Acoustic Sounds
By: Michael Fremer

August 29th, 2023



Onzow Issues a New Instruction For the Zero Dust

a multi-year, multi-website epic ends here (even though I thought it concluded May 1st)

Last May 1st, Tracking Angle published "The Onzow Zerodust Controversy Concludes Here" in which I thought we'd put the story forever to rest. I thought "everyone" would be satisfied by the instructions published there. Please read them using the above hyperlink.

Later Onzo Labs' Akira Ishibashi requested that I remove the original photo we'd been using to show the residue left on the stylus, to one more representative of what WAM Engineering's J.R. Boisclair found using his microscope, rather than the "worst case scenario" shown in that photo. So I did that and thought "case closed".

The new instructions cover everything a Zerodust user needs to know about safe use and avoiding leaving a residue on the stylus. Or so I thought.

However, the other day a new email arrived from Mr. Ishibashi. Among the contents of his email was this:

"I see malicious intent in your words on the new article, and from keeping and replacing a picture to try to prove that your original post "Time to Put Away The Onzow ZeroDust" was not wrong, which is shown in this sentence;
(Removing the residue was difficult and time consuming. Not everyone using the Zerodust reported finding this residue, so what exactly was causing it for some and not for others? Rather than going into the long explanation of how and what was discovered and why, here are the new Zerodust instructions that both explain what happened and how to prevent it from ever again happening.)
When you say 'fact based“reporting”',  we never saw any report after 2 years which proves that it came from our product."

Mr. Ishibashi claims I don't care about "loss, damage, and suffering" caused by my reporting. That's unfair of course. As would be my claim were I to make it, which I'm not, that the company doesn't care about the possible loss, damage, and suffering caused by the product to the end user.

The company now claims there's no "proof" that the residue came from the product. Boisclair insisted to me over the phone just a few minutes before I wrote this, that he's found the residue only on cartridges supplied to him for inspection where the customer has used the Onzow Zerodust. What's more, the residue has been identified and results from a breakdown of the product. The only unanswered question, he told me, was why it broke down. He said a new Zerodust sent by the company to him did not leave any residue.

This is after J.R. Boisclair and Onzow had been in frequent communication and there clearly was sufficient evidence to show from where the residue came and why, though I was not privy to the communications.

In his recent email to me Mr. Ishibashi repeats what was published in the May 1st story:

"If we go back to the instructions you announced on May 1st, 'The Onzow Zerodust Controversy Concludes Here':
(A) Do not expose ZERODUST to high temperatures or direct sunlight.
(There is a possibility of deterioration.)
(B) Keep ZERODUST in a safe place and close the lid when not in use.
ZERODUST does not stick to the stylus unless it may deteriorate.
(C) Replace your ZERODUST after 3 years from the date from your purchase date."

I thought that settled it!

He then writes:

Instruction (A) was already included from the original instruction manual.
(C) is the only new notice, and yet after careful examination with our laboratory, I decided to extend it to 7 years. (Italics added by MF).

He went on:

"I want you to remove this post and create a new one to inform the readers that:
- 1 (A) was already in ONZOW's instruction, and it was a simple reminder.
- 2 After careful examination, ONZOW decided to extend the shelf life of ZERODUST to 7 years with careful use.
  Although I recommend changing it more frequently for heavy users."

I am happy to create a new post (this one) informing Tracking Angle readers that you should follow instructions A) and B) that were always in the instructions, and that Onzow now says you can use the Zerodust for 7 years, not the previously recommended 3, (though heavy users should change it more often). Done.

However I am not removing the May 1st post. Instead I'll update it with the extended time recommendation.

So to reiterate: as of May 1st (C) was the only new notice— and I think it was an important addition to the instructions so buyers can safely use the Zerodust and not risk getting the residue on their stylus. And I thought "case closed". I thought this was a good outcome for both the company and for readers who want to buy and use a Zerodust.

Now Mr. Ishibashi claims "we never saw any report after 2 years which proves that it came from our product." And that he's extending the safe use time from 3 to 7 years.

