The further we delve into this home entertainment hobby, the more equipment we find we own, and the more maintenance it all requires. There are two great reasons to keep our TVs, projectors, receivers and speakers in tip-top condition. The first, of course, is to make our capital investments pay off, and save us from having to replace gadgets on a more frequent basis. The second is to keep everything looking as good and working as well as possible in the event that when we do decide to upgrade a component, we can confidently resell it via eBay, Craigslist, Audiogon or any other reputable trading hub. Sometimes it is equally satisfying to pass on used equipment in good condition to family or friends too.
Here is a breakdown of some good practices for maintaining pristine, shiny and fully-functioning AV equipment. We have divided the information into two areas for Part One of this series, namely ‘Boxes and Packaging’ and ‘Equipment Cleaning’. In the coming days, Part Two of this guide will consist of ‘System Cooling’, ‘Cable Management’ and ‘Power Management’.
Boxes and Packaging
Based on the earlier point about resale, whenever possible you should consider keeping boxes and packaging for everything you buy. We have all bought devices in the past and discarded the packaging thinking we will never need it, only to find on house moving day that we wish we hadn’t. Even more devastating is when you decide to resell and find that you haven’t got the right materials to ship the product to a buyer. If you can demonstrate on eBay, for example, that you have kept the molded foam, operation manual, clear ziplock bags and even the original twisty cable ties for, say, a home theater receiver, the item should easily command 20 – 30% above the base value at auction. (If the unit has the added bonus of an immaculately cared-for front panel and body too, you’ll get buyers flocking to your sale page.) Bear in mind too that hi-fi trading website Audiogon mandates that all audio and video equipment should be double-boxed to protect the original factory-issued packaging when shipping to buyers.
It’s fine to use a regular but clean dusting cloth and small amount of water or Windex on a TV’s bezel and stand, but always check the operating manual for specifics about how to treat particular surfaces as recommended by the manufacturer. You will notice that the display screen area itself will attract all manner of small blotches and stains, simply from existing in a regular household inhabited by humans and domestic pets. Try to look at your TV display’s screen area in reflected natural light and take a slightly water-moistened micro-fiber (specifically for photographic lenses or the silk type for reading glasses), and clean stains in a gentle circular motion until they disappear. You can then apply an unused dry portion of the micro-fiber cloth to the same area to make sure there is no water residue.
Photographic Lens Blower and Micro-fiber Cloth
If you own a projector, you should keep the cabinet clean using a dry or slightly water-moistened cloth. If you have a ceiling-mounted unit, it is good to clear dust from the upper surface at least once every couple of weeks, and most importantly to remove debris from the lens and lens housing. You can use a photographic lens blower to remove excess dust from the lens glass and surrounding area, but never use a commercial compressed air can, which can leave a residue and could potentially penetrate the lens housing openings. If you have a stubborn stain on the glass itself, apply a micro-fiber cloth with a tiny amount of distilled or purified water. The manufacturer may recommend a particular liquid cleaning solution, so make sure you follow the guidelines closely. If you can avoid ever having to clean lens glass at all, so much the better, and it is always good policy to replace the lens cap after every use.
As many of you will know, LCD projectors have non-enclosed light engines, so always keep the air intake grille area of your projector clean and free of dust, and follow instructions for the frequency of filter changes. There’s nothing more disappointing than reading on this and other forums of owners who have discovered the dreaded LCD multi-colored dust blobs projected onto their 10-foot wide screen.
Receivers, Amplifiers and Players
Most black and silver textured steel fascias and housings of receivers, pre- and power amplifiers respond well to a light clean with a soft cloth and small amount of water or light soapy solution. Use a micro-fiber cloth to clean on-screen display panels or plastic front plates of Blu-ray players. Always remove dust from the inside of a drop-down door on the front of a Blu-ray player or receiver, where it is sure to gather. We have all seen the messages in operation manuals telling us not to use cleaners like benzine or alcohol on any surfaces. Take heed of these warnings; pure or isopropyl alcohol will lift factory spray paints right off that gleaming black surface in a heartbeat.
Keep connector terminals on the back of your receiver or amplifier clear of dust build-up and grime too. It will help to maintain good audio and video performance over time. Try a contact cleaner like DeoxIT applied with a Q-tip to line-level and speaker terminals, banana plugs and bare speaker wire copper strands. Although you may well hear an immediate improvement in audio performance after using a contact cleaner, be careful not to apply too regularly as some experts say that the fine metal plating on conductors can be eroded.
If you wish to blow dust out of the interiors of any of your components, you might consider a commercial blower like Canless Air System (pictured above), but once again, do not use a compressed air can with its liquid residue on any electronics boards or wiring.
Speakers and Subwoofers
Anyone who has removed the grille from a speaker recently will know that drivers (particularly upward facing) are another dust hotspot, but they can be gently cleaned with a dry or slightly water-damp soft cloth. Make sure rubber surrounds are carefully wiped as well, as this will prevent early degrading of the delicate materials which are often some of the first to give way in a driver assembly. Dome tweeters should not be touched at any time, but it is fine to use a soft photographic lens blower to remove unsightly dust on the surface. Dust particles on the surface of a dome tweeter will not, however, affect performance. Cloth grilles can be vacuumed or even cleaned with a clean moistened cloth – you’ll be amazed at how much dirt is lurking within the weave. Remember to wipe down logo badges too.
Let us know your thoughts about equipment maintenance below, and please add any of your own tips or guidance…