and a clarity that made for enjoyable listening. I was never fatigued." "A bit boomy," says JA, "but pleasantly so." AD connected the Model One's record-out jack to his preamp inputs, then muted its speaker. Matching the Tivoli with a RadioShack 15-2163 FM antenna, he found that "the combination has been nothing short of wonderful in my system: a flexible, great-sounding monophonic source for a combined price of only $124." (Vol.24 No.3, Vol.27 No.7 Review)

K
Magnum Dynalab MD-209.
Deletions Tivoli Audio PAL portable radio not auditioned in too long a time; Cambridge SoundWorks Radio 820HD discontinued.

FM Antennae

Editor's Note: No indoor antenna can compete with a good roof or mast-mounted outdoor antenna, but because apartment dwellers often don't have a choice, we list the following indoor models that we have found to work well: AudioPrism 8500 ($499, Vol.14 No.6), AudioPrism 7500 ($299, Vol.12 No.5), Magnum Dynalab 205 FM Booster ($350, Vol.10 No.6), RadioShack amplified indoor FM antenna ($29.99, Vol.19 No.11), Fanfare FM-2G ($99, Vol.20 No.12), and C. Crane FM Reflect Antenna ($34.95, Vol.32 No.4). Outdoor antennas we have reviewed and recommended are the Antenna Performance Specialties Sniper ($595) and Antenna Performance Specialties APS-13 FM ($199), the original versions of which were reviewed in Vol.19 No.3.

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