Gear

Humminguru S-Duo and Vinylshield accessories

Humminguru S-Duo and Vinylshield accessories

S-Duo stylus pressure gauge and cleaner

There is a certain amount of controversy about stylus cleaning – what are the best methods to keep the tip clean, or clean it if it gets crud on it – and how to look after our precious vinyl resource. Enter the Humminguru S-Duo.

The Ear’s readers will hopefully remember my review of Humminguru’s HG01 ultrasonic record cleaner a couple of months ago. The same people also produce the S-Duo, a handy battery-powered device which performs two necessary functions. Shaped like an oversized computer mouse, the S-Duo has a battery compartment is centrally placed under a cover on the underside. The on/off button is on the top surface along with a digital readout display showing the stylus pressure when carrying out a stylus pressure ‘test’, and showing time (in seconds) when operating as a stylus cleaner. The instruction book is simply laid out and very comprehensive.

Firstly the S-Duo is a very accurate stylus pressure gauge. Supplied with a nicely machined  5g calibration weight, one simply puts the calibration weight on the dot on the tab, and checks the calibration. Having set this correctly the stylus pressure (down to 0.001 grams accuracy) can be easily read by lowering the stylus down onto the same dot.

Even without calibrating it first, it’s consistent enough that once you’ve set your ‘sweet spot’ by ear and noted the tracking weight, this can be checked and repeated a number of times. Taking repeated downforce measurements over the period of a couple of months there’s zero drift in the S-Duo’s settings, so even if you lose the calibration weight it’s still a useful tool as changes in playing weight can be quantified.

Humminguru S-Duo and Vinylshield accessories

The other end of the S-Duo has a similar ‘pad’ which acts as an ultrasonic stylus cleaner. The instructions are very specific about placing a support ring on the pad (such that it supports the cartridge but doesn’t touch the cantilever). You put a couple of drops of water into the cleaning pad area then lower the cartridge onto the support ring such that the stylus sits in the water (just). Once the stylus is lowered onto the pad, switching the S-Duo on vibrates the water on the pad at some 110khz, effectively (in both senses) vibrating the water which then cleans the stylus.

One cleaning cycle lasts 20 seconds, and the LCD display counts down as the process runs through. In essence it’s very similar to Humminguru’s record cleaner (using water vibration to clean the vinyl rather than actually vibrating a stylus) and incorporating an automatic timer. The crud and grunge attached to the stylus then gets cleaned off. In use over several cleanings of the stylus after playing dirty records deliberately culled from the cheapo boxes at local charity shops, its cleaning abilities seem to be highly effective. I don’t have an uber-strong stylus microscope but its effectiveness is certainly very obvious visually. In terms of playing, I’m more than happy to play ‘good’ records after a cleaning sequence without any fear of subsequent damage to either the stylus or the grooves.

I’m aware that there are those who may be a little uncertain about the wisdom of exciting a stylus assembly and suspension at such a high frequency but (subjectively, obviously) I detected no ill effects at all, and only benefits, but would also point out that it’s not the stylus which is vibrated, but the water which ‘bombards’ the stylus. So as far as I can see, it has the added benefit of not exciting the stylus assembly in such a way to cause any damage at all.

This really is a super product and as a very comprehensive ‘all in one’ product it’s been very well thought out and works so very well!

Humminguru S-Duo and Vinylshield accessories

Inner record sleeves

As mentioned above, Humminguru also produce rather well-made inner record sleeves which, after several months use, I can say are really effective. There seemed to be a reduction in that horrible static feeling when inserting a record into the sleeve, or getting one out. Also the static feel you get sometimes when putting a record on the platter was absent. They’re semi-transparent, so you can still read which side of the record is which, and they also slip into a standard cardboard outer very easily.

In addition, even in a less-than-dry environment they don’t seem to stick to the record. None of those ‘stored in damp conditions’ marks have appeared on any of the records (the charity shop ones) even when left in a cold utility room and then brought into my warmer music room for playing. They are certainly up there with the best available, and will become my go-to for replacement sleeves when I need inners again. Highly Recommended.

Humminguru S-Duo and Vinylshield accessories

Outer record sleeves

Humminguru also make really high quality well-finished acid-free heavy-duty polypropylene outer record sleeves which will be great protection for those records where the original sleeves need protecting for whatever reason (damage, rarity value etc). They are totally clear, so reading the information on the original sleeve is easyl. They are relatively thin, so won’t significantly upset your ‘number of records per shelf’ if space is tight I have several records which suffered water damage while in storage and these new outers provide a really robust and finely-finished protection element for them.

I did try to destroy one by tearing it but failed, so they do have a real strength to them and should provide good protection for records that get a lot of handling. Packed in 50s they are a very welcome addition to any collection if you need that extra level of safety for record covers.

HG Album Jacket

Outer Album Jacket

Finally we have Humminguru cardboard outer record sleeves which carefully-thought-out sections where details of the record can be noted, including the number of times the record has been played etc. Made from robust 400gsm cardboard they, too, are designed to be unharmful to the vinyl record itself and as I have had a number of records whose sleeves were destroyed as a result of water damage in storage, are a very welcome resource.

They fit exactly into a standard 12-inch record space, and as you might expect Humminguru’s internal and outer sleeves fit them perfectly. Perhaps these won’t be a purchase on a regular basis, but on the odd occasion where a replacement outer is required, you’d be very hard pressed to beat these. Packed in 25s, they should keep a lot of your sleeveles vinyl LPs safe from further mishap.

Humminguru’s products are readily available through their website (they ship internationally) and can also be found on Amazon’s official web store. Overall this is a highly recommended set of accessories which will complement any good home vinyl-replay audio system.

S-Duo £90
12″ Anti-Static Inner Record Sleeves (50 pack) £9
12″ Protective Outer Record Sleeves (50 pack) £11
12″ Album Jacket (25 pack) £28

HumminGuru
humminguru.com

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