The ZeroDust Saga Continues

WAM's J.R. Boisclair, who provided the microscopic images responds to some of the comments under the original story.

"I appreciate the robust conversation around the "gel-type" cleaners. I certainly don't have a dog in this fight other than continuing our research into how to get the most from the grooves, preserve our records and our cartridges.

I started seeing this material on styli soon after launching our cartridge analysis service. For months I assumed the material was simply a sloppy application of the epoxy used to affix the stylus to the cantilever. That changed when I saw one cartridge that was so filled with the material that I couldn't lay down my measurement lines as there were no clean facets of the stylus to be found. The only part of that stylus that was free of the material were the groove contact edges themselves - certainly having been cleaned by the record grooves and probably remaining in the grooves to this day! I called the owner of the cartridge and he confirmed for me that he was using Zerodust.

We are performing infrared spectrometry on two of these "gel cleaner" products to determine what they are made from. We await the results and will report.

I have experimented with many USB microscopes costing several hundred dollars. I didn't find any of them capable of imaging a stylus well enough to see this material. All of the images in the article were taken using our laboratory microscope. The soon-to-be-released WallyScope certainly has enough magnification and resolution for this purpose.

Getting this material off your stylus and cantilever requires some work. Any stylus cleaner that is safe for the stylus/cantilever assembly will not be effective on this highly plasticized material. It takes abrasion from a short haired bristled brush - at least - but a couple drops of stylus cleaner on the brush may help the material from being re-deposited to the stylus with each stroke. Consider tossing away your brush once done cleaning a badly coated stylus.

J.R. Boisclair
WAM Engineering LLC

A number of readers have responded in emails including one who sent the above photo of his Ortofon Windfeld Ti. His email is under this image of his cleaned Windfeld:

Check out the attached photos. Unfortunately pics not as good as WallyTools pics, but I actually just received my Ortofon Windfeld Ti back from OrtofonUSA because I was not able to achieve good crosstalk numbers and heard some odd anomalies when listening to music. Anyways, Ortofon found the diamond was coated with some odd material and after a thorough cleaning; the cartridge was trouble free. I always clean my records with a Degritter; and before that, a VPI 16.5. And I never use any other stylus cleaners. The culprit was a Onzow Zerodust. I generally use it after every 2-3 records religiously. But I will never use it again! Just funny how you posted article literally weeks after I just had the same discovery."

We did not post the original story or this one to "sully" anyone's reputation as one reader put it. We posted it to provide good information you are free to ignore and act upon and of course if the manufacturers communicate with us we will post their response. However, to insist that we refrain from publishing this until we hear from them is not reasonable, nor is the assertion that there's no "proof" offered here about this problem. This is important information we are happy to provide as well will be happy likewise to provide a response from the manufacturer should we get one.

jazz's picture

we’re just sensitive these days as there was someone publishing his findings and as he thought “good information” about a record and a lacquer manufacturer, which pretty much escalated ;-)

But joking aside, the zenith of the cartridge on the last picture looks quite off, doesn’t it?

jokerman's picture

I used the Onzow cleaner once and my stylus was somehow got damaged from it. I took quite a beating on the SH forums upon sharing this so I became convinced it was something else and wound up trying it again on a new $600 Goldring cartridge and it wrecked it again. Whatever it did was more than just gunk buildup. Never again!

Michael Fremer's picture
A funny thing happened on the way to the forum… I turned around and never went…
Elubow's picture

I think you need Sondheim’s help…

Elubow's picture

Actually a bit late for that!

SkepticalEye's picture

Could very well be that the Onzow Zerodust is doing exactly what's being claimed, and leaving deposits. I for one would like to know if it is. BUT. . . I am surprised that MF hasn't at least shot an email to Onzow asking for their perspective. It would take, what, five minutes? Also, this part from WAM Engineering's response certainty suggests the possibility that they have a vested interest in getting Onzow Zerodust owners paranoid about what their stylii look like:

The soon-to-be-released WallyScope certainly has enough magnification and resolution for this purpose.

4-2-7's picture

Yep we all need to send our cartridges in for WAM to view, and of course then clean them up like new.

4-2-7's picture

I'v been using the Onzow cleaner for at least 10-11 years now, never an issue, and still have most the very same cartridges. That doesn't mean Onzow haven't changed anything along the way since I bought mine. Mine is not goopy it's firm, I'v never had to wash it in water as recommended when dirty. I also use it sparely and it never dives into the gell, it just lightly sets on top of it when cued down. This product is not really a cleaner, it's just designed to pull lint and dust off the stylus tip.

I think if anything we have lots of beginners doing lots of things wrong in record playback and using their equipment. My cartridges have lasted a long time because my records are clean to start with. I have three tables in one system, so it spreads out the time I use the cartridges. I also don't need to clean the stylus on them that much either because of clean records. If you're pushing the stylus and cantilever deep into the Onzow tack, you're using it wrong, if you cue down onto it and it sinks in, you're doing it wrong, or something changed with the product.

