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Guest Writers

1

A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO STICKY SHED SYNDROME

By Jeff Koon

2

STYLUS CLEANING – LIKE MAGIC!

By Doug

3

VINYL IS A DOOR TO ENCHANTMENT

By Elmo

1. A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO STICKY SHED SYNDROME

Hello everyone.  I am new to the forum, however I am not new to TapeOp or to recording in general (I've been obsessed with reel to reel recording since I was 3 years old).  To make a long store short, I am in South Louisiana, literally in the swamp.  A few years ago, I had to put a box of 100 or so tapes in storage, and stored them the best I could (ziplock bags, ample silica gel, and styrofoam) however the storage was not climate controlled.  A few days ago, I discovered that this box of tapes I have had in storage for a few years was consumed with mold growth from sitting in a moist/wet/damp/fungus-infested cardboard box in an outside un-climate controlled storage shed again as stated in the swamps of South Louisiana.  Ziplock bags and silica gel didn't stop the rot.  The absolute WORST test for analog tape survival, that's for sure.  Here is a link to a post I made elsewhere regarding the tapes: Reels RUINED by Ziplock Storage
 
Some of the tapes are not fixable, but some that I was ABSOLUTELY SURE would be the LEAST likely to survive have indeed been some of the LEAST problematic, and a true testament to a tape restoration project's effectiveness and longevity that I ingloriously performed 14 years ago...
 
Here's the most amazing discovery: as many know, Sony ULH tape from the 70's is one of the worst for not only sticky shed but also the backcoating "oozing" and making the tape stick together. One of the worst examples of sticky shed EVER. Well, back around 1993, before sticky shed was widely known, I had a case of 10 of these tapes that wouldn't play. I cleaned and cleaned, and NOTHING would fix them. Well, I was professionally refinishing guitars/basses at the time, and one of the most amazing polishes I've ever used for getting rid of tiny hairline scratch and haze was NuFinish (in the orange bottle). This stuff never ceased to amaze me in a painting environment, and one of the qualities NuFinish has is that is amazing at removing "gum" and old adhesive tape residue; say, from an old bumper sticker. Just a tiny bit of NuFinish, and you can polish away nearly any old gummy residue. Works AMAZING for that. I figured the Sony tapes were ruined, so why not try to "NuFinish" the gumminess away? I used a broken Pioneer RT-707 with the face removed for its high torque motors, and literally soaked a terry cloth rag and the tape itself with copious amounts of NuFinish; so much so that it was oozing through the layers of tape. I soaked it several times, passing the tape over my sloppy wet rag held with my fingers. You can't imagine the mess...and you would NEVER think that the tape would play well again! After I had a reel of sloppy wet dripping NuFinish engulfed tape, I then did the same procedure but with a dry terry cloth towel, and proceeded to "polish" the NuFinish off the tape, as you would when applying it as a car polish, thus removing the goo as well as all contaminants (dust, fingerprints, etc.). I passed the tape countless times, and after several (and I mean several) passes with a new rag each time I polished off all traces of the NuFinish AND the tape goo. You know what??? IT WORKED!!! The worst of the worst tapes played FLAWLESSLY, with NO sound degradation (I'm sure some information had to be lost, but I couldn't hear any difference) and NO drop outs! You have to be VERY careful as one screw-up and you can easily bend or crease the tape. But, the tapes sounded like the day I recorded them, and after a TON of work, they left NO sign of oxide/binder breakdown of ANY kind on the transport!
 
OK, that was 14 years ago...
 
I haven't played any of these tapes in years. Some of them were in this moldy box. I figured, "There's no WAY these will play." Well, guess what. THESE TAPES PERFORMED FLAWLESSLY! They had NO mold growth (thanks to the clear plastic type Sony box covering) and exhibited NO sticky shed whatsoever! Remember, this was after YEARS in outdoor moldy/muggy/moist/wet/damp storage, surrounded by tapes covered in mold. Also, remember that 14 years ago these tapes oozed and shed so much that they wouldn't last 15 seconds on a machine. NUFINISH FIXED THESE TAPES PERMANENTLY! This MAY be an alternative to baking a tape...especially since baking is a temporary fix. Concerns? Well, NuFinish is petroleum based and contains silicone (apparently a good thing). But, although it seems this would be harmful to tape in the long-term (the petroleum aspect) these tapes EVEN AFTER being subjected to the WORST conditions imaginable had NO sticky shed! This WORKS. I hope this may work for someone else who wants a "permanent" fix for a tape.
 
