Of course in real life, fussing with the mat each and every time one means to clean the needle is a bit of a bother for would-be wussies. Hence tip #3 from your's truly, for normal critters, not analogue nutters. Raise the arm lift fully, then complete the last few mill by hand. Practice a dry run first to be sure that the needle ends up in the pad without binding up the cartridge housing. Should that not work, you can always remove the mat or readjust the lift - if you have height issues in the first place.

Sonics. Why should a record sound better after you cleaned your tip with Flux-Sonic in the first place? C'mon? Far from it. Consider that the average record groove is about 40µm wide. That's very little indeed. If you expect your needle to cleanly track the encoded signal, the tiniest dust particle in this microscopic world matters, be it stuck to the groove or your fancy diamond. As per Topalovic, the real problem isn't the dust visible to the eye. That's readily removed with any standard brush. The real issue are the ‘barnacles' which build up on the needle due to how pressure and heat during play compact picked-up dirt. That's the hardened gunk which the usual manual methods barely touch. I tried the Flux-Sonic on two pickups, my older Ortofon Rondo Bronze and a more current recently reviewed Transrotor Figaro. Here I can't really say that the older one—whose needle had far more opportunity to grow moss over the years—benefited more. Rather the opposite. That I suspect was due to the Figaro's sharper profile. Regardless, I heard clear benefits with either, naturally in the more subtle range. Don't expect character morphs. Still, the benefits pointed in the same direction for both. First to protocol. I cleaned the needle manually with my usual brush, then played a whole side. Then I repeated the manual process but followed it up with a Flux session before I spun the same side over again.
before & after

The flux'd needle didn't really shift tonal balance even if the high treble showed more incisiveness and lucidity. But that didn't skew the basic balance. Two other things got my attention instead. One, transient impulses were more energetic. Be it the guitar picks on Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's I see a Darkness which had more snap; the cymbal and rattle work on Feist's The Reminder; or the harp plucks on Joanna Newsom's The milk-eyed Mender debut which had more spunk and tension… these gains in speed or microdynamic verve weren't bought with sharpness but the elimination of an artificial veil. Leading edges had better focus. They localized with more concentration as though their tone essence floated in the air without any fractured halo if you can relate. It sounded more energetic; plus more natural or revealed.

Second, image specificity in general was better, not just attacks. This benefited the vocal range in particular. With a clean diamond, voices were more 3D modeled. Again, this wasn't a tonal sleight of hand (no fattening up of the lower midrange) but the real thing: higher accuracy of data retrieval. In fact, I'd invoke higher resolving power per se. Particularly faint secondary bits and bobs in the far reaches of the soundstage were far easier identified and separated from the general background. Whilst this eludes normal listening mode that's focused on gestalt not counting the leaves, in my experience it still informs us on a subliminal level. The upshot is a livelier more realistic experience that has more going on than soak up little things in unresolved morass to put it drastic.

Conclusion. My resumé for the Flux-Sonic needle cleaner? A very happening success on all fronts. Each and every serious vinyl hound can afford one; seriously! Sonic gains alone demand that you do. Then one's just gotta believe that keeping one's nub clean can't help but be good for diamond and treasured record collection alike. So go ahead. Make my day. Try prying this one from my hands, daft punk…

  • Concept: electronic needle brush for turntable cartridges
  • Dimensions and weight: 11.5 x 6.5cm WxD, 48g without batteries
  • Finish: black
  • Other: includes batteries and 5ml cleaning fluid (replacement bottle is €29.90)
  • Warranty: 3 years
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Flux-Sonic website