Vinyl has been having something of a renaissance in recent years, as music consumers craving a tangible, physical vessel for their music in an age of digital streaming and downloads are flocking to vintage record shops in search of their favorite LPs.
Buying second hand vinyl, or even digging out your ageing collections can be hit and miss in terms of audio quality, with vinyls being particularly susceptible to wear and tear, especially if they have been stored incorrectly.
However, even the most distorted records can be saved with SweetVinyl’s SC-1, an add-on noise removal device for your record player that removes pops and clicks using a sophisticated algorithm without damaging your precious vinyls.
How does it work?
Although noise removal devices have been available to music industry professionals for a while, this could be the first time that amateur audiophiles will have access to the technology in their own homes.
The SweetVinyl SC-1 uses algorithms to improve audio quality in real-time, while retaining the depth and clarity of the original recording, only removing the unwanted distortion from the record. You can also use it in 'bypass mode', which isolates the digital processing from the audio, allowing you listen to the recording in its original format and hear exactly how the SC-1 makes a difference to the listening experience.
There’s also a dedicated SugarCube app for iOS and Android devices, meaning you can switch modes without getting up to physically switch buttons on and off the device.
How does it sound?
We tried out the SweetVinyl SC-1 for ourselves using one of our scruffiest records, and were really impressed with the digital clean up process. Although it took a little time to set up, if you’re a hardcore audiophile, the results are well worth it.
A word of warning though: you will require a pre-amp with your record player for the best results.
The speed at which the SC-1 removes clicks and pops is staggering, and music sounded overall more clear and far warmer, with well defined bass, mid, and high frequencies – it definitely does the job. One great feature is that you can isolate the clicks and pops the SC-1 removes, so you can really hear the difference it’s making to your record.
Still, we couldn’t help but miss some of that retro-sounding distortion – after all, isn’t that part of the charm of listening to vinyl – why not just listen to remastered digital versions of your favorite records?
It’s clear that this product is for a very niche market of audiophiles who love the warmth of vinyl but hate the fact that their old records sound more and more distorted as they age.
So here’s the kicker: the SweetVinyl SC-1 is currently on sale for $1999 (£1550 / about AU$2800), so you’d have to be really passionate about vinyl to want to buy one for yourself from Music Direct. That being said, it really does work, and if you already have a hefty record player setup with a preamp and decent speakers, you may well be in the market for something to make those old records sound even better.
With the vinyl market booming, we’re certain there are people out there who would jump at the chance to make their dilapidated record collections sound like new again, much like there’s a bustling market expensive anti-aging face creams.
Still, there’s something to be said for just allowing yourself (and your records) to simply age gracefully and naturally.
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Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.