I'll continue to use the Onzow the same way I have been. Under high magnification all styluses look dirty even though the very tip is clean. When you clean it with a bush & liquid cleaner it will give the same results as the original story photos show. This would be the case regardless if Onzow was ever used or not.

DFacobbre's picture

I've been using Onzow for 8 years now and it does a great job. Mine is still firm and I use it lightly; all it takes is a gentle dip.

SierraSound's picture

These articles are raising alarm bells for me but not for the intended reasons.

I do theoretically have a dog in this fight. As a seller of a liquid stylus cleaning fluid you might think I'd jump right onto the bandwagon to promote my competing product. However I also am good friends with Tetsuaki Aoyagi of DS Audio, and I don't think dragging his product into a mess like this on such flimsy evidence is appropriate.

First, you make the claim of 'dramatic evidence that the Onzow Zerodust leaves a stubborn, difficult to remove residue on "clean" styli as well as on cantilevers' then you back it up with 3 before and after photos. Not a huge sample group first of all. And second, how many times was the gel used on these styli? Once? A thousand times? How many records played in between? Where is the data?

These articles also imply that the gel is "leaving something" on the stylus, implying that the residue is originating from the gel. Did it ever occur to anyone that this is simply material that was not collected or cleaned off by the gel? How do these photos compare with a stylus that was not cleaned at all? Gel cleaners remove dust and are very convenient, but anyone who thinks they are getting a deep clean is mistaken.

This is the line from the article where I finally lost it and felt I needed to write in: "An analysis of the residue shows it is not silicone but rather a polymer of some sort."

Are we taking bets as to what kind of polymer? Polyvinyl Chloride perchance, AKA vinyl?

Gel cleaners are not my favorite, they are my competition. However, if you're going to suggest that they may be harmful, it would better to actually do some actual research, and provide data, etc. This is three photos of dirty styli and someone asked the owners what they used to clean them. There is no scientific discipline being applied here.

Sorry to stir the shit pot even further, but I can't stay quiet on this one. And cleaning with a brush isn't really that "laborious"

Michael Fajen
Sierra Sound

WallyTools - WAM Engineering LTD's picture

...and that principle is certainly one that I work by - especially when sharing news that someone's product may have undesirable effects!

I have hundreds of photos from at least 40 cartridges where I've seen this same material. I have spoken to every owner of such cartridges and the answer is always the same: they use gel cleaners. (Two of them had bought their cartridges used and didn't know what previous owner used.) As a matter of routine over the last few months, I have begun to ask ALL of my cartridge analysis clients how they clean their stylus. The results are 100% consistent: those that do not use a gel cleaner have cartridges that do not exhibit this material deposit.

I got more news from the lab yesterday (it is coming in slowly) and the material is an oligomer, not a polymer, so it can't be polyvinyl chloride.

Cleaning this stuff off with a brush is indeed laborious. I analyzed a new cartridge last night that had only 8 hours use by its owner. I found a tiny bit of the material on the stylus and diamond plate, but there was quite a lot on the very end of the cantilever. I worked at cleaning the cantilever for about 20 seconds with a short haired bristled brush and a drop of distilled water. Upon follow up microscopic inspection (which itself takes about 90 seconds to set up the image parameters, take the images and then process the image) I managed to dislodge no more than 10-15% of the material from the cantilever.

SurgeTO's picture

Oligomers are groups of monomers that are a building block of VINYL! You don’t really have a clue what you are talking about! The “gel like” crud is bits of vinyl, not from the Onzow!

What is vinyl?

Vinyl is made from chlorine and ethylene, with various additives to impart flexibility, rigidity, fluidity, or thickness. explains that the ethylene in vinyl is obtained by processing, or cracking, hydrocarbon-based raw materials (petroleum, natural gas or coal) into polymers. The chlorine half of the vinyl polymer is not derived from hydrocarbons and is readily available and inexpensive. Ethylene and chlorine combine to form ethylene dichloride, which is transformed into vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). The final polymerization step converts the monomer into vinyl polymer known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or simply “vinyl.” Chemical modifiers are then added to achieve the various properties desired in vinyl end-products.

WallyTools - WAM Engineering LTD's picture

...I don't know what I am talking about when it comes to chemicals as I am not a materials scientist. I am passing along information provided to me by materials scientists who DO know what they are talking about. These scientists are working on this very issue (when time allows it) at a very well funded lab using infrared spectrometry and some other methods. The results are now in but we now need to determine what they fully mean before sharing.

If you were to see this material on the stylus and cantilever as I have many times under a very resolving and powerful microscope to see how sticky and gelatinous it is (USBs are worthless for this task), I imagine anyone might have a tough time thinking it was from our precious vinyl records.

