July 1958 Radio-Electronics
of Contents]These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the Radio & Television
News magazine. Here is a list of the Radio-Electronics
articles I have already posted. All copyrights
(if any) are hereby acknowledged.
The proper care and feeding of vinyl records was - and still is - a
big topic amongst audiophiles. As with so many things, phonographs and
platters have experienced a resurgence in popularity in the last decade
or so as the world gets nuttier and people crave for a simpler, saner
time - imagined or otherwise. I remember back in the barracks at Robins
AFB, GA, where there was always at least one guy who would have a very
extensive (pronounced "expensive") stereo setup complete with an equipment
rack, reel-to-reel tape player, dual cassette tape deck, super-sensitive
AM/FM receiver with a huge tuning knob on the front, a turntable with
a precisely balanced and weighted tone arm (with a stylus that cost
two month's pay for an enlisted man), a multi-hundred watt power amplifier
that never had the opportunity to put out more than a small percentage
of its capability due to barracks noise rules, a patch cable panel for
routing signals, and monster speakers that could scarcely be contained
within the allotted floor space of about six feet by ten feet (smaller
than a typical prison cell). The pièce de résistance and ultimate sign
of a true music aficionado was an AC power regulator and filter to assure
that no hint of distortion ever crept into the music.
See all available
vintage Radio-Electronics articles.
Hi-Fi Record Care
By Arthur A. Hundley*
Your records need babying for their longer life and your continued
the advances in sound recording and reproducing techniques of the past
few years, a whole new field of opportunity for electronic sales and
service has opened up. High fidelity is a definite part of the electronics
business and the term "hi fi" is a household word. Improved equipment
and know-how have given us the finest facilities for the reproduction
of recorded music, but to maintain this superb quality all equipment
must be cared for properly. There is one item which can be performed
only by the owner - taking care of his records.
The recording companies record music much as it is played in the
concert hall, and record players, amplifiers and speakers reproduce
this sound with a lifelike brilliance never before known. However, records
not properly cared for lose their fidelity, acquire increased noise
and cause general dissatisfaction all around. Regardless of how good
the equipment is, it will never sound any better than the record itself!
A good record collection represents a sizable monetary investment
and it is up to the purchaser to protect it, both to save money and
to gain longer-lasting enjoyment. Record care should be a common-sense
item, but seeing how some people abuse their recordings leaves no doubt
that instruction in basic care is needed.
Anyone engaged in the hi-fi field - either sales, installation or
servicing - can help both himself and the customer by telling him the
basic facts of record care. Often this can result in a satisfied customer
because then the enjoyment of hi-fi is a long-term process, rather than
existing only when new records are played. A more satisfied customer
can mean increased profits from the business, so proper record care
is of benefit all around.
Most of the newer records are made of vinylite, a plastic, and are
unbreakable in normal use. But, however, unbreakable they may be, the
grooves which make up the musical portion of the disc can be damaged
easily. Each groove is only 1/1,000 inch wide and it doesn't take much
of a scratch or abrasion to cut that far into the material, and the
disc can be damaged by even smaller cuts.
This surface damage causes noise and often distorts the music. The
hints given here are aimed at reducing noise and distortion, and increasing
the useful life of a record, thus adding to the listener's enjoyment.
Properly cared for, discs can be kept noise-free for a long time.
Most long playing records are packaged in a cardboard envelope open
on only one end, and many of the companies are additionally enclosing
the discs in a plastic or paper container which fits inside the cardboard
cover. The first rule in record care is always to store each record
in its own jacket and, if an inside envelope is included, don't throw
it away - use it! Where only the cardboard jacket is furnished, it is
wise to buy a cover made of soft plastic into which the record can be
placed before insertion into the jacket. These plastic covers are made
in 10- and 12-inch sizes and can be bought from record dealers or radio
supply houses. The current retail price is about 10 cents each for the
12-inch size and somewhat less for the 10-inch ones. This price is low
compared to the cost of replacing the record.
These covers accomplish a twofold purpose: they keep the records
clean (more will be said about that later) and decrease surface damage.
The inside of the cardboard containers is not completely smooth and
as the disc is slid in or out of it; abrasions may occur. The inside
cover eliminates this possibility. (Never stack records one on top of
the other without first placing them in their containers.)
Additional care is required in removing the record from the envelope
and replacing it if an inside cover is not used. The best system is
to press slightly at both ends of the jacket opening so that the sides
are slightly bowed out. The record can then be taken out without too
much rubbing against the container. It can be replaced the same way.
One of the worst enemies of long-playing records is dust, the ordinary
kind which accumulates to some degree regardless of all the means taken
to prevent it. When dust has settled in the grooves, background noise
and distortion occur whenever the record is played. The dust does not
allow the needle to follow properly the groove variations which constitute
the recorded sound, and noise is produced.
