A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO STICKY SHED SYNDROME
By Jeff Koon
STYLUS CLEANING – LIKE MAGIC!
VINYL IS A DOOR TO ENCHANTMENT
1. A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO STICKY SHED SYNDROME
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
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
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...
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
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."
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!
2. STYLUS CLEANING – LIKE MAGIC!
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.
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?
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
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
stylus cleaning method involves risk. The ME uses no chemicals or
solvents, so the risks are limited to operator error. Pay attention at
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.
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
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......
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.