It’s a fact. It’s the dust, dirt, and grime you can’t see with your naked eye on your records that does the most damage to your sound. Whenever you hear a click or pop, it’s your stylus hitting a large dust particle.
So here’s the thing. Your stylus is an analog device and needs to have intimate contact with the minute undulations in the groove to accurately reproduce your music. So, a 20,000Hz sound requires 20,000 undulations or waves to be reproduced by your stylus.
And as microscopic amounts of dirt, grime and other debris build up within your grooves, your stylus loses the ability to precisely follow the groove waves and your sound quality starts to deteriorate. At first, it’s probably not even noticeable but over time your sound becomes more and more muffled and degraded, until you clean your records.
And, that’s why we’re exploring all these microscopic pictures of our record grooves. It really is the micro-dust, dirt and grime that you can’t see with the naked eye that causes you the most musical grief and sound deterioration.
Is it clean? How many of you have used the flat palm of our hands to clean a record of dust? Oh my, I hope not. Anyway, as you look at the groove up close and personal under the microscope, how much good do you think you did?
As you can see it’s a long, long way down into the groove where the sound is. So you may have made the record look cleaner, but in reality not only didn’t you make the record sound better, you likely made it worse by forcing some of the dust that was on the surface down into the grooves where the sound really lives.
Oh, and like the palm of your hand, totally flat record pads don’t get deep into the grooves where your sound is. In fact, they simply brush over the top of the grooves and remove surface dust only. So unless they are carbon fiber or have a tuft don’t use plain flat pads. You really do need a brush that will at least get into the grooves and preferably get all the way to the bottom of the groove.
Surface dust doesn’t matter? Well, that’s not really true. But it is. When dust is on the surface, it’s on the ridges between the grooves. It’s not in the groove undulations so it doesn’t really hurt the sound. In fact, it’s above the stylus part that holds the diamond tip. So likely you won’t hear it hit. But it’s likely that sooner or later it will migrate into the grooves so it’s a bad idea to leave it.
Why Carbon Fiber: Reason 1
Static Electricity, Oh My.
Have you ever rubbed a balloon against your hair and then watched your hair stand on end or stuck the balloon to a wall? Static electricity is the build-up of an electrical charge in an object.
Static electricity causes objects to cling to each other, like when you take socks out of the dryer. It’s called static cling and it’s an attraction between two objects with different charges, (+) positive and (-) negative.
Oh and when you rub your feet across a carpet the friction causes a static charge to build up inside of you. You can suddenly discharge this static electricity when you touch a friend (fun) or touch your computer or your records (bad).
Anyway, records are made of vinyl and vinyl pick up large amounts of static electricity. They pick it up when they sit. They pick it up when you slide them in and out of the sleeve. And they pick it up when you clean them (but hang on).
Plus, the very act of playing them, dragging the needle down the groove for 1500′ creates static electricity. And why is static electricity bad? It’s really bad because it attracts dust, lots and lots of dust, dirt, grime and smoke.
Just like when you rub a balloon against your hair and then stick to the wall, a record’s charge causes it to become a magnet for dust. The beauty of a carbon fiber bush is that it allows the static charge to drain from the record.
In fact, it’s electrically conductive and it passes the static charge through the carbon fibers to the aluminum housing to you. Yes, you are part of the circuit. If it’s a really dry day, hold onto a metal ground on your turntable or elsewhere or on normal days, your body will absorb the static from 1 or 2 records as you clean them with DAK’s all new carbon fiber brush system.
Only Carbon Fiber – Just as a test, I bought about 8 different brush and cloth cleaning systems. I won’t mention any names. But, not one of these non-carbon fiber brushes or pads or cleaning cloths have any conductivity at all.
Some even have wooden handles that are actually insulators. Even the new micro fiber cloths that can get into the grooves didn’t have any conductivity that I could measure. And, I really tried. So get out your VOM and test things yourself like I did. It’s really instructive. And it’s a ton of fun too.
Oh, one last thought on static because it’s so very important. If you have a static gun and you don’t have a carbon fiber brush, use it for sure. And some of the top record cleaning machines that sell for hundreds of dollars do a good job of both cleaning and removing the static. So the carbon fiber brush isn’t the only way. But it’s sure the easiest and I think you’ll find the best because it’s so easy to use as often as you like.
Why Carbon Fiber: Reason 2
It’s the Size. It’s the Shape. A Million Fibers Can’t Be Wrong.
Forget Getting Just 1 Fiber into the Groove.
Carbon fibers are a space-age manmade material with many industrially interesting properties. As you read above, they are a uniquely conductive nonmetallic material.
