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SoundStage! Update

Keeping it Clean

December 21, 2006

There are many different strategies and products for addressing the connection points of an audio system. Everyone agrees, however, that clean connections make for the best sound. In this spirit, my cleaning regimen is about as simple as it gets, though it hasn't always been this way. Through the years I have both cleaned and conditioned connections, the latter with various esoteric products, including Caig's well-known ProGold (now called DeoxIT Gold), which was the best of the bunch. Over time, though, as ProGold evaporated and dust began to coat static-laden audio equipment, a gooey grunge would form. Its removal always led to better sound, so I began to think, Why create it in the first place?

Now I use just one product to clean connections: Caig Caikleen IPA, which is billed as "ultra-pure isopropyl alcohol." Caikleen IPA wasn't dirt cheap like the isopropyl alcohol you can buy at the drug store, but I purchased a 944ml bottle eight years ago for around $20 as I recall, and I've used about a quarter of it. As with cleaning solutions, the cleaning implements I've used over the years have changed for the better too. I ball up a Kleenex that I dab with Caikleen IPA to clean RCA connectors on audio gear. For XLRs and interconnects, I use cotton pipe cleaners -- ones with no dye. I wet one end with Caikleen IPA, which I use to wipe all contact surfaces, and I keep the other end dry for extra scrubbing and removing excess.

When I reconnect everything, the clean interconnects slide onto the clean connectors with a slight friction -- a sign that all surfaces are pristine. Clarity, transparency, retrieval of fine detail -- everything is are improved. Whenever I swap cables or electronics, which happens with great frequency, I clean everything to maintain a consistent sonic baseline. The connections on brand-new products are often the dirtiest.

You can spend a lot more time cleaning your audio gear than I do, and a lot more money too, but I'm not sure you'll get better results. Unfortunately, Caig no longer makes Caikleen IPA, but they do have a replacement that's similar, Caikleen NF. If you give it a try, let me know what you hear....Marc Mickelson, editor@soundstage.com

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