Do you like to listen to records? This simple, sound-enhancing gadget is a must-have

The DT-50 case does an excellent job of protecting the gel pad inside.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

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

One thing that is virtually universal for all audiophiles is that we are always on the lookout for the perfect sound. This hunt is endless, because it will never be reached. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent adjusting the cartridges on the tonearms and tweaking various aspects of my system.

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

Over time, this can cause the fidelity of your turntable to degrade. Worse still, it can wear out your albums. You don’t want that. Just Google “dirty stylus” and take a look at the pictures you will see. Some of them are so bad (and amplified) you might think you’re looking at an alien appendage.

As more and more debris accumulates on your stylus, it’s less able to pick up music as it was meant to be heard. Not only will you miss highs and lows, but it could also become prone to skipping. For this reason, you should regularly clean your “needle”.

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When I was young, I assumed that it was enough to blow on the need to clear it of dust and other debris. Unfortunately, this had two particular results (which I was unaware of):

  • It didn’t really clean up the stylus.
  • This could actually lead to more debris collecting on the “needle” (including saliva).

While it might be tempting to blow your stylus with hot air in your lungs, that’s not what you want. Instead, you should consider one of the many cleansing gel pen gadgets available.

I have tried a number of these gadgets and none of them can top 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 ZeroDust).

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With this gadget, all I do is carefully lower the stylus onto the gel pad, wait three seconds, and lift. I do this three times before playing each record, and it keeps my stylus nearly spotless. As long as I remember to do this before each recording, I know that my stylus is not collecting all the junk found on the disc (which I also clean before each use).

The DT-50 stylus cleaner in action.

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

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

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

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

The DT-50 gel pad is a micro-dust gel made of a urethane resin that was designed for laboratory cleanroom applications. The gel is quite sticky and you want to avoid pressing your fingers on it to prevent oil and fingerprints from sticking to the surface. If this happens, simply clean it 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 it from slipping when cleaning your stylus.

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

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