A hessian guide to the proper care and maintenance of your records and sound equipment, part II – analog

In Part 1 of this guide we gave a brief list of tips for the care of the digital formats of audio reproduction, this being the prefered medium for hessians, but not by far, because members of the metal culture have a natural preference for analog formats, such as tape and vinyl. Other musical subcultures share this inclination with headbangers, whether out of audio resolution considerations (electronica fans seem to be of this camp) or simply out of an undescribable mystic feel that the listener captures out of enjoying or simply owning an album on analog format. I’ve seen that most hessians prefer this for the last consideration, that is, the special aura it invokes.

Not that there aren’t any practical considerations for prefering analog over digital formats. Tapes, for example, are sturdier than CDs, which give them an advantage on physical resistance. Besides, tapes permit multiple recordings as long as its sound quality lasts (which depends on the type of cassette…more about that later).

As you all most know, the main disadvantage of analog formats is their wearyness. Since sound reproduction in their case involves the use of either a head or needle which is mechanically attached to the source of the recording, the latter slowly experiences a wearing of the surface layer where the audio is recorded, resulting all of this in a progressive loss of sound quality.

Yet, as with CDs, there are certain tips that can help increase the lifespan of your tapes and CDs in order for them to provide the maximal amount of listening time and enjoyment.

Tapes.

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Tapes were (and still are, for some) tremendously practical for the active listener, in great part due to its portability and endurance. Besides, who didn’t start out on its metal journey without a Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden cassette on one’s walkman? Few, I guess.

– First of all, keep your tapes from extreme temperature and humidity conditions. The recommended range is within 59 and 77° F and 40% to 60% relative humidity (that is, not wet, but not too dry either).

– Keep your tapes away from any sort of magnetic field. Those include not only magnets, but also home appliances such as refrigerators, speakers and anything containing an electric motor.

– Keep your tapes evenly wound, otherwise they get easily stuck on their casing and it may bring problems to sound reproduction, screwing with the tape itself and your deck as well! If your tape has a see-through casing, you should easily see uneven woundings in the rolled tape. If not, then try to roll the tape by hand to check if it presents difficulties or if it gets stuck. Solve the problem by fully rewinding your tape several times until it gets looser. If the tape is stuck in the casing, it would be better to do the process by hand, carefully so that you don’t break it. Also, be sure to rewind tapes completely after each use to maintain high performance.

– Don’t leave your tapes in the car or other places where they may get direct sunlight or excessive heat. Remember the first tip.

– It’s recommendable that you make quality copies of an original so that the latter lasts as long as it possibly can.

Vinyl.

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The LP and EP formats are a favorite for hessians and the one that carries most “mystique”. A lot of it has to do, in great part, with nostalgy: after all, in the classic era of metal the LP was THE format for albums that got released at the time, and most cover art was done specifically to fir into the large sleeves of LPs: if you want examples, you should look into Iron Maiden’s, Morbid Angel, Carnage, Dio and many, many others…the list goes on and on.

However, this particular medium requieres a lot more care to it, as vinyl is a very delicate material and the discs have some significant weaknesses that, with the arrival of the compact disc, were no longer an issue for listeners.

– First things first: clean your records throughly. That is by far the most important detail you should think about. Not only the disc’s lifespan depends on it, but also its sound quality. Playing dirty records can eventually cause permanent damage to the disc, not to mention that the stylus on your record player wears more rapidly. Distilled water is recommended by many sources to be ideal for cleansing of the plastic in the record, it being a non-abrasive liquid, doesn’t leave any residues and the bottle is inexpensive. Besides, it disperses static charges and counteracts the increased conductivity from the pick-up of salt deposits form finger prints. Nonetheless, water isn’t enough. Surfactants are used as additives to enable water to be a grease solvent. Clean with a soft, anti-static cloth. Discs should be cleaned before and after each performance for the best results.

– Handle your vinyl records as follows: keep finger contact with the edge and the labeled surface of the disc, never with the grooved surface. Remove the record from the jacket with the inner dust sleeve by bowing the jacket open by holding it against the body and applying a slight pressure with a hand. Hold a corner of the inner dust sleeve and pull the record out. Avoid pressing down onto the disc with the fingers as any dust caught between the sleeve and the disc will be pressed into the grooves. Remove the disc from the inner sleeve by bowing the sleeve and letting it slip gradually into an open hand so that the edge falls on the inside of the thumb knuckle. The middle finger should reach for the center label. Never reach into the sleeve.

– Use inner sleeves made of polyethylene. Do not use record sleeves made of PVC. Paper made sleeves may scratch the surface of records.

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