Readers, please draw your own conclusion.

Mine is that the Zerodust is safe to use if you follow the instructions A) and B) and replace the $40 Zerodust every 3 years just to be on the safe side.

Mr. Ishibashi's is that there's no proof the residue came from his product and that if you follow all instructions it's safe for 7 years—unless you are "heavy user".

Is everybody happy?


  • 2023-08-29 09:46:42 PM

    Eric Lubow wrote:

    I appreciate the latest iterations on this long and tortuous subject. These debates have gone on for sometime now and I agree it’s time to put it to bed. But, as I posted almost two years ago, I think you could have avoided much of this wrangling if you had just waited a bit after receiving reports from Boisclair about the stylus deposits, even before they felt certain that they were caused by using Onzow. In fact, they were a long way from proving this, if they ever did. But I feel you rushed to judgement by printing the original article without even consulting the company. I presume you will say you owed primary allegiance to your readers and wanted to alert them to this matter as soon as possible. But you also owed something to the company which I feel you unfairly maligned without evidence. Even if it turns out that Onzow, under certain conditions, can stick to the stylus, there was no reason to rush to judgement until exhaustive tests proved this. And here we are almost two years later just arriving at a final conclusion, two years in which Onzow understandably lost sales. What if you were wrong? How would you have felt then?

    I’m fairly sure you will defend your actions and not make even a scintilla of an apology or an admission that you may have been wrong.

    Now for the blowback from your readers who disagree. Have at it!

    • 2023-08-30 01:22:39 AM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I don't agree at all with your assessment, obviously. But thanks for contributing here.

  • 2023-08-29 10:32:12 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Perfectly mastered to make the one happy enough and have everything said to completely enlighten the others without offending the one. Not easy.

  • 2023-08-30 02:15:14 AM

    NLak wrote:

    My records thank you!

  • 2023-08-30 09:02:28 AM

    Kim Petersen wrote:

    This comment was already aired back then... How are we to interpret the "3 years from purchase"? What if the product has already been sitting on a dealers shelf for 3 years? Or is it from first use, i.e when the product was first opened by the user?

  • 2023-08-30 01:11:07 PM

    miguelito wrote:

    I would expect the stylus to get hot during playback given the frictional forces at play. I wonder how long that high temperature persists. I have wondered what happens if you use use the Zerodust right after lifting the stylus off the record and whether it is possible that you're dipping a piping hot diamond into a gel that could cause local breakdown of the gel, effectively backing some gel onto the stylus.

    • 2023-08-30 01:17:06 PM

      miguelito wrote:

      It might be possible to answer this with an infrared camera, by the way.

    • 2023-08-30 03:26:20 PM

      Anton wrote:

      I used to start fires by playing back 78s with a cactus needle. Imagine playing a 78 or 45 RPM record with a diamond stylus...the stylus should cut clean through those silly records. Maybe we need asbestos platter mats? Water cooled cantilevers?

  • 2023-08-30 01:14:58 PM

    miguelito wrote:

    The question remains as to whether there is conclusive evidence that the deposit IS Zerodust. I presume chemical analysis could be done to determine this but I also would expect the minute amounts would make this hard.

    • 2023-08-30 01:25:31 PM

      Kim Petersen wrote:

      Wouldn't this remark from MF's post confirm that the residue was ZeroDust? Quote: "where the customer has used the Onzow Zerodust. What's more, the residue has been identified and results from a breakdown of the product."

      • 2023-08-30 02:20:16 PM

        miguelito wrote:

        Ok, I missed the implication here that the residue had been chemically identified to be Zerodust. If this is the case, you're correct. I would deem the evidence that styli showing this debris are always coming from users of Zerodust also fairly strong.

  • 2023-08-30 02:13:45 PM

    Michael Rubey wrote:

    Peter Ledermann suggests using a small dab of Blue-Tac for this function. I trust his knowledge above all others. I’ve been doing this for several years with nothing but success. Granted I don’t have a microscope. But SQ is fine. A lifetime supply of Blue-Tac costs a few bucks. I press a dime sized pancake of it onto a quarter and drop the stylus on it three times in quick succession. I then cover the quarter with my old ONZOW plastic cover to keep it clean. Simplicity itself.

