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Vinyl Solutions - Three Steps to Vinyl Nirvana
as reviewed by Greg Weaver
The Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions – Gold 32 oz. bottles, white 16 oz. and sample sized bottles
Over the decades, I have tried virtually every record cleaning product I have run across. Most work, to some varying degree or other. There are a handful that have earned a place in my arsenal of regular use, including, listed in alphabetical order, Buggtussel's Vinyl-Zyme, the Disc Doctor's Miracle Record Cleaner, the LAST products, Record Research Labs Vinyl Wash, Nitty Gritty's Purifier 2, and the VPI fluid—as well as several of my own home brew's. However, it was with Roger Gordon's first look at Paul Frumkin's Audio Intelligent three-step process that I have finally settled upon what is, quite simply, the most effective record cleaning approach and products available today.
After reading Roger's enthusiastic account, I eagerly emailed Paul and began a long chain of emails from which I learned a great deal. It would seem that Paul has been suffering an LP affliction for some time now. According to Paul, both John Grado and A.J. van den Hul use AI products. In fact, Paul built one of his own record cleaning machines for John who liked it so much that he "paid" for it with a "The Statement" cartridge. Paul and his wife Lisa have not only spent time at Grado Labs, but John has lent a hand on two of Paul's Audiogon charitable projects, the Leslie Project and the benefit for Lugnut a.k.a., Patrick Malone.
Paul has revealed himself to be a gentleman, and his products are superb. My sample order arrived shortly, but sat untouched for several months because of my rather hectic schedule. Once I got around to trying it, I have never looked back, nor have my records EVER sounded better.
So it was with heavy heart that I read Paul's email of September 8, 2006.
I was not alone in my plea, as LP maven Michael Fremer rapidly lent his voice to this suggestion.
Today, December 30, 2006, vinyl adherents may rejoice! I am happy to announce that the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions system is once again available, thanks to the efforts of Audiogon member and all-around good guy, Jim Pendleton, of Hallsville, Missouri. Jim has added "Osage Audio Products" to the AI name, and, if I am to believe both Paul and Jim, the products are better than ever with a purer formulation.
The unparalleled effectiveness of this product unquestionably stems from the comprehensiveness of its approach; the process utilizes three fluids, used in three discreet steps. While the Basic Directions for Use work superbly as presented, most afflicted record lovers own a vacuum powered record cleaning machine—or two! Therefore, I want to share with you the procedure that I have settled upon after much trial and error. This has now become my UNSURPASSED and standard LP cleaning régime, and relies heavily on the virtues of both the VPI HW 16.5 and the Nitty Gritty MiniPro 2.
1. Carefully seat and secure the candidate record onto the spindle of an HP 16.5, Side 1 up.
2. Apply the Audio Intelligent Enzymatic fluid by squirting a thin stream of the fluid onto the record, starting from the lead-in grove, spiraling inward to the run-out groove.
3. Use the first VPI brush (Enzymatic fluid ONLY) to spread the fluid evenly over the record surface and provide an initial scrub for about 10-15 seconds.
4. Let the fluid soak the record for another 60-90 seconds, keeping the surface wet the entire time—add more fluid if necessary.
5. Scrub a second time at the end of the soak cycle with the VPI Enzymatic ONLY brush for about 10-15 seconds.
6. Vacuum dry using the first vacuum pick up tube (for Enzymatic fluid ONLY).
7. Apply the Audio Intelligent Record Cleaner fluid by squirting a thin stream of the fluid onto the record, starting from the lead-in grove, spiraling inward to the run-out groove.
8. Use the second, different VPI brush (Record Cleaning fluid ONLY) to spread the fluid evenly over the record surface and provide an initial scrub for about 10-15 seconds.
9. Let the fluid soak the record for another 45-60 seconds keeping the surface wet the entire time—add more fluid if necessary.
10. Scrub a second time at the end of the soak cycle with the VPI Record Cleaning fluid ONLY brush for about 10-15 seconds.
11. Vacuum dry using a second, different vacuum pick up tube (for Record Cleaner fluid ONLY).
12. Flip to Side 2 and repeat steps 2 through 11 if using two vacuum powered cleaners.
* or use alternate steps 12 through 16 if you are using only one vacuum powered record cleaner …I simply move the record to my Nitty Gritty Mini Pro two-sided cleaner and…
13. Flush both sides with Audio Intelligent Ultra-Pure water and scrub for 30-40 seconds—vacuum dry for three revolutions.
14. PLAY to hear the fully recovered potential of your beautifully clean and sonically restored LP.
* if you use only one vacuum powered record cleaner, substitute these following steps…
12. Apply the Audio Intelligent Ultra-Pure Water by squirting a thin stream of water onto the record, starting from the lead-in grove, spiraling inward to the run-out groove.
