July 1958 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights 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 couple decades 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.
Hi-Fi Record Care
By Arthur A. Hundley*
Your records need babying for their longer life and your continued enjoyment
With 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
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
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
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 the surface.
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
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 damaged records.
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.
Posted May 20, 2022