I started collecting records as a teenager, and as the years roll by my vinyl collection means more and more to me. I play these LPs all the time, and since I've upgraded my turntables over the years the music sounds better than ever. Even so, there's always room for improvement. So when I heard about Perfect Vinyl Forever's record cleaning service I had to give it a try.
Perfect Vinyl Forever clean your records at their facility in southeastern Wisconsin with a drop-off service for local and Greater Chicago residents, or there is a mail-in address for everyone else.
The company offers two levels of cleaning, for LPs in good condition their Ultra Deep process is recommended. The ultrasonic cleaning and rinsing removes pressing residue and other contaminants (dust, cigarette smoke, air pollution, etc.) from the grooves of your records.
The more intensive Archival process pulls more deeply embedded crud from the grooves. Records are cleaned with a special enzymatic soak and vacuum extraction. The LPs also receive ultrasonic cleaning and rinses with laboratory grade pure water.
Cleaned records are returned to the owner in archival inner sleeves.
Listening to the sound of perfectly clean records
Surface noise, clicks, and pops on decades old cleaned LPs are a little quieter, and there's improvements in the sound's dimensionality, body and richness of tone. It's akin to the sorts of improvements you get when you upgrade to a better phono cartridge or phono preamplifier. Really clean LPs sound better.
For this review Perfect Vinyl Forever sent six new albums, two copies each of three albums: Max Richter's Songs From Before, Bill Evans and Jim Hall's Undercurrents and and Steelers Wheel. There was one sealed copy, and one opened copy of each LP -- but the open copy was thoroughly cleaned by Perfect Vinyl Forever, the sealed copy was not. As I went back and forth between the fresh out of the sleeve and cleaned copies I noted the cleaned ones were slightly more transparent and had less surface noise. Can't say the differences were huge, but they're there. So even mint LPs sound can be improved by cleaning.
I sent Perfect Vinyl Forever eight of my oldest, most cherished LPs, and the cleaned LPs demonstrated the cleaning process abilities to improve the sound of my oldest albums.
New life for old records
Miles Davis' On the Corner is my favorite of his 1970s recordings, but that sound was always rather thin and coarse, the cleaning took some of the edge off,and added some richness to the sound of the band's intoxicating percussion grooves. I've heard this music hundreds of times – on this album, streamed online and CD -- but it never sounded better than it does now. 'Corner still wasn't perfect, the treble was still too aggressive for my taste, but in every other way the cleaning made a difference.
My copy of Edgar Varese's Ionization LP is more than 50 years old, but the record is in very good condition. This is very dynamic music, with lots of very subtle passages and they were remarkably quiet. The cleaning brought out more detail and shading in this very intense music that was composed in 1931, but still sounds avant-garde today. I feel like I can now hear deeper into the ambience of the recording venue.
Of course you can buy a record cleaning machine for hundreds or thousands of dollars, and get some of the benefits of Perfect Vinyl Forever's multi-step processes, but it seems unlikely any do-it-yourself cleaning will be as thorough. Of course cleaning isn't going to do a thing for scratched records, they stay scratched forever!
To get started Perfect Vinyl Forever ships you a mailer box that holds either 16 or 32 LPs. Perfect Vinyl Forever also includes a pre-paid return mailing label. After they clean the records they return them in fresh inner sleeves and send them back to you.
Direct from Perfect Vinyl Forever prices start at $80 plus shipping for cleaning 16 LPs. So it's hardly cheap, but might be worth checking out if you have already invested in rare or expensive LPs that you want to hear at their best. If it's more convenient, Perfect Vinyl Forever's services are available through Amazon.
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