Another reason I don't think it is vinyl coming from the records: I only see this material on the cantilever and stylus when it is on a cartridge owned by someone who admits to have used the gel cleaner. I have also seen it on cartridges purchased used where the second owner has not used it but did not know whether the original owner used the gel cleaner or not.

Very infrequently I will see a cartridge where the owner has admitted to using the product but I don't find a significant amount in the way of deposits. I wonder if the use of some liquid cleaner applications that have a lubricant as an ingredient decreases the transmission of the deposits.

Ivan Lietaert's picture

As this is obviously a matter of national security (!), and this is absolutely not a matter of clickbait for WAM at all, but serious investigative journalism, comparable only to the Pelican Brief, I can't help wondering why you didn't contact Onzow's producers for comment on this, or if you did, you could at least include evidence that you did so, but they declined.
Could it be that, like so many products, there are counterfeit Onzow Zerodusters being sold world wide etc?
Michael, I think the complete staff of Analogplanet should be on this, until all is in the open!

Ivan Lietaert's picture

This is from Ortofon, but it applies to all styli brands, I'm sure:

Stylus care
Ortofon does not recommend the use of solvents of any kind for cleaning of either the record surface or stylus. If necessary, records may be washed in lukewarm demineralized water with a dash of sulphonic soap. Remove dust carefully from record surfaces by using a fine antistatic brush or cloth before every use.

The use of solvents on the stylus and cantilever may damage stylus cement; interior parts of the cartridge can be affected seriously by the intrusion of solvents. The Ortofon Aftersales will not be valid in cases where such treatment has caused malfunction.

For cleaning the stylus, use the enclosed fibre brush a few times along the cantilever in the direction of the stylus, whenever you play a new record or change sides.

Record care should also be performed regularly and is of paramount importance to prolong the life and condition of the stylus. Because of this, a record cleaning machine may be considered for ease and quality of record cleaning.

mc@'s picture

Where's the scientific part in this "research"? Words laboratory and engineering is used, still photographs are from old styluses which history is unknown or at least not very reliable. Before someone drags manufacturer name into this kind of chase one should buy 10 different NEW styluses and enough gel pads and do extensive tests. That would get you more reliable results. Then you should contact the manufacturer of gel pad and ask for comment. ”I called the owner of the cartridge and he confirmed for me that he was using Zerodust.” – yep, that’s very scientific approach, not.

SeagoatLeo's picture

I found the magic eraser provided the cleaning power of a stiff stylus brush with a virtually unlimited surface (one writer suggested throwing away a contaminated brush) and is extremely inexpensive. Plus, it's abrasiveness is a boon to getting crud off the stylus down to the cantilever. My Benz Ruby 3 lasted 15 years (still sounded great on mint LPs, but got noisy on bad vinyl). Maybe the alignment/set up on an SME IV had something to do with it's longevity. Regardless, no more gel for me.

Elubow's picture

“We did not post the original story or this one to "sully" anyone's reputation as one reader put it. We posted it to provide good information you are free to ignore and act upon…”

Did it ever occur to you that you may be doing both of the above? That, in an effort to provide, as you say “good information”, you may be “sullying” the reputation of a reputable company?

“However, to insist that we refrain from publishing this until we hear from them is not reasonable…”

Why is it not reasonable??? Reasonable to whom? What’s the rush? This not some medical device that is actually causing injury or death like surgical mesh, hip prostheses, breast implants. These are f**king styluses, tiny diamonds whose purpose is to PLAY RECORDS! Will the vinyl world implode if they find out a few months later that their precious stylus has some residue sticking to it, which may or may not be caused by Zerodust? How would you like it if you had invented something that was used by thousands of satisfied customers for years with good results, endorsed and recommended by major audio magazines only to read that someone wrote an article besmirching that product, or at the very least intimating that the product did not what it was purported to do? All without compelling scientific proof. Just a bunch of photos whose provenance we have no idea. Somehow, I think you’d be pissed!

And if you really think that a bunch of photos constitute verifiable proof, remind me not to call you for legal advice…

azmoon's picture

My Zero will not be used again. I’m going to continue keeping my LPs clean and use the Ortofon brush with no Zero and no solvents.

Benetton's picture

I haven't had any issues with my Zero Dust Stylus cleaner but given the feedback with this post, I shall investigate....Apart from the Zero Dust, if there is an issue with it, could people that are using the DS Audio ST-50 Stylus Cleaner experience similar issues...

Office Rat's picture

I've been reading this and the previous post with interest. What I haven't seen is any mention of the way the gel has been used. Were the styli cleaned before dropping on the vinyl, or after records have been played? I assume a stylus is warmer just after use, and perhaps that may cause it to melt some of the gel onto itself.

c_mojo's picture

"I got more news from the lab yesterday (it is coming in slowly) and the material is an oligomer, not a polymer, so it can't be polyvinyl chloride."