    • 2023-08-30 02:23:42 PM

      miguelito wrote:

      I have used this based on Ledermann's suggestion. I put a dab on a quarter, which I keep on a small plastic back to prevent dust settling on it. I rest the coin on the platter and lower the stylus a couple of times on it. I also use Zerodust but less often given all of this controversy.

      • 2023-08-30 03:39:30 PM

        Eric Lubow wrote:

        I use DS Audio, admittedly mor expensive but I find it does the best job. I’ve tried Blue tac and often looked at the stylus afterwards. Not as clean. And with DS Audio, you just take the block of gel out when dirty, wash with water and it looks new.

    • 2023-09-25 07:15:14 PM

      Eric Barry wrote:

      I remember using blue-tac for posters and both wall and poster would get an oil stain.

  • 2023-08-30 03:37:24 PM

    Marcello Pego wrote:

    I followed this subject since the start. I purchased long ago 2 Zerodusts, one is in use, the other "saved for later". I believe I was an early adopter. The third instruction now added to the product may turn both as unusable. It would be nice to have known this from the start. For that alone I believe MF did us users a big service by making the company do more research and testing of the product. Thanks Michael. I still have the card that acompanied the first Zerodust I bought. One side is completely written in japanese, the other in english. It states on the bottom: Manufacturer ONZOW Labo, Japan; Exporter Sibatech inc, Japan. Not trying to add more fuel to the fire, but the card reads "Cautions: Do not leave the container in a place under direct sunshine to avoid an accident from its convex lens behavior. Do not allow an infant to put the cleaning element into the mouth. Leave it in a place not accessible by children". It also reads "When the cleaning element is stained, wash it in warm water with a little amount of neutral detergent. Dust can easily be removed, and you can use this stylus tip cleaner repeatedly and long time". No mention to high temperatures, only sunlight. I have followed those instructions on cleaning at least once. The instructions provided now at these articles are clearer. But they do change what was oriented before. However I do believe that the first instruction should be more clear about what "high temperatures" means. I for one did not think about the stylus temperature after playing a record. Whenever I read high temperatures on instructions (especially along with sunlight) I automatically think about room temperature, not stylus tip temperature. It would be nice to state that a stylus after playing a single side is already too hot to be dipped onto the zerodust. And I did use it to clean the tip between records, and even sides, so I might have used it under high temperatures. Nonetheless for me Zerodust is still a great product and an easy one to use. I'll continue using it. And I think all this discussion only improves the quality of the product and the awareness of users.

    • 2023-08-30 04:02:09 PM

      Eric Lubow wrote:

      I highly doubt that the stylus gets that hot when playing. In any case, the cantilever would serve as a heat sink of sorts. I haven’t read any reports measuring the temperature of the stylus after play but I would think that any heat is dissipated rather quickly. The fact that the stylus appears extremely clean after dipping it in the DS Audio gel confirms that, at least for me.

  • 2023-08-30 04:07:21 PM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    Does anyone really know how hot a stylus gets after playing records? I've touched the stylus with the back of my finger, also placed it on a piece of very thin white paper immediately after playing several LPs in succession. No sign of any heat.

    • 2023-08-30 10:20:45 PM

      Michael Rubey wrote:

      G.Alexandrovich in Glen Ballou’s "Handbook for sound engineers": "It has been experimentally shown that with such high pressures and forces of friction between stylus and the vinyl, that the outer skin layer of the record material melts as the tip slides over the plastic and then refreezes almost as fast as it melted. It has been suggested that since the melting temperature of vinyl is about 480 °F (248 °C) that the same temperature exists in the contact area.”

      US patent 5,389,281 to LAST: “The friction between stylus and the record may heat the vinyl locally to temperatures near the melting point.”

