Inexpensive surround receivers, record cleaning machines

Week 42, 2006

Q: You recently mentioned Insignia speakers in your column. What is your opinion of the Insignia home theatre receiver selling for $129.99? It is rated at 100 watts per channel over 6 channels. Is this a good buy or should I spend a little more ?


-John Jambo, Pittsburgh, PA


A: You may not need to spend more, but you should buy a different receiver. My positive recommendation of the excellent Insignia speakers does not carry over the whole model line, which I have found to vary in quality. For example, I have found the Insgina CRT HDTVs to be good values for the money. On the other hand, the Insignia receiver you mention is not the least bit impressive. In handling it felt flimsy, and its “100 watt” rating is given at 1khz and 1% distortion. This is not what you would call clean power as 1% distortion can sound very harsh and nasty. The FTC actually stepped in years ago because of misleading ratings, mandating that power be rated at a specific frequency range and distortion level. Look for a receiver that rates its power over the whole audible spectrum (20hz to 20khz) and at less than .1% distortion.


You can get a great receiver for your $129. Go to and you will find the Onkyo TX- SR304 selling for the same $129. It is rated at 65 watts per channel from 20hz-20khz with only .08% distortion, which is an inaudible amount of distortion. Though the Onkyo is only rated at 65 watts, the specifications tell the tale- it is a better and more powerful amplifier than the Insignia. And I can tell you from experience, it is a great match for the Insignia speakers!


Q: In a recent column you wrote about the sound quality of LPs and said that if you put the LP in the cleaner, the sound is far superior to the CD. I don’t know what a LP cleaner is, can you explain?


-Nancy Neff State College. PA


A: I have to qualify this one a little. If you have a good quality turntable and phono input on your receiver, as well as a clean record, the sound is more natural and pleasing than a CD. If you have a $100 turntable and play dirty records, the CD will almost certainly sound better.


The LP cleaners I am referring to use cleaning fluid and vacuum suction to clean your records, removing grunge and dirt that cause noise and making the record sound silky-smooth and more detailed than before. They are available from several manufacturers and range in price from $315 for the entry-level, manually operated model from Nitty Gritty to over $2,000 for a fully automatic Loricraft.


Nitty Gritty Model 1.0 Record Cleaning Machine

I am very fond of the entry-level Nitty Gritty as it cleans as well as more expensive, automatic cleaners, it just requires a bit more effort. You wet the felt on the vaccum slot, put the record on a spindle, spray on the fluid and brush the record as you turn it. After you have rubbed the fluid in, you turn over the record, turn on the vaccuum and spin the record, removing all the fluid and the grunge suspended in it. Then you flip the record and repeat the process.


You can see it at It is about the best gift you can get for any record lover!

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