Aren't plasticizers sometimes used for vinyl records? Aren't those oligomers?

carja's picture

Peter Ledermann at Soundsmith, who has considerable experience in both building and re-tipping cartridges, recommends DAP Bluestik for cleaning the stylus. This compound is readily and cheaply available at hardware or stationary stores, and was developed for applications such as attaching papers to a wall without damaging them. I have used it for several years on his Hyperion transducer (with the cactus needle) without problems. Perhaps he has experience with the mysterious deposits on the aforementioned styli.

OldschoolE's picture

I think the most important aspect to keeping a clean stylus starts with clean records.....meticulously clean records.
I mostly use a piece of Magic Eraser or dry stylus brush. I have used my Onzow about 5 times. I never use any fluid on my styli.
I understand the Onzow is really a dust remover, not a "cleaner", but I think "cleaner" is used as a descriptive or verb.
I "clean" my stylus after each side of a record is played. I occasionally inspect it with a powerful lupe. While not a USB lab microscope, I do not have such a device nor the time to set it up and use it frequently. From what I see on my styli is....well, nothing. They are clean. I believe this is more a result of clean records.
As we know, heat is built up as the styli travels the grooves so it makes sense that anything loose or easily dislodged could end up sticking to the stylus and even wicking up the cantilever provided there is enough material.
This is also why I do not use liquids on my styli or "preservative" coatings on my records. That can make things even stickier and therefore worse. I have seen horrific results from folks who have used products like GruvGlide.
Cleaning records does not involve household products or glues or other non-purposed products. It does involve proper technique and chemicals and or devices. A clean record has no contaminates in the grooves with the exception of a little dust perhaps (there will always be dust falling- that is why antistatic "dusting" brushes were invented. A swipe with a thunderon or audioquest type or hunt brush before play reduces the dust.
It will be interesting to get the full results of the Onzow study too.

Michael Fremer's picture
Is a most sensible comment!
DFacobbre's picture

I two stage clean my records then do a light dip into the Onzow. Maybe people are deep dipping.

DaveyF's picture

Over the years we have heard from numerous 'experts' in the analog field that there are all kinds of 'no no's' when it comes to stylus cleaning. I clearly remember those very same people telling everyone that the Last Stylus cleaner can migrate up the cantilever and cause problems. Then we heard that the same cleaner can damage the glue that is used to hold the stylus. We heard that US cleaning of the cantilever and stylus can damage the coils, we then heard that using BluTac is not recommended ( if I remember correctly it was due to the possibility of BluTac dislodging the cantilever assembly)...and on and on.
Now we hear that the Zerodust can leave a deposit on the stylus, which if one really looks carefully, could be from any number of various culprits...from the vinyl formulation, to the use of a cleaning brush leaving behind a CF strand, to residue left from the inner sleeve and on and on!

Maybe a better question would be to ask..and verify, IF a reduction in SQ is heard by any of thee 'deposits'...and then IF the answer is 'yes' to go about a more scientific process of 'cause and effect'...rather than assuming anything! Just IMHO.

Michael Fremer's picture
LAST stylus cleaner does not migrate up the cantilever. However StyLAST, which is a different product and a somewhat viscous lubricant absolutely can migrate up into the motor and cause problems as reported by manufacturers. If you choose to use StyLAST it must be used with extreme caution and minimally applied. I stopped using it. Ortofon recommends against using any liquid for the reason you correctly cite: depending upon the makeup of the liquid it can dissolve the stylus/cantilever bond. I think Ortofon is being overly cautious and if the stylus cleaner manufacturer stipulates that no solvent is in their fluid, it's safe to occasionally use. BluTac or any such cleaner OnZow etc. must be used with caution for the reason you cite. I think Mr. Boisclair has provided compelling evidence for anyone using the ZeroDust to use it with a great deal of caution if at all. He's still in the process of discovering more about this and we will report as we find out.
vinylsoul1965's picture

I appreciate the fact that this has come to light and that more "research" is being done on this. I do wish to hear Onzow's response to this, and to be honest I am surprised we have not heard from them (or possibly we have and I am just late to the party). I just spent the morning cleaning my 4-5 styli that I use the Zerodust on AFTER EVERY PLAY...and I am feeling a bit sick at the thought of what is now in my grooves. I was going to ask if anyone recommends a reasonably priced USB microscope that we can use to check stylus wear and condition. Finding an old Shure SEK-2 is a challenge lol, but interesting that the "Wally Scope" has been mentioned off the cuff in this discussion on Zerodust...hmm....

alarickc's picture

I have an Aida mk2 that I thought needed retiping after a year of frequent use. Highs were distorted and everything sounded a bit off. I send it in to SoundSmith with the retiping fee, they send the cart back to me with most of my money. Apparently the stylus and cantilever were caked in the junk shown above. Under the junk, the diamond was still like new. I've used Peter's recommended cleaner since and have stuck to using Blutak without issue.

