SFC SK-III Rhodium anti-static brush
Back in my Hi-Fi Choice days we enjoyed putting April Fools news stories in the magazine once a year (hard to imagine today) and one was along rather similar lines to those embodied by the SK-III Rhodium anti-static brush, there was definitely a mention of goat’s hair but it may have been a stylus brush! Some 30 years later life is imitating art and it turns out that goat’s hair is one of the best things to build an anti-static brush with, but there’s more to this reassuringly expensive vinyl cleaner than that.
Japanese company SFC has been making the SK-III brush for more than 20 years and considers static reduction to have a significant impact on sound quality, notably in terms of noise floor. Removing static is said to lower the noise floor in vinyl replay. They use rhodium plating on the handle because it is excellent at conducting static from the vinyl to the person doing the cleaning, we act to ground the static in this situation. You may have experienced a static jolt when getting out of a car in hot weather I know I have, the human body is clearly pretty good at conducting small electric charges in this way (and big ones of course, but don’t try that).
The SK-III is empowered with what SFC call Thunderlon technology which was developed to combat static more effectively than alternative fibres without making even the finest of marks on the vinyl. Apparently this brush is used in forensic work to reveal fingerprints, this is probably not an area where the average record enthusiast will find it handy but you never know. The brush element is constructed using “the thinnest and softest black goats beard” with Thunderlon bound around each fibre, the tip of the natural hair sticks out far enough (about 10mm) to extract dust from the bottom of the vinyl groove. This combination is said to both clean and remove static more effectively than the alternatives.
Static is a nuisance rather than a barrier to musical enjoyment, and brushing a properly dirty record is never going to be as effective as cleaning it on a proprietary machine. But in the case of new records that crackle you hear is more likely to be caused by static than other issues. Some turntables seem more prone to it than others and the chances of you the vinyl spinner making the situation worse depends on the nature of the flooring in the room among other things.
I have never had much trouble with static so am not the best person to write about the SK-III Rhodium but have found that the make up and the shape of this brush means that it’s easier to use than the conventional rectangular shaped variety. I was sceptical about whether this could actually improve sound quality however so it came as a surprise when records that looked pretty clean actually delivered more detail once they had been given a sweep with this brush. In one instance the lyric in a Joni Mitchell song was made clear and in another the high energy vibes (literally) of the Gary Burton New Quartet became that much more relaxed and clear, essentially the noise floor had been reduced.
Using the SFC on a brand new copy of Ry Cooder’s debut album (Speakers Corner reissue) there was a greater sense of three dimensionality with more space around the notes and greater solidity of image. This was a definite improvement that increased the perceived recording quality of this album. On a well played copy of Music for the Texts of Ishmael Reed by Conjure the result was similar but less pronounced, quite likely because the newer pressing had more potential to harbour static.
SK-III Rhodium conclusion
This is a lot of money for a record brush but it works remarkably well even on pristine records, I will no longer assume new records are as good as they are going to get but will give each a sweep before dropping the need gently into the groove. It is also well designed from an ergonomic point of view which is an important consideration if you are going to want to use it. A bonus for the photographers among you is that its super soft goats hair tips are perfect for cleaning lenses and, for that matter, audio components that you want to photograph, but that might just be me.
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