36 Accessories stylus scaleWhen I bought my first turntable I spent almost as much on a stylus scale as I spent on the turntable. It was a beautiful thing, complete with an in-built spirit level. It operated with weights (handled with tweezers) and a counterbalance to get the downward force of the stylus on the record exactly right, down to plus or minus a milligram or two. The process took forever.

Maybe you’ve never heard of stylus scales. Okay. The stylus is the pointy thing on the end of the arm that rides the groove of a record to produce music – people with no breeding at all call it the needle. Every stylus maker recommends a range of downforce pressure in which its styli should operate and purists experiment within that range to get their preferred sound and response. Arms have a counterbalance to adjust this and many of these are calibrated with weight indications, but they’re seldom accurate. Or accurate enough for a purist anyway.

A digital stylus scale makes the job quick, accurate and easy. If you have loved ones seriously into vinyl a digital stylus scale may be just the thing this Christmas. Think $100 to $150. But it’s not the first thing I’d get them.

36 Accessories Spin CleanA good record cleaner is utterly essential for anyone who buys second-hand vinyl at garage sales and until lately they cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, but now there’s an American one called Spin Clean that works nicely and costs $135, with cleaning fluid at $28 for 225 grams – probably good for cleaning 100 records. Spin Cleans are immensely popular and the importer tells me they’re on permanent back order.

While you’re at it get some lint-free drying cloths – around $35 for a pack of five – and a washer brush for daily cleaning (dust is the enemy) at around $50. I really like the idea of Pro-Ject’s carbon-fibre record brush that also acts to reduce the build-up of static charge on the surface of the record, making it a magnet for dust.

It’s made up of thousands of fine, soft bristles that track right into the groove. Decca once made these and I still have one that I use all the time. It cost a great deal more than the $20 Pro-Ject is asking.

When you have a turntable there are lots of things like these that you can muck about with. Obviously you’ll want a stroboscope to check that the platter is turning at exactly 33-1/3 or 45 revolutions per minute. Or even 78.

Some platter mats have strobes built in. They are little vertical ridges around the perimeter of the mat and when the turntable is travelling at exactly the right speed they appear to be stationary. There is usually one for 33-1/3, another for 45 and sometimes a third for 78.

If your mat doesn’t have a strobe you can buy a professionally calibrated one from a hi fi shop (slide it onto the centre spindle) for around $40 or you can take a chance and download one from the internet, print, cut out and there you are.

36 Accessories Pro-Ject anti-static brushPro-Ject has re-written the vinyl market with a wide range of high-value turntables and it offers a similarly generous range of accessories. I really like its $19 stylus brush, a tiny brush on a long handle that is used to clear detritus build-up on the stylus during playing. No matter how careful you about cleaning you need one of these; there’s always grunge on the stylus after playing a few sides. Hair is the big offender.

My turntable lifts the arm off the record when it reaches the end. I had to get one that does this because I keep nodding off when gorgeous music is playing and I’d wake up to the click-click, click-click of the stylus at the record’s end. People who suffer this affliction will appreciate a Q-UP, a little device that you can mount on any turntable that lifts the arm when it reaches the end of the music. It’s $89, which isn’t cheap but it’s a lot cheaper than buying a turntable with auto lift.

If I’ve given you any ideas for Chrissy gifts bear in mind that you won’t find any of this stuff in the big electrical outlets, it is sold only by specialist hi fi retailers. They’ll have plenty of gift ideas for hi fi tragics without turntables too.

Published December 2014

 

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