They are thin, very thin (you can get more than 1,000,000 in DAK’s brush) and stronger than steel for their weight. In fact, they are many times thinner than a human hair as you can see to the right.
That’s why their primary use is in aerospace and interestingly in motor sports due to their super lightweight properties and extreme strength.
Each carbon fiber is actually a bundle of thousands of carbon filaments. Each filament is made up of almost entirely carbon atoms.
The fibers are often drawn or spun into incredibly tough cloth. They are impervious to most corrosives.
In short lengths, they are ideal for brushes because of their stiffness and strength albeit their expense prohibits their use in many applications.
Because they are so thin and strong they are ideal cleaning in microscopic spaces. And unlike hair they are resistant to shedding.
So, in short, even though they are much more expensive than conventional brush fiber components, they are ideal for cleaning records because their more than 1,000,000 fibers can reach down into the groove without damaging it.
The Electron Microscope gives you the power to see why carbon fibers work. As you look to the right you can see that I’ve laid 3 fibers into the groove.
But there’s room for lots more of the more than 1,000,000 fibers which are on the brush to really clean the bottom and sides of your grooves. It’s a difference you can hear.
And they are so strong that they are highly resistant to breaking. Plus, don’t forget that they bleed off static electricity so that once the brush removes the dust, micro-dust, dirt and grime, it’s not immediately re-attracted even by the very act of brushing itself.
Why Carbon Fiber: Reason 3
Two Carbon Fiber Brushes
Separated by a Velvet Non-Conductive Pad
OK, now why choose this carbon fiber brush configuration? We’ve explored about how carbon fiber bristles can reach all the way down into the bottom of the groove to sweep out even stubborn micro-dust, dirt and debris. We know there are over 1,000,000 fibers in this brush to really reach down and make your records spectacularly clean sounding.
As you can see both carbon fiber brushes in the picture above are longer than the velvet pad that separates them. The velvet pad simply picks up what the carbon fiber brushes brush out of the grooves as well as loose surface dirt and dust.
We also explored all about how static electricity works and why it’s the ultimate enemy of our LPs. Without static electricity dust wouldn’t be attracted to our LPs and we’d only have to deal with dust that actually fell on the LP rather than having to deal with the results of LPs being virtual dust magnets.
And we saw using a VOM that the carbon fibers themselves are conductive. We saw that they are unique in the fact that they are conductive, but yet, they are not metal. And with my VOM you could see that in addition to the carbon fibers, they were electrically coupled to the aluminum housing and that’s electrically coupled to you as you clean your records. So, your body is actually part of the anti-static cleaning system.
So now that know all these facts, how did we stumble on this particular brush configuration? OK, the 1st brush reaches deep into the groove and pulls up the micro-dust particles as it moves along the bottom and sides of your grooves. Then the unique velvet pad moves along the record surface. It’s not conductive.
It captures the dust pushed up by the 1st carbon fiber brush plus it grabs the loose dust on the record surface that you can see.
Finally, a second carbon brush reaches deep into the grooves and catches any remaining dust partials and debris to be sure your record is 100% clean.
Plus, because it’s conductive, it drains any remaining static electricity including any that might actually have been picked up by the velvet pad’s interaction with the surface of the LP.
During the entire process the static electricity is drained off the LP through the carbon fibers, through the aluminum case into your hand. If it’s a dry day, you might want to hold onto something grounded or metal, like a metal part of your turntable, or any convenient grounded metal.
Then you’ll have super cleaned records with dust attracting static electricity drained so it won’t be instantly attracted back to your treasured LPs and 45s. DAK’s new anti-static, carbon fiber cleaning system is the ultimate solution to records that have been sitting for years and in great need of restoration.
How Records Work
Where Your Stylus
Really Meets the Groove.
Most people don’t know where the actual stereo sound tracks are located in the record groove. Out of 100 people most guess the bottom and side of the groove. Actually, at the very beginning of Stereo LPs, that was tried.
But that presented problems. There was a lot of dirt and debris that built up over time in the bottom of the groove that disrupted that channel. And it was harder for the stylus to follow the hill and dale up and down motion.
A breakthrough came when they figured out how to cut the tracks into the grooves so the stylus hit the groove at a 45° x 45° angle. That means that the stylus meets the groove at a 45° angle on each side.
All modern LP records now use the 45°x45° standard, putting one track on each groove wall. Since records are analog, the actual groove walls carry the exact image of the sound waves or undulations of the music. So, if you record a 20,000hz sound, you will get 20,000 waves in the wall per second.
