By Lam Seng Fatt
A few days ago, Adrian Wong of Audio Image in Petaling Jaya sent me a rather peculiar message on WhatsApp. “Please bring two new records for cleaning. Everyone thinks only dirty records need to be cleaned.”
The first thing that came to my mind was: “What? Clean a new record?”
Anyway, I ended up in the Audio Image showroom with two LPs — The Trinity Session by Cowboy Junkies (Analogue Productions) and Amazing Grace by Aretha Franklin (Atlantic). These have been played only once or twice since I bought them recently.
Adrian told me that even new records need to be cleaned because of the mould release agent used to make the separation of the vinyl from the stamper easier. Some of the mould release agent is left in the grooves and can create crackles and pops when the new LP is played.
To test whether there were any discernible differences in sound quality between an uncleaned new LP and a cleaned new LP, Adrian first played the Cowboy Junkies album on his demo system. Then he cleaned it with his own record cleaning-cum-vacuuming machine after spraying it with his own cleaning solution and then the LP had another cleaning session using the Kirmuss Ultimate Ultrasonic Record Restoration System KA-RC-1.
Then he played the LP again. Before cleaning, the singer sounded a bit raspy. However, there were no clicks or pops. After the cleaning, the singer’s voice sounded smoother and mellower and more details including the reverberations of the recording venue could be heard.
From now on, Adrian will use this two-step cleaning process for new LPs. If the LP is very dirty with lots of clicks and pops, he will resort to using the Kirmuss complete restoration process which involves multiple steps and takes a lot of time.