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     Wet playing and cleaning

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Extremely dirty records with lots of fingerprints and stuff are hard to cure. 

Good ideas are welcome.

Some recommended me Zippo lighter-fluid instead of alcohol in the cleaning fluid, but the smell and fire hazard scares me a bit, and the resultas are not convincing in my opinion - I do have tried it out. Outdoors.....

From the good old days in the seventies I know the act of "wet playing". I still use it from time to time with very badly abused records.

Larger picture: Click! The pickup must have lots of fluid to work in during playback.

Use a cheap, rugged but functional pickup and do not expect refund if it is ruined by corrosion or the glue that holds the diamond is giving up!  

Start playing and pour cleaning fluid on the record, so that the pickup is working through a thin "film" of fluid. Perhaps it will "aquaplane" a bit, so perhaps add a bit of extra stylus force.

Breaking the waves...

The stylus are so to speak breaking the waves and are digging the soaked debris up from the grooves.

Clean the stylus from time to time. Perhaps many of the debris will be removed after a few playbacks this way, perhaps not. It is worth a try if everything else fails.

Sometimes you can make a decent tape-copy during the wet-playing act, perhaps because the fluid has a sort of dampening effect on the stylus. Try it out or shake your head as you like.  

Click for larger picture Opinions are split in many ways when "wet playing" is broght to debate.

Some people even has the opinion, that the needle is cooler during wet playing, therefore damaging the groove more than a "hot" one would do.

One thing's for sure: wet playing is not healthy for your stylus and/or cartridge.

Judge for yourself - try it or leave it.

Noisy records, not worth listening to in any other way, is sometimes more silent played wet. 

By digital manipulation in a computer the sound can maybe be "improoved" and burnt on cd-r, but take care not to violate any local copyright laws in your country......

No warranty if you ruin your pickup

Another issue that comes to mind during "wet playing" is the non-existing warranty of the pickup.

Fluids and pickups are not the best combination in the world, so be careful out there and be ready for a ruined pickup once in a while. No sensible pickup manufacturer will gurantee his product to function "under water"!

Click for larger picture "Breaking the waves".....

During playback you can see how the stylus "digs" a lot of wet debris up from the grooves.

I use an old Shure pickup for the "wet playing" act. It is rugged and cheap. Can even be supplied with 78 rpm needles. 

Don´t use your best hi-fi pickup for wet playing!

NEVER in any way use alcohol-based fluids to clean your shellac records. 
They will be ruined!

Hardly many will bother all this cleaning and wet playing stuff to play a few records, but if you are searching the roots of your family and wants to understand its cultural history, it is worthwhile to find the old records from the attic and listen to them.

Invite the old folks from your family. Play the music, share the experience and make the old folks tell the story of the days when the music was top of the pops.

You´ll most likely have a good time together, and perhaps some day you´ll find yourself looking for more music from the past...

Free the musical history on the Internet

Many record companies are re-issuing the most popular old recordings, but many are gathering dust on shelves, deterioating more and more from day to day.

Perhaps the Internet one day will be the only way we listen to music. Maybe one day the complete musical history can be available as bits and bytes - downloadable on "pay-per-track" basis?

We can hope the digital evolution will make this vision possible, but until then: Take good care of your records!

Have a nice time. Yours sincerely. Hans Henrik Pedersen.

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Last update 
September 22nd 2009