orthobiz's picture

As a WAM customer who requires lots of TLC with lots of questions, I can attest that my experience with WallyTools has been a good one. The approach to vinyl reproduction via cartridge/stylus tweaking is unparalleled in the industry, given how many devices and tools are available for purchase. Research and development is ongoing and always improving; I have bought products that were redesigned and received updated versions free of charge! I mean, who does that?? Not all manufacturers, for sure.
To think that one would diss the Onzow product just to sell a microscope or a stylus service is a bit of a stretch and is not the way JR works. He is a class act who will do anything to help us extract the last iota of information from our grooves.
Personally, I am glad to hear about the Onzow thing. If a bunch of styli have gunk on them as reported by JR I tend to believe it. Hearing from Onzow that it ain't so is not a requirement of mine; I would hope and assume that being in the stylus cleaning business they would stand behind their product.
I'm interested in hearing how this controversy pans out. And glad that Mike is brave enough to publish the info.
With JR and Mike on our side, we cannot lose!

DaveyF's picture

Whether the 'deposit' on the stylus is a) from using Zerodust b) from using Zerodust in an incorrect manner, assuming that Zerodust is in fact the culprit and c) whether any of this makes any difference to the SQ even if the deposit viewed is in fact some form of Zerodust goop. Baked on deposits, which is what this well could be, are something that analog lovers have been fighting for years. I have personally not found anything that truly gets them 100% off. OTOH, I am not sure that they impact the SQ negatively--

DaveyF's picture

Michael, my LAST dealer tells me it is the stylus cleaner that is not safe! He states that the cleaner can migrate and not the Stylast. ! The cleaner has some kind of extreme solvent that can attack the rubber parts and the glue...the Stylast does not. So, i guess caution is required either way!! Ha!
One thing that does seem to make sense, the Stylast lubricant should lower the friction of the stylus in the groove and lead to longer stylus life, which is what I and many others have reported. The best liquid does seem to be Lyra's SPT, which I prefer to LAST stylus cleaner.

Garybegd's picture

I am retired from a 35 year career as a reporter. I never worked anywhere where we were allowed to report a negative story without contacting the people we were reporting on and giving them a fair opportunity to tell their side. When I worked at CBS, they actually had fact-checkers who would call the people I reported on and make sure they had been given an opportunity to respond.

One of the first cases you study in journalism school is The Red Lion case. In it, the Supreme Court upheld the fairness doctrine, "stating that if a station makes a personal attack on an individual, it must also give that person an opportunity to respond to the criticism." The FCC has done away with the fairness doctrine. But all ethical journalistic operations still follow it.

Everyone interested in this topic is dying to know Onzow's response. You could have saved us a lot of angst had you contacted them and given them an ample opportunity to respond, instead of rushing to publish. What if they say "we had a bad batch, and we will take responsibility for any damage it caused?" Or "there are counterfeits out there making bad product and using our name?" You would have trashed their reputation for nothing.

You wrote "if the manufacturers communicate with us we will post their response. However, to insist that we refrain from publishing this until we hear from them is not reasonable." That's a load of bull. If you publish a negative story, you have a responsibility to contact the company. You don't blind side them, then wait to see how they respond. If they don't respond after a day or two, you report that. Just because they ignore fairness on talk radio and cable news opinion shows doesn't make it right, or ethical.

You have spent decades building a reputation I respect. To protect it, you need to be reaching out to Onzow, not just waiting to see if they respond.

SkepticalEye's picture

Garybegd nailed it. I was an editor at a major magazine for 18 years, and no way would we have run an investigative story of any kind without contacting the involved parties for their side of things. I'm surprised (and disappointed) that Michael has taken such a defensive stance to this criticism. I'm even more surprised that Jim Austin hasn't stepped in and done what Michael hasn't and reached out to Onzow. Sloppy journalism at best, willfully biased at worst.

jpinakron's picture

I'm sorry but did you come to an enthusiast website for hard hitting news? Almost every article here is based on either 1) subjective testing and listening or 2) promises from a manufacture about future products. Below this a bit, is where a reader did reach out to the manufacture and was told basically, that their product leaves behind no residue. What, exactly, did you learn from that manufactures statement that wasn't already in the product description?

What's worse though, Mr. Journalist, is that before any of us did hear from the manufacture, you're already openly conjecturing on statements that the manufacture might make. You weren't waiting with an open mind, but rather, making potential excuses that were not based in fact, but conjecture only. Where is your journalistic integrity especially since you're questioning, basically, a hobbyist "reporting" his findings?

I think this article butt hurts so many here, because yeah, this product that some have used for months, years, decades even, has gradually reduced your sound quality, and none of you were the wiser to it.

