Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Tonar Wetgoat Vinyl Hygiene

It's hard to get too excited about a record cleaning brush, but if you're in the market for a brush to wet-clean your records, this could be of interest to you. Those of you who have read my review of the Moth Mk II Pro record cleaning machine will know that I have been using a Parastat record cleaning brush with my RCM. Whilst this has been very effective, I always wondered what reasonably priced modern brushes were readily available, and how they might compare.

There are dozens of brushes on the market, all with their own loyal supporters. Most of these I have rejected either because they are prohibitively expensive or because they wouldn't suit my cleaning regime on a practical level. I need a brush that is not only the same width as an LP, but that has similar dimensions to the slot on my RCM's vacuum suction pipe. I vacuum my brush clean and free of dirt and excess moisture after cleaning every side of vinyl, to avoid any cross-contamination; if the brush's bristles won't fit in the vacuum slot, then they're not going to get very clean. The Parastat satisfied this requirement, and so does my new Tonar Wetgoat cleaning brush. It's amazing how many supposedly purpose-made brushes don't.

The Tonar brush looks as attractive as could be reasonably expected of a mundane tool. At least the manufacturers have made an effort with the business-like colour and logo. Ergonomically, the Tonar brush is well designed: its generously-sized handle is comfortable to hold and helps to ensure that it doesn't slip from your grip during use. It could have been improved further by rounding off the sharp edges and corners of the brush's plastic body, but with careful use this shouldn't pose any problems.

The handle of this brush isn't as wide as the Parastat's which means that it can't be stood up when not in use. I always found it useful to be able to stand the Parastat on its spine when I needed my hands free to flip a record over. This prevented contamination of the bristles. The Tonar addresses this problem, after a fashion, by having a stepped body that, when lain logo-side down, lifts the bristles off whatever flat surface the brush is resting on. Whether this is an intentional function of design or a happy accident, I couldn't say.

Of course, the big selling point of the Tonar is that it has goat hair bristles. Being a natural fibre helps to prevent the kind of static build-up often associated with man-made fibres. The bristles are surprisingly soft - they must have come from one easy-living, well-groomed goat! - but seem to find a happy middle ground between being kind to your records and tough on ingrained crud. Because they are shorter than the bristles in the Parastat, this lends them the necessary rigidity and the structural integrity and strength to reach deep into the record grooves. In my experience, the Tonar has occasionally shed a hair, particularly when first used, but these are fine enough to be vacuumed away.

As far as doing what it is designed to do, that is, clean records, I can't see much difference between the results achieved by the Tonar and the Parastat: they both do an effective job. I would guess that the bristles of the Tonar are finer, so perhaps get a little deeper into the grooves, but I'm not hearing any night and day difference between the quality of playback after cleaning with the Tonar as opposed to the Parastat. The biggest difference is one of practicality: with heavy use, the Parastat's wooden body would begin to absorb some of the cleaning fluid from the wet bristles and was prone to swelling. On occasions this necessitated a repair when the handle came apart at its glued seams. There is no such problem with the plastic bodied Tonar brush.

The Parastat has served me well for years. The Tonar seems to be its equal, but only time will tell whether it continues to function at the same high level. One concern is that, being a natural fibre, the goat hair bristles might, over time (because natural fibres are more absorbent than man-made ones), become harder to keep clean. But at £13.99 from various vendors on eBay, giving the Tonar a try isn't going to break the bank.

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