Keep in mind that I am absolutely sure most will be MORE than skeptical about this fix; it is a common misconception that the sticky shed problem is somehow a problem of the oxide binder, when in fact it is a problem of the backcoating process and/or backcoating binder process.  Note that there are no reports of non-backcoated tapes of any era exhibiting sticky shed.  If the problem were the oxide binder flaking, there would surely be oxide damage, absolutely exhibited by drop-outs and severely impaired performance in both recording new signal or playing old recordings.  I can honestly state with 100% certainty that I can ascertain NO difference in how these tapes now play vs. what I remember them playing like 20+ years ago when initially recorded.  I'm sure SOMETHING has to be lost (perhaps high frequency loss, etc., but I have NOT perceived anything of the sort).  Again, I expect most to be more than skeptical.  But, before you dismiss this idea, please give it serious thought.  I was highly doubtful this would work when I first tried it; it was a whim.  If I read of such a fix out of the blue, I would be skeptical as well.  However, I would absolutely NEVER recommend something so drastic if it did indeed NOT work or in ANY way be detrimental to the tapes.  The NuFinish leaves NO sign that it was ever used; even after multiple plays, the tape path appeared absolutely pristine, with NO sign of even the expected amount of tape residue as from a "normally" operating tape.  This process does not affect heads, guides, roller, capstans, or pinch rollers.  Also, the silicone aspect of NuFinish seems to re-lubricate the tape.  I know this all sounds far-fetched.  But, it WORKS.  Again, I must reiterate...almost 15 years after these tapes were fixed/treated with NuFinish, with the last few years being stored literally outside in near 100+ degree temperatures/100% humidity, in a mold infested cardboard box, surrounded by tapes consumed in mold, these tapes STILL show NO sign of any further "sticky shed syndrome."
 
BTW...I've read where someone did a similar thing using alcohol. But, any time I've gotten any alcohol residue on a tape by accident (even 91%) it has caused drop-outs. You would HAVE to remove any deposit/residue from any tape that you clean with alcohol. I can't think of anything better to clean any sort of residue off of a tape than NuFinish. This stuff works wonders for this. If it hadn't worked nearly 15 years later (i.e., no long term damage to the tape from NuFinish application 14 years ago) then I wouldn't recommend using it now. But I can say with certainty that it DID work on this worst-case scenario.
 
Hope this helps!
Jeff Koon

2. STYLUS CLEANING – LIKE MAGIC!

I own a ZeroDust, an XtremePhono and some liquid stylus cleaners, but I don’t use them anymore. Why? Because none of them works as well as a product I bought at the supermarket for a few pennies. I've been using this product to maintain my cartridges since 2004. Their styli and cantilevers have never been cleaner.

So what is this piece of magic? It’s called the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (ME for short). You’ll find it in the household cleaning products aisle. Two dollars will buy enough ME to make hundreds of stylus cleaners, enough for many lifetimes.

ARE YOU KIDDIN’ ME?

Search the archives on Audiogon and Vinyl Asylum, you'll find hundreds of testimonials.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THOSE EXPENSIVE STYLUS CLEANERS?

Jonathon Carr of Lyra explains that heat and friction from the stylus-vinyl interface leave a layer of vinyl molecules (and probably other contaminants) bonded to the stylus after each side. This layer must be removed or it will continue to accrue. At first this layer will only be visible under a strong (200x) microscope. As the buildup thickens with additional plays the stylus gradually turns cloudy, gray or yellow. The sonic degradation from this buildup is gradual but progressive. High frequencies slowly disappear, since the stylus can no longer trace the finest groove modulations. Micro-dynamics are slowly impaired and the sound goes dull. If the layer gets thick enough mistracking can actually occur.

Gels and goops will not remove this layer. They aren't aggressive enough. Liquids won't remove it unless they contain alcohol or other solvents that are dangerous to some cartridge suspensions and stylus/cantilever glues. What's needed is something that will physically abrade those vinyl molecules loose without doing damage.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Linn used to supply strips of very fine sandpaper. That works, but a properly used ME is more effective. Modern materials science has created a product that is compliant enough to clean all sides of a stylus, yet abrasive enough to remove even stubborn contaminants.

The ME is made up of very fine micro-fibers spun into an open mesh. It looks like a sponge to the naked eye, but it’s not. Viewed at 200x it looks like a wadded-up fishing net, a 3-D tangle of interwoven strands. This open, airy structure lets the ME flex around a stylus dipped into it, allowing the fibers to contact every surface.

An electron microscope view of the ME reveals that each individual strand has sharp, longitudinal ridges. These sharp ridges do the micro-scraping. We’re talking about nearly molecular levels, don’t go looking for these with your pocket magnifier!