And finally, if people who used this product regularly couldn't hear the loss of SQ, when I clearly could and discarded this product after maybe 3 uses, then what am I to make of your listening ability if you continued to use this? When I disagree with a user over cables for example, I'm told that it's my ears, or my equipment, that prevents me from hearing "drastic changes" to my power cables as an example? I heard such a degraded SQ after using this maybe 3 times, that I threw the product away the same day I purchased it!

And btw - easy test if you don't believe me. Get a new, cheap stylus, super clean an album, clean the stylus with a high-quality brush - and play the first track. Repeat, but this time, dip it in this goop and then play. It takes about 20 to 40 rotations for the SQ to come back to normal. (I assume that the goop gets ground off in the grooves... i don't know... )

And finally, since I'm not a journalist, let me guess as to what their statement will read when they get around to making their public statement. "We are aware of the claims published by AP. Onzow categorically denies that our product leaves behind any residue, or damages stylus, when our product is used as directed."

Garybegd's picture

Sorry. I've been on the road and did not see this response until now.

As far as me conjecturing, I was simply suggesting that the manufacturer could have any of a range of explanations, but you can't know until you ask him. As far as me not having an open mind, that is not a conclusion you can draw from me simply suggesting that Onzo could have an explanation, or a defense, and this is incumbent on the person who published to try to find out what that response is. I can't count the number of stories I started on that never made it to air because, once we heard the other side, we realized that the original assertion was bogus.

And as far as you hearing degradation, somehow the golden ears at Stereophile aren't as good as yours, or they would not have made this thing a Recommended Component. MF wrote that it left the stylus "clean and residue free." All the more reason to find out what Onzo had to say.

And as far as their statement, when MF contacted them, he could have asked follow up questions, like "then how do you explain the goop we can all see in these photos?"

I don't think that's too much to ask, even in an enthusiast publication.

sunderwood's picture

I was looking online at you tube videos about zerodust and photos on websites where it is sold. In everyone the material is clear and shiny. I have always rinsed mine with water to get the dirt off or used dawn dishwater detergent followed by a good rinse. It is cloudy contrary to what you see online. I don't remember what mine looked like when I first bought it. I have had it a long time. Maybe continued washing did it. This goes back to my original question about whether age is the real culprit and it needs to be replaced every so often. Nothing lasts forever.

Office Rat's picture

sunderwood, I wouldn't rinse anything under tap water, which is full of chlorine, fluoride and various minerals and contaminants. If you don't have reverse osmosis, pick up a gallon of distilled water to rinse it. I'd guess yours may already be toast, but you could try cleaning it and rinsing it in good water to see if it clears up. But hopefully you're not using tap water. In which case, I'm not sure why it would be cloudy. You might try contacting Onzow to ask about the cloudiness.

sunderwood's picture

Maybe dull is a better word than cloudy. I have used tap water to rinse, because that is what I have seen people do online. The manufacturer instructions just say to rinse under warm water. There is no warning about tap water, but maybe the tap water in Japan is different than here.

WesHeadley's picture

Michael, please contact Onzow and get a response. This is a serious issue if true and you have only done half of your job here. This is very disappointing and frustrating coming from you. Nothing like this should have been published without making a real effort to contact Onzow-; surely you could have waited a bit of time for a response yes?

BTW, a few years ago I spoke directly with Peter Lederman regarding his recommendation of using Blue Fun Tack putty on a business card as a stylus cleaner. I specifically asked whether or not he used a microscope to determine that it indeed left no residue, and he said that yes, he had checked and that it left no residue. I guess I'll have to setup my microscope and take a look for myself.

TommyTunes's picture

If you find the stylus bushes included with most cleaning fluids too small, I found this.
Same brush type but about 2 to 3 times the size and much easier to use with the longer and wider handle that is also better balanced.

sunderwood's picture

I like the looks of that brush and will probably order one. Thanks for the post.

Guy's picture

And is of really poor quality.

Old Audiophile's picture

This is certainly disconcerting news for those of us vinyl heads who never liked free-handing stylus brushes. Every time I did that, I channeled a special ops sniper holding his breathe before squeezing off a round! The Onzow and some of the other goop stylus cleaners, handled appropriately (i.e. not free-handing, as some instructions advise, but locating a safe, non-movable spot at the correct height so as to allow just the tip of the stylus to contact the goop; not the cantilever and using the TT cueing device to lower & raise the stylus into & out of the goop), seemed like the perfect solution! DAMN! Now, it's back to channeling the special ops sniper?

Some have criticized Mr. Fremer and WAM Engineering for this sort of half-baked alarm. However, half-baked notwithstanding, I would rather know about stuff like this before continuing to use my Onzow.