13. Use a third, different VPI brush (water ONLY) to spread the fluid evenly over the record surface and lightly scrub for about 10-15 seconds.
14. Let the water soak the record for another 30-45 seconds, keeping the surface wet the entire time—add more water if necessary.
15. Vacuum dry using the third, different vacuum pick up tube (for Water ONLY).
16. PLAY to hear the fully recovered potential of your beautifully clean and sonically restored LP.
Please note the details marked with bolded text. The use of both a discreet brush AND vacuum pick up tube for EACH DIFFERENT fluid is paramount to realizing the maximum resolve and clarity from your records. The ease with which the VPI 16.5 allows for the swapping of the vacuum pick up tube (merely lift one out and set another in its place), and the undeniable effectiveness of the VPI nylon bristled brushes, make it the perfect candidate vacuum powered record cleaner for use with this process, and its contributions cannot be ignored.
My cleaning station; VPI to the left, Nitty Gritty center, and cleaning fluids to the right
For a specific example, I only needed to look as far as my original 1958 Columbia "6 Eye" copy of Time Out, from the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Cleaned many times over the decades since I first acquired it from the father of a dear friend, though it has always sounded good, it was never flawless. It should be clear that I know this record quite well, yet after exposure to the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions, it sounded like a completely different record!
Post cleaning, there was a new level of silence and quietness to the run-in section before the first cut, "Blue Rhondo, a la Turk." Though not utterly silent, it was dramatically more so than I have ever heard. This newfound quietness has two extraordinarily strong effects.
The greatly reduced surface noise allowed for considerably more of the illusion of real music and a significant lessening of the reality that this was a piece of plastic, spinning on a platter, traced by a needle. Secondly, and perhaps even more interestingly, the opening cords struck out like a thunderous clap from a darker, deeper quietness, adding a powerful effect that I can hardly describe.
As the record played on, I noted an increased sense of the musical power and message, and an enhanced, more natural, sonority than I have ever heard from this record. Further, pace was undeniably enhanced and timbre was more relaxed and natural. Subtle spatial cues and delicate details, like brush strokes on cymbals or lighter, more restrained piano fingerings, were revealed with more aplomb and finesse.
Every record in my library, even those cleaned with any combination of the aforementioned cleaners, realized new sonic heights after this treatment. What previously sounded like permanent surface noise is revealed to have only been accumulated crud in the grooves, and is decreased in many cases to almost inaudible levels. Noises that were indiscriminate now become known sounds. Detail and articulation are astounding.
Good pressings, vinyl containing little to no flash or re-grind, become nearly dead silent. My UHQRs, MFSLs, Nautilus, Linn ReCuts, Sheffields, etc., all yield more of their pedigree. But the results are not confined to audiophile pressings; in fact, perhaps my run-of-the-mill pressings enjoyed greater benefits, as the audiophile pressings were superb to begin with.
Overall, there is a broadband unveiling, not unlike that noted in the "old days" when removing thick, absorbing speaker grills. Focus and resolve increase dramatically, greatly improving both imaging and staging! Midrange tonality becomes a bit warmer, especially noticeable with solo voices, both human and instrument. High frequencies, like the harmonics of a cymbal crash or the delicate trail of a struck triangle, are full of air and detail.
Along with all this, there is also an apparent increase in transient speed from the lower mid bass on down into the subterranean stuff. Bass pitch, definition, and solidity are breath taking. Drum and bass guitar passages now have heightened speed and impact.
Thanks to Paul Frumkin's innovation and Jim Pendleton's willingness to carry on, my favorite music storage medium has become that much better. Granted, the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solution process is a bit time consuming, especially by comparison. But hey, you listen to records. That, in and of itself, speaks to your willingness to forego expedience or convenience in order to obtain the richest, most realistic sonic results achievable, right? So, why flinch here? You owe it to yourself to hear everything your records contain, don't you? Go to the Audio Intelligent site and take advantage of the re-introductory prices that Jim is offering through January 31st.
Regardless of how you choose to employ these products, au natural, as outlined on the web page, or with a full-out assault as I have outlined above, don't pass up the chance to hear EVERYTHING trapped in those precious grooves. Don't take any shortcuts; you will be richly rewarded. Trust me, once you hear what the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions can unleash from your records, you'll be hooked too. I've never heard anything better …period! With my strongest possible recommendation…
Introductory OFFER – through January 31, 2007:
Two Full Ultimate Cleaning Kits - just $65 (separate purchases would be $92)
This offer includes:
2 - 16 oz. bottes of Enzymatic Formula