HOW DO I USE IT?

Always dry brush with a stylus brush (back to front) before using the ME or any other stylus cleaner. There’s no point contaminating your stylus cleaner with loose fluff.

Use only the white portion of the ME. The blue portion contains detergents that could leave a residue.

Use the ME dry. Wetting the ME causes its open mesh to collapse into a denser bundle. That’s fine for scrubbing dried taco sauce off the stovetop, but a dense bundle won’t let a stylus penetrate into the ME to be rubbed by fibers on all sides.

There are two popular methods for actually using the ME. One is safer. The other cleans better. Get comfortable with the safer method before trying the better one but please note, the safer method alone may not be adequate over time.

SAFER METHOD

Cut a small, thin piece of ME and glue it to a coin or other thin, heavy object. Place this on the platter and dip the stylus straight down into the ME and back up, using the cueing lever. Dip it several times.

NEVER move the stylus or the ME sideways, forward or backward. Those interwoven fibers are grabby and quite strong. Once the stylus is inside the ME, moving any direction but straight up and down could separate stylus from cantilever or break the cantilever.

After a few dips in the ME, dry brush the stylus again (back to front) to remove any loosened particles. Some people ZeroDust or XtremePhono at this stage, to be extra sure.

BETTER METHOD

Slice off a small, thin wedge of ME and stick it on a toothpick. The pointy end of the wedge should be VERY thin. It should flex easily under the slightest pressure.

After dry-brushing, dunk the stylus into the ME a few times or bring the ME up to the stylus and back down, as in the safer method. Then use the thin end of the wedge to scrape along the cantilever and around all sides of the stylus. Finish with a dry brushing, ZeroDust or XtremePhono, as discussed above.

BE CAREFUL. Do not apply any force, the ME will do the work. If you see the cantilever deflect you’re pushing too hard.

Used regularly, this method will remove all traces of the vinyl buildup layer. I have styli with nearly 1,000 hours on them whose color and clarity are indistinguishable from new.

HOW OFTEN DO I USE IT?

After every side, without fail.

That layer of vinyl molecules attracts more gunk with every play. Don’t let it get started and your stylus will always be at its best.

IS IT SAFE?

Every stylus cleaning method involves risk. The ME uses no chemicals or solvents, so the risks are limited to operator error. Pay attention at all times.

I do know of two ME-related disasters, both involving Lyra cartridges that lost their styli. In the same time period a third Lyra owner lost a stylus while cleaning with Lyra’s own (liquid) stylus cleaner. Conclude what you will. I’m inclined to think Lyra’s methods for affixing styli to cantilevers might need improvement. I’m unaware of ME-related problems with any other cartridges.

YMMV

Of course, but the Magic Eraser combines sound scientific principles with the practical endorsement of hundreds of satisfied users. I wish I could sell them for $25 apiece!

Written by Doug

Discovered, researched and determined to be safe and effective by Paul

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on the Audio Asylum

3. VINYL IS A DOOR TO ENCHANTMENT

Once, I was spinning LP's in my humble abode, and this young lovely says to me: "You've got my bra off." I quietly, silently, in my mind, asked myself where the heck she had been for the previous two hours? Vinyl is a door to enchantment. Vinyl is a lifestyle. It is saying no to garbage. To product. To others telling you what music you can or cannot listen to. It is about a quality to life. A joy and beauty that will never be known in a life of zeros and ones. It's about actually enjoying the view as we walk through our lives, and stopping often to breathe in the fragrant flowers......

The CD was never meant to 'replace' the LP in sound quality. It is, always was .. a convenience medium. It succeeds at that (and it made some serious coin for the industry). CD was not an assault on the state of the art. But they most certainly were in a hurry to end LP production. With all its manifest untidiness, inconsistency, difficulty, and expense. That CD ameliorated in the blink of an eye.

There really are billions of records on the planet. Everything pressed before the late seventies never left the analog domain.

I got over not buying new music a long time ago. Yes, I still buy the occasional CD (day trips/train). But only for distraction. And well, the music biz ceased being about music, quite some time ago as well.

If it ain't analog, it ain't music. A simile perhaps, a representation. A very short lived amusement. Analog can be a pain. But the threshold is much lower than the one my ears and eyes experience when being assaulted by bits.

Mostly it is about the relaxation response. Which for me is non-existent in the non-analog realm. I am daily dependent on my analog rig on for survival in this modern world.

Bless those of you who get an emotional response with the blenders. But I'd rather listen to a real Hamilton Beach or Waring blender Than CD.

Elmo