Do you love listening to records? This simple sound-enhancing device is a must-have

The DT-50 case does a great job of protecting the internal gel pad.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I am an audiophile. I listen to vinyl records every day that I am in my office. In fact, as I write, I’m listening to Orbital’s new release, Optical Delusion, on my Rega P8 turntable.

One thing that is pretty much universal to all audiophiles is that we are always chasing the perfect sound. That chase is endless, as it will never be achieved. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent adjusting cartridges in tone arms and adjusting various aspects of my system.

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But there’s one area in particular that doesn’t require as much attention… keeping your stylus clean. For those not so familiar with “vinyl language”, the stylus is the “needle” and it gets dirty. A stylus will pick up dust, hair, cat fur, and just about anything else. If you can land on a log, you can be picked up by the stylus.

Over time, that can cause a degradation in the fidelity of your turntable. Worse yet, it can cause undo wear and tear on your albums. You do not want that. Just google “dirty stylus” and take a look at the pictures you’ll see. Some of them are so bad (and magnified) that you might think you’re looking at an alien appendage.

As more and more debris accumulates on your stylus, it’s less able to capture music as it’s meant to be heard. Not only will you miss the highs and lows, but you could also become prone to skipping. Therefore, he needs to regularly clean his “needle”.

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During my youth, I assumed that it was enough to blow on the need to remove dust and other debris. Unfortunately, that had two particular results (which I was unaware of):

  • It didn’t really clean the stylus.
  • It could actually cause more debris to collect on the “needle” (including saliva).

Although it may be tempting to blow up your stylus with some hot air from your lungs, that’s not what you want. Instead, you should consider one of the many cleaning gel stylus devices available.

I have tried several of these devices and none of them can surpass the DS Audio ST-50 Drop-In Micro-Dust/Cleaning-Gel Stylus Cleaner. It’s a bit more expensive than some of the other options (like the onzow dust zero).

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With this device, all I do is carefully lower the stylus onto the gel pad, wait three seconds, and pick it up. I do this three times before playing each record, and it keeps my stylus almost flawless. As long as I remember to do this before each log, I know my stylus doesn’t collect all the junk found in the log (which I also clean before each use).

The DT-50 needle cleaner in action.

Cleaning my Rega Apheta 3 stylus with the DT-50.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The DS Audio DT-50 costs around $79.99 on Amazon and worth every penny. I’ve been using mine for about five years now and it works just as efficiently as it did the first day I got it.

The trick is to keep the cleaner clean. To do that, simply hold it under cold running water and wipe the gel pad with your finger. Once it’s clean, let it air dry before using it.

The DT-50 gel pad is a micropowder gel made from a urethane resin that is designed for laboratory cleanroom applications. The gel is quite sticky and you should avoid pressing it with your fingers to prevent oil and fingerprints from sticking to the surface. If that happens, just wipe it off and let it air dry again for about 30 minutes.

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The DT-50 also includes a handy case (made of nickel-treated aluminum) with a leather bottom to prevent slipping while you clean your stylus.

I can’t say enough good things about this simple gadget. I’ve tried just about every type of stylus cleaner (from brushes to magic erasers) and nothing comes close to this device. If you’re just getting into vinyl or have been playing records for a while, do yourself a favor and pick up one of these handy tools to keep your stylus clean and albums sounding beautiful.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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