Stylus and Contaminants
The stylus is a very small artefact, its tip typically measuring about 25 µ (microns) or one thousandth of an inch.
The groove opening itself measures 100 µ tapering down to its base, which is V shaped.
It is important to note that the stylus sits against the walls of the tapering groove and slightly above the groove’s bottom. Material at the base of the groove therefore passes underneath the stylus. Should a cleaning fluid lift this very fine material into suspension it is paramount that all of that slurry be removed else it will be deposited on the groove walls where it will degrade the sound.
Stylus Wear and What it Does to Records
A brand-new stylus will sit in the groove touching each wall at opposing microscopic points. The effective pressure at these two points is something like 8 tons per square inch (80MPa) so it is no wonder that the stylus wears. This is also the reason why abrasive dust must be eliminated from the groove else flat spots develop at each contact point. Should this wear be allowed to continue the leading edges of the flats will damage the groove walls.
The stylus tip is made of diamond and is polished to an extreme degree of smoothness to eliminate friction. Even though diamond is the hardest material on the planet, it still experiences wear, making its dust highly abrasive.
Weiler’s analysis of dust removed from stylus tips used on dirty records revealed:
- 12% jagged silica particles
- 35% osmium, sapphire or diamond dust
- 40% miscellaneous particles including soot, grit and particles worn from the record groove itself, and
- The remaining 13% consisting of flocculated fibres and lint
- In other words, over 60% of dust is harder than the vinyl record
Wow and Flutter Increased by Dust and Dirt
The term “Wow and Flutter” refers to changes in the speed of the media during playback which is a source of distortion. A constant turntable speed is imperative for high fidelity playback. Dust and dirt impeding the easy passage of the stylus through the groove represents a changing frictional load and increased wow and flutter.
The friction created between the stylus tip and the groove accelerates the generation of static electricity. Even the friction generated by slipping the record into its jacket may induce static electricity. The bond created by static with dust and dirt is incredibly strong and until it is broken these contaminants cannot be removed.
Record & Stylus Maintenance
Restoring your records with ESP will ensure longer life both for the tonal qualities of LPs as well as for the effective life of the stylus. Regular use of the VRC Stylus Tip Cleaner will help ensure the removal of microscopic dust particles.