Connector Cleaning Kits
By Mike Crofts
Sound on Sound Magazine Sept 2019
The PureConnect Pro Kit, pictured, contains 50 small microtips and 25 (dual–purpose) larger ones, 15 cotton pads, three small tubes of DeOxit fluid and two aluminium handles.
Studio housekeeping is never glamorous, but a few minutes spent cleaning plugs and sockets can save hours of troubleshooting.
Stedman are chiefly known for their industry-standard pop filters, and have built up a considerable reputation in this field with many weighty product endorsements. Now they are marketing a range of connector-cleaning kits and accessories under the PureConnect brand, aimed at studio users, pro audio crew and gigging musicians. There are three kits in the current range, and they each feature convenient solutions for the rejuvenation and maintenance of the most common types of audio connector, namely standard jacks (quarter-inch or 6.3mm, depending on where you live) in both TS (mono) and TRS (balanced/stereo) format, and the ubiquitous XLR connector. I'm sure that most of us who regularly use such connectors don't pay all that much attention to keeping them spotlessly clean and, if you're as lazy as yours truly, the only time they get attention is when something is clearly amiss. This is, of course, not really how it should be, and it was only when I had tried the PureConnect kit on a few of my own (perfectly serviceable) connectors that I realised just how much dirt was all over them. It was just like wiping down what looks like a nice clean table top and then looking at what's on the cloth.
The cleaning components themselves are simple but well made and designed, and consist of three types of disposable cleaning tools, a solid metal handle, and a quantity of proprietary cleaning fluid. Starting with the fluid, it's one of the most popular out there and goes by the brand name DeOxit, manufactured by Caig Laboratories. The Caig website doesn't go into detail regarding the main active ingredient (ie. the bit that breaks down the oxidisation on the metal surfaces), but there is at least one official reference to the fact that it isn't simply oleic acid, which can under some circumstances exhibit undesirable properties for this type of application. I think the longevity of the DeOxit brand speaks for itself, and it is of course endorsed and recommended by Stedman, but you could use any other type of contact cleaner with these kits — for more on this look at the Q&A section on Stedman's website. The kits carry a symbol proclaiming them free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are considered to be atmospheric pollutants commonly found in cleaning solvents, polishes and so on, so good on Stedman for going down this route.
The disposable cleaning tools have connector-specific uses: for jack plugs there's a circular cotton pad that you hold in one hand, apply a drop or two of DeOxit to and twist around the metal contacts. A couple of turns is enough, and you can see the surface contamination on the cotton pad. The DeOxit fluid leaves behind a very thin protective layer so the process shouldn't need repeating too soon, and I can tell you it's much less messy than my usual spray-can method that involves cleaning and lubricating most of my arm and the studio floor. The cotton pad even has a plastic backing with a built-in grip, so it's easy to hold, and there's no seepage.
The results of cleaning a quarter-inch jack plug.
For jack sockets, there's a quarter-inch 'microfelt' tip that goes right inside (again, a drop of DeOxit is applied first) but this time there's a neat little metal handle that holds the tip and makes it easy to insert and turn, and there's no need to touch the cleaner with your fingers. The microfelt tip has a small hole in the other end, and this is used to clean male XLR pins after inserting the tip into the handle the other way round.
For jacks, there's a quarter-inch 'microfelt' tip.
Finally, there are smaller tips for use on female XLRs — these screw into the other end of the handle so you can have both affixed to a single tool to make several cleaning operations quicker. For such a simple device, the metal handles are beautifully engineered and sensibly heavy; you could use the tips without the handle, but they wouldn't last as long, and the cleaning fluid would eventually find its way fingerwards. My photos show the various cleaning elements in action, and the most surprising thing is the amount of crud that came from a single two-turn pass on what I thought was a lightly used, fairly new set of connectors.
Smaller felt tips are used to clean female XLRs.
The PureConnect Pro Kit, pictured above, contains 50 small microtips and 25 (dual–purpose) larger ones, 15 cotton pads, three small tubes of DeOxit fluid and two aluminium handles (the leaflet promises only one but I do believe you get two in the top–end kit). There's a mid-sized Studio Kit (model SK-1) containing a single aluminium handle and a smaller quantity of consumables, and finally Stedman have produced a GP-1 Gig Pack that's designed for the gigging musician, and this one has a plastic handle, some jack-sized cleaning tips, cotton pads and a tube of DeOxit. This kit is ideal for keeping instrument leads (and sockets) up to scratch and comes in a handy little tin — a sort of puncture repair outfit for musicians.
"The components are well designed, nicely made, and the DeOxit cleaning fluid appears to be very effective...
I'd have to admit that buying a kit like this has never been something I'd previously considered a priority, but after using the PureConnect kit on just a few of my connectors I am thinking that this is actually a very good idea. The components are well designed and nicely made, and the DeOxit cleaning fluid appears to be very effective and is readily available from a number of sources. True, if I've had connection issues on the road then a quick squirt of contact cleaner has usually got me going again, but it would of course be better to know that everything is clean and protected before reaching the fix-it stage.
The PureConnect solution also goes beyond just cleaning plugs and sockets, and would be invaluable when refurbishing older equipment in the workshop, or as a final courtesy clean when repairing customers' gear. The kits are not all that expensive (consider the cost of the hardware you're protecting) and are, in one size or another, just about the best gift idea I've recently come across for the soundie/musician who has everything else.
Pro Kit $116, Studio Kit $48, Gig Pack $26.
Stedman Corporation +1 269 629 5930.
