by Martin Appel
For those of you who own record collections and spend hours enjoying the listening that records bring, it is no surprise how important proper care and handling of your precious vinyl is to maintaining performance. One of the major problems that raises its ugly head is record warp. One has to deal with the muddying effects warped records produce including throbbing, overblown bass, and, if really bad, miss-tracking. There’s nothing as unnerving as hearing the stylus jumping out of the groove and possibly making a new, unwanted groove on your irreplaceable record or damaging your cartridge.
To the rescue comes Vinyl Flat, a company that promises to remove warps from your LPs at a very reasonable cost. Furutech makes a record flattening unit selling for just under $2,600.00 USD. The Vinyl Flat Record Flattener retails for $99.95 and the self-contained heating unit for the record flattener, the Groovy Pouch, retails for $69.95.
The Vinyl Flat is made up of two heavy plates and two protection mats, called Groovy Rings, and a central bolt that holds it all together. To flatten the warped record, remove the bolt and separate the two halves. Place a clean record on the protection mat and place the second mat over the record making a ‘record sandwich’, then hand tighten the central bolt.
There are several ways to proceed — the first is without applying heat. Simply, allowing the record to remain in the ‘sandwich’ it will eventually lose its warped state. Unfortunately, the unheated process can take weeks.
Adding heat certainly speeds up the process. And, unless you are Job, you’ll chose some heat in the mix! There are several ways to do this. First is the ‘oven method’. One must be very careful. It is recommended that you place the ‘sandwich’ on a smooth surface in the oven. You must make absolutely certain that the verified oven temperature does not exceed 150°F. Use the recommended times for heating and cooling times which are included in a chart of record manufacturers based on record weights, size and thickness. When using the oven, only use the ‘Bake’ function and let it warm up for 30 minutes prior to inserting the ‘sandwich’. Do not use the ‘Pre-Heat’ function to warm up the oven. If your oven is incapable of reaching and maintaining the required 130-150 degree temperatures, or you don’t trust this method, you will have to purchase the Groovy Pouch — a fabric pouch that has a self contained heating unit that accurately maintains the proper temperature. Unplug the Groovy Pouch and let the package cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate to quicken the process or you could damage your records. If the warp has not been completely removed, repeat the process as needed. Yes, there is some trial and error.
This product is about as low tech as you can get. There are no meters, displays, buzzers, bells or warning lights. You’ll need to get a timer to alert you when the process is complete.
After having used the Vinyl Flat on several very warped LPs, I can report that it works. For this vinylphile, LP reclamation is a thrill. As such, the Vinyl Flat and its accompanying Groovy Pouch are highly recommended.
The Vinyl Flat Record Flattener
Manufactured by Vinyl Flat LLC
PO Box 524
Royse City, TX 75189
tel (469) 426-8554
Price: Vinyl Flat $99.95; Groovy Pouch $69.95
Source: manufacturer loan