I’ve been cleaning records for over 35 years and I have tried a lot of different treatments and cleaners. I will not list them, but the strangest was a bright red plastic vacuum with brushes on each side. You simply set the dry LP into it and vacuum both sides at once. The strange thing about this cleaner was that the red plastic case was exactly the same case as a 45-rpm record player I had as a child. I guess someone had lots of bright red plastic cases they needed something to do with.
Well, the Keith Monks and VPI record cleaners were a huge step forward. Today, there are several really good record cleaning machines; I use a Clearaudio Matrix. Nowadays’ cleaning formulae have also really advanced and become safer for our LPs as well as the environment. It seems that most of the newest cleaning products are using an enzyme to clean deep into the grooves in an attempt to remove mold-release agents and other dirty stuff. This is exactly how the Lloyd Walker’s Prelude Deluxe vinyl cleaning kit I reviewed back in 2007 works. The Audio Intelligent cleaning fluids at first glance seems to be the same, but there are some significant differences.
Audio Intelligent uses individual cleaners or a combinations of cleaners in the attempt of “removing a wide range of contaminants.” Audio Intelligent even has separate cleaners for vinyl and shellac records, a single application fluid as well as their three-fluid, three-step process that uses, first, an enzyme-based fluid, then one of two general cleaning fluids, and finally a water rinse. Very similar to the Walker system, but there are a couple of distinct advantages to the Audio Intelligent system. There are three points I would like to make before I get into the meat of the review. First, the Audio Intelligent fluids are very affordably priced, they are easy to use, and finally, they clean LPs as good or better than anything I have ever used.
Using the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions
The first step in using the Audio Intelligent system is to apply the Enzymatic Formula enzyme fluid which, unlike the Walker product, comes premixed, a plus if you ask me. The fluid is designed to be effective on water-insoluble and protein-based contaminates, such as mold-release compounds, fingerprints, fungi and bacteria. Some of the cleaning fluids I have used throughout the years were chemical detergents that tried to remove these same contaminates; but modern enzyme fluids replace the detergents and claim to be far better for your records.
You can apply this fluid in several ways. The one I preferred was to use the Walker application brush pads for about 30 seconds in one direction and then the Osage brush for about 30 seconds in the same direction. Then it’s time to change the rotation direction of the platter on the record cleaning machine and to use the Osage brush for another 30 seconds. Then comes the time to vacuum up the enzyme fluid. I found about 5 rotations took care of this very well.
Now it’s time to use either of the cleaning fluids. You can choose between the Super Cleaner Formula or the Premium Archivist Formula. There is only one difference between the two: isopropyl alcohol. Since some people believe that the chemicals harms the vinyl, Audio Intelligent offers their cleaning fluid both with and without it. Others feel that if you apply fluids with isopropyl alcohol sparingly, don’t leave them on the vinyl for very long, and thoroughly vacuuming the fluid off, it doesn’t hurt the vinyl at all. I’ve seen pretty sharp vinylphiles use isopropyl alcohol straight out of the bottle to clean LPs in years past. I wouldn’t recommend this, but I don’t know anything else that cleans as well and so far I haven’t had a problem, so I choose to use the fluid with the isopropyl alcohol . If you don’t want to put any alcohol on your LPs, you can choose to use the Premium Archivist Formula, but I think the Super Cleaner Formula gives the best results.
I used a different Osage brush to apply the cleaning fluid. I found it worked best to keep the brush in light contact with the LP for three rotations in each direction and then vacuum it up for about five rotations.
Finally, Audio Intelligent recommends finishing up with a single Ultra-Pure Water rinse instead of the two rinses that the Walker system uses. Both Walker and Audio Intelligent claim their water is much purer that distilled water. In the case of the Audio Intelligent water, they say it’s more than 50 times purer than distilled water. Again, I used a clean and different Osage brush for the rinse, and I used it about three rotations in both directions.
How Well Does it Work?
Used the way I have described, the Audio Intelligent fluids cleaned vinyl in a way that both sounded and looked as clean as I could imagine. Very dirty LPs from thrift stores were restored to the deep black luster of new LPs. I did several tests with the Audio Intelligent solutions. I always have a stack of thrift store purchases sitting around, so I was able to find three very dirty LPs that I had in identical pressings, of course they couldn’t be identically dirty. I then compared them to the LPs that had been cleaned with my current fluids of choice from Walker Audio.
Now I don’t know what you expect from record cleaning fluids, but all I expect is as clean and quiet an LP as possible. I’m not expecting it to transform the midrange or something. In the above comparisons and in using the product for two months, I felt the Audio Intelligent fluids cleaned most records better than any cleaning fluids I had ever used. I also thought it was a more convenient multi-step process than the Walker. Combine this with slightly better results on most LPs, and the Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions is my LP cleaner of choice for most, really dirty records. Having said that I will still keep some of the Walker enzyme and wash on hand, because there were a couple of records that did not seem to come clean with the Audio Intelligent, and then I used the Walker on them and they were better. The opposite was also true. I guess there are some contaminants that just respond better to one formula than the other. Still, overall the Audio Intelligent fluids are the best I have ever used.
A Few Other Things: Premium One-Step Formula No. 6
The strange name of this product comes from Audio Intelligent’s sixth try at developing a one-step process. It contains no isopropyl alcohol, and is based on their enzyme action for cleaning records, and requires no rinsing. Premium One-Step Formula No. 6 is also a safe and effective pre-soak for the worst records you’re trying to clean.
I tried this compared to several other single-step products. No. 6 works as well or better than any of them and is a bargain. I found it particularly effective if you would clean the LP with it twice, each time for at least a minute, then rinse it with the pure water. Used this way, it was almost as good as the three-step process, but then that is a three-step process; so what’s the point. (Proof that a true audiophile will never leave things quite alone. –Ed.)
For me I’ll use the full Audio Intelligent process with the isopropyl alcohol cleaning solution, but I will keep old No. 6 in the record cleaning machine for when I need to do a quick cleaning. Even then, I will apply it with one of Walker’s application pads followed by a couple of rotation with an Osage brush.
Osage Record Cleaning Brushes
I really like these simple little brushes. According to their web site, Audio Intelligent’s research has shown that hard scrubbing of the record is detrimental to the record cleaning process. They also feel that, for the most part, the brushes on the market were, in many cases, harboring microbial growth that could be transferred to a record during the cleaning process. This was because while some record cleaning brushes are great at sweeping up contaminants, it isn’t very easy to get those contaminants rinsed off. Thus, you end up transferring the contaminants from one record to another.
Their testing showed that the primary job of the record cleaning brush should be to thoroughly spread the record cleaning fluid over the record’s surface without difficulty, and to be resistant to microbial growth and easy to rinse clean. You can read more about these brushes on their web site. I found they worked best in combination with Walkers applicator brushes in the way mentioned above.
The process I’ve discussed is now the way I clean LPs and as a result I now have quieter and better looking LPs.
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