Published September 2019
REVIEW! Recording Magazine JUNE 2019
"This one works"
" What really sets the Proscreen apart from the rest of the pack is its unique metal screen material that is not simply perforated but louvered at a slight angle to direct ultra low frequency breath blasts and pops downward out the back of the screen. This processs does not attenuate high frequencies - as do most fabric screens and leaves the vocal performance unaffected. Even blowing directly into the screen has almost no effect on the mic."
George Petersen MIX Magazine
" ...it does it in a sonically transparent way"
"It's a unique pop filter .... it's all metal construction means that it can take a run through with the dishes for hygene control, but more importantly it's got to be the most transparent sounding pop filter I've ever laid ears on. It's really quite clever in that you can litterally blow at the wind screen and never feel your breath on the microphone side."
Mitch Gallagher EQ Magazine
"...Best of both worlds"
"I found the Stedman pop filter to be far superior to the traditional mesh variety"
"A closer look at the front of the Proscreen reveals a downward slant to the metal screen material. The steep angle diverts potentially destructive wind downward and away from the microphone's diaphragm. The openings of the mesh are large enough to allow nonproblematic vocal performances to pass through unobstructed. The Stedman Proscreen comes the closest to "best of both worlds" that I have heard: no pops and no veiling. Any improvement at the recording stage is worth its weight in gold down the line. It's good to see a successful new slant on the often taken for granted pop screen."
Stephen Murphy Pro Audio Review
"One relatively inexpensive piece of gear that can have a lot of impact on your recordings is the good old pop filter. For most, this is a fabric mesh screen to place in front of a vocal mic in order to prevent plosives - those horrible pops created by “P” and “B” sounds when a burst of air comes out of the singer’s mouth - and you learned how to build your own last issue. Stedman has come up with a new twist on the pop filter though, creating a metal screen that has a louver-type pattern which allows sound to go to the mic but diverts air away from the mic element. While tracking vocals on a recent session we decided to give it a test. On hand were a single layer pop filter with a heavier fabric, a double layer filter with a lighter mesh fabric and the Stedman. We tracked a verse that featured lots of “P's" on three different tracks with the three filters up. The Stedman won hands down. It allowed clearer highs to come through and cut the plosives as much as the heaviest fabric. The two-layer filter was next best but cut the highs a little bit and allowed more pops to come through. The single layer cut the pops but was audibly murky. Maybe there’s some situations where you need to rim off the high-end of a vocalist, but in general I found the Stedman pop filter to be far superior to the traditional mesh variety, and I plan to go buy a few this week."
Larry Crane Tape Op
"With PureConnect I have all the tools I need to keep my cables and connections working at their best"
James Nagel - Producer, Engineer and songwriter San Francisco, CA
"The Stedman Proscreen has been the only type of pop filter that we have found effective in eliminating pops without effecting the frequency response characteristics of our micrphones. Our customers have embraced them as a "must have" item for the studio or radio station. As a manufacurer of ribbon microphones our primary concern was to find a device that would protect the delicate ribbon assembly. We were delighted to find out how well the Proscreen performs this task and further amazed at its acoustic transtarency. It's a double win situation for Royer Labs. Keep up the great work!"
Rick Perrotta President Royer Labs
"The Proscreen XL is truly amazing! There is absolutely no air that could cause pops getting through to the mic, only crisp clear sound! I will never record vocals without one from now on! The new design is much more functional and easier to place in front of the mic. I like the bezel as well as it adds a finished appearance"
Roger McGuinn Co-Founder of the Byrds. Performer and Record Producer. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1991
"After trying the Stedman Proscreen pop filter I gave up my pantyhose! (panty hose pop filters that is). I used it while recording Steve Wariner's vocals on a Capital Records release. Fourteen songs and no popping, unwanted noises or loss of high end. The ease of cleaning is definitely a plus. Quick and easy. Every studio should have at least two of these.
Thanks for a great product."
Randy Gardner Gardner Productions Brentwood TN
Reload Sessions of UK is a YouTube channel that features some of the best signed and unsigned music on the internet. Reload produces live, stripped-back sessions featuring both original songs and covers with some very talented artists.
Click on the picture to see Mila Falls using our Stedman Proscreen at Reload Sessions:
Reload Sessions Trailer Link:
"Can't say enough about the PS101 ... It does the job and is so transparent. Wherever I go, I bring at least one of them and when I leave, I always get "Hey, we just ordered one, or three, or four, OR Hey, we've got to get one of those!" So, I show them your website, etc. I can't say enough. You know it's usually the simplest most basic item that can make the biggest difference in a recording -- in this case, it's something you don't hear and really don't want to hear!"
Vince Caro PIXAR Emeryville, CA
"I used your Proscreen pop filter while recording lead and background vocals
on my last project and the results were fantastic. What a great idea to have a durable and effective Pop Screen such as this. It literally eliminated ALL of
the burst imperfections on the vocal performances. I really like the idea that I
can clean this pop filter before putting it up on a different singer. Now that I have one, I would almost feel at a loss without it."
John A. Lowson Studio City CA Engineer for John Fogerty Warner Brothers
"Audio quality and clarity is naturally a big part of what our sessions are about, but one thing that we love about Stedman and the PS101 is that it looks great on film. It's been a bit tricky to find a windscreen or pop filter that looks good on camera, but since being introduced to Stedman, it's without a doubt our go-to choice."
Peppe Fazzolari Reload Sessions UK
"We use the Stedman pop filters when conducting interviews for the Rosin the Bow project, a public radio journey through the world of the violin family of instruments. The Stedman is essential for eliminating plosives that are difficult if not impossible to deal with later during the editing process."
Joe McHugh Award-Winning Public Radio Journalist/Producer Olympia, WA