The first thing that came to mind about playing a record wet is that water has
viscosity which should affect how the stylus interacts with the groove. So, I set
out to see what the difference may be.
Only certain types of records can be played wet. Basically, any record that is
made of solid material throughout is OK although, some will say that only vinyl
records should be considered for wet playback. Those records that have a fiber
core are out. Any record that is laminated with a fiber core should not be played
wet or cleaned with a solution of any kind. Lacquer coated discs (Lacquers) can
be played wet if they are in playable condition and have a metal or glass center.
After a through cleaning, I use plain distilled water with nothing added, the type
that is sold at your local supermarket. You can also use the rinse solution that
you use for rinsing records.
When playing a record wet, I like to smooth the water out with a fine bristle brush
so that the water is spread evenly over the entire groove area.
I do this by running the turntable while the tonearm is securely fastened to it’s
rest. Obviously, I use a manual turntable because it cannot be done with an
automatic turntable. With an automatic turntable, you will have to hold the platter
steady with your fingers or such while you apply the water and smooth it with the
other hand. Avoid getting any water on the label. If you do, wipe the label
immediately with a dry towel. Some cartridges have dust brushes attached.
I haven’t tried playing a record wet with that type of cartridge/stylus combination.
Some cartridges sit parallel to the record and tend to trap the water beneath
them while playing. I haven’t found it to be detrimental when that happens.
Those same cartridges have even got the lower connections wet and it was not a
problem (yet). However, I did clean and dry those connections when I was done.
How much water to use? About a drop every couple of inches (About 5 CM)
seems to be adequate. Do this for each band (song). I have noticed that the
center grooves tend to dry out on long playing media. When this happens, I will
carefully drip some more water on the surface while playing.
Brushing is out while playing a record.
I tested both Wide-groove and Micro-groove records. I used all three speeds, dry
and wet. I tested all formats with both conical and elliptical styli. That said, I only
used moving magnet cartridges because that’s what I had available. I used test
records for each format and then ran the test with music that I was familiar with.
I ran the tests using outboard test equipment, software, and my hearing.
I listened through headphones and a couple of pairs of speakers. The only thing
that the test equipment and software could come up with was a slight difference
in level; about a half of a dB which is generally imperceptible. Other than that, to
my surprise, the frequency response and the other test parameters were
effectively the same. The tests that I ran were for my own curiosity.
In the scientific community, the tests would be referred to as empirical.
When doing the listening tests (using headphones), I thought that maybe I heard
a small difference in the harmonic content when listening to music, but I wasn’t
sure. The difference that I thought I heard was with an elliptical stylus.
An elliptical stylus generally produces better high frequency response. However,
an elliptical stylus can be noisier on a record that is worn. With a conical stylus,
I could hear no difference. I have tested every type of record that I can think of
wet and dry and the one thing that stands out is the fact that any record,
regardless of the type, will play quieter. Scratches and surface noise are
noticeably quieter in all of the formats that I tried. So, grab a record with content
that you are familiar with and perform the test for yourself, using your ears.
If you have record that has a lot of surface noise or is full of pops and scratches,
try playing it wet.
Again; There are some that say only vinyl records should be played wet and
there are those that would never play any record wet. I found it to be no trouble
to play a 78 RPM record wet, using distilled water as long as the record was solid
throughout. The same goes for lacquers although they are typically laminated.
© Corey Bailey
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PLAYING RECORDS WET