Hart Vinyl SS Record Super Cleaner LP Brush
19th October 2023
Vacuum cleaners? Ultrasonic? Pah! Paul Rigby goes old skool and cleans his vinyl with a brush
Record cleaning brushes are staple, low cost, value for money accessories. When I began to get serious about HiFi, when I was around 14 years of age, I recall owning a few variants.
Even David Hart, ex-lawyer, founder of Hart Audio 20 years go and creator of the Hart Vinyl SS Record Super Cleaner LP Brush, remembers his early days as a user of vinyl brushes. For some time now, though, I have seen the vinyl brush as being somewhat of an anachronism – well, to some extent. In this age of vacuum and ultrasonic cleaning machines at any rate. Question then. Why has David Hart created this new design?
“I realised that the cleaning brushes were not up to modern standards as the carbon fibres are too big to get in the groove and velvet always bends and pushes debris back into the groove and wet cleaning is either ineffective or expensive and time consuming.”
This is why Hart ran with a brush design with super thin brush fibres. Stiff enough to enter the groove and to remove excess rubbish but soft enough not to cause damage if used vigorously.
Another reason Hart created this brush was to lower the general noise floor because, of course, your turntable’s stylus will play anything it sees. It’s not an intelligent device. Whatever you put underneath a stylus tip? That stylus tip will attempt to play. And it ain’t always melodic. I’ve said it before but it you put a cheese and tomato pizza on your turntable platter, the stylus tip would attempt to play it. It wouldn’t do a great job of course – you need to add anchovies if you want an audiophile pizza, as we all know – but it would have a go.
So, if you fill your groove with rubbish, then the stylus tip will play the rubbish. Hence, the pops and clicks and that annoying Rice Krispies sound.
It’s up to you to take out the trash as it where. It’s up to you to remove as much rubbish from the groove so the stylus plays the groove and only the groove and not decaying pieces of your skin, cat hairs, bits of carpet, soil from the garden and excess frosting from your recently devoured fairy cake.
BUILD & DESIGN
So what do we have here then? The top part of the brush features a wooden handle plus four perspex extenders. The overall width of the final design should hopefully be sufficient – but we’ll see. In aesthetic terms? I’m not impressed. I would have preferred to see the central wooden piece range right across the length of the brush as a single piece. I’m not a fan of the additional perspex-like pieces. They give the bush a rough-and-ready, overly DIY, feel.
But that’s only the handle of course. It’s the business end that really matters, those lower fibres that hopefully will do all the work.
Reportedly, those brush pile fibres are 40 times thinner than a human hair and but stiff enough, says Hart, to get deep into the groove. The idea is that they, “bustle against each other, competing for space to remove particles and bring them to the top of the groove.”
Why the dual colour? Apparently the white strip reminds the you to clean it with distilled water on a damp cloth when the white strip discolours.
Actually, though? I’m not sure why all of the bristles couldn’t be black to better show the dirt, in that case. Only some of the dirt will show on the white part and I failed to see any dirt on the brown section. What happens if the brown part is the first part of the brush to become dirty? I would suggest that visual indicators are less obvious with these colours.
To protect the bristles, there is a sort of dead-flesh, flexible plastic cover.
You can use this guard to fluff up the brush and remove excess particles.
Even so, for the price, I would have liked to have seen a thick, hard plastic cover into which the brush could be quickly stored.
This cover bends and deforms too easily for my liking while failing to protect the end areas of the brush and I’m sure I could find my own method of fluffing.
So much for the design and the aesthetics. How does this brush perform? My problem is, my records are far too clean. So I went outside. With a larger brush. And a sealable bag. I searched for dust. Not any old dust, mind you. Audiophile dust. Dust of the finest quality. Dust that provided the crispest of crackles and the sort of pops that only bursting a balloon could challenge. High-end dust, of the sort you can only buy in Knightsbridge in London.
I picked a piece of victim vinyl from my shelves and ground this stuff into the valiant yet unyielding grooves like a bully pushing a youth’s head down a nearby school toilet.
Then I played this offending article on my turntable and fretted for the next few hours that my poor stylus was wearing away at a rate of knots as it played out particles. But hey. I am here to serve you, the noble viewer. Apparently. So it says in the small print, here.
