|REVIEW by Audiophile Audition, June 2014|
I had thought my Mapleshade Iconoclast (which is much stronger than the Zerostat used by most audiophiles) had given up the ghost, but its prongs had just been bent a bit. Good, since it’s no longer manufactured. However, I ended up receiving this—what they used to call the Phonophile Record Brush— and I’m glad to add it to my many vinyl-playing accessories.
The general idea here is that electrostatic fields build up on your vinyl records, the cartridge body and on the stylus itself. The standard carbon fibre record brushes—most of which are labeled “anti-static”—actually create more static with the friction of their fibers rubbing on the vinyl. They also transfer some of the static charge from the user’s body onto the disc. The Iconoclast and Zerostat neutralize some of the static, but actually I was always a bit worried about accidentally striking the actual vinyl grooves when making that triangular pattern in operating the Iconoclast over the vinyl record.
The Static Draining Brush should be handled gently. It should first have its banana plug at the end of the 8 ft. cable plugged into the nearest ground connection on a 3-prong AC socket. There’s nothing dangerous about doing this; the ground in the wall or on a power bar is only connected to earth. (If it’s a power bar, make sure it has a ground connection to the wall socket.) Then it is gently held down to brush the grooves of the record as it spins around. Its fibers are 1/6th the diameter of a human hair and it is a very gentle brush that won’t scratch the vinyl.
The owner’s manual also suggests a complete anti-static treatment: to also brush the stylus and cartridge body from rear to front, to brush the turntable platter, and then brush the other side of the vinyl disc before brushing the side you’re going to play first. That last keeps the underside of the vinyl from picking up dust from the platter. The idea here is to eliminate static from anywhere on the turntable. It also recommends how to clean the brush if it accumulates dust and lint, using a soft fingernail brush or a soft and clean paint brush.
I haven’t taken these extra steps as yet, but will try them. I do find that there seems to be less attraction of the plastic sleeves to the records, and I haven’t heard a single pop when playing a vinyl since using the Static Draining Brush. I still use the Iconoclast at my Oppo deck on SACDs, CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, but Mapleshade recommends you also use the Static Draining Brush on these optical discs, as well as on your disc player’s drawer. The 8 ft. cord easily allows me to do that without moving the Static Draining Brush, so I will have to try that next. The bottom line here is that this accessory is vital to get the best out of whatever turntable system you might have.
• Just a quick thank you for a really surprisingly effective product - your stainless steel record brush. I have been using carbon fibre brushes for 30(?) years - I am simply gobsmacked how much better your grounded brush works. Apparently a whole lot of the random record noise I have lived with was caused by static, not debris ratting around in/on the grooves. Great product. -John S.
• So how does static compromise good sound? In my experience it produces an overall electrical-sounding coating that clings to the musical presentation, limiting fine detail and making the highs sound bright and carbonated. Static, untreated, will plague digital but is more insidious and quick-developing in analog where point contact between stylus and groove becomes the perfect host. Worse, if you optimized cartridge VTA without any means of static elimination, chances are you are way off--and probably too low, in order to compensate for tizzy over-the-top highs due to distortion caused by static buildup rather than by high arm height. Your first order of defense is an initial zap with the ionoclast which works wonders with both records and cds (along with all your cables). Then, on the analog side, easy and frequent maintenance with the Phonophile antistatic brush. Not only does it dust off and destatic your vinyl, it does the same with your stylus restoring sonic homeostasis with each pass. I would not be without it--especially if you are setting up a new cartridge or just want consistently good sound out of your present pickup. With each use the noise floor drops; highs become more defined and everything gains coherence. It doesn't deep clean nor is it intended to. It just happens to be a wonderful dust buster with antistatic abilities built-in--the last record brush I'll ever need to buy. Fantastic. -Jack M.