More Complex Side Note: Of course, hundreds of waves are all reacting at the same time, but you can best visualize how it works with a single simple wave. And the multiple waves are the same captured waves caught by a microphone, passed down the wire to an amp, recorded on tape and reproduced by speakers. So, cutting a record is just one more step that uses the same identical analog sound waves as all other analog devices.
OK back to the groove. It’s imperative that the stylus follows these waves on both walls accurately or you won’t get the sound you are trying to reproduce. If the intimate contact is broken or impaired by dirt, micro-dust and grime your music will lose detail or you’ll hear clicks, pops and ticks.
Remember, that the stylus reproduces anything it hits. If it hits a 200Hz sound, it vibrates 200 times per second. If it hits a micro-dust particle you’ll hear a tick. It’s all simple physics. It’s just that it’s all microscopic. And while the concept is basically very simple and was in use as early as 1895 when the 1st groove recordings began, the real critical part is in the execution. And that’s where the rubber meets the road or the stylus meets the groove in our case.
Then, there’s volume to worry about too. So now we’ve explored how the notes/frequencies are reproduced. But some are louder and some are softer. How does that work?
Well, it too is simple in concept but difficult in execution. The louder the sound, the bigger physically that the waves or undulations have to be. See the concept is simple. Bigger waves in the walls equal louder sound. Also, bass frequencies create bigger waves. So, bass and loud volume create deeper waves.
Here’s how we solve the big waves. For volume, we use bigger waves. And when a record is cut, for loud passages, the waves are cut more deeply, bigger, and here’s the smart part, the grooves are cut farther apart. Otherwise loud sounds from one track would intrude into adjacent tracks. Bigger waves, wider, farther apart tracks. And you can actually see this when you use a microscope.
OK for big bass notes/frequencies, remember how we always remind you about the RIAA Phono equalization? Well what they do when they cut a record is cut the volume/amplitude (fancy word for volume) way back on the bass notes so it doesn’t ruin the groove walls by making them so wide they run into adjacent grooves.
Then when you play it back, you need to have a phono preamp with the RIAA curve to reverse the bass that they cut back. So that’s how you get big massive bass on LPs without running the groove walls into each other. It’s simple.
A Record’s Speed is a Compromise.
It’s always helpful to remember that a record’s speed (33-1/3) is really a compromise between how much music you need to fit on the record and how good you want it to sound.
OK Sol, what the heck does that mean? OK here’s the thing. Do you remember recording with open reel tape? We used to call it Reel to Reel tape? I (DAK) used to make tape back in the day, oh about 1968-1980. Anyway, do you remember that you could record at 7-1/2″ or 3-3/4″ inches per second (IPS)? Well I sure do.
In fact, I still have a wall of reels of tape with all the recordings I made in high school and college, before cassettes came into being. Oh, cassettes never sounded as good as open reel tape recordings because cassettes only ran at 1-7/8 inches per second.
Anyway I digress again. So, the faster you recorded with tape, the better the sound because you didn’t have to squeeze 20,000 vibrations into a small length of tape. So, if you went from 3-3/4IPS to 7-1/2IPS you got twice the number of magnetic particles to record your signal. And it sounded a whole lot better.
It’s the same with records. As the stylus moves along the groove, it can do a much better job of reproducing the musical waves if the record is turning faster, more inches per second. That’s why the original records turned at 78RPM.
Record cutters had gotten much better and vinyl was much cleaner than the materials they had available for old 78s, so that’s how we ended up with 33-1/3. So, most records have about 22-25 minutes per side. If you needed more you would have to turn the record slower, which they did for spoken word at 16-2/3s. But faster would have given even better sound. But everyone agreed on a standard, and 33-1/3 was born.
And it represented a compromise where it was fast enough for good sound reproduction while being slow enough to allow for an acceptable number of minutes of music to be reproduced.
But, not all parts of your LPs are equal. There’s 33-1/3 and there’s 33-1/3rpm. Everyone thinks 33-1/3 is the speed. But it isn’t. Records ARE NOT A CONSTANT SPEED ANALOG DEVICE. When you start to play a record at 33-1/3, at the outside of the LP where the diameter of the record is about 11-1/4″ you are actually achieving an Inch Per Second (IPS) Speed at the stylus of about 19.25 IPS per second. It’s π Pi*D (if you’ve forgotten your junior high math) which is 35 inches. Then since the record is turning at 33-1/3 revolutions per minute, that’s about .55 of a revolution per second which makes the inches per second about 19.25 IPS. (35 inches times .55).