      Van den Hul apparently measured tip temperatures to be 160 °C.

      ld does presented calculations factoring in tracking force, coefficient of friction, coefficient of thermal conduction of vinyl, 100nm vinyl groove skin depth, specific gravity of vinyl, specific heat of vinyl, resulting in a temperature increase of 10 K.

      • 2023-08-31 04:49:55 AM

        Silk Dome Mid wrote:

        I don't know...a cartridge tracking at two grams seems unlikely to generate such "high pressure", and melting the vinyl with each play would surely result in enough damage to the groove that a record would become noticeably damaged after just a few plays. Some real experiments seem to be called for.

        • 2023-08-31 03:29:02 PM

          Michael Rubey wrote:

          2g on a microscopic point is thousands of pounds per sq inch. It’s a lot. the melting and refreshing is microscopic as well. It doesn’t alter the surface much. But records do wear over time if played a lot.

  • 2023-09-01 10:12:11 AM

    Diogo wrote:

    This is way too much trouble for just a stylus cleaner.

    I clean the stylus after every other playback with a dry stylus brush. 99% of the records I play are cleaned with a vacuum RCM.

    When I see that there's a stubborn fiber stuck to the stylus, I apply a small drop of alcohol on the brush. It doesn't take more than 2-3 passes.

    I'm well aware of Ortofon and the like advising against using alcohol. But I've been doing this for years on dozen of cartridges and never damaged a stylus. Make of that what you will.

  • 2023-09-02 03:44:13 PM

    David B. wrote:

    I first purchased one of these about 5 years ago now after reading initial reviews but had a problem with it long before the residue issue arose, and as a result only used it about a dozen times.

    I had recently purchased a NOS Audio Technica AT15Sa cartridge/stylus to experiment with Quadradisc CD-4 LPs. One time during cleaning the stylus got stuck and I almost damaged the cantilever. Maybe I pressed a little too hard trying to get it clean, and I probably did bend it a little put didn’t seem to affect playback (that I could notice), but I wasn’t about to risk using it anymore. I put the ZeroDust away and never touched it again until your May 1st article when I happily threw it away.

  • 2023-09-10 12:18:14 PM

    ONZOW Labo wrote:

    We would like to point out and add additional details about this series of developments.

    Firstly, the biggest problem was that MF, without any inquiry or confirmation to us, posted the article "Time to Put Away The Onzow ZeroDust?" on AnalogPlanet on 28 November 2021 and criticized it without any corroboration, that the residue sticking to the stylus was from our ZERODUST. This post and photos then compounded the issue and aggravated the fear that our ZERODUST is damaging other users' stylus.

    ZERODUST has been selling for over 25 years and we never had such a report by any of our users.

    We then patiently awaited the report of their said analysis, but there was no result. This means that even at the moment the real cause has not yet been proven, and therefore the residues shown on the photos cannot be said to have come from ZERODUST, or furthermore they are nothing at all. We sent a brand new ZERODUST to WAM Engineering and promoted the understanding of its safety.

    ZERODUST can be used for many years in a typical ordinary house without direct sunlight as stated in the instructions from the beginning. Avoiding exposure to direct sunlight does not only concern ZERODUST, but obviously to a lot of tools and materials. Do any of the people here leave your clothes, your medicines, your precious records to direct sunlight? Even the paint on your car will deteriorate and start peeling if it has been exposed to direct sunlight for many years. That's something that everyone here with common sense would know and understand. Also, regarding the instructions to wash the ZERODUST by hand with warm water, we simply thought that users would use a temperature below around 40C or 104F that would not burn their hands from common sense.

    We now have revised the number of years of use from three years to seven years counting from the date of purchase. Of course, in terms of business, shorter is better, but that's because we are confident in our product.

    The viscosity decreases with years and frequency of use. As for replacement, our view is that it is better to replace it when the viscosity becomes weak because the frequency of use depends a lot from user to user, but we decided to set a lifetime because of this controversy.

    We have several ZERODUSTs that have been in use for 5 to 10 years. They work fine and don't stick to the stylus.

    But since so much has been written and misconceptions have grown.

    Akira Ishibashi ONZOW Labo