The first article stated: "An analysis of the residue shows it is not silicone but rather a polymer of some sort." Now, it's: "I got more news from the lab yesterday (it is coming in slowly) and the material is an oligomer, not a polymer, so it can't be polyvinyl chloride." I'm not a chemist. So, I Googled "oligomer". Some sites say it is a polymer. Some say it's a polymer intermediate. Well, is or are the residual deposit(s) still "not silicone"? Isn't the Onzow and some of the other goop cleaners silicone or silicone-based? If it's "not silicone" would it be reasonable to conclude these residues are not coming from the Onzow and silicone-based goop cleaners? Is it possible use of these goop cleaners cause, in some or any way, the build up of these deposits? Seems, to me, we need to know where this or these deposits are coming from and exactly what they are. At this point, we are all chasing our tails. It also would be instructive to know if this or these residual deposits are all the same from one stylus to the other. There are simply not enough controls, thus far, to come to any hard & fast conclusions. Has anyone bothered to reach out to Onzow, DS Audio and the others? I won't dare play my records again without researching what the best non-solvent stylus cleaners are and I know I'm going to hate free-handing a stylus brush again!

Old Audiophile's picture

Frankly, I couldn't just sit on my hands and wait for somebody else to do this. So, I did! I just emailed Onzow Labo of Japan and asked if they'd heard of this latest controversy regarding gel-type stylus cleaners. I specifically asked if they had done any analyses regarding the possibility of their Onzow Zerodust contributing directly or indirectly to residual build-up deposits on styli. If I get a response, I'll share it. Curious thing, though! When I used their search engine and typed in Onzow Zerodust, I got a "no item found". Weird, because they have photos of the Zerodust on their website. Even clicking on that got me nowhere.

Old Audiophile's picture

Frankly, I don't expect this will or should end this controversy. However, what follows here is a very prompt response I received from Mr. Akira Ishibashi of Onzow Labo of Yokohama, Japan. I was hoping for a little more specificity or detail but I'm just some guy, some audiophile out there in the great ether asking questions about the Onzow Zerodust. I hope Onzow Labo takes the time to read these articles and provide a more official or in depth response. Perhaps they would be more forthcoming to a source with considerably more stature in audiophile circles? Mr. Michael Fremer, WAM Enginerring, Mr. J.R. Boisclair, care to take a stab at this? Don't you think you owe this to your readers?

"Thank you for your inquiry.

We carefully select resins that do not build-up residue from the beginning of develop ZERODUST. No residue build-up to the stylus.
The raw materials are completely different from the products of other companies. ZERODUST has no adverse effect on vinyl records too.
This is because ZERODUST is made of material with the same properties as the mold release agent used when pressing records. Please use it with confidence.


Akira Ishibashi

xtcfan80's picture

Old Audiophile...Thanks for the work on behalf of the many here who use the ONZOW gel. I'll continue to use the 3 I have. Might have been mentioned already ....You need to clean the gel every 1-2 months...I use a tiny (SMALL drop on a sewing needle) of baby soap...brush off (new $1 dollar store toothbrush) with Penta water...and rinse twice with Penta water....leave to dry 24-48 hours..I live in a dry well

stretch35's picture

thanks above for posted comments. Ive used it for years. Each side play then quick touch. ortofon 2m red elliptical no issues that I know. Also followup with mofi LP9and brush every 20 hours or so. The onzow isn’t silicone?

Old Audiophile's picture

Someone following this controversy was kind enough to share this:

Stevereds's picture

Hi Stephen here from Soul to Sole Audio.... I am the New Zealand DS Audio Distributor and Aki has been made aware of the comments, regarding his ST-50 Stylus Cleaning Pads, that have been dragged into this conversation about Zerodust.

Here is the info he has posted:

"DS Audio designed and manufactures our ST-50 stylus cleaner for numerous good reasons. Before developing the ST-50, many people used a liquid-type cleaning brush with resulting problems such as compromising stylus adhesive and oxidation of metal parts. There were instances of customers damaging the stylus/cantilever using a small brush for the cleaning or impacting the cartridge suspension by brushing incorrectly.
This is why we developed the ST-50 pad-type stylus cleaner. It is mechanically safer and there is no chemical fluid that may damage the cartridge. The shape of the pad and its low profile allows you to cue down the stylus gently on the pad with no cantilever contact.

We specifically chose a lab grade of urethane gel that is ether based. The two basic formulations of urethane, ester and ether, have some important differences. Water attacks ester-based urethane, causing a significant reduction in physical properties. Ether urethanes exhibit far superior hydrolytic stability (water not reacting with another chemical), especially in humid environments. Ether-based materials also resist fungus growth better than ester-based materials."

