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Perhaps you have heard of the debate about which is better, vinyl records or CDs. This question can be reduced to studying their differences. When playing vinyl records you are typically listening to an analog representation of a musical performance. When playing a CD you are typically listening to a digital representation of a musical performance.
“Analog” sound is natural sound as it is created and heard in our daily lives. We hear analog sounds as smooth, continuous wave of air pressure pulses (vibrations).
Always store your records in a cool, dry, dark environment in an upright position (never flat) that is high off the ground, and that provides some airflow around them.
Ideally each record would be stored in a polypropylene or Mylar plastic bag, with the record stored in its own poly inner sleeve outside of the record jacket. The closer that you can come to these ideals the longer your records should last, which can be a lifetime, or even become a family heirloom.
If you practice these guidelines on a daily basis and on a long term basis you will get the most possible enjoyment from your collection. You will come to learn that light scratches on good old vinyl is nothing to be overly concerned about and that with proper care and cleaning that they can actually come to sound better with repeated use.
Use plenty of solution and really get the record wet while being very, very careful to keep the solution off of the record label, as it will cause the paper label to “rise” or stain the label, etc, and it will never look like new again.
Apply the Cleaning Solution to a Cloth or Record Preener
The best way to apply the cleaning solution is to apply it to the cleaning device that you are going to use, such as a soft cloth, record preener (brush), etc. I recommend a very soft, clean cotton material such as a baby’s diaper (old school, washable type).
An old trick of “last resort” is to actually play a record while wet.
For reasons not fully understood (by me), doing this “quiets” the record substantially (removes the noise caused by scratches) seemingly without reducing fidelity. I recommend using only water without any chemical, as the chemical may cause harm to your stylus and cartridge. This trick is best used when trying to extract the best possible sound quality from an old, mostly worn out record when you are recording it. Expect your stylus to be dirty and in need of cleaning upon completion, which should be done immediately before it dries.
Really dirty old records will require several cleanings and playings before they yield their best sound reproduction.
If you are really serious about playing many old and dirty records you should consider getting a very sturdy stylus/cartridge such as the Stanton DJ series. These can stand up to the abuse of older, damaged records much better than the more expensive and sensitive stylus’.
I do not have an opinion regarding products that “treat” the surface of a record (such as “Last”), nor with cleaning products ( like Revirginizer) that are like a “face peel” for records because I have never used them myself, probably because I have not felt the need for them.