Storing the records in plastic or paper covers prevents much of the
dust pickup which otherwise would occur. Dust can enter into a record
cabinet, even with closed doors.
Vinylite has the characteristic that a static-electric charge is
developed on the surface when it is rubbed with anything. The charge
is strong enough to attract and hold particles of dust which may be
lurking near the record. These static charges may be eliminated by spraying
the surface with an anti-static fluid or by wiping with a rag which
has been treated with the same type of liquid. Both are available at
record dealers and supply houses.
These accumulated charges also cause some noise when the record is
played, sounding like loud pops. Eliminating the static charge also
reduces this type of noise.
The application of these anti-static compounds does not merely eliminate
the dust present at that time; it effects last for many months and,
after being treated, the record actually repels dust. Once the dust
has gotten into the grooves, the pressure of the needle forces it deeper
and it becomes all but impossible to remove.
Proper handling can also help to prevent dust in the grooves. Our
hands have oils on them in varying amounts, and when the grooves are
touched with the hands a film of this oil is deposited on the record.
This tends to hold any dust which is picked up. To prevent this, the
hands and fingers should never touch the grooved area. The disc can
be removed from the jacket and placed on the turntable by touching only
the edge and the label area in the center. The user must be careful
in doing this, but it pays off in increased record life and enjoyment.
If the hands do touch the grooves, the residue can be wiped off with
a clean, soft rag.
It is good practice to replace each record in its individual container
immediately after playing, to prevent any damage which could occur if
it is left out in the open. And of course, be careful never to drop
a record or scrape it against some hard object which could cut into
If your turntable is not exactly level, the pickup arm may jump grooves
and scratch the record. Or, if the record player is mounted or placed
so that vibration can shake the tone arm, similar results can occur.
The stylus exerts a great influence on the amount of noise and distortion
produced and also on the usable life of the disc. Three general types
are in use: metal, sapphire and diamond, with the purchase price and
dependability of operation increasing in that order.
As long as the stylus retains its roundness it wears the walls of
the record grooves very little. But during use the stylus and disc are
in constant contact so some wear occurs on both. The same stylus is
used for all records, so any wear affects the stylus much sooner than
an individual record. The sides of the stylus become flat and it eventually
acts like a chisel, cutting into the record grooves.
Stylus wear begins to manifest itself through noise and distortion
and, if allowed to continue, a disc may be ruined in one playing. It
is true that some people buy a phonograph and never bother to change
the stylus for years, and maybe the gradual increase of noise and distortion
seems like a natural thing to them. If these same people were to hear
a new recording played with a new stylus, on their own equipment, a
valuable lesson would be learned. That is learning the hard way (also
called the expensive method).
Metal styli usually begin to show signs of wear after only a few
hours of playing. Sapphire needles last considerably longer and diamonds
wear much longer than sapphire. If used regularly, a metal needle should
be replaced every few weeks, a sapphire every few months and a diamond
after several years. There is no such thing as a permanent needle, regardless
of what the ads say. Of course, these rules have no great accuracy because
the actual playing time varies considerably. One person may play records
less than an hour a week, while others may play them for several hours
As a general estimate, a metal needle should be replaced after about
20 hours of actual use and a sapphire after about 100 hours, and a diamond
should last at least 10 times longer than the sapphire. So for long-run
economy a diamond stylus, although its initial purchase price is higher
than the others, outwears a large number of the other types and gives
maximum protection to the record collection. It is poor economy to save
a few dollars on the cost of a new stylus and waste many dollars in
Keeping the stylus clean is also important. A small camel-hair brush
will do a good job. And don't forget the stylus pressure. Too much and
the stylus will dig into the groove, bringing the disc's life to an
early end; too little and the stylus will skip, leaving scratches on
the record face. If your pickup arm can be adjusted, keep stylus pressure
between 2 and 8 grams. Check this frequently.
Records should be kept in a closed cabinet, where dust entrance is
kept to a minimum. And, if at all possible, the container should be
in a comparatively dry place where heat is not allowed to become excessive.
Moisture and heat are injurious as either can cause warping. Slight
warping may show up only as small variations in record speed, called
wows. If the warped condition is serious enough, the disc becomes unplayable
because the needle will not stay in the grooves.
To minimize these possibilities, discs should be stored in an upright
position, and preferably held together by other records, books or cabinet
dividers. This insures that all the records will be straight and will
be kept that way because of no room for bending. Laying them flat in
piles is not as good as the upright position because, although the bottom
ones are held down tight, those near the top could warp.
These rules sound like common sense, but a surprising number of record
owners violate them consistently. By following them, the listener can
get the most value for his record dollar, listening will be more enjoyable
and free from noise and distortion, and long lasting. Dealers and technicians
who instruct their customers in these basic facts will then enjoy the
results of having customers who are more satisfied and, most likely,
will receive increased business as a result.
*DeVry Technical Institute. Chicago, Ill.