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Machines that clean records

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Machines that clean records, and stuff that keeps them that way 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1983, The Syracuse Newspapers

One of the hottest high-tech items in home entertainment this year is the tiny Compact Disc, which is played by a laser and never wears out. It's probably going to make the regular phonograph record obsolete in a few years. Ordinarily, you'd think the sci-fi hi-fi of the Compact Disc would take the spotlight entirely away from the low-tech black plastic record, but (with apologies to Nipper) the old dog is learning new tricks. And they are very impressive tricks at that.

Two of the phonograph legerdemains checked into this week are space-age techniques that make records sound better than they were ever meant to sound - a tall order, as we shall see. The other trick of the trade turned out to be a wash, so let's talk about it first.

The wash comes from a machine made specifically to give phonograph records a bath. It's made by a firm with the likely (although strange) name of Nitty Gritty, and many different models are available. The one I checked out was a motorized record-scrubber called the Model 2.5.

The Nitty Gritty record-cleaning machine is about the size of two six-packs of beer and has two motors. One automatically spins the record (slowly, at maybe 3.33 rpm or something similar) and the other runs a very strong vacuum cleaner.

The machine bathes each side of a record with a special fluid, spins the disc against a soft brush and then vacuums fluid and dirt right off. Just about everything is automatic; all you have to do is squirt the fluid on the record and turn the record over to wash each side.

If you are used to the "normal" way of cleaning records - using a brush of the type made famous by Discwasher - you'd be in for what could probably be called an epiphany the first time your records get a Saturday night bath in the Nitty Gritty machine.

First of all, they come out shiny and clean. The deep-down bath and the gentle scrubbing get literally everything out of the grooves. You'd probably find, as I did, that you'd never really heard your records in all their glorious nakedness - without all the grunge that gets stuck in the grooves.

What price all this glory? The Nitty Gritty 2.5 sells for $379, and the fluid costs a bundle, too: $13 for a pint or $45 for a gallon (ouch!). But unless you run a radio station or an all-night disco, a gallon ought to last a year or two.

Once you've cleaned the last bit of glump out of the grooves, you can't leave them unprotected. That's where the two magic potions come in. Actually, only one is a potion. The other is a semi-spray.

The liquid is LAST, which is dolloped onto the record surface while it is spinning on your turntable. It's very easy; all you do is put a few drops of the liquid onto a small wand and press the wand against the disc. It dries in a second, leaving the record surface shiny, smooth and slippery.

The semi-spray is Gruv-Glide. You spray two bursts onto a pad, wipe the pad with another pad, and then hold it against the spinning record. It also dries very quickly.

Each product costs between $15 and $20, depending on discounts.

LAST (it stands for, believe it or not, Liquid Archival Storage Treatment) and Gruv-Glide both work equally well overall, although there are differences; LAST can't be over-applied (the excess just evaporates) while Gruv-Glide can gum up the works if too much is used. On the other side of the coin (or record), Gruv-Glide is gentler to the vinyl.

Both cut down on record surface noise and both reduce record wear to a minimum. In fact, both do what most experts thought could never be achieved: They practically eliminate wear and tear on a record. With a run through a nifty Nitty Gritty and a coating of LAST or Gruv-Glide, your favorite LPs will sound great long after you've gone to that great techno-haven in the sky.


Nitty Gritty, 4650 Arrow Highway, F4, Montclair, CA 91763.

LAST, P.O. Box 41, Livermore, CA 94550.

Gruv-Glide, P.O. Box 19003, Las Vegas, NV 89119.

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