What I learned is that Trad felt pads (and I used an expensive model from Mobile Fidelity) are fine, have their uses sure but are less efficient in terms of scouring grooves for dust.
Running the pad over the same vinyl real estate, the pad tended to shift surface grime but left the lower set dust. I found that the Hart brush was much more effective in shifting that particular layer of matter.
HOW ABOUT NYLON?
I then tried a nylon brush of the type you get when you buy a Loricraft RCM. That was also superior to the felt brush but the Hart Brush seem to reach into the grooves further than the nylon brush too. Angling the vinyl disc towards the glare of the sun for a better view, I could see flecks of dust remaining after the nylon brush had passed over a section of vinyl and it was these flecks that the Hart brush managed to clean.
A carbon fibre brush was excellent and it did a great job but the Hart did appear to dig a little deeper in its search for dust.
The carbon brush did remove plenty of dust but the Hart seemed to shift more of it.
The only real challenger I could find for the Hart brush in performance terms was the Kabuki fine fibre brush that I use to apply surfactant to records when I clean my vinyl via the Disco Antistat, RCM or ultrasonic cleaners. Kabuki brushes feature some of the finest but also densely packed bristles on the market. My Kabuki did as good a job as the Hart. It performed equally well. The only issue was that the Kabuki was compact and circular in shape. The Hart brush was longer and could thus cover more ground during a single pass.
It’s always the same when cleaning vinyl. What seems simple on the surface becomes more complicated the greater the period of testing. That’s what happened during my tests of the Hart Brush.
What I found was that most people see brushes like this. They give their vinyl records a quick swish and then they play.
Well, let me tell you. That’s not how you will get the best from a good quality vinyl cleaning brush. At least one like the Hart Brush. Well, you can, it’s entirely up to you actually. If you are a Quick Swish Man then you go for it and I hope your swishes are deeply fulfilling.
On the other hand, if you want to get the best from the Hart Brush then you will find that repeated brushing will dig out more and more dirt. Having thoroughly grubbified my test vinyl, focusing on one small sector of the disc, it took me around 40 or so brush strokes to properly clear the area of dust. But, as I say, my test disc was notably grubby. For a more real-world, lightly dusty disc? Maybe 20 brush cleans will be in order? More than one, therefore.
But look that’s up to you and your budget. If it was up to me, I’d use the Hart brush to remove visible dust and a dedicated cleaner if I needed to go further than that. That said, if you really don’t want the hassle of a dedicated cleaner and you like the idea of this brush: it’s compact, your don’t have to plug it into the wall, there’s no spoilable liquids involved, there’s no vinyl drying time, there’s no extra consumable costs, then at least you know you can go a lot further in cleaning terms, with this brush, if the notion grabs you.
As for the brush? As it stands? It’s too expensive for what you get. I initially reviewed the brush at £50 plus postage and now the price has risen to £69 plus postage.
I want this brush to look and feel like a £69 plus postage item and I don’t feel like it does. It feels like a proof of concept, a tech demo, a prototype. I want more finesse and design considerations for the price point. I either want to see the build and aesthetics improve in quality via a possible Mk.II brush or I want to see the price move downwards. And fast.
Even so, the basics of this Hart Brush are right. It not only works well it works better than just about any other dedicated vinyl cleaning brush out there, right now, on the market. Apart from my trusted Kabuki brush, no brush cleaner can clean your grooves like a Hart but the Hart is better suited to the job.
Bottom line? If you can’t get over the price (and I can understand if you cannot), design niggles and aesthetics, if they present a major problem to you, then wait for a possible update or price reduction. Although there’s no guarantee either will actually happen. In which case? Grab a Kabuki.
On the other hand, if just want to get on with cleaning your vinyl and you love the notion of a vinyl cleaning brush? Take the Hart to your heart get cleaning.
HART VINYL SS RECORD SUPER CLEANER LP BRUSH
Price: £68.99 + £4.99 UK tracked postage
USA – https://ebay.us/V6Ag9U
EUROPE – https://ebay.us/i8YHWL
GOOD: cleaning performance, easy to use, portability, deep clean option
BAD: build, brush colours, protective cover, price