But when you get to the center of the Record, where the diameter is only about 5.5″, the effective inch per second speed is down to about 9.6 IPS. So, using π Pi*D again, we get about 17.25 inches in circumference. Then using 33-1/3RPM which is about .55 of a revolution per second we get to 9.6IPS.
No matter how good your equipment is, it will always reproduce a record’s sound so that the outside part is going to be twice as good as the inside part. And that’s a fact. How much of that difference you actually hear is up to your equipment, your speakers, and your ears. But the difference is there.
OK, let’s take a breath. Now you know how records work. And remember, a clean record will always outperform a dirty record. When you use DAK’s new carbon fiber static draining brush, you’ll make a significant difference in the sound you hear and if you are using our LP to CD system, the copies you make. Records at their best sound great. Records that are dirty, don’t.
The Final Carbon Fiber Brush Facts—
Just a Few Turns is All It Takes
DAK’s Anti-Static Carbon Fiber Vinyl Record Care System contains more than 1,000,000 individual carbon fiber cleaning bristles. There are actually 2 separate carbon fiber brush elements. One at the front of the brush and one at the back of the brush.
Between the two separate carbon fiber brushes is a high-quality velvet surface cleaning brush. The velvet pad is not conductive and separates the two sets of carbon fiber bristles.
All 3 brush elements are contained in a heavy conductive aluminum housing that is in contact with both carbon fiber brushes.
During cleaning, you actually become part of the static draining capabilities of the brush as the static is drained from the record, to the carbon fibers to the aluminum housing to your hand. By grounding yourself to a metal part of the turntable or any other ground source, you complete the static draining circuit.
DAK’s Carbon Fiber brush system is wider than the vinyl part of the record so you can easily clean from the center label to beyond the record lead-in edge at once. It’s about 4-1/4″ wide, 1-1/4″ deep and 1-1/4″ tall. It’s backed by a 1-year warranty against manufacturing defects. It comes complete with a wall mounting bracket that’s also a brush cleaner.
At 400x you can see the dirt, dust and micro-dust that’s not visible to the naked eye. This really is (was) one of my records that looked okay. It sure doesn’t look okay up close and personal at 400x. See the big LP groove pictures below.
Clean Grooves Give You the Best Sound.
Clean grooves make all the difference. If you look at the 3rd groove up from the bottom, do you see the waves in the groove wall? That’s your sound.
Rub a balloon against your hair and then see how it sticks to the wall. It’s the static electricity that makes it cling. And it’s the same static electricity that causes dust and dirt that hurts your sound to be drawn to and held on your records.
You can see that the meter is pegged all the way at 0 resistance. I have the red probe on the carbon fiber and the black probe on the aluminum case. Now your records will be static free.
Using the electron microscope, you can see that there’s room for lots of the static draining, side and bottom cleaning groove fibers to really clean your records. You can really hear the difference.
It’s amazing that LP records have been around since 1948 and groove
Pre Cleaning Vs. Post Cleaning
At 400x you can really see the dirt. You can also see the actual LP Groove. It’s a miracle how well LPs reproduce our sound when they are clean.
This is a 400x stylus eye view of a clean groove. You can really see the stylus’s path along the groove. Remember it travels this path for about 1500′ per side producing flawless stereo music.
You can see that the two anti-static carbon fiber brushes are slightly longer. That’s so they reach all the way into the groove to clean all the way to the bottom and sides thoroughly. With the static gone, and your grooves clean you’ll be amazed just how good your records can sound again. Play them or copy them to CDs they sound great.
You can mount the bracket anywhere or just use it to hold the brush. The brush snaps into the bracket.
Here’s a clean record using the scanning electronic microscope. You can actually see the grain of the vinyl as you look at the groove walls. Vinyl is a great material for records
The scanning electron microscope is amazing. Here you can see the dirt in the record groove. Because it doesn’t use light, everything looks gray, but you can sure see it clear and sharp. And with the other shots, if you ever thought record grooves were laid out in neat rows, now you know they’re not.
Your stylus never touches the bottom. It rests on the groove walls at what’s called the 45°x45° angle. It reads 1 channel from each side of the groove.
Grooves aren’t straight and even. The sides physically reflect the actual sound waves.
Shooting the Groove at 1000x
I wanted to show you the groove just like the stylus sees it from the side. More records were killed and injured to get these shots, but this really is a stylus eye’s view; As like a surfer, it shoots through the groove.
Shooting the Groove at 1500x
OK, this was really tough. You are looking at a 1500x shot of the groove from the side. What you see is a wave starting just to the left. And if you look carefully to the right you’ll see 2. Your stylus has been seeing this for more than 50 years. Now you can see what you’ve been hearing.
A difference you can hear.