Old Audiophile's picture

Still dancing around the edges, here. Stating: "mechanically safer and there is no chemical fluid that may damage the cartridge." is good to know, providing this is backed up by scientific laboratory analysis. However, what about the central issue (i.e. the residue or deposits on the stylus)? Any chance this is, in whole or in part, the gel? Any chance any part of the gel might remain on the stylus after cleaning, especially as the gel ages, and causing some sort of chemical reaction when coming into contact with the PVC of a record as it's played, especially considering the heat generated in the grooves produced by the friction of that action? Water (tap, distilled or purified) used for cleaning these gel pads also introduces another interesting variable. Has any analysis been done on any of this? Seems we still need to know what this residue is or what these residues are.

Old Audiophile's picture

jpinakron, whether you consider Analog Planet or any other such publications strictly "enthusiast(s) website(s)" and nothing more is, at least, shortsighted under this/these circumstance(s). Mr. Fremer has acknowledged that many audiophiles, me included, often make decisions about various products based in whole or in part upon his reviews and observations. Audiophiles, hi-fi enthusiasts and music lovers do this because they acknowledge, trust and respect his knowledge and expertise gained and honed over many years. Mr. Fremer has stated he endeavors to be careful about what he says and publishes in this regard because he is quite aware of this. Though he may not adhere to the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) Code of Ethics, he's clearly expressed he does try to follow some sort of personal code of ethics for expressly this reason. Whether he or Analog Planet is considered a journalistic source or not, he and Analog Planet are, indeed, reporting on various products and there is an inherent cognizance this reporting has weight and consequence. As such, singling out Onzow ZeroDust, complete with included photograph in the original story, when this particular piece of reporting really concerns gel type stylus cleaners, in general, especially when the verdict is still out, and not contacting Onzow, DS Audio and maybe some of the other gel-type stylus cleaner manufacturers was/is, IMHO, a significant mistake and failing in whatever code of ethics Mr. Fremer endeavors to subscribe to. This is why I agree with those who've indicated this is a sloppy piece of reporting, half-baked analysis and a rush to judgement.

Be that as it may, nobody's perfect. Mr. Fremer has been at this for a long time (i.e. responsibly and reliably reporting on audiophile products) and has been providing the audiophile community with a valuable resource for guidance and advice. For this reason, I think he is entitled to a certain degree of deference. This faux pas is not going to compel me and, I suspect, many other audiophiles and hi-fi enthusiasts to stop checking in with him when we are interested in one product or another. However, it certainly will be cause for a higher degree of circumspection and scrutiny.

stretch35's picture

"After a few seconds, you lift the stylus, and it's as clean and reside-free as the proverbial whistle... Upside: no potentially dangerous brushing, and no fluids!"
– Michael Fremer, Stereophile, Recommended Components Issue

Garybegd's picture

When originally introduced, well over 10 years ago, the Zerodust got glowing reviews. It was on the Recommended Products list for years. I never heard anyone complain about it or claim it was leaving a residue. When MF reported it left his stylus as "clean as a whistle," I believe he was correctly reporting what he saw. If it was leaving goop on thousands of styluses for more than a decade, wouldn't someone, like Soundsmith, which has inspected and retipped thousands of those cartridges, have noticed it before now?

So why, after more than a decade on the market, has WAM suddenly discovered, and photographed this problem? I have to wonder if something has changed with the product over the years. Did Onzo change the formulation?

Or is someone counterfeiting the Zerodust? It would only cost pennies to make fake ones, so selling them would be very profitable.

The only way to know for sure is for someone with a great microscope to get a new Zerodust though official channels, then get an old one, and test them on a new stylus. I'd guess WAM is in a good position to do this, since they have the microscope and buying a Zerodust is pretty cheap. They could also get a Zerodust from one of their clients who got gooped. Then they could publish something definitive like "this is a picture of a new stylus, and this is a picture of the goop on it after we used a new Zerodust we bought from MusicDirect." That would give us answers we could trust.

I got my first WallyTractor when Wally was still a one man band. I had to wait 6 months but it was great. I trust his company. I also trust what MF wrote a dozen years ago. Until now, I've had no reason to distrust Onzo. I don't trust that everything sold on the internet is what it's sellers claim it to be. So I'm leaning heavily towards the idea of fakes gumming up the works for everyone.

xtcfan80's picture

Ahhhh...MF please can these non-hifi related posts...This 21st century marketing...

ONZOW Labo's picture

Dear Michael Fremer

I am Akira Ishibashi CEO of ONZOW Labo.
I want to hear your prompt opinion for not having made any notice to us before posting the article dated November 28th and 29th 2021, especially when your information provided by WAM Engineering was still under investigation.
You’ve also received a few comments advising you to contact us, we have been waiting for contact from the day you posted those articles but you remained silent.

What is your responsibility of your media, especially when you target to criticize is a specific product, and how will you take responsibility for our financial damages due to the misinformation you led to our product ONZOW ZERODUST.

For users led by this misinformation, no plasticizer is contained in our product and is absolutely safe to use, we are proud of our product.

Akira Ishibashi CEO of ONZOW Labo.