Getting Back to the Source: More on Demagnetization

by Roy Gregory | September 11, 2012

arc Mickelson’s experience with and comments on the subject of Gryphon’s Exorcist are a timely reminder of a piece of basic yet extremely effective system housekeeping that it’s all too easy to overlook. Degaussing your system to dissipate the residual magnetism on a regular basis makes a proven contribution to keeping it musically "on song" -- yet it is remarkable how often we all overlook such simple steps. As he notes, there are various discs and devices that all offer to do the job, but as with everything else, not all demag tones are created equal. I’ve long relied on Ayre’s Irrational, But Efficacious disc, which, used regularly, certainly seems to do what it says on the tin -- although I’m intrigued by Marc’s observation that the active signal from the Exorcist is even more effective. If you’ve never tried demagnetizing your system, then a demag disc is definitely the most cost effective way to give it a try, although given the impact that the discs have on musical performance, don’t be surprised if you develop a hankering for the Exorcist.

But, also as noted, the one thing the Exorcist doesn’t deal with is residual magnetic build-up in source components and particularly moving-coil cartridges. Ironically, Gryphon used to make a version of the Exorcist specifically for the latter, although the Black Exorcist, as it was known, is no longer available. This  is a shame, because if you think degaussing your system works a treat, just wait until you hear what happens with your cartridge. Fortunately, Aesthetix still offer the $200 ABCD-1, a similar standalone demag device for moving-coils, and it is one of my absolute analog essentials. How essential? Aesthetix build the facility into all their phono stages -- that’s how easy it is to hear the effect.

Simply connect your tonearm cables to the ABCD-1, switch it on and activate the signal. Wait for the light to go out. That’s all there is to it. Just don’t try this with a moving magnet or you’ll damage the cartridge! What should you expect? Crisper, quicker transients. richer tonal colors, greater transparency, more natural rhythmic expression and flow. Or -- in other words -- a far more convincing and musical performance. Compared to the cost of even a fairly modest ‘coil these days, $200 to keep your micro-engineered pride and joy fighting fit is money very well spent, because you are going to hear the benefit on every record you play.

If, however, that’s beyond your means, or you already blew through the budget buying a more expensive cartridge than you planned, there is a more affordable alternative. Cardas offer their Sweep Record [CR FSR], a 180-gram LP which offers a two different demag options (longer and shorter) as well as a range of other tones and even locked pink-noise grooves, ideal for running in new cartridges. I have the original version of this disc, which had fewer additional facilities on it, but I can vouch for its effectiveness. It may not be in quite the same league as the ABCD-1, but it’s still seriously worthwhile. Of course, play the demag sweeps on the Cardas disc, and at the same time that you degauss your cartridge you’ll also treat the whole replay chain, just the same as any of the optical discs. Sadly, you’ll still need one of the